While playing in a MiniFTOPS tournament at Full Tilt, I came across a scenario that I see all the time.
I open and see. The flop is ace high and I’m not sitting with an ace.
I have to figure out if I can represent an ace or not.
In this type of hands, I’m never quite sure when to give up and accept that the opponent has an ace or whether to continue with my aggression.
I approached Ludovich Geilich, who recently won the Genting Poker Series (GPS) Newcastle Main Event, to hear his views on the matter. This is what he had to say.
The blinds are 60/120. The hero is in High Jack with 29,840 and has K ♦ Q ♦ on hand.
I open to 360 and Cut Off calls with a stack of 14,985.
Flop: A ♣ 6 ♦ 3 ♦ (pot is 990)
I bet 450 and he calls quickly.
Turn: J ♠ (1,890 in the pot)
I bet 900 and he calls.
River: 5 ♠ (3,690 in the pot)
I bet 2,800 and he calls.
The pre-flop game is standard. As soon as he calls after the flop I put him on a range as pairs on hand or suited connectors.
After the flop, I decide on a three-step bluff, if I do a continuation bet, to get him to fold the pair he has on hand.
I follow this plan, after he calls the flop and turns quickly. I know he can also have an ace and I don’t think he’s going to fold.
So the point is, how do you go when he can have any of the ranks I describe?
The first point I would like to emphasize is the understanding of how different this hand is played depending on whether you are playing live or online.
It is much more likely that you will have someone fold such a hand when playing live than online.
The game online is constantly changing. This is not so much the case with live gaming. Some of the things I do when playing live are crazy.
I would never get away with any of these things if I had played online. When I play online the majority of the good players are far better than me.
But when you bench them around a poker table, I’ll run over them because I want to grab the weaker players’ chips and use my stack in an aggressive way, to make life difficult for the stronger players.
You have to fight for every single pot when you play live.
What I get out of this is that it’s very important to identify what types of opponents are?
It’s extremely important. Take this hand, for example. You bluff and then you need to know how likely the opponent is to fold.
If you do not have this information then you allow luck to take over more of your game than skill.
At no point in this hand did I ever consider whether or not my opponent would fold. I decided after the flop that I wanted to make a three-step bluff, no matter what happened.
There is a mistake on a table like this. You have K ♦ Q ♦ and the flop is A ♣ 6 ♦ 3 ♦.
That means A ♦ is somewhere, so I wouldn’t try to win all the chips because I wouldn’t be able to get nuts.
If A ♣ was A ♦ and you got a flush, then everything will depend on the strength of your opponent’s hand.
If I think he has sixty, top pair or even top pair with the best kicker, when the router comes, with my image then I think I can win it all.
Even though I bet the river, I think I will get the chips in 80% of the cases.
With aces high and two squares, it is difficult to make a three-step bluff. I’m not saying you have to give up your hand all the time. But the cards on the table are incredibly important.
Queen, jack, ten or nine high tables with two squares, then I agree that you can fire loose with a three-step bluff. But with an ace high table, I think you can fire twice and then give up your hand.
Your opponent will too often have top pair when he calls twice. Although there is a strong player who can fold a hand, only a router will scare your opponent.
And even then, they may not let go of the top pair. So this is not a hand to try a three-step bluff.
At what point do you realize your opponent is sitting with an ace?
You bet 450 on the flop and he calls right away. Online it is a clear indicator.
If he is a bad player, then he has an ace. If he is a good player, he can give out a false signal by calling quickly.
It depends on how well you know the player. You can use HUD statistics or notes to gather information about your opponents, to make your decisions a little easier.
Imagine being a top player who earned $ 1-2 million in his career. In this situation, when I bet 450 and he calls right away, I don’t know what he has because he balances his response time.
You can fire twice to make 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 or 10-10 fold.
You may even see twice as much of a poorer flushing feature. If you are a quick checker, he might as well check and sometimes you can win the pot with king high.
What if you have no reads on your opponent?
If you have no reads, then your job is to control the size of the pot.
What else should I consider?
Which cards come on the table are very important, because it determines which range of hands you can use as a bluff.
In this hand you raise and the flop comes A ♣ 6 ♦ 3 ♦. If the cards that come on turn and river are 4-5, 5-7 or 4-7 (so you only need to fill up with a card from your hand to have a straight), then you may be able to succeed with a bluff on the river.
But here you have to have a good understanding of your opponent, it is very important. One who is good at reading hands knows that you rarely have a low card on your hand, which you must have in order to get a straight, and that means that you will often call your bluff.
When he looks at the flop, it is highly unlikely that he has A ♦, because he would have taken better time and tried to sell himself to a greater extent.
In this case, when he is eye-sighting, because you are blocking A-Q and A-K, then I would emphasize that his range is pair on hand, A-10 or A-J. He calls quickly because he doesn’t want to face a three-step bluff.
It looks like you have A-K or A-Q, but if he has A-10 or A-J he will still call you. If you had A-K on hand in this situation, you could make a thin value bet on the turn, to get value from A-10 or A-Q.
If you have A-Q you can also ask for thin value from A-Q. The Jack is a bad card because it then gets less action.
If you have A-Q you have to check first and then call, and A-K bets you and then you evaluate. The way this hand played out, I think it was pretty reasonable that he had A-10 or A-J.
He had A-J, but before I got to the river, couples were on hand in his range and so I prayed for the third time.
He wants such hands. Possibly because it’s early in the tournament and your stack is deep. He will even show up with a pair of jacks, because he doesn’t want 3-bets with J-J so early.
Then fire twice, and if he calls you give up on the river.
What other advice do we have for beginners in such situations?
You have to get to a point in your game, where many decisions are made without thinking.
This frees up more energy to think carefully through the difficult situations. You can only achieve this goal by playing as many hands as possible.
If you are a beginner then I would start by determining how many tables you can play at the same time and still maintain a high concentration level.
Let’s say there are four tables. Then I would play with money I can afford to lose, get up four multi-table tournaments or Sit and Go tables and start playing.
Each time you are knocked out of a tournament, you open a new table. Sit and Go tournaments are a great way to learn how to play poker with a small stack and multi-table tournaments for deeper stacker games.
If you play as many hands as possible then your brain will get to a point, in an elimination process, to make it work faster.
Let’s say you open with the A-10 in an early position and always call a 3-bet and then you lose money. Over time, your brain will remember this and your hand will automatically be dropped from your range in the early position.
Or you want to open, but fold for a 3-bet. Then a bit of a complicated puzzle is solved. Then a leak has been fixed.
Continuous play has contributed to this. Poker is like everything else in life. You have to work hard to reap the fruits.
Don’t buy the gossip that players just win because they are lucky. There is hard work, skills, determination and a bit of luck.