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Adjusting strategy mid-hand by Johan Storakers

Most of the time when you’re engaged in a poker hand, you’ll be thinking about what decisions you will make before you have to make them. For example, if you call a raise with K-Q, you’ll think to yourself: Okay, if I hit top pair, I’m going to play this hand. If I have a gut-shot and two over-cards, I’m going to play this hand. If I have an open-ender and two over-cards, I’m going to play this hand. Otherwise, I’m going to let it go.

However, there will often be times when something happens that causes you to change your strategy mid-hand. Maybe your opponent makes a weak bet that gives you information worth using to your advantage. Or maybe he makes a bet on the river that looks like a value bet and convinces you to fold a hand you were planning on calling with.

It’s always good to enter a hand with a plan, but it’s essential that you be willing to deviate from the plan if the situation calls for it. Every hand requires that you react to your cards and the cards on the board, but it’s equally important that you factor in your opponent and his tendencies.

Here’s a hand that I played recently at the 2009 EPT German Open in Dortmund, where I went on to finish in fourth place. It was late in Day Two, I had been fairly short-stacked for a while and occasionally shoving with decent hands, but I hadn’t yet made a serious bluff in the tournament. We were eight-handed, the player in second position made a very small raise to 8,500 with blinds at 2,000/4,000 and a 500-chip ante, and it folded around to me in the small blind with pocket fives. I had about 70,000 in chips, and all I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to fold a pocket pair in this situation.

I decided to call rather than raise, knowing the big blind would certainly be priced in to call as well, and he did. The flop came A-8-3. I was obviously looking to flop a set, or maybe something like 2-3-4 or 3-4-6, and this flop was not at all good for my hand, so I checked. The big blind also checked. And the initial raiser made what looked to me like a very weak bet, 12,000 into a 29,500 pot.

I was quite sure from the bet that he didn’t have an Ace, and probably he didn’t have a pair of any kind. It seemed to me that he had a hand like K-J, something in that range. So when he bet 12,000, I considered all of the factors – my read on him, my tight image, and my stack size. I decided to raise 21,000 more, representing that I had perhaps a weak Ace and had committed myself to the pot (even though, in reality, I wasn’t committed and would be willing to fold to a re-raise, leaving myself with about 30,000 in chips).

The big blind folded, and after thinking for a long time, the initial raiser folded also. He simply had to give me credit for a real hand that I wasn’t going to lay down to a re-raise.

This was a situation where I didn’t really intend to commit many chips if I didn’t hit a favorable flop, but I adjusted my decision making based on my opponent’s post-flop action, believing the stage had been set for me to make a move. Always be willing to adjust your plan, and every once in a while you’ll find yourself winning chips that otherwise would have been pushed toward someone else.

Johan Storakers

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