When you are first learning The Poker Model, every hand will feel like an adventure as you navigate the 6 phases (Setup, Pre-Flop, Flop, Turn, River, Showdown). No matter what trouble is ahead, you’ll be prepared to make the appropriate move and travel on. In a game of limited outcomes, there are only so many situations that can occur, giving us the ability to prepare for all of them. Similar to an unknown map that may lead to buried treasure, we’ll make our play in the moment and make predictions about the future. When our play has been made we will learn more about the future and repeat the process. Notice in today’s hand how our reasonable predictions about future phases do not occur, leaving us in a position to edit our map and continue on.
I’m on the Button holding 10s-3s with blinds at $20/$40. We’re only in the second level of the tournament so all players have super stacks (+100 big blinds). I expect a raise from at least one of the other players in the hand in which case I will fold. 10s-3s does not qualify as a calling hand from the Big Blind unless there are multiple players in the hand. The size of the antes and blinds, as well as other factors, like stack sizes will determine the exact number of players that must be in the hand in order to call from the Big Blind due to pot odds. Hands that would qualify here are pocket pairs 22-QQ, any two cards over 7 excluding A-A,K-K, or A-K, A2-AQ, suited connectors, and suited one offs (8c-6c, 7s-9s) 5-7+. A-A, K-K, or A-K will 3-bet to an open raise. For an example and description of a non-qualifying hand that we would call an open raise with due to pot odds from the Big Blind, see “Muddy Rivers”.
While the hand ranges above look similar to our open raise or call behind a raise groups, it’s important to note that the call behind ranges above only apply when we are on the Big Blind. For example, we would not call an under the gun raise from middle position with a hand like Jd-10h, but we will call this raise from the Big Blind.
The action folds around to the Small Blind, where Player 165 min-raises. Think of a map with 6 checkpoints and the potential for buried treasure at each one. Our journey begins! We are in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop with three paths, which option will you choose?
- Fold. We’ll give up on the adventure before it begins because our hand does not qualify. No shame in folding 10s-3s to a raise from the Small Blind.
- Call. We’ll journey into Phase #3 – Flop fully aware that it can get risky if we don’t remind ourselves to stay above 50 big blinds unless we have a monster like a Two Pair or better (depending on the board). We’ll make a calculated prediction that when we call the min-raise, a continuation bet from Player 165 is likely. When we reach Phase #3 – Flop, new information will help us determine our next steps.
- Raise (3-bet). Because Player 165’s raise from the Small Blind might be an attempt to steal the blinds, a raise from us here with any two cards may win the pot now in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop. Our 3x raise to $240 will force Player 165 to fold, call, or raise. After gathering this new information, we’ll determine our roadmap moving forward.
We’ve discussed at length how The Poker Model is built to give you a foundation and the freedom to develop your own style. I choose to 3-bet here to begin developing an aggressive table image that may get me action later when I do have a big hand. Consider if every time the action folds to the Player 165 he chooses to raise only to be 3-bet by me from the Big Blind. Regardless of the outcome of each hand, Player 165 and all other players at the table begin to think, “The player from the Big Blind can’t possibly have a big hand every time he raises. He is probably bluffing.” At this point, I can remain patient until I get a big pre-Flop hand, like A-A, K-K, or A-K and make the same 3-bet, increasing my chances of getting one of the other players to play back at me. Big pots can be won this way but all three options mentioned above are equally recommended. We can always flop a big hand or remain patient for a better spot later without needing to work this hard to build our table image. For more on this topic, check out “M-Game to Blame.”
I make the 3-bet to $240 and Player 165 calls. The Flop comes 10d-Kd-8h and the action is on Player 165, who checks. Welcome to Phase #3 – Flop. At this checkpoint in our journey, we should first look at what we have; second pair. Second pair falls under the mediocre hand umbrella according to The Poker Model along with Open-Ended Straight Draws, Flush Draws, Top Pair, and sometimes Overpairs, depending on the texture of the board. Ac-As (overpair) on a 5d-6d-7d Flop is mediocre, while Ac-As on a 2d-2h-2c Flop is a monster. This is because there are far fewer hands that beat Ac-As on that latter Flop even though Ac-As is an Overpair in both cases.
Now that we understand what we have, we should take a second to reflect on how we got here. Player 165 raised from the Small Blind, where we 3-bet from the Big Blind. He called our 3-bet, the Flop came, and then he checked to us (the raiser). Just like in any other situation where we raise, then make a mediocre hand on the Flop, we’ll make a check to keep the pot manageable and see if we can make it to Phase #6 – Showdown. If we had flopped 3rd pair or worse, then we’d make a continuation bet in hopes of getting Player 165 to fold. If we had flopped a monster, like two pair or better, then we’d make a continuation bet in hopes of getting value or even all-in against our opponent. Similarly to the above Overpair example, the texture of the board will play a role in our choices. Kc-Qc on a Kd-Qs-2s board is a monster hand that we will look to get all-in, while Kc-Qc on a Kd-Qs-10d board is a monster hand that we’ll need more information (like stack sizes) to determine if we’ll play to get all-in because there are more hands that can beat us in the latter example (like Ad-Jc or Jd-9s).
I check behind, the 7s shows at Phase #4 – Turn, and Player 165 checks to me. We’ve come a long way. At this point I have only two options, check or bet. Because Player 165 has checked twice to me, it’s less likely that he’s trying to build a huge pot with a huge hand. Most players will bet with only a King, middle pair, or draw in this situation. Other than that, I should have the best odds to win. Remember that it’s possible that players will do anything with any two cards. I’m going to make an average-sized bet here. This bet will give Player 165 3 options, what do you think is most likely for him to do?
- Fold. Player 165 called my Pre-Flop 3-bet with bad position in hopes of hitting a Flop but missed.
- Call. Player 165 isn’t sure if he has the best hand with an 8 or Player 165 is hoping to fill his Flush or Straight Draw on the River.
- Raise. Player 165 decides to shift gears mid-hand and thinks I don’t have anything because of my Flop check, totally bluffing or he had a monster the whole time and is finally looking for value.
Player 165 folds at Phase #4 – Turn. It’s apparent now that he didn’t have a hand that was beating our mediocre second pair.
We had a few options on how to play this hand. The first was to make an easy fold and move on. This option will save us money when our opponent hits a piece of the Flop as it is very hard to bluff a made hand. The second was to make a call. This option leaves us vulnerable to a continuation bet if we miss. Our only way to win the pot is to raise the continuation bet on the Flop. We chose option 3, which worked out well. Even if we didn’t hit the 10 on the Flop, we would have made a continuation bet instead of checking that may have won the hand immediately. The only scenario where we lose is if our opponent makes a hand or performs a miraculous bluff, which usually doesn’t happen. None of our options are fool-proof and we must pay close attention to our stack size when attempting options 2 or 3.
We hope you got a sense of what it’s like to be the master of your own decisions today. It’s important not to think too far ahead, but have a clear sense of what has already happened in order to find where “X” marks the spot.