Switching Gears

I’m on the Cutoff with 4 players left holding 2d-As. The blinds and antes are $1,600/$8,000/$16,000 which means I have about 33 big blinds, a medium stack according to The Poker Model. With no previous action in front of me and a medium stack size, A-2 qualifies as a raising hand; I will make a min-raise for this reason.


I make the min-raise to $32,000. Player 122 calls from The Button, Player 273 folds from The Small Blind, and Player 21 calls from The Big Blind. The hand will move from Phase #2 – Pre-Flop to Phase #3 – Flop. The action will start with Player 21 in Phase #3 – Flop.


Player 21 checks and the action is on me. In order to know whether to check or bet, I’ll have to put my hand in one of the three Poker Model flop categories: good, bad, or mediocre. On this flop, 5s-2s-8c, I have a bad hand. According to The Poker Model, a bad hand is having an inside straight draw, 3rd pair, or worse. Because I have “One Pair – twos, Ace, 8, 5 high”, my hand is bad.

Because I was the raiser Pre-Flop and have a medium stack, I must bet my bad hand (called a continuation bet) in an effort to make both opponents fold. This is the recommended play because it gives me the best chance of winning the Pot. This bet should be average-sized (between ⅓-⅔ of the Pot). I can always do a ½ pot bet, but slightly varying the amounts will make my bet less predictable.  


I bet $45,000 hoping that both players will fold but am called by Player 122 on The Button. Is he bullying me with a big stack? Does he have something? I don’t get caught up in the unknowns and focus on my own actions. Player 21 folds and the hand moves from Phase #3 – Flop to Phase #4 – Turn.


The Turn is the Qs and the action is on me. The Qs is an interesting card because it gives me an Ace High Flush Draw, improving my hand. I now have one pair of twos + the ace high flush draw. If The Turn did not improve my hand, then I would check here with the intention to fold to a Turn bet from Player 122. But with the potential flush, I will switch gears and check, knowing that I will call The Turn bet and see a River card. I don’t want to bet here because it leaves me vulnerable to be raised. I want to see the River card as cheaply as possible to see if I make my flush.  


I check and Player 122 bets $100,200. Recall that after The Turn card improved my hand I checked, fully ready to call a Turn bet and see the River. Before calling, however, I must make sure that calling this bet does not put me under 20 big blinds. The Poker Model strongly advises not to let your stack go below the 20 big blind marker mid-hand because if you lose, then you’ll be left with a small stack. A smaller stack makes your double up less valuable later on. If the bet puts me below 20 big blinds, then I’ll consider folding depending on far below I’ll go by calling. I may adjust my rule here to 15 big blinds instead of 20 for calling.  

Will the bet of $100,200 put me below the 20 big blind maker? I have $454,442 in chips and will have $354,242 left if I call the $100,200 bet. Divide $354,242 by $16,000 (the big blind amount) and I’ll be left with 22 big blinds after the call. I’m okay to make the call.


I make the call and the Ac comes on the River. I didn’t fill my Flush with a 5th Spade but the Ace improves my hand to two pair. I’m fairly confident that I now have the best hand but must tread carefully. If I bet here and get put all-in, then it’s likely that I do not have the best hand, leaving myself with under 20 big blinds after folding. If I check, I’m vulnerable to a big bet from Player 122 on the River, but will call because I only lose to a Flush or a set.


I check and Player 122 checks behind. He mucks his cards and I win a big pot. I was very fortunate to have hit the ace on the River in this hand. Remember that my decision to call the Turn was not based on the hope of improving on the River, rather the calculation that I could afford to make the call and lose. Be sure to always have a good grasp on your own stack size when your hand changes during the hand. Be ready to switch gears.


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