Limiting losses with marginal hands
A common mistake made by amateurs is that they often get involved in big pots with marginal hands when they’re out of position. To illustrate this concept, let’s dissect a hand I played in a deep stack event where players started with 20,000 chips.
This hand occurred early in the tournament when I was playing against a young, aggressive internet player. With the blinds at $100-$200 with an ante, a player in first position raised to $600. I called from the small blind with K-c-10-c. The internet player called from the big blind.
The flop came 7-s-6-c-3-h. Because I was out of position against both the pre-flop raiser and the kid playing from the big blind, I had absolutely no interest in this flop. My plan was to check and fold to any bet.
But neither player bet the flop so I was able to see the turn for free.
The turn was the Ku, pairing my king but putting a possible backdoor flush draw on the board. Clearly, the pre-flop raiser easily could have checked the flop with a hand like A-K. If he did, he’d have had me outkicked. I decided to play conservatively. I checked and waited to see what the other players would do.
The kid took the lead. He bet out $1,000 into a pot of about $2,000. I didn’t have enough information yet since the pre-flop raiser’s action still weighed heavily on my decision. If he raised, I’d obviously have to fold. Even if he called, folding my hand would still make the most sense.
Surprisingly, though, the pre-flop raiser folded. I decided to flat call to see what developed on the river.
The river was an ugly card, the 4-d. It surely didn’t improve my hand but it could have helped out my opponent if he was trying to represent a straight on a semi-bluff.
I checked. There was no good reason to bet my kings. I decided to try to sell the kid the idea that I’d picked up a flush draw and missed. He fired out a $2,000 bet.
I was compelled to call for a couple of reasons.
First, I was getting about 3-to-1 pot odds to make the call. Second, I didn’t believe the kid would attempt a value bet in this situation if he had a strong hand like a straight. And third, I still thought that I’d effectively sold him the idea that I was on a flush draw and missed. If so, he’d probably toss out a bet with anything.
It came down to this: Either he had nothing but two napkins or he had the nuts.
Well, the kid turned over 9-8 offsuit; he missed his open-ended straight draw and my kings were good.
This hand illustrates how you can maximize your winnings while limiting your losses at the same time.
On the turn, my hand was either dead meat or I’d have to fake a drawing hand on the river to win. If I did have the best hand at this point, it was probably only marginally ahead. If I’m beat there, however, I’d have very few or possibly no outs to win on the river.
Beginners tend to overplay these types of hands by check-raising the turn in an attempt to protect their cards. That’s just not a good idea when you are out of position.
Instead, in these situations, limit your losses by keeping the pots small. Save the aggressive play until you have position – that’s the time to maximize your winnings.
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