The King of Queens

This week I ask you to think back to a time when you flopped Top Pair with a good kicker and deep stack on a board with few draws. When the action checks to you, what are you thinking? Bet because I want to see where I am in the hand, could be out-kicking any callers, and will fold if I’m raised. Was that in the ballpark? If you’d bet for these reasons, then you are acting inline with about 99.8% of the poker population, both pros and amateurs alike. Many pros will bet here because they know the perfect size, have a great understanding of their opposing players, and have no problem folding later in the hand or making a miraculous bluff. Amateurs tend to hold on to Top Pair for too long, ultimately risking their entire tournament with little certainty, guessing if they are ahead or behind.   

The Poker Model is unconventional in that it is built to play against the masses with little information about how they play. When we are playing multiple tables online, we don’t have the luxury of reading our opponents. When we are at a live table sitting across from top pros like Phil Ivey, we don’t stand a chance if we attempt to understand what they are doing.

Executing our rules creates an anomaly in that our opponents usually have no clue what we are doing. When an opponent checks against you on the Flop, do you ever put him on Top Pair? No, he would bet with Top Pair on the Flop, everyone does. In today’s example we’ll see how our unconventional play leads to major value later in the hand.

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I’m in middle position holding Kd-Qc with blinds at $50/$100. Notice how we are early on in the tournament and every stack has over 35 big blinds. This means that it’s unlikely that we’ll have to think about an all-in after one bet from an opponent. According to The Poker Model, Kd-Qc falls under the call-behind range of hands when all players have deep stacks like this. Others in this range include A-10, A-J, A-Q, K-J, and pocket pairs 22-QQ. A call behind hand is one that we will min-raise if the action folds to us, but call behind an opponent’s raise. For these reasons, I will call a raise from Player 42 or Player 27. If Player 42 raises and Player 27 calls, I will call as well. If Player 42 raises and Player 27 3-bets, then I will fold.

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Player 42 folds and Player 27 calls. Clearly Player 27 is not a student of The Poker Model as we’d always fold or raise from his position, never call. Remember that raising into a pot establishes control and allows for a continuation bet post-Flop while calling gives up control and allows other players to gain position. Because of the call from Player 27, we’ll now 3x the blinds instead of min-raising. This will have the same effect as a min-raise and make it a harder  for the blinds to play the Pot due to the high amount needed to make the pre-Flop call.

Always increase the size of your raise based on how many players have called in front of you. For example, with zero callers in front, 2x the blind (min-raise). With one caller in front, 3x the blind (what we’ll do here). With two callers in front, 4x the blind and so on. Be careful not to confuse a call in front with a raise in front. We want to scale our raises in this way to keep control of the Pot and clear out some of the players. If we merely min-raise with 3 callers in front of us, then all 3 will call because of pot odds. A 5x raise, however, should clear out some of the players and create isolation. This isolation should allow us to make a continuation bet post-Flop like other hands that we’ve seen.     

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I 3x the blind (approximately) because I had one caller in front of me. As you can see, this raise forced out all players to my left and both of the blinds. I’m now isolated with position against Player 27, the original caller. The raised worked in that we are still in position as if we had min-raised, but now there is more money in the Pot from the blinds. I expect Player 27 to call, miss the Flop, and then check to me. I expect to miss the Flop myself and make a continuation bet for the win.

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Player 27 makes the call, the Flop comes 7d-Kc-2s, and Player 27 checks to me. Is this a familiar situation? I’m fairly certain that you would bet here because 99.8% of players would. The Poker Model checks because it is common knowledge that a bet here is a continuation bet. Because a continuation bet is usually a bluff, it’s more likely to be raised. If we bet and are raised with K-Q, then we’ll be at the mercy of Player 27 for the rest of the hand, unsure if he has a monster or is completely bluffing. We will lose some value here by not betting if our opponent happens to have a King with a lower kicker, but as mentioned in other posts, it’s unlikely for our opponent to have a King with one on the board and one in our hand. We may also get a fold from our opponent by betting here, which eliminates his ability to improve later and beat us in the hand. With all options considered, we’ll choose our unconventional style because Player 27 can have any two cards or make any move at any given time.    

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We check, the Turn is the 5c, and Player 27 makes an average-sized bet of $300. First I remind myself that $2,000 is my 20 big blind barrier. This means that no matter what happens in this hand, I must not go below 20 big blinds. The only hands that I’d feel comfortable getting all-in right now are Sets and Two Pair. I would have bet on the Flop hoping to get all-in with these hands as well.

If I call $300, then I’ll have $3,264 left and the Pot will be $1,380. This means that even if Player 27 makes a large bet on the River, like $1,200, I can still call and have over 20 big blinds. Another option would be to use our min-raise Turn Blocker Bet. With this play, we would min-raise the $300 to $600. Our stack would be $2,964 after the raise and the action would be back on Player 27. If Player 27 raised us back, then we could feel confident that he has the best hand and we would fold. Very few players would make this play on a bluff. If he calls, then it’s likely that he’ll check on the River, allowing us to check behind. If he folds, then we’ll win right now.

Before deciding what play you would make, revisit the idea that we are playing this hand in an unconventional way. When we check the Flop, most players will not put us on Top Pair. This means that if Player 27 is holding a 7, he may think that it is the best hand. If Player 27 doesn’t think we have Top Pair, then he may also attempt a bluff because there are few draws on the board. “What could this guy possibly have?”, he thinks.

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I call the Turn bet of $300, the 3c comes on the River, and Player 27 bets $400. Before worrying about all of the Flush and Straight draws that just hit, consider how we’ve managed the Pot. As long as we don’t raise, we have a simple decision. If we call and are wrong, then we’ve accomplished our goal of staying over 20 big blinds. In this case, we’ll take our 28 big blinds and find a good spot later. If we call and are correct, then we’ll win a nice pot without any real risk. After the small bet of $400, our call is not about the cards anymore, it’s about being able to afford it.

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I make the call and Player 27 shows 10s-As. A complete bluff. This is a pure example of how our unconventional play can lead to value later on. Because of our flop check, Player 27 was not able to gain proper momentum for his bluff.

In today’s hand, we had an amateur player flat call the blind from early position. We picked up Kd-Qc, a call behind hand, and 3x raised instead of our typical 2x raise because of this call. All other players exited the hand, where Player 27 called. After a flop check by Player 27, we chose to check our mediocre hand to minimize risk and muddle our opponents ability to put us on Top Pair. Player 27 bet average on the Turn and we could afford to call. On the River, Player 27 attempted another bet, this time small, in a effort to win the Pot. We made the easy call and won the Pot with no stress.

Amateurs and pros alike have all been in the situation that we saw today. The Poker Model offers a system to implement against any and all opponents. Study it, learn it, and run it to become the King of all Queens.

Brett

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