Straight to the Eight

6’8”, 250 pound Lebron James grabs a rebound and pushes the ball furiously down the middle of the court towards the opponent’s basket. His eyes are focused on the rim and there is only one man standing in his way. When he approaches the foul line he elevates, cocks back the ball and slams it home to the roar of the crowd and flashing lights from the courtside photographers. As he lands and turns to run back on defense the whistle blows. “And One!”, yells the ref. Lebron shrugs and steps up to the free throw line.

When we are focused, in the moment and confident, good things will ultimately happen. What often gets overlooked are the bonuses that we receive after these “good things” have occurred. In the example above, Lebron’s adrenaline washed out the feeling of the defensive player grabbing his arm. When attacking the basket, he certainly was not worried about a foul or wondering if he would execute on the dunk, but he got both.

5’11”, 165 pound Elliot Smith takes a look at his hole cards and raises correctly. His mind is at ease and he knows how to maximize value at every phase of a No Limit Hold’em Poker hand because he has been diligently following and studying The Poker Model. When the Flop doesn’t help him, he attempts to get his opponent to fold by using a standard continuation bet. When his opponent calls and the Turn card improves his hand, he checks and his opponent checks behind. When the River cards gives him a monster he bets big because he has it and wins a large Pot. “And One”, he whispers quiety under his breath. Elliot shrugs and moves on to the next hand.

Elliot Smith is not Lebron James and Lebron James is not Elliot Smith, but they have a lot in common. They both have a basic code, meaning that Lebron will attack the hoop more often than not in this situation, while Elliot will make his continuation bet most often. They both will eliminate the expectation that something outside of their control is going to happen. Lebron knows that if he goes directly to the hoop and follows his basic code, then he’s likely to score. Getting fouled is an uncontrollable added bonus. Elliot knows that he’s done all that he can do on the Flop and there will be a better spot in the future. The great Turn and River cards serve as the uncontrollable added bonus.

In Poker, going on Tilt is the best way to not only miss out on your added bonuses, but also to steer away from your basic code. As a reminder, going on Tilt is when we lose sight of all patience, logic and planned strategy in an effort to make a quick buck or recover from a bad beat. For example, maybe Elliot was on Tilt and instead of making a standard continuation bet, he decides to go all-in to win the small Pot in front of him. When his opponent calls, he’ll be eliminated from the tournament, when his opponent folds, he wins a small Pot. What Elliot will never know is that the next two cards were going to give him a huge hand!

In today’s example, we find an added bonus on the River that allows us to switch from a River Blocker Bet to a River Value Bet. Remember that a River Blocker Bet is meant to slow our opponent down, while a River Value Bet is meant to receive a call from our opponent when we have the best hand.

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I’m in the Cutoff position (one right of The Button) with 49 big blinds (22,231/450=49) at $45/$225/$450 ($45 ante, $225 small blind, $450 big blind) holding 8c-Js. If the action folds to me, I will make a minimum raise to $900 because J-8 qualifies under the “two cards over 7” rule. We have one stack under 20 big blinds located in the Small Blind position. If we make a min-raise, this is the only stack that should potentially move all-in because he does not have enough chips to call and see a Flop or 3-bet with enough chips left in his stack. 20 big blinds serves as a marker to be in “all-in or fold mode”, depending on the strength of one’s hole cards. Other, larger stacks to the left are more likely to call, 3-bet or fold.

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The four players to my right fold, giving me the opportunity to open raise to $900. An open raise is when we are the first to raise with no action on our right. Recall that the big blind is $450 so I am open min-raising to $900 by doubling the big blind. The player on the Button to my direct left has about 32 big blinds, the Small Blind has 19 big blinds and the Big Blind has 99 big blinds.

Take a look at some general reasons that I might get 3-bet for the three opponents on my left:

  • kuzminegor
    • Best table position (the Button)
    • Over 20 big blinds
    • Facing a raise from medium-sized stack (me) on the Cutoff
  • moneyhunting
    • All-in or fold because under 20 big blinds
    • Facing a raise from medium-sized stack (me) on the Cutoff
  • nots
    • Super stack (99 big blinds)
    • Facing a raise from medium-sized stack (me) on the Cutoff

The Button, Small Blind or Big Blind players are often more skeptical of a raise from the Cutoff and may use a 3-bet to keep the Cutoff raiser honest. My raise from the Cutoff position may look like I’m only attempting to steal the blinds and I do not have a big hand. This table image and position could induce other players to make 3-bets against me in an effort to win my raise along with the blinds and antes.

As a raiser from the Cutoff The Poker Model wants you to ask yourself, Do I have a qualifying hand? Is my stack over 25 big blinds? If we can answer “yes” to both, then make your open min-raise and let the hand play out. It’s not terribly significant if we receive a 3-bet and must fold.

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The Button calls and the action is on the Small Blind. As soon as the Button calls I’m thinking, Standard continuation bet on the Flop. The reason I’m thinking this is because it’s likely that both of the other players will fold their hands, a Flop will come that I get no part of and I’ll make a continuation bet to try and win the Pot on the Flop. If I make a mediocre hand, like Top Pair, Middle Pair or a Draw, then I will check in an effort to make it to the River cheaply. If I Flop a big hand, like Two Pair, a Straight, Three of a Kind,  or a Full House, then I will bet in hopes of getting all of my chips in on the Flop.

If the Small Blind decides to go all-in pre-Flop or the Big Blind decides to make a 3-bet pre-Flop, then I will fold my hand. To call the Small Blind’s all-in, I’d need a hand like 99+ or A-Q+. To play with the Big Blind after a 3-bet, I’d need the same.

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Both the Small and Big Blinds fold and the Flop comes 7d-5d-Jc. I’m holding Js-8c in my hand, so I’ve made Top Pair on the Flop. Top Pair falls under the “Mediocre” umbrella on the Flop. I do not want to make a continuation bet here because my opponent may raise me if I do. We’d much prefer to stay in the hand, see if we can improve, and flip our cards over in the Showdown phase.

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I check and my opponent makes a small to medium-sized bet. Recall that ⅓-⅔ of the pot is considered medium. The Pot had $2,853 in the middle and the bet is $1,010, which is slightly over 33% of the Pot (35%). I did expect a bet from my opponent if I checked. Here are some general reasons why my opponent may have bet:

  • Thinks I don’t have anything after checking and wants to win now (most likely)
  • Has One Pair and thinks it is best because I checked (likely)
  • Has a Flush or Straight Draw and will either win now or build a Pot and win if it hits later (likely)
  • Has a monster hand and is betting to build a big pot (least likely)

Because having Top Pair will beat many of the outcomes above, we will make the call. On the Turn we will learn more.

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The Turn is the 4 of Hearts. I check and my opponent checks behind me. This is good news because we did not have to deal with a “Second Bet”. Recall that a Second Bet is one made by our opponent in this exact spot. The Second bet could be an absolute monster, bluff or anything in between. The biggest issue is that the Pot is much larger after a Second Bet and the risk is higher. We will usually fold Top Pair to a Second Bet. On a board with few draws and with a medium to large stack (+30 big blinds) we may consider calling the Second Bet with Top Pair or Over Pairs and using a River Blocker Bet to ensure that we keep our stack above 20 big blinds. On a draw heavy board, we may play Three of a Kind or Two Pair this way as well. Typically big hands like Three of a Kind, Two Pair or better will be Check/Raising or betting on the Flop to get all-in.

We are speaking in generalities here and will look at specific hands to paint a better picture moving forward. Our article, “River Blocker Bet” shows a close example of the stress that comes with calling the Second Bet as your stack approaches 20 big blinds. We recommend studying and comparing “River Blocker Bet” to this hand.      

We now have a Gut-Shot Straight Draw with the 4 on the Turn. A Gut-Shot Straight Draw (aka Inside Straight Draw) is when we need one card to make a Straight. In our case, a 6 will give us a Straight and no other cards. Assume it’s not coming when you have a Gut-Shot Straight Draw as the odds of making the straight are about 8%. With our opponent checking behind us, we’ll see a free River card and most likely make a River Blocker Bet to slow our opponent down from making a large River Bet.

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“And One!” We’ve hit the Gut-Shot Straight as an added bonus to our Top Pair. This means that we are now hoping that our opponent actually had something on the Flop and will call us on the River. Before we get too crazy, it’s important to recognize that the 6 was a Diamond meaning that if our opponent bet on the Flop with a Flush Draw and checked on the Turn, then he will have the best hand now with a Flush. Also, if he happened to have had 9-8, then his straight is higher than ours.

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I make a healthy bet of $2999 which is about 61% of the Pot. I didn’t make a huge bet (over 67% of the Pot) because of the Flush and straight possibilities described above. Some players will call this bet with One Pair because they think it’s a bluff. Others with Two Pair or Overpairs will have a difficult time folding as well. Lastly, our bet leaves our opponent with about 20 big blinds if he calls and is wrong, which may help him justify the call. If we get raised here we must fold the hand because it’s clear that our opponent has the Flush or higher Straight that beats us.

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My opponent folds. It’s very hard to tell if the Straight helped or hurt my ability to get value on the River. While it did give me the confidence to make a River Value Bet, it may have scared my opponent off of a hand that would have called a River Blocker Bet, like One Pair. Either way it’s nice to get an added bonus and win the Pot.

Did you see how this hand was slightly different from other hands with bets on the River? There are only 5 cards and so much action that can be played in a single hand, but one River card can completely change our mindset. We hope that you’ve started to pick up on the basic patterns presented in almost all of The Poker Model hands. Does my hand qualify? Do I have enough chips? Do I have a bad, good or mediocre hand on the Flop? Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

Brett

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