Pot committed?

The views of three top flight pros on major tournament predicaments

I’m never going to pass. The pot’s just too big, especially against a tricky player. I don’t care that I think I may be beat

It’s the classic major tournament dilemma: you’re in the money, but being put to the test in a hand. If you fold, you simply survive; but if you call and win, you could be well on your way to winning the entire event. What will the pros from Team PokerStars do?


You’re through to the last three tables in a $5,000 nolimit hold’em tournament. Blinds are at $3,000/$6,000 and play is six-handed. You have around $80,000 chips and your table image is loose-aggressive. You pick up Q-J offsuit on the button and everyone folds to you. You raise to $18,000. The small blind folds and the big blind calls. The big blind has only been showing down big pairs and folded to a previous raise when he had A-J in the same position. He has around $100,000 in chips. The flop is K-10-3 rainbow and the big blind checks. You check. Turn is a J. The big blind checks again. You bet $20,000 and the big blind re-raises to $45,000. Now what?


If I had to make a decision because there’s a gun to my head, I’d say fold. You’re getting 3/1 on the call, but I have to go with my read on the player – does he look like he really wants me to call because he’s got the nuts or does it look like I have the best hand, but it’s not the nuts kind of a feel? The pre-flop raise is fine. With a player tight enough to fold A-J on the big blind, you could give me 2-3, and I’ll raise. I’d probably shove all-in on the flop. There’s over $36,000 in the pot and I have $62,000 in my stack. A normal pot-sized bet is half my chips and I have outs, no matter what.


This is what it would come down to: if I felt the players at my table were very strong, I would take a shot and make the call and go for the straight or the trip Jacks. If the players were poor quality, I wouldn’t mind folding because I know I’ll have the opportunity to play small pots with and accumulate chips back to my original stack. When the flop is checked, I would bet because I do have an open-ended straight draw. It allows me to find out some information cheaply and whether or not I’m being trapped. At the moment, when he raises me on the turn, I don’t know if he has the King. He may have A-J and just hit the Jack, or he could have Q-J. If I bet on the flop and he raises, he probably has the King. If he makes a big move on the turn, he has two pair or even the set.


I would probably fold when the big blind re-raises. I’ve turned a Jack and have got a good draw, so I’m half pot committed. But, if the big blind is a super tight player, he may have A-Q, A-K or even flopped a set. There’s no way you can really be in a good spot here. The only way you’re going to get re-raised from this type of player is if you’re beat. I don’t mind the check on the flop. I’m playing loose-aggressive and I’ll mix it up. So I would check on the flop.


You’re playing on the final table of a WPT event with a $15,000 buy-in. The blinds are $10,000/$15,000 with a $2,000 ante. You are lying third in chips with $300,000. You’re on the button with A-10. Everyone folds to you. You raise to $45,000. The small blind folds and the big blind calls. The big blind is a tricky player – capable of playing a wide range of hands very aggressively. She has about $345,000 in chips. The flop comes K-Q-10 and the big blind checks. You now bet $80,000, only to see the big blind call. The turn is 10. The big blind checks again, and so do you. The river is a 9. The big blind bets $50,000. What’s your next move?


I’m never going to pass. The pot’s too big, especially against a tricky player. I don’t care that I think I’m beat. If the person fits this description, there’s at least one chance in six they’re just full of shit with five-high or something. I’d just call though. There’s no point in raising, they can’t call you with the worst hand.


I’d certainly call the $50,000 into a $337,000 pot. But I need to be sure that at least one in six and a half times, the big blind is bluffing. As long as that’s the case, then it’s a good call. There’s no reason to raise there. The big blind could have a straight and could also have flopped the flush. But there’s too much in the pot to fold for such a value bet. You showed such weakness on the turn by checking, the big blind could easily be trying to bluff that. She could have a King, Queen, even two pair. I would never have checked on the turn, I would have put in a big bet and acquired information.


I’m going to call for $50,000. I’ve got the odds to do so. With the range of hands the big blind plays, they could be on a pure bluff. The $50,000 isn’t going to destroy my chips, plus I’ve already got over $120k in the pot. The big blind looks like they want me to call, but a lot of players that are tricky will put that bet out there to get you to fold. I make the call, but probably lose the hand. To be perfectly honest, I’d probably lead out with $120,000 on the turn and take it down right there. The big blind has me at that point and basically has to have a full house or a flush to beat me. But I don’t think they would play pocket Kings or Queens like that on the flop as they would probably come back over the top.


You’re on the final table of a major $10,000 no-limit hold’em tournament. The blinds are $800/$1,600 with $300 antes. The cut-off is a loose-aggressive player who limps in. The small blind also limps. Both have slightly more chips than you. You find Q-Q on the big blind and raise to $3,400. Both the cut-off and small blind call instantly. The flop is 10-9-5. Small blind checks, you bet $7,000. The cut-off calls instantly and the small blind folds. The turn is Q. You bet $12,000 and the cut-off asks you how much you have, before calling. The river is K. You check and the cut-off goes all-in. Now what?


I would insta-call. The big mistake on his hand was the check on the river. This was the perfect place for the ‘stopper’ bet. There’s about $50k in the pot, so you bet about $20k. You’re telling the other player: ‘You can’t bluff me, I do have a hand.’ So if he was thinking of trying to steal the pot from you, he won’t and it’ll also keep him from making a value bet that’s so big you might be afraid to call it.


I call, but I wouldn’t have checked and allowed the other person to just go all-in. I would have made a mediumsized bet that I know a player can’t come over the top of without actually having a hand because it will appear as if I’m pot-committed to call a raise. The pre-flop bet is a problem; it’s barely more than twice the big blind and there’s already two people in the pot. You need to raise in that position, three-and-a-half times the big blind. On the flop, again, the bet of $7,000 is just too small. I would either have bet very large to give them the wrong odds to call with an open-ended straight draw, or I would have checked.


I’d call. I would make it more than $3,400 pre-flop though, more like $5,600. I’d lead out with $14,000 on the flop. With the Queen on the turn, I’d push. I don’t want to give the cut-off the ability to steal or to catch.

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