Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Kens Hand Of The Week - Limping Along With The Best Hand

star-smallThis week’s hand involves a question I had recently from a student concerning whether or not he should value bet the river or not.  So this is something that a lot of smaller buy-in tournament players wonder about, so I felt it would be a good topic to cover. So our friend was dealt JK On the button.  He had the biggest stack at the table although not that much more than several other players. 

It was mid way through the tournament and a time where you want to keep building your stacks, especially with a good sized stack like this.So everyone folded to our guy, who put in a raise, where he was happy to just take the pot down but wouldn’t mind one or more of the blinds getting in.  So his raise was just 2.5 BB, and the blinds had shown that they were willing to call him pretty lightly with this size, and were both fairly loose passive, so this was a good move on his part. Sure enough, both blinds called, and it became a three way pot.  They were loose enough that his hand beat their calling ranges here, and he also wasn’t afraid to be raised here unless one of them had a real big hand, in which case folding now would be the better option. The flop came 5K5.  So this is of course a very good flop for our friend.  It is unlikely that either of his opponents have a 5, as they are loose but not that loose even with A5.  They would play an ace medium here perhaps, but aren’t foolish enough to call a raise with a low kicker like this. They may have KQ and have him out kicked, but if they had AK they probably would have put in for a raise.  So there really aren’t many hands at all that have him beaten right now and he’s almost surely ahead. So both players check the flop, and he chooses to check back.  He seems to be wanting his opponents to catch up by giving them a free card, and although there really aren’t any good draws out there and this is as dry a board as we’ll ever see here, I still don’t like this move.

I think that a half pot sized bet here is better, and these players are known to be on the loose side and it may appear that the button is just looking to c bet and take this baby down.  So pocket pairs between 5 and K would definitely call here, as would a fairly wide range of hands as well if they feel confident enough that our friend probably is just c betting anything here. This by the way is one of the benefits of playing aggressively, as if you are seen by the other players as being too nitty then it’s harder to get action when you do have something.  So if you are betting out more to take more pots down then you will not only be harder to play against, you will get paid more. So the turn comes 7, where we now have a back door flush possible.  She SB checks, and the BB puts in about a quarter sized pot bet.  This is a lame bet and is a perfect spot for a min raise. If you raise too much here you will scare him off of his likely weaker hand, either a diamond draw, a pair of 7’s, or something else that isn’t particularly strong that we beat. 

The min raise makes it very tempting to call light, and while people will tell you it’s a donk move, it definitely has its place. So our friend just calls, and the SB folds.  This is definitely too weak here by the way.  The river card is 3, making the back door flush draw possible.  So now the BB checks, and our friend is wondering whether he should make a value bet here. I really doubt that the BB has made a flush here.  Aside from this being unlikely in general, his very small stab on the turn certainly doesn’t look like something we would see from someone drawing to a flush, and even if this was the case, checking the river where we’ve played completely passive in the hand so far wouldn’t make sense either.

So I’d definitely bet here, and I really doubt that we have anything to worry about here, but a half pot bet might pique the BB’s curiosity.  It’s much more likely we would get a call here from worse than get called or raised with better.  So that makes it pretty simple to decide. So our player checked, and did have the best hand, although it definitely looked like his opponent would have called a bet here.  So this is what got him thinking that he may have been better off throwing a bet here on the river, but in reality he should have put more money in on all three streets. Overall, you definitely don’t want to play this passive though which is a mistake a lot of less experienced players make.  There are times when it’s wise to slow play but they all involve taking advantage of someone else’s aggression, letting them hang themselves so to speak.  You never want to just limp along with the best hand like this though.

Note From Mark: I often get asked about the best site for players looking to gain tournament experience. While I have my favorites, the real answer to this question is that it depends on exactly what you are looking for, how much experience you have and your bankroll level. I put together a detailed article covering the 10 best poker tournaments for beginners which includes some ideas for players of all different skill levels - check it out and see if you agree with my choices! Come back next week for another insightful hand analysis from Ken!

Gl at the tables, Mark

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