Airplane Mode

Most can relate to the force that pulls us towards our electronic devices. That arousing, uncomfortable feeling exists in the game of poker as well. In order to overcome this sensation and make the right play we must understand the big picture. We are bigger than our emotions and will overcome our impulses. In today’s hand, I’ll show you how to switch into airplane mode, disconnecting from a tricky situation without the agonizing.   

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I’m holding Jh-Ks on The Cutoff+1 (TC+1) with blinds at $500/$1,000 and 50 big blinds. The action folds to me and I make a minimum raise to $2,000 because my hand qualifies. The player on my left calls $2,000 and the rest of the table folds. I’ll be first to act as the hand moves to Phase #3 – Flop.

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The Flop comes Jd-6s-5s and the action is on me. As always, I will qualify my hand as good, bad, or mediocre. I have Top Pair, which is a mediocre hand according to The Poker Model. With a mediocre hand I will check, hoping to keep the pot small and flip my cards over on Phase #5 – River, unless of course it improves which will happen some of the time. Making a bet here with Top Pair is by no means a bad play, but The Poker Model recommends checking to avoid a raise from our opponent and being on our heels for the rest of the hand. For example, if I’m raised after my bet, then I may have to fold the best hand or call bigger bets than I wanted to for the rest of the hand. Checking softens these risks. I know that I will call one bet from my opponent on The Flop after I check, guaranteeing I make it to Phase #4 – Turn. I make the check and my opponent bets.

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When I made the first check with my mediocre hand I already knew that I’d be calling one bet from my opponent. A huge bet from him, like more than the pot, makes this call harder, but as long as my stack stays over 20 big blinds then I will usually make it. It’s far more likely that his bet will be around half of the pot and easier to call. My opponent could have checked, which would have moved us to The Turn. But after the bet of $3,000, I’ll make the call and get to The Turn as cheaply as possible, without facing a big raise. I’ll also begin to put my opponent on a hand. What could he be betting with? Here are some possibilities assuming his bet is a standard bet within the range of ⅓-⅔ of the pot:

  • Nothing! He views my check as weakness and wants to win the pot right now.
  • Draws: 3-4, 4-7, 7-8, or any two spades. He wants to build the pot or make me fold right now.
  • Big Hand: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, 6-6, 5-5, J-6, J-5, 6-5. He wants to build the pot.  

Note that even my mediocre hand is winning against nothing and draws at this stage. This is why I will call one bet in this spot. The hand moves to The Turn.

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The Turn is the Ten of Hearts and the action is on me. I will check in this spot for the same reasons that I checked on The Flop; wanting to keep the pot manageable and make it to The River. If my opponent checks, then we’ll make it to the River. If my opponent bets, then I will make a tight fold, because this is The Second Bet according to The Poker Model. Even though the Ten of Hearts is unlikely to improve his hand, the pot would become large and I’d be forced to make a tough decision on the River, a decision that I don’t want to make with a mediocre hand. Fortunately my opponent checks behind me and the hand will move to Phase #5 – River.

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The River is the Nine of Spades and the action is on me. It’s time for a River Blocker Bet. The River Blocker bet is a ⅓ pot size bet made on The River in an attempt to keep the pot small and really find out if you have the best hand or not. The bet freezes my opponent and forces him to make a big raise over the top if he is going to bluff because I’m showing that I have “something”. There was $11,500 in the pot so I made a bet of $4,000 here. After I make the bet, I must switch to airplane mode. There are only three outcomes here according to The Poker Model:

  1. Opponent folds, I win
  2. Opponent calls, I might win
  3. Opponent raises, he wins

You must stick to the above criteria and know that no matter the result, you will have $44,000 in your stack and be able to win the whole tournament regardless. The action moves to him and I wait to learn what outcome will occur.

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My opponent raises to $14,000 and I must fold, like I knew that I would. No agonizing, no stress, just on to the next hand. What did my opponent have? Here are some possibilities:

  • Nothing! Players do bluff here, but I’ve learned the hard way over time that they usually ARE NOT BLUFFING. Test this theory if you want, but make sure it’s not for a lot of money.   
  • Something better than what I have. When my opponent did not just call, his hands are all beating mine: Any Two Pair, Straight, or Flush.

After today’s hand, I hope that you are able to separate some of the emotion involved with make tough decisions in poker. Remember that if you plan in advance, there will be no surprises.

Brett

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