When asked what hand you are hoping to see when you squeeze those two hole cards I’m sure most Holdem players would reply pocket aces. Every tournament player certainly is funking for the Boots when the action gets to them.
Most cash players too welcome the best pair, but players with experience also know that aces and kings are the hands that can put you in tricky situations when the money is deep.
£250 NLHE game at the Vic. Stack sizes, Me, £2,400, Villain, £2,100. The blinds are £5/ £10 and in this particular coup there was a £25 straddle. It’s folded around to me in mid to late position and I make it £100 with Ac As. Folded to the Villain in the big blind who now re-raises to £300. I call and it’s heads-up to the flop.
Flop comes down Qh 6s Qd. Villain checks. I check. Turn is the 8h. Villain checks again and I bet £500. Villain now goes all-in for £1,800. I fold.
The Villain in this hand was one of those erratic players who seem to play well in one hand and then do something horrible in the next (like a lot of players perhaps!). I have to admit I have not played enough with this particular player to have a good read on him, but I do know he is capable of being aggressive and likes to get tricky. How aware he is of his opponents’ tendencies I’m not so sure.
Pre-flop I feel the play is fairly standard. There is an argument for re-raising the Villain with my aces –after all he has re-raised me from the blinds, unless he was just making a move for the hell of it, he must have a good hand. However, I was looking to trap him for all his chips so decided to give my hand a little deception. I’m pretty sure the Villain would not have read my flat call as strength – I’m thinking that he put me on AK or a medium pair (if he thought about any of that at all).
As for the Villain’s range, I put him on AJ upwards and any pair between 88 and AA. It’s possible he was even getting cute with suited connectors.
I fully expected him to c-bet the flop, so you can imagine I was pretty surprised that he checked. What hand would you re-raise with before the flop and then decide to check on a Qh 6s Qd flop? Has he flopped a monster here? In the interests of pot control I opted to check also and I think most players would agree with that. After all, the only hand I am beating that he would call with on the flop is pocket Kings (and it’s more likely he would have bet that on the flop). If he has an under-pair, 77 through JJ, is he going to call a flop bet? Maybe.
Ah, here is where it all went pear-shaped. The 8h came down and now the Villain checked again. It crossed my mind to just check again, and in retrospect I think this is the best play, but I decided that in case he had AhKh or an under-pair that he thought was good, to charge him to see the river.
Once again hindsight is 20/20 vision and £500 was not a great bet. This invited him to make the move that he did and put me in a tough spot. As I sat there thinking about the hand it crossed my mind that it was very possible that he had no idea that my hand was as good as pocket aces and that the £500 looked like a bluff, like I was trying to buy the pot.
Perhaps a better bet would have been a small one, somewhere in the £200 to £300 range. This is more deceptive and represents a biggie, whilst at the same time exercising pot control.
Having said that, the smaller bet also invites the check-raise, with bluffs being a higher percentage of that move, so it’s possible my bet of a monkey actually induced the best hand to raise, thus saving me from losing even more.
Checking is definitely the best play as now on the river it’s very rare for trip queens, full house or quads to check again (you’ve got to try and win a little more money with hands like those, don’t you?) so if the Villain bets on the end it probably won’t be that big of a bet and I’m going to pay him off. Of course, checking back to the Villain on the turn also induces bluffs on the river, which is another reason to call him on the end.
If he checks again it’s an easy value bet with my aces. If he wants to check-raise now, it’s more likely he has the nuts or close to it.
I have to say that I thought about what to do for a very long time. In the end I decided that it was more likely my opponent was check-raising all-in with a hand that had pocket aces beat. From what little time I had spent playing with him I had gathered that he was definitely one of those players who over-value hands like AQ, which swayed me towards mucking.
If he made a move on me, fair play to him and kudos to him for a gutsy check-raise all-in. Maybe he even put me on aces and knew I would have trouble calling a £1,300 raise with them.
Looking back, I played this hand badly – I ended up putting myself in a marginal situation and allowed my opponent to put pressure on me when I was the player who had position. I opened the door for him to take the initiative and seize control of the hand when there was absolutely no need to.