CardRunners pro Galen ‘Gakn29’ Cranston explains why not raising sometimes extracts maximum value
Before we talk about the hand, you need to know some facts about my opponent. Before this heads-up match, I’d never seen him before. I was therefore playing with a quickly-evolving read, and had figured out that he was not very aggressive preflop, but that he was very aggressive after the flop. He had only three-bet 7% of his hands preflop, but he was continuation betting 72% in single-raised pots and 100% in three-bet pots.
On the turn he was following through 83% of the time. This postflop aggression is what caused me to play the hand the way I did.
The hand takes place at a $1-$2 table with an ante and a 250 big-blind buy-in. I am on the button with K♦-A♥-9♦-4♣. In a perfect world the Ace would be suited, but my hand is still definitely worth opening.
I don’t always open to the same amount in this position. Against opponents who will give me action after the flop I raise smaller, while against tighter opponents I raise the pot preflop so the small pots they often give up to me are a little bigger. I raise to $5.40, the smaller amount, and my opponent three-bets to $17.20. Folding would be too weak, and four-betting a ragged A-K this deep is far too aggressive, so I call.
I hit the flop hard, making top two pair on a rainbow board. My goal is to maximize the size of the pot. He has $508 left, and I cover him. Given his statistics, I expect him to continue on the flop, and he obliges with a $34 bet. I can either call or raise. Folding isn’t an option, and if he has hit gin with a set, I am willing to go down with the ship. Here my read is essential to making the right play. He is so likely to continue on the turn that I should just call him, which I do. This keeps all his bluffs and weak made hands in his range, and lets him improve to a worse hand than mine on the turn.
Changing the game
The turn is a nine that puts up a backdoor flush draw. This is a good card, but not a great one. I’d prefer not to have to worry about the flush draw. He bets $82 into the pot of roughly $100 leaving $392 behind. If he had any kind of rundown, he has just hit two pair or a combination straight draw and lots of hands with medium cards improved to a draw.
This means that the situation is much different from the one on the flop as there are many more worse hands with which he will put in a lot of money. I raise the full pot, to get value and to charge him for the chance to outdraw me. He will only have $122 behind if he calls. Some people would disagree with my bet-sizing, but with so big a pot and so many ugly possible rivers, I want to commit myself now. The river is a nine, giving me a full house.
I have an obvious bet when he checks to me, and he makes a crying call with his top pair that flopped a gutshot and turned a flush draw. My read was correct: he probably would not have put so much money in the pot on the flop, but when he improved his hand he went with it.
When you’re playing deep, you must think about multiple streets. Whenever you have a hand you want to build the pot with, ask yourself of the best way to achieve this. You’ll often find raising the flop is not the answer. Don’t raise just because your hand looks nice. Think about your rival’s whole range and what he’ll stack off with, and your bottom line will improve tremendously.
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