The Dean’s Limit Hold’em Surgery Part 1

Over the coming weeks and months, I will be doing a regular series of Thursday articles where I will discuss situations arising in both limit and no limit hold’em 6 max cash games and going into detail about what I would do in these situations and why. I hope that you will find them educational and instructive and I will only be too happy to take any questions about the hands either on the forum or through my website at

This first example is in a $20-$40 game at limit hold’em, I have played precisely seven hands so far and I have yet to participate in any meaningful pots to speak of. The player on my immediate left seems to be a very aggressive player who is either raising or three betting more than he really should be. Despite this, his modus operandi is very strong because he knows that raises to his right will frequently be made with less than premium hands and rightly so in a 6 max game.

But he seems to be looking to isolate with position which is not a bad way to play at all as you frequently end up with extra dead money in the pot by way of the blinds. I am in the cut-off with the QH-JS and it is folded around to me. Right so I have a QJ, not a powerhouse but if you are waiting for stronger hands than that to raise in a 6 max game with two players already out of the pot then you are in the wrong game.

You also cannot let the threat of the guy to your left stifle your game too much. If he is really a good aggressive player who knows what time of day it is then you could try either changing seats or changing tables if the game is tough enough to warrant that. I raise to $40 and right on cue, our guy on the button looks to isolate me with position and pops it to $60. Everyone folds to me, and I have a choice here. Do I let him think that I think that I have the best hand and re-pop him again or cap it whichever the case may be.

Or….do I simply let him have what he wants (the lead) and look to put a play on him later on in the hand. The point is that whatever I decide to do here is going to be based on scant information because seven hands is nowhere near enough to get to know a players patterns, how they think, how they react to how I play and so on. So I am not just playing the hand for the present but also looking to the future as well with the information that I will gleen from this hand.

Also I want to know if this guy is multi-tabling because I can possibly get him to fold more if he is and a quick look at the lobby earlier showed me that he is active in three other games to my knowledge. Now this guy knows that I probably do not have a powerhouse and is putting me on a hand like KJ, A9 or somewhere in that range and in this instance he is not wrong. I know that when he enters the pot then he will three bet and will also look to put pressure on me on the flop as well so I am ready for this.

When you encounter aggressive players to your left that have position on you then if you stay in the game then you must accept that the variance has just taken a quick taxi ride north and accept that. If you go into your shell and start folding too much or let yourself get pressured off hands too much then the blinds will kill you in a six max. It could just be that I have arrived just as this player is going through a rush of good hands, possible but I have seen his type many times and do not play too dissimilar myself from that position.

So the clock is ticking and what is it to be? He is multi-tabling so he probably has not noticed that I have not been in action yet and probably plays this way as part of an overall strategy. It is imperative that you keep a close eye on just how he plays this hand because multi-tablers do not have the time to vary their strategy too much because they simply have too much going off in front of them.

If I merely call then he will assume that his three bet has handed him the initiative and expect me to either check the flop if I am the passive type or bet at any flop that comes in a kind of desperation stab. Whichever path gets trodden then I know that my opponent is likely to pressure me from the flop onwards. When people play this way and continue hitting flops and making hands then they will really put the squeeze on you and sessions end up getting far more expensive when your aggressive opponent runs good for a while. If you cannot accept this from the off then change seats or tables.

So what to do? Well that is for next week and in the meantime… keep at it.