A quiz to check your betting skill at the poker table

October 25, 2012  

Here is a hand from my upcoming book, Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Vol. 3. If you like this, be sure to check out the book when it comes out next year.

We’re at the $25K World Poker Tour Championship and we have {3-Clubs}{3-Spades} in the hijack with 116K chips and blinds are 150-300-25. Here are the stack sizes of the players at the table:

UTG 100K, UTG+1 99K, MP1 140K (a.k.a. Villain 1), MP2 101K, CO 102K, Button 160K (Villain 2), SB 97K and BB 108K.

Villain 1 in this hand is an experienced older live pro better known for stud than hold’em. Villain 2 is an older player that has had great success. He plays generally tight and straightforward, but is certainly capable of getting out of line when the time is right.

Villain 1 raised to 800.

QUESTION 1: The action is on you in the hijack; what do you do?
A. Fold
B. Call 800
C. Reraise to 2,300
D. Reraise to 3,900
While you should usually call preflop with pairs, from time to time you should reraise to disguise your range. Against a player who’s generally weak at hold’em but familiar with poker, you can get away with reraising some marginal hands and representing whatever comes on the flop, as stud players tend to be a little tight and easy to push around postflop. So, you choose C and reraise to 2,300. Villain 2 four-bets to 6,000 and Villain 1 quickly folds.

QUESTION 2: The pot is 9,775 and the effective stack size is 113,700. What is your action?
A. Fold
B. Call the 3,700
C. Reraise to 10,000
D. Go all-in
When a tight and straightforward player puts in a four-bet, you should nearly always set-mine when this deepstacked. The one big negative about this hand is you’re out of position. This will make it difficult for you to win your opponent’s stack if you happen to flop a set. If you think your opponent is likely to be four-bet bluffing, you can consider putting in a small five-bet, but that’s a little too crazy against a normally tight player. You choose B and call. The flop comes {j-Hearts}{6-Spades}{3-Hearts}.

QUESTION 3: The pot is 13,475 and the effective stack size is 106,000. What is your action?
A. Check
B. Bet 4,000
C. Bet 7,000
D. Bet 13,000
When you flop a set in a four-bet pot, you need to figure out the best way to get all the money in. When someone cold four-bets, he usually has a range of something such as A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K and a few random bluffs. Because of this, both leading for a large bet and checking are fine options. Against someone that’s good and capable of hand-reading, the best line is to check with the intention of check-calling down with the hope of raising the river as long as the board doesn’t get too scary. Here, your opponent is smart enough to check behind on the flop, both for pot control and to make his range look weak, even though you know it is still made up of mostly premium hands.

You choose A and check and Villain 2 checks behind. The turn is the {k-Hearts}.

QUESTION 4: The pot is 13,475 and the effective stack size is 106,000. What is your action?
A. Check
B. Bet 4,000
C. Bet 7,000
D. Bet 13,000
The king is a good and bad card. Your opponent almost certainly has a strong hand at this point, unless he has Q-Q. This means you should try to get money in the pot. However, since your opponent is a smart player, he may actually bet A-A and A-K if you check to him and fold if raised, fearing a set or a flush, as most players would never take that line with a bluff. If he has K-K, you are in terrible shape. This makes check-raising a poor option. You could bet into your opponent, but if he calls and the river is a heart, he may figure out a way to bluff you off your hand, which would be a disaster. As unfortunate as it is, check-calling is probably the best line. You check and Villain 2 bets 7,000.

QUESTION 5: The pot is 20,475 and the effective stack size is 106,000. What is your action?
A. Fold
B. Call 7,000
C. Raise to 19,000
D. Raise to 36,000
Sticking with the plan, check-calling is really the only play that makes sense. If you think your opponent will never fold A-A or A-K in this situation but will always reraise with K-K, you could raise for value. Your opponent is that weak. Sometimes the best way to get value is to allow your opponent to bet what they think is the obvious best hand.
You decide to call. The river is the {7-Spades}.

QUESTION 6: The pot is 34,475 and the effective stack size is 99,000. What is your action?
A. Check
B. Bet 12,000
C. Bet 24,000
D. Bet 35,000
As you can see, thinking ahead in a hand is crucial. At this point, the plan should be to check and call whatever Villain 2 bets. The big difference between leading into your opponent and checking in this spot is if you’re beat, you will have to fold your hand to a raise. While many players are capable of a big check-raise river bluff, there’s no point in risking it when your opponent will almost certainly bet A-A and A-K for value as well as some random bluffs. If you’re going to lead, you should make it a size where your opponent would be insane to run a bluff, allowing you to easily fold if he shoves. You check and he quickly bets 18,000.

QUESTION 7: The pot is 52,475 and the effective stack size is 99,000. What is your action?
A. Fold
B. Call 18,000
C. Raise to 43,000
D. Go all-in

Given the way the hand played out, your only good option on the river is to call. You could consider a value raise but Villain 2 would likely fold A-A or A-K. When you’re extraordinarily deepstacked, it’s difficult to get all the money in, even with a set.

In a cash game, you could have taken a different line, probably check-raising the flop, but in a tournament, the chips you stand to lose, which is your stack in this situation, are worth well more than the chips you stand to gain. Don’t fall prey to the avoidable “bad beats” you constantly hear amateur players discussing. You call and beat your opponent’s A-A.

— Jonathan Little, a representative for Blue Shark Optics, is the author of Professional Tournament Poker Vols. 1 & 2, owns the poker training site FloatTheTurn.com and 3bet Clothing, plus check out his iPhone app, Instapoker.