Blank Check

Did you know that it’s possible to try too hard in poker? Many times players will have golden opportunities to win large pots by making the obvious play but choose to be sly instead. This results in major loss of value over time. In today’s example I’ll show you why it’s so important to bet when you have it and not get greedy.

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I’m holding Ah-9d sitting Under The Gun+1 (UTG+1) with $75,000 in chips. The blinds are $500/$1000 and the action folds to me. With over 20 big blinds, A-9 qualifies as a hand I should raise with when there is no previous action. Other hands I should raise with in this spot are any ace, any pocket pair, any two cards over 7, any suited connectors over 6, any suited one-offs over 6 (7-9 suited), and 10-7 suited. I’ll enter the pot raising 2x the big blind in hopes of achieving isolation and being the aggressor going to the flop. For these reasons, I raise to $2,000.

The table folds around to The Small Blind (TSB), who calls, followed by a fold from The Big Blind (TBB). The hand will now move to the flop. I’ll be last to act (in position).

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The Flop comes 9s-9c-2h and The Small Blind (TSB) checks to me. I’ve made a good hand according to The Poker Model, a very good hand. The only hands that beat me are 9-2 and 2-2, which are very unlikely and I have two choices; bet or check.

Many players will check here, assuming that their opponent doesn’t have a good hand on the dry board and hoping their opponent will improve on the Turn, where they can maximize value. I don’t like this play for a few reasons:

  • The opponent may see your bet as a standard continuation bet, which can be made with a bad hand. If your opponent thinks you are making a standard continuation bet, then they may check/raise bluff, hoping to win the pot right now.  This is why we make continuation bets with bad hands also — after a few, your opponent may think you are bluffing.
  • The opponent may call your bet with a bad hand like Ace High, feeling that it may be the best hand if you are making a standard continuation bet.
  • If the opponent folds on your Flop bet, so what? You cannot force them to have a hand. If you check then you have no guarantee that they will improve on the Turn. It’s very likely that if they are checking the Flop, then their hand will not improve on the Turn leaving you in the same position you are in now.
  • You are in the exact spot that you want to be in right now, dominating almost every hand that exists. The goal of The Poker Model is to find spots like this, spots where you can be all-in and dominating your opponent. All it takes is one bad player thinking you are bluffing to win a large pot with almost no risk.

I choose to bet a little less than half of the pot for the reasons above, hoping to induce a check/raise or call from my opponent.

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My opponent calls the $2,000 bet, the Three of Diamonds shows on the Turn, and he checks. Well, I’m glad I bet on the Flop. Now I must think about all of the hands that I may have been called with.

Ace High comes to mind, many times on a paired flop like this one players will think that Ace High is good. Other potential hands are pocket pairs, specifically, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, and 10-10. I tend to rule out 2-2 and 3-3 because they are showing on the board and highly unlikely and also J-J, Q-Q, K-K, and A-A because many players will reraise (3-bet) me Pre-Flop with those good starting hands. One pair of twos is also a possibility. The common theme here is that I should still be dominating most of his hands and, like on the Flop, I should bet for the same reasons.

I make a strong bet of $7,500 with the mindset that if he thought his hand was good on the Flop, then he should still think that when the insignificant three shows on the Turn.

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My opponent calls the $7,500 bet, the Six of Diamonds shows on the River, and my opponent checks to me.

Like the Three of Diamonds on the Turn, the Six of Diamonds on the River is insignificant. The only hand that it helped based on our ranges was 6-6, which would beat my A-9. I’ve done a nice job of building a pot here by betting on every street and now it’s time to go for the home run. Once again, if my opponent felt he had the best hand on the Flop and Turn, it will be very hard for him to fold on the River when the Six of Diamonds showed. I make a big bet of $20,000, hoping to be called.

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After taking some time, my opponent calls the $20,000 bet. If my opponent had gone all-in here, then I would call. Even though there are some hands out there that beat me, losing with A-9 on this board would be considered a cooler.   

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My opponent flips over pocket eights and I win a big pot. If I had made a blank check on the Flop I would have squashed the action and won less money. Remember that you can never fully predict what your opponents will do, but when you have the odds, make the move.

Brett

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