Be sure to learn from my poker mistakes

May 22, 2012  

Using position, information on your opponents and the betting story throughout a hand are crucial to playing no-limit hold’em to maximize profits and minimize losses. In a recent World Series of Poker Circuit event, I caught myself making the same mistakes I often see many players making, costing them value.

My opponent was a tight-aggressive tournament professional and we’ve played many times in the past. At the 50-75 level, he opened from the hijack seat to 150. I looked down at A-A and raised to 425. Action folded back to him and he called. Using everything I know about his game and his image of me, I should expect him to have just about any pair, A-Q (or better) or suited connectors. He’d likely re-raise with Q-Q (or better), but it’s not unreasonable to think he would flat-call so early in the tournament with Q-Q or K-K.

The flop came J-8-6 rainbow and he checked. I bet 500 and he called. I should expect him to have at least top pair here or some kind of draw or two-pair with his connectors. The turn brought a nine and he checked. At this point, I’m way ahead or way behind. If he flopped a set, two-pair or just made his draw, I could be drawing slim if I’m behind. The most prudent thing to do here would be to bet and fold to a raise, or just check and evaluate on the river if he bets. I ended up betting 800 and he raised to 2,200. This is where I made my first mistake. Based on my knowledge of this opponent, I should be beat most of the time, but I decided to call and re-evaluate on the river.

The river was another six and he checked to me. Enter my second mistake. If he had flopped a set and rivered a full house or quads, he’s going to bet the river almost every time. He’s not going to want to miss value from a holding like I have and he’s unlikely to check-raise me. Once he checked to me, I could pretty much rule out him having a full house, quads or a straight because he would bet those on the river. I should bet for value. I checked and he turned over {j-Spades}{8-Spades} for the flopped two pair, clearly a hand that could’ve paid off a properly sized value.

I was happy to see his hand because it helped me clearly see the two mistakes I made in the hand. I was pretty upset with myself for how I played this hand. I didn’t properly use position to see the river for free when I was in a “way ahead-way behind” situation. I didn’t listen to my opponent’s betting story when he was telling me I was beat and I didn’t listen to his story when he told me I was ahead. I should’ve folded the turn, but clearly should’ve bet the river once I got there.

Make a commitment to yourself to use position, information and the betting story so you won’t make these same mistakes. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is a professional poker player and coach. He’s the founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker and Inside The Minds. Check out his sites at acumenpoker.net and facebook.com/insidetheminds.