Twitter Poker Poll Questions Answered

This past week I created some poll questions on Twitter that were poker related, and while the majority of you gave the best answer for all three, many of you, based on some of the responses I got, were dedicated to being wrong! Now, you can argue all you want against my thoughts on this, but just realize you will be arguing against not just myself, but the vast majority of top players in the world who would approach all three situations the same way. Let’s break down the hands:

Hand #1

Question was what do you do in a 9 handed tourney, 100 big blinds deep when the player under the gun raises, and you are in second position with AQ suited? You guys responded this way:

Call 52%
Fold 15%
Re-Raise 33%

FOLD
Let’s start with those of you who said fold. It’s very important to understand that if you want to be a winning tournament player you will likely need to play MORE than the average number of hands to be successful. Playing tight can get you into the money, but if you want to win the big money in the top three spots you are going to have to find a way to make your own luck by entering more pots.
AQ suited is too strong a hand to fold. You have 100 big blinds which means your stack is in fine shape and suited cards play pretty well post flop. If you said fold, you are playing too tight! Yes, it’s true that a player under the gun is signifying that he has a strong hand, but unless his raising range is just AK, QQ, KK, and AA, you won’t be in terrible shape overall. Now, if this was the year 2002, I would probably say fold is fine! People in first position played a lot tighter back then.

RE-RAISE
Now, let me start by saying that 3-betting here isn’t exactly “wrong,” but overall I think it’s inferior to calling and there are several key factors. Many of you have asked for “more info” on these scenarios, but you should assume by the fact that I omitted any extra information that the player who raised under the gun is unknown to you. You don’t need a full scouting report on all 9 players to make a good decision. Often when you play a tournament you will sit at a table full of people you have never seen before and will have to just play your cards optimally without the benefit of added information.
When playing tournaments, a major consideration most good players look to avoid is high risk situations. 3-betting increases the size of the pot against a raise from under the gun. As mentioned previously, an under the gun player is usually going to have a pretty strong hand and A-Q suited plays pretty well post flop. If you 3-bet, you are essentially turning A-Q into a bluff. If you want to 3-bet there, you are better off actually having a hand like A3 off suit and do it as a bluff. If the under the gun player 4-bets, or any other player at the table 4-bets, you are going to fold anyway with either hand most of the time. There are more reasons I prefer call to 3-bet, and I will explain them below.

CALL
The hand is too strong to fold, and 3-betting is turning the hand into a bluff. If you 3-bet, there is a pretty good chance you are bloating the pot with the worst hand. That’s not the only reason I prefer call. As I mentioned earlier, if you want to be a long term winner in tournament poker, you will need to play an above average number of hands. You also want to be able to get to the flops with more hands. If you only call raises with weaker holdings, and always 3-bet the top end of your range, you become really exploitable to anyone wanting to squeeze your calls and put you in bad spots.
By calling with hands like AQ suited, AK, AA, KK, QQ, JJ, etc. this keeps the squeezers a little more honest. They won’t abuse your flat calls as much because they know you will also do this with super strong hands. What this opens up for you, is the ability to see flops with hands like JT suited, 77, 67 suited, etc. I’d go as far as to say that when I play tournaments and am sitting on 100 big blinds, if the under the gun player raises, and I am in second position, if I’m gong to play, I choose call well over 90% of the time. I call with my very best hands, and I also hope to take flops with some other hands that play well post flop: smaller pairs and suited connectors. If you ever plan to have a range of hands that you would call with in second position, a hand like AQ suited should be in that range.

Hand #2

Middle position player raises to 500 with blinds at 100-200. The small blind calls and you are sitting on 8000 in chips and a pair of 99. You guys answered:

Call 46%
Fold 5%
Re-Raise to 2000 30%
All In 19%

FOLD

WAY TOO TIGHT! I read some of the responses and too many of you are stuck on this idea of “set mining” as though the only way you could win this pot is if there is a 9 on the flop. There are PLENTY of good flops for this hand. You need to learn to fight a little harder for pots and not be looking for reasons to fold. If you are folding 99… what are you waiting for!!!

RE-RAISE TO 2000

This is another spot where you are essentially turning your hand into a bit of a bluff. If you make it 2000, what exactly do you plan on doing if the original raiser puts you all in? You going to fold now? You going to call and hope he has AK? You just put in 25% of your stack and are now in a guessing game. If he has AK and you fold, it’s a mistake. If he has a bigger pair and you call, it’s a mistake.
Let’s say one or two of the players call. Now the flop comes K-J-4. What now? You have 6000 left and there is 6000 out there. You going to just hope the 99 are still good? Or what about an A-7-4 flop? You going to just hope no one has the Ace and risk your tournament on it?
Re-raising here just makes your life extremely difficult if your opponents 4-bet, or if they call. Either way you are going to be in tough spots for your tournament life. You would be better off making it 2000 with 9-2 off suit! That way if they 4-bet you have an easy decision.

GO ALL IN
By moving all in before the flop, one thing you make certain is that you won’t get outplayed after the flop! For weaker players just learning the game, this is the option I would advise. It’s not the choice top pros make, but for a beginning player, risking 8000 to win 1000 makes this worth it. One of your opponents may call with AK in which case you will be a small favorite to double up, but when you get called by a bigger pair you are in bad shape as a 4-1 underdog. For those players who lack confidence in their post flop skills, this is what I would recommend.
If you had 30 blinds instead of 40 blinds, this decision becomes a lot closer for even the top pros. With 25 big blinds or less, it would seem like all in is better than call, but with 40 blinds, it’s just a little bit too much to risk for the 1000 return.
Calling is the “safest” option and it’s the choice most top pros would make because they have confidence in their ability to play the 99 post flop. Just because the flop comes J-8-6 doesn’t mean they are going to fold on the flop. Good players are able to gauge when it’s best to continue with a pair. There are also some really good flops for 99. Any three undercards, especially flops like 5-7-8, 6-7-8, 7-8-10, 5-6-8 etc. With flops like that, even when your opponent does have you beat with an over pair, you would still have 6 outs to beat it. That’s usually worth looking at the turn card and reassessing from there.
There are some clearly bad flops as well, like A-K-J for example, but these are easy to play. Your stack goes from 8000 to 7500 with a fold on this flop, and your chances of winning the tournament have been affected only minimally.
The hardest thing about playing the 99 post flop, is that you will have a lot of flops that will be marginal. For example, is Q-8-4 a good or a bad flop? Well if you check, the raiser bets, and the small blind calls, I would call it a bad flop! if it gets checked around and the turn is a 2, I would say it’s quite likely a very good flop for you as there is only one overcard and if they don’t have a Queen only TT or JJ beat you.

Hand #3

Playing deep stacked with blinds of 50-100 the button raises to 250 and you have 78 of hearts. The flop comes down Kc 8s 2c. You check, and your opponent bets 300. You responded with:

Call 59%
Fold 18%
Check-Raise 20%
Fold Preflop 3%

FOLD
Folding the flop is so clearly the worst option of the 4. If you are folding middle pair getting 3-1 odds on the flop against the button who will bet this flop with ANYTHING a high percentage of the time, you are better off just folding before the flop! You will actually lose less in the long run.
How often do you think your 88 are the best hand on this flop in this situation? I think it’s probably 75% plus. I don’t know the actual figure, but if you don’t have the best hand on this flop against a button raise, I’d almost go as far as to say it’s a cooler! He would have to either have a King, a pair in the hole, or maybe an 8 with a better kicker. The chances of him having any of those things is far less likely than him having nothing. If you habitually fold middle pair in this spot you are just going to get totally run over. You don’t play 78 suited just to flop a straight flush, if you flop a pair heads up that is usually going to be the best hand! If not, you have five outs to improve on the turn and you are being laid 3-1 odds.

FOLD PREFLOP

Stop being such a nit!!! Get in there and FIGHT for these pots! Don’t let the button just abuse your big blind, you should be calling with a lot of hands with the understanding that the button’s range of hands is really wide. Besides, 78 suited hits lots of flops. And when I say hits lots of flops, yes, that includes a K-8-2 flop. As I mentioned previously, the only way this could be the correct play for you is if you play so poorly post flop that you would fold on the flop. If you plan to fold on the flop, you might as well not even bother defending your big blind with anything but premium hands.

CHECK-RAISE

I think it’s an OK play if you have a plan to use the check-raise in other spots as well. If you check-raise, your opponent is usually going to fold the worst hand every time. However, against really good players they are often going to still call you with nothing and hope to outplay you later in the hand. You don’t want to make it a habit of bloating the size of the pot with marginal hands out of position. The standard pose for being out of position in marginal spots should be that of DEFENSE. Keep your guard up and react to the player in position, keeping the pots small, and lowering your risk overall.

CALL

This is the STANDARD play in this situation. Guys, watch a high roller poker tournament and you will see that. In most situations a hand goes like this:

Player A raises
Player B defends big blind
Flop comes X-X-X
Player B checks
Player A bets
Player B calls or folds

Learn from the best and emulate what they are doing. Have some faith in the fact that these guys know what they are doing and have thought about the best way to approach these situations. If you don’t trust them… trust me!!!
Let me ask you another question: if you had KT in the same situation and you checked, your opponent bet 300, what would you do? Truth is, you should approach it the exact same way you approach playing 78. Check-raising with KT will put you in a lot of tough spots where you will be guessing. What do you do if he calls the check-raise, the turn is a 2, and he bets? You just going to fold KT? He may have a worse King that he is looking to protect, or he may have a flush draw, or he may have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The safer play is to check call on the flop, and then check call on the turn. Does that sound weak to you? If so, get your ego out of it! A passive play doesn’t equal weak. It’s just often the optimal play.

Now, are there times where I may check-raise with KT or 78 on that flop? Absolutely, but the go to “standard” play is to check call. When I get into psychological warfare with opponents based on our history, I may start to throw some curveballs. I may lead out, I may check-raise, or I may even go for the double check-raise with 78! This all depends on what you know of your opponent and in this example I gave you no information about your opponent so you should take the standard approach- CALL.

If you noticed a theme with these questions, it should be that calling is a deadly weapon in your arsenal that you should use more. Keeps pots smaller, keeps you in the hands with a chance to win, and it also disguises the strength of your hand if you balance your calls with some premium hands, some marginal hands, and occasionally some absolutely trash hands.

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Quick poker update from last night. Played an 8 hour session and despite having terrible allergies all night, I felt like I could have played another 8 hours easily. It was the same half PLO, half 2-7 triple draw game and I got off to a terrible start. I was playing too loose in PLO and it was costing me. Half way through the session I was stuck about $230k. Another part of this mix is “PLO Flips” which is quite simple; everyone throws out $10k into the pot, you get 4 cards and the dealer runs out a board. The best hand wins the money.
We do this once every few rounds just one time. However, if someone wants to play another flip, they have to throw in some “juice.” An extra $1000 in there and we do another $10k flip. So if there are 7 players you are looking at $70k plus the $1k juice. After that, if you want to do another flip you have to throw $2k in juice, followed by $3k, etc.
Well, thanks to some dumb luck flips I ran hot in, I was able to get closer to even and by the end of the night I pulled out a $45k win.

One other interesting wrinkle from last night’s game is a special 2-7 triple draw rule. If a player chooses to straddle, which is a blind raise to $3000, they start with a 6th card! Once they make their first draw, though, they go back to playing as normal, but starting with a 6th card means you are far more likely to start with a playable hand. When you don’t get any low cards, though, you sometimes have to just say goodbye to the $3000 you put out there. The shorter handed you play, the more correct it is to put on the straddle. For example, I’m quite certain that in a 4 handed game, its plus EV to straddle, while 6 handed it’s probably not a smart play. I did it often because I felt like I have a significant edge in 2-7 and I wanted to be able to play more hands in that game.

Year to Date Results:
53.5 hours
+$109,0000

 
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