Let’s say I am Player 1 in this hand, which I’ve uploaded to PokerStars’ Boom Player. I have been asked a lot why I played my hand the way I did. For me, it’s kind of obvious, but seems like it’s not obvious at all to others. I’ll walk you through the things I ask myself in lots of hands before it’s is my turn to act pre-flop.
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It’s the WCOOP $700 Two-Day Event with about 40 players left. The villain raises from under the gun and I’m on the button with 4-4. The most standard play would probably be to just call pre-flop. I decided to 3-bet because of a lot of reasons.
1. The short stacks in the blinds. If I just call, I basically invite them to shove light-ish. Both players have stacks with fold equity and would increase their stacks by a huge percentage if they won it uncontested, which is why they very likely will shove hands like 8-8 and K-Q, maybe even wider. Remember, this is deep in a $700 tournament. These players certainly aren’t bad. They probably know that I never would just trap call a good hand with these stack sizes, which means my flat would be seen as dead money in the pot – more or less.
2. Showing strength: By 3-betting, I commit myself to call the short stack(s) if they wake up with a hand. This shows strength to both the short stacks and the villain. We obviously can’t say for sure, but I would expect the blinds to fold hands like A-J and 8-8. At the same time, I get the villain to fold pre-flop more often since it wouldn’t be smart to 3-bet with complete air like 7-4 suited in my shoes.
I also 3-bet an early position raiser who, just like me, has a huge stack. I shouldn’t mess with him, right? His image of being able to make good reads also helps me look strong. It looks like there’s no reason at all for me to bet light – and actually this is the case. I’m kind of semi-bluffing pre-flop.
3. Building the pot: In case he calls and we both have a hand, I want the pot to be big already. You don’t hit your set often, so you’d better make sure you take a set-mining spot, which will pay you off. It also would be fine for me if he 4-bet pre-flop since all that does is build the pot. Let’s say he 4-bets to 110,000. I have to call 70,000 to win slightly less than 1,000,000. With these stacks, it would be a rather easy decision for me to see a flop.
4. Planning in advance: If I just call, I will have to fold to a c-bet a lot. By 3-betting, I increase my chances to take it down post-flop. And let’s say I c-bet the flop and he calls my c-bet. He certainly won’t donk bet the turn out of nowhere, which means I can check behind on the turn and see all five community cards. So, instead of hitting my set every eighth time, I hit it every fifth time as long as I don’t get check-raised on the flop.
I also would barrel some turns, but don’t want to go too deeply into that since there aren’t many flops I can do this on with my hand. I probably won’t represent 9-8 suited on a 5-6-7 flop, for example. The main reason for this is my screwed up image.
5. My image: He has seen me do some crazy stuff. My image could also be a disadvantage against some players, though. I don’t think he is the type of player who will go crazy pre-flop and try to level me often since he is an excellent post-flop player.
6. Stack sizes: Regardless of my hand, I’m one of those players who can hurt him. That means I will be pretty much always be in control of the hand and the pot size in position. Just imagine you are deep in a tournament like this and a good player who can bust you 3-bets you in position. Which hands would you want to continue with without it being a passive play where your only value comes from relying on your opponent bluffing several streets when you happen to hit the flop hard?
Even 4-betting wouldn’t guarantee you not to lose a big pot. One float from the player in position might be enough to make you play honestly and give up if you didn’t connect. Again, since I will be in control of the hand and pot post-flop, I think even set-mining is a marginal play for him to make since, out of position, his implied odds are much lower. Even if he has aces, I can make his life very difficult post-flop. I can call with a wide range of pocket pairs and suited connectors and potentially win a huge pot if I hit. What if I show strength on a 7-8-5 flop? Value-betting aces will be a tough play for him to make.
The points above are important to make it a +EV spot overall. Post-flop, I think I chose good bet sizes, but certainly not perfect ones. I could have made bigger bets on every street, but since the turn card was a king, it made it slightly less likely that he had one. Given my image, maybe he’s capable of hero calling me with worse than a king, which is unlikely to be honest.
I also didn’t want to chase away aces, which are pretty unlikely given his pre-flop call. So, I maybe gave him at least a chance to raise me once as a bluff, but just like the other two points, I’m not sure if he does this in such a spot. At least these points somewhat explain why I didn’t want to represent too much strength during the hand. On the other hand, bigger bets might have looked more like a bluff. He mucked A-K suited!
If you want to hear an analysis from Daniel Negreanu’s point of view, I uploaded it here. You can listen to it without downloading.
Comments are welcome!