Editor’s note: This is Lesson #2 in our weekly “Strategy with Stas” series. Each and every Sunday Stas Tishkevich, founder of the Poker Fighter Training App, brings you a new lesson in article + video format. We hope you enjoy this feature from the Poker Fighter School, and would be happy for you to share these posts — as well as your feedback — on social media.
Action is folded to us and we see pocket kings from the dealer position. We will open-raise from this position in at least 42% of possible starting hands, and pocket kings are at the very top of our opening range, so we should always open-raise this hand in this spot.
The small blind calls, and now it’s time for us to think about the most important thing in poker: what is the opponent’s range; meaning what hands will he play like this.
If we think the opponent is a loose-passive player type, as the majority of players at low stakes are, we can assume he plays like this mostly pocket-pairs (22-TT), suited aces (A2s-AJs), Broadway cards (JT-AT, QJ-AJ, KQ), and maybe suited connectors (32s-T9s). Looser players can also call with low suited kings (K2s-K9s), suited one-gappers (42s-T8s), and offsuit hands like T9o, Q9o, J9o etc.
We are way ahead of this range with our pocket kings, and feeling pretty good about this spot given positional advantage and initiative.
The flop comes 4h3d2d and the small blind checks to us. We need to decide between checking behind or betting our hand. If we want to bet we need to find a good reason, in this case betting for value.
Betting for Value means we think that many weaker hands will call our bet. We look for a call from weaker made hands (any pair for example), flush draws (KTdd for example), straight draws (any five), or gutshot straight draws (any six or ace).
- vs. loose-passive opponents who on the one hand tend to call too much, and on the other hand rarely bluff, our play should be betting for value. We decide to bet, and choose a sizing of ~2/3 of the pot, as it is a draw-heavy flop and the small blind calls.
- vs. a passive player, we should actually just fold our hand, as we are crushed against his range (made straights, sets, and maybe two-pairs).
- vs. smart players or loose-aggressive opponents, we should probably check behind for pot control and to induce them to bluff on later streets.
The turn comes the 3s, which pairs the board, and we face an interesting spot. The initial “instinct” of amateur players is to fear that the opponent has hit his trips. We need to remember that it’s a relatively comfortable turn for our hand, definitely better than any diamond, five, six, or ace. Again we face a similar decision to the flop – bet for value, or check behind for pot control and bluff-catching.
- vs. loose-passive opponents we should probably bet again for value, hoping to get paid from the same hands that called our flop bet – weaker made hands such as over-pair, top pair, a pair with draw etc. and possible flush draws and straight draws.
We decide to bet, and choose a sizing of ~2/3 of the pot, as it is a draw heavy board and the small blind check-raises us. Given our read that he is a passive player type who rarely semi-bluffs, we need to understand that the weakest hand that will check-raise here is trips (A3 for example), and that the opponent can easily have several possible straights (65 for example), or full-houses (pocket fours for example) in this spot. VS this range our hand is crushed and we should snap-fold it.
- vs. smart players, we will find it hard to get additional value from weaker made hands or draws, so we should probably check behind the turn, and usually call their river bet, or bet comfortable rivers for thin-value.
- vs. loose-aggressive opponents who can check-raise on the turn as a semi-bluff with flush draws or straight draws, we can choose between checking behind the turn to bluff catch, or betting the turn and calling their check-raise, with the intention to re-evaluate our hand on the river based on the river card and the opponent’s action.
The main point we need to understand here on the turn is that although we have an overpair, our hand is only a medium strength made hand, and if we face a check-raise, our decision should normally be folding without hesitation.