Live Tournament Hand #4

by Mantis
Submitted on Sun, 14/10/2007 - 6:06pm

This week, I posted the following hand on the blonde poker 'Poker Hand Analysis' board:

The Tournament

Environment:          Live Game
Type:                      Double-Chance Freezeout   
Players:                    92                           
Buy-in:                      £300
Starting Chips:          3,500 + 3,500
Prize Pool:                 £27,600
Blinds:                       200/400
Remaining Players:    75
Average Chips:         8,587

This hand occurs after the first break with the blinds at 200/400 so all double-chance chips have been taken.


We doubled-up early in the second half and are currently sitting quite comfortably on 15,800 chips. We have a tight but aggressive image which has been cultivated by entering very few pots, but playing the ones we do enter well.

Our opponents in this hand are two local players we will call Sam and John.

Sam is a highly experienced and excellent player who will take the aggressive route if invited to. When he raises pre-flop he is loathe to surrender the hand without a fight. John is less experienced than Sam and is a bit of a novice in comparison. Having said that he can certainly play and is not afraid to pull the trigger should he think he's ahead.

The Players

Mantis:     15,800     Small Blind
Sam:        17,200     Early Position
John:        12,500    Middle Position

The Hand

Sam makes it 1,600 to go from early position and John calls the bet. It comes round to us in the small blind and we look down to see...


We decide to call the extra 1,400 and go to the flop three-handed after the bb folds with 5,200 chips in the pot.

The Flop

   three clubs 

We check and Sam also checks.

John decides to take the initiative and makes a bet of 2,500. 

Flop Response

action man: "i flat call and lead at the pot for about one half to three quarters of the pot. Im obviously willing to go broke with middle set on the flop. There are very few cards that can appear on the turn which will get your opponent interested in, if he isnt on the flop, unless ones that are beating you like T-T, J-J, etc... lead weak after a litte dwell, i half expect a re-raise here, in which instance I call and check raise the turn all-in."

George2Loose: "With your chips in this position I would not fold 9-9, I would flat call and turn it into a set mining exercise - had the raise come from late position I might be tempted to re-raise. After the flop we've hit out set. I personally like leading out in this spot and fast playing the set. With players in the pot I would expect someone to have an ace. The lead out also looks weak and is building the pot at the earliest opportunity. Probably bet between half to three quarters of the pot. With Jon leading out, I would put him on Ax or maybe a flush draw. I would re-raise here too again wanting to scare out draws but also to buld the pot should I get a call."

Bongo: "The problem with taking the pot here is that you don't win enough to justify the call preflop. If you call because of 'implied odds' you have to do your best to build a big pot when you hit. This is why I don't like checking the flop - it makes it hard to make a big pot. A check raise is likely to scare off any action because it telegraphs your hand. If you bet out not only do you start to build the pot, but you force others to react to you."

Mantis' Analysis

It is interesting to see the different ways we can go about achieving that goal. I am a big fan of betting out with strength and if I was HU with Sam I would almost certainly adopt this tactic. He is without doubt capable of recognising the opportunity, as the pre-flop raiser, to represent a hand like A-K and come back over the top.

However, with a trio of players in the hand I decide against this strategy. With three players in the pot I am looking to use and exploit the 'sandwich effect' in order to get chips into the pot. I am thinking that if I do bet out Sam is going to be 'sandwiched' between me and John and will find it very difficult to make a move with anything other than a big Ace. If he has this sort of genuine hand he will c-bet anyway if I check (with John still to act)... but if he has anything else we lose him due to the sandwich.

Now if John bets and we call after initially checking it gives the aggressive pre-flop raiser the invitation to use the sandwich effect for his own benefit with whatever he holds. He may well put us on the obvious draw and feel that he can shunt John off his A-x by pressuring him with a re-raise. John will now be caught in the sandwich effect with me acting behind and Sam knows that if he gets through John I am likely to give up my draw, and the pot.

These three-way pressurising situations throw up some interesting possibilities to look at. In this particular one I think you may lose aggressive Sam if he doesn't have the Ace because of the sandwich whereas check-calling may allow him to try to take advantage of it.

The other thing with betting out of course is that a call could allow A-x to represent the flush should it come.

Some good points regarding both checking and betting out so far.

Part II

So I went the other route and checked my set, Sam checked,and John bet 2,500. I dwelt up and re-checked my cards before making the call. Sam scowls at me and John, counts chips and then mucks his cards in disgust (I think he had Kings).

So we go to the turn with 10,200 chips in the pot and a remaining stack of 11,700.

The Turn

The turn brings the....


and we have a board of

   three clubs   

I decide to remain consistent with my strategy and check to John, but he now checks behind as well.

Turn Response

TightEnd: "I think this is the trouble that NOT leading on the flop gets you into, when he checks behind on the turn its potentially disastrous. On a heart river I check call I think, I doubt he has two hearts and his turn check could indicate an attempt was made to take the pot by a steal on the flop as much as trying to get a free river for a heart. On a blank I value bet and call any re-raise. If he has A-A (surely not) or J-J (more likely) then so be it."

Flea: "IMO you're both trapping, I reckon John has A-J although may still be worried if a heart (other than the 3) comes down. If a blank lower than a jack comes on river I'd be tempted to push all-in which after the check on the turn looks a) weak and b) a steal and then pray for a call. Anything else and you have to be careful of either being behind or if a Queen or King comes down he may think you've hit a straight or bigger two pair in which case you either put a stop bet or a small sweetener bet in."

Alex Martin: "When you check and he bets 1/2 the pot its slightly unusual. I think we can rule out AXx or A-A on the turn when he checks behind but for me we should get here. He either has a pp lower than A-A, probably a high pp like J-J, K-K or a big heart draw which is most likely. When the pot gets to approach my remaining stack size I see no problem with shoving and taking what's there. Playing oop i would be very worried about giving a free card in this large pot. Oh, and I'm never ever ever worried about A-A here for those that were concerned." 

Mantis' Analysis

The big strategy question here is whether to lead or not on the flop. In this example it is safe to assume we would loose Sam and his Kings this way, but that was always the likely result with the an Ace on board anyway. If John does have a hand like J-J they would probably follow the Kings into the muck. Obviously, there are associated risks with both plays. If you lead you take the risk that you may not get paid at all (don't forget we have a tight image right now) and if you check you take the risk of leading yourself into trouble later in the hand.

Quite often I find that we scare ourselves unnecessarily by what we see out on the board. In this example the flop brings 2 hearts, but this doesn't necessarily mean either of our two opponents have a draw to the flush. We see the danger and think about how we can safeguard ourselves against it. If you lead I don't imagine you get a flush draw to go away and so if the board brings another heart you will be faced with the same predicament whether you bet or check-call the flop.

The only way to avoid a tricky turn/river decision in this hand is to check-raise the flop I think. But as has been said this makes your hand rather transparent and again you probably won't get paid. I think it's ok to gamble that the flush WONT come and IF it does my opponent won't have made it... because that will be the case most of the time.

The thing I don't like about leading with the flush draw on board is that your opponent can call with A-x or 2 pair and then use that flush to his advantage should it come. Maybe, check-calling allows you to use the flush to your advantage should it come. Not sure really, it's a tricky one. Obviously, a far better and more likely scenario is no heart on the turn and this is where I was looking to check-raise all-in but John's check prevented me from making this play.

Certainly an interesting one though and I think this is a good example of how many ways a particular hand can be played out.

Part III

So I check the turn hoping for John to fire another bullet but he elects to check behind and we go to the river.

The River

The river comes...


Making a board of

   three clubs     

The action is on me and I consider how much to value bet. If my opponent in the hand was Sam I may well check to induce a bluff but I know John may well check behind unless he has a monster. I count out 3,900 and make the bet, but John beats me into the pot with a super quick all-in.

This really surprised me. I thought he may pay me off with a weakish Ace and call the bet but his all-in is unexpected. So he has called a pre-flop raise, bet out on the flop, checked the turn and now raised me all-in on the river. 

River Response

Silo Graham: "If this were one of my level of tournament, John's pushed with the straight and holds K-Q. He's called preflop because K-Q could be a nice hand against Sam and he's going to take advantage of his tight image, then when you've called, it's a nice pot. When no one bets on the flop, he takes a stab by betting out. This didn't work but he got rid of Sam. Now he's worried what you have so he's taken the free card and checked the turn. Miracle saver on the river and he's pushed all-in knowing you'll call because you had a hand but can't pass because of the decent odds you're being offered."

ifm: "Post-flop is irrelevant for me because I simply wouldn't be in that situation unless heads-up but I would discount made hands by the river in YOUR position, I doubt very much you will get this far and be ahead to a river push. So basically I have won the hand on the flop or got all my chips in by the turn, if I did neither of these then I would be kicking myself on the drive home."

pswnio: He either puts you on a busted flush draw, is very confident in his read, and thinks you'll get off the hand, or he has J-J or T-T. I envisaged him betting the turn and us pushing then, and if he had bet the turn with J-J, our chips were going in then and there, and nothing has changed now. Except him hitting his set of tens. On this forum, having given the hand lots of thought, I might fold this. But IRL at the table - I'm not good enough to think about it long enough and lay it down. I call.

Mantis' Analysis

There have been some really smart opinions about the hand this week so thanks to everyone who has contributed. The final result will be posted at the weekend.

I think the risk of getting outdrawn has to be balanced against the risk of not making the most of what is a favourable situation. Hitting a set is a rare occurrence in tournaments and taking risks in order to maximise the situation is warranted here I think.

The most notable thing for me about the hand this week is to do with mindset. The flop comes down A-9-3 and we have a tendency to assume an Ace is out there. Why do we do this? I know a raise and a call pre-flop means an Ace MAY be out there... but it is not a certainty by any means. We make the assumption BEFORE we see any evidence to back it up and it guides our play. This can be risky in itself because fold-fold from two lower pairs is a distinct possibility. A LAG betting out strength here makes sense, but a TAG betting out his Ace gets respect from anything other than...a big ACE.

Not making anything from this pot on the flop is a more scary prospect for me than an unlikely heart on the turn and I think the assumption that someone has just paired their Ace is a BIG one to make at this stage. So I like the check as well because it gets you a bit more information than you have now and allows the other players the opportunity to make a move they otherwise wouldn't have made.

The same mind-set goes for the flush draw. There are two hearts on board and we are naturally inclined to scare away the draws. But who's on a draw? I think that we tend to see the danger on the board and it manifests into a reality before we have any evidence to support it. If the worst possible scenario always governs your thoughts I think this can lead to playing your strong hands quicker than you might. On the other side of the scale, we give a free card and the turn is the three of hearts, completing our full-house draw and someone else's flush. This is the best case scenario.

The most likely case scenario is that the turn is not a heart and so we don't have anything to fear. By checking we can see if an Ace is actually out there and wants to defend the pot against our set (played like a flush draw). No heart on the turn allows Ace-man the opportunity to push because he is ASSUMING we have hearts and is scared of the very outdraw we are when the flop comes down.

At least if the flush does come we can use our check-call as a way to represent it and win rather than allowing him to use it should he have called our flop bet.

Someone having the Ace is often going to make or break the hand and we probably wont win a big pot if this isn't the case. But our check does allow the Kings an apportunity to c-bet and represent one...nwith the potential of a genuine Ace behind him. Also, there are only 4 pairs that can improve to beat us (at least 2 of which would have raised pre-flop) and 7 that will improve and lose their stack to us, as well as one pair that turns 2 pair etc. So I think the rewards of offering a free card, if that happens at all, are probably worth the risks.

The Reveal

After John moved all-in on the river I called quickly because I had put him on an Ace and the pot was massive. I wasn't super confident however and would not have been surprised to see him table a disasterours    for the rivered straight. Maybe this would have been apt considering my slow-play strategy.

He revealed his hand as.....


And his head dropped when he saw my winning set, scooping me a big 19k pot.

The Conclusion

John really showed his inexperience playing this pot. He checked to trap me on the turn (while offering me a free potential flush card) and then raised me on the river when he would only get called by a better hand. So while the turn check could be the sign of a good player checking his newly made set it could also be the sign of an inexperienced or passive player slowing down with A-x, a bluff or of 1 pair improving to 2.

The hand this week was a prime example of how you can play a hand two completely different ways, both of which are creditable and can be justified with sound reasoning so thanks to everyone for their contributions.

The strategy used in this example was to trap our opponent with slow-play and it worked perfectly... this time!