Have you ever lost a big pot only to hear your opponent taunt you with, “Winner winner chicken dinner!” from across the table? Annoying yes, but you must wrangle in these emotions and know that you are the real winner because you saved chips and played the hand the right way. In today’s hand I lose, but I feel good about who’s really winning in the long run.
There is nothing tricky about the start of this hand. Blinds are $100/200 and the action folds to me seated at Under The Gun+2 (UTG+2). I have over 20 big blinds and am holding 10s-10h, a qualifying hand (any pocket pair) according to The Poker Model. I come into the pot raising to $400 for these reasons.
The player on my left folds and The Cutoff+1 3-bets (re raises) to $1,000. The rest of the table folds and the action is back on me. If I had a premium hand, like A-K, K-K, or A-A, then I would 4-bet (raise back) in an effort to get all of my chips in right now. With most hands other hands, I would fold to this 3-bet because I cannot expect to improve on The Flop. If I don’t improve on The Flop then I’d have to check and fold to an expected continuation bet. But with a few of the pocket pairs, like 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, J-J, and Q-Q, I can call this 3-bet. I can call because I will already have something on The Flop (likely second pair or better) that I can play as a mediocre hand. To make this call I must have over 20 big blinds after I make the call, which I do.
I make the call and The Flop comes Ks-9d-4h. The action is on me and I must qualify my hand as good, bad, or mediocre. My hand is mediocre because I have second pair. With mediocre hands I want to check and see if I can get to the River cheaply where I can find out if I have the best hand. I know that after I check I will call one bet from my opponent as long as it keeps me above the 20 big blind threshold. If I’m faced with a second bet, then I will fold unless my hand improved. For these reasons, I check.
After I check my opponent bets $1,100, an average-sized bet that will not put me under the 20 big blind threshold. This bet is a continuation bet and can be made with any two cards. With my mediocre hand I will call the flop continuation bet.
I call the continuation bet and The Turn is The King of Clubs. This is not a bad card for me because it lowers the likelihood of my opponent having a king which is beating me. My hand is still mediocre, however. I will check and know that if my opponent makes a second bet here then I must fold because the pot is becoming too large and my tournament has the potential to be at risk. I check and my opponent checks taking us to The River.
The River is the Queen of Hearts and the action is on me. While this is an overcard, it would be unlucky if my opponent has a queen here. This is why I will make a River Blocker Bet and find out if I have the best hand or not. This is always my goal with mediocre hands from the outset: find the cheapest way to flip my cards over at the River. Even if a River card shows that seemingly lowers the value of my hand, I have already gone down the mediocre path, which requires me to avoid vulnerability and make this bet on The River. For more on the River Blocker Bet, click here. I make a River Blocker Bet which is ⅓ of the pot. If my opponent folds, then I’ll win. If my opponent calls then I’ll find out if I have the best hand. If my opponent raises then I’ll assume that I did not have the best hand and fold.
My opponent calls and flips over Qc-8s and I lose this pot on The River. Losing here was unfortunate, but I’ll keep my tournament life and still have way over 20 big blinds, enough to win the whole tournament. The important thing is that I knew where I was in the hand and was not at risk to lose my tournament along the way. My opponent may have questioned why I bet into him when the queen came and I don’t expect him to understand, but you will. This bet allowed me to flip my cards over a cheap price and avoid vulnerability if I check. Be sure that when you follow the mediocre path that you are able to show what you have.