During that 2.5 day run, I made notes about several hands. I thought it would be interesting to share those with the school members, discussing my thought process in each. Let's go ahead and get started.
Blinds at 100-100 (level 1), all stacks are still around the starting 200 big blinds. After 5 players limp in, I call on the button with . Deep stacked and in position, against a table that seems to be largely weaker players, I have no intention of folding suited Ax or Kx on the button. These hands have nice big pot potential when they make a flush, as players are limping in with suited connectors in these situations, and although it's infrequent when we flush over flush someone we stand to win a very big pot. The important thing to remember in these spots is we are not getting involved to lose our minds when we flop top pair/no kicker, so having some decent post-flop playing skills is important. It's also why I make these calls on the button but not from early position… it's easier to navigate post-flop being last to act, there's unlikely to be a raise and we know our price and who's interesting in being involved. If one of the blinds makes a big raise and players between us fold, we'll just fold too and forfeit that 1 big blind speculation. We'll still have 199 bigs to work with.
We take the flop 8 handed and it comes , giving us the aforementioned top pair/no kicker, with a king-high flush draw. It checks to an aggressive player in middle position who bets the size of the pot, 800. Action folds around to us and we have a very clear call. Top pair/no kicker is not strong enough to raise, but a bit too strong to fold even in a multiway pot, to an aggressive player who could be betting several draws here in addition to better-made hands. And of course, we have the equity of the flush draw as well. If we were to raise and face a large reraise, that would be fairly disastrous as our current hand doesn't warrant playing a huge pot, but folding this much equity is very unappealing as well.
I call, as does the small blind (Pot 3200). Three of us see the turn , giving us 2 pair and putting a 2nd flush draw on the board. Both players check to me, and I bet 2300. Certainly, I think we want to bet here. The board is very wet with multiple draws, it seems unlikely our opponents would check and risk a free card with a better-made hand than ours. This mitigates the risk of being check/raised and allows us to comfortably go for value. The small blind calls very quickly, and the other player thinks for a bit and calls. The very quick call is a tell that often indicates a drawing hand. With a made hand of any strength, it's impossible to act this quickly as there is something to think about. With one pair, is my hand strong enough to call? What if the other player behind me check/raises? With 2 pair+, should I call or raise, and if raising, to how much? With a draw, many live players don't have much to think about. My hand is losing now, and if I get there I'll be very strong and probably win… insta-call.
We go to the river (pot 10,100), which comes the , making the final board and both players check to me again. The only draw that has completed is JT, and the only worse made hand which drew out on us is K9 (and of course 99, but that is a highly unlikely holding given the flop and turn action). I think a value bet is in order here. My only concern is that the small blind's draw was JT, but I don't believe this player would ever check/raise the river as a bluff, so I'm comfortable bet/folding to him. I opt for a sizing of 3300. Going small, around 1/3rd pot, because SB shouldn't have much strength absent JT (hands like QsXs or a flush draw with a 9), and the aggressive player slowing down and check/calling turn plus checking river indicates not much confidence in his holding either. After I bet, the SB folds quickly, and the other player tanks for maybe 30 seconds and makes the call. I show down my 2 pair and am good. While stacking the chips, the small blind informs me how lucky I just got that my clubs didn't come, as he held the nut flush draw.
The blinds were at 100-300/300. The last part is a big blind ante… instead of each player putting in an ante, the big blind player posts 300 total for the ante. This is a relatively newer development in live poker, which makes the dealing process much smoother. There is no arguing over who forgot to ante, the dealer doesn't have to collect them from all players and monitor the antes being posted… simply collect the single amount from the big blind position.
So back to the hand. I open from MP with to 1100, only the big blind calls (Pot 2600). We see a flop of , giving me top pair/2nd kicker and a Q high flush draw. The big blind player donk bets 1100. It is quite likely we have the best hand in this spot. Players don't tend to donk bet (lead into the preflop raiser) with nutted hands like big flushes or sets, rather they go for a check/raise or check/call to slow play. This is most likely a one-pair hand or a draw. We beat all 1 pair hands except AK, but that holding maybe 3-bet at least some of the time preflop. Our draw beats all but the Ks. It's also possible the opponent is on some weird bluff like . That said, I have a pretty clear call rather than raise. While I think the above is what's going on, we can't be sure the player doesn't have a small flush or a set and is donking to "protect his hand". If we were to raise and get re-raised, we could be put in a tough spot. Additionally, the opponent may well have some bluffs here that are super low equity, raising forces all those hands to fold. And finally, we have the positional advantage… raising begins to bloat the pot perhaps beyond what our hand strength warrants will also devaluing our positional advantage.
I call (Pot 4800), and the turn is the . The big blind leads again for 3000. For similar reasons as the flop call, I call on the turn as well and look to play some rivers. (Pot 10,800) The river comes the , making the final board . Villain now bets for a third time, bombing for 8000. This line of firing 3 streets post-flop, and bombing for a big river sizing, is indicative of good strength or a bluff. Going back to the original read on the flop however, it doesn't make sense that the villain would play strong flopped hands like this unless they would donk out specifically with sets or small flushes. Since I didn't have any specific reads about this, I lean toward assuming they do not since the large majority of players, in fact, don't. I call, and villain taps the table and says "you're good". He shows JTo with no spade.
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