27/09/2007

The Dean’s Limit Hold’em Surgery Part 3

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

So where were we (read part 1 and part 2), oh yes we are in a $20-$40 game and have raised to $40 and been re-raised by the aggressive player to my left. I have capped it and they duly call the extra $20 making $190 in the pot so far and just the two of us with me holding QH-JS. Anybody who is unsure of the background to this hand, please refer to the two previous articles from last week and the week before.

So let us look at the situation, I raised, they re-raised from the button and I had the option of either calling or capping. I chose capping but depending on the particular situation then calling is equally viable. But this is where the fun starts and the real battle. The point is and a lot of players forget this, poker hands are linked together in very subtle ways.

How you play in one hand is connected to future hands and how you play affects the behaviour of your opponents in future hands (if they happen to be watching that is). So just because I have chosen to cap it here does not infer that it is correct to make this play every time in this situation. The way that I am going to play this hand is just one possible way to play and is certainly not the way to play it.

The flop comes 10s-5d-2c and we have missed the flop. The player on our left is aggressive but you need to know what type of aggressive player they are. Some will be very aggressive pre-flop and try to isolate and then play very straight forwardly from the flop onwards or vice versa. As I said in previous articles, we do not have an awful lot of information on this player as yet.

Right so we have represented strength before the flop by capping it. It looks like that with $190 in the pot and an aggressive player to my left that a simple flop continuation bet is unlikely to induce a fold. They are expecting me to fire a flop bet right out and if I have read them correctly, they are unlikely to believe that and either call the flop bet or re-raise and take the lead and put me under pressure.

The chances are that with queen high, that my hand is not the best but they could have no hand either. Betting here is not known as the “weak lead” for nothing and it might work at lower levels but not in many aggressive games at the $20-$40 and $30-$60 level. So I decide to throw my aggressive opponent a curve ball here by checking to him.

Let me point out that anyone who thinks that a player who has the lead pre-flop should always continuation bet the flop does not understand limit hold’em or poker for that matter. I want to lever my opponent off this hand by making him think that his hand is not only second best but also that he is drawing slim and I cannot do that by simply leading out.

It now looks to him that I am not trying to blast him out of the pot if I check and he may think that I am checking to induce him to bet and could easily check it back and take a free card. In actual fact when he does that then he is providing me with one as well. To really master limit hold’em or any other form of poker for that matter then you really need to go beyond mere hand values and this starts to come to the fore in short handed games.

So after my flop check, they check it back after thinking for a few seconds and the turn card brings the 2d making a board of 10s-5d-2c-2d. From my play before the flop, I am already planning to make a move against my opponent to win the pot as many hands become a battle of no hand against no hand in heads up scenarios. Right so what to do, my opponent checking this flop could be an indication of suspicion on his part that he thinks that I want him to bet.

Of course I have tried to mould his thought patterns so that he thinks this. The only problem is that I could be entirely wrong about the entire thing and he could be so engrossed in multi-tabling that he simply has not noticed and has not taken in what I am trying to do. Or maybe he can really handle multi-tabling and notices far more than what I could if I were playing the same number of tables.

There are too many guesses at this moment in time but the point is that this is only one hand taken from an entire session and I could easily meet this player again in the future and I must remember how he has played as well as myself. I bet $40 on the turn because if I check and they check it back, I could run the risk of having to pair on the river to take the pot if he has something like ace rag. I would ideally like to check raise the turn and try and lever him off the hand that way but him checking behind me ruins that plan.

At least a turn bet forces him to either bluff raise to $80 or to call successive $40 bets on the turn and river in order to win the pot which is expensive if he is behind. So a turn bet faces him with the prospect of losing more than $40. Well after my $40 turn bet, they think for a while and fold and I take the pot. Don’t worry about this being a happy ending and it being my article because there will be plenty of heartache to come in coming weeks I promise you.

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