Finding a tough call vs. wild poker player in a tournament

August 20, 2012  

The following hand took place in the $25,500 World Poker Tour Bellagio main event. We were playing 400-800-100. A wild-looking German player with 180,000 chips raised to 2,000 from first position. He was playing fairly tight and straightforward, though I knew from past experience he was capable of getting way out of line. I was in second position with 130,000 chips and decided to call with {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. I think this is a pretty standard call against someone who looks crazy and plays a bit wild. If my opponent were a tight player, folding would be the best play because I don’t want to play a hand where I will have no clue what to do with top pair postflop. The player in fourth position, the cutoff, the small blind and the big blind called.

The flop was {10-Spades}{9-Hearts}{9-Clubs}.

Everyone checked to me, so I bet 7K into the 12,900 pot. This is a spot where a bet is mandatory. If I check, any king, queen, jack, 8 or 7 could easily give one of the other five players in the hand the winner. Also, any small card could give someone a set. It’s important to bet something between half and two-thirds pot in this situation because a small bet would give everyone excellent odds and a large bet may force someone off J-10 or 8-8, which wouldn’t be good. You want to make a bet that will force out the random hands that will only put more money in if they peel their dream card and can beat your hand, but also get value from worse made hands and draws. Everyone folded back to the first position raiser, who called.

The turn was the {8-Spades} and my opponent bet 11K into the 26,900 pot. At this point, seeing how my opponent was pretty wild, I thought he could have an overpair, a 10, a nine or one of the random draws, such as K-J, K-Q, J-10, J-8 or maybe even draws to the low end of the straight. If my opponent made a larger bet, I would probably just fold, but getting excellent odds, I think a call is acceptable. An interesting point to make here is if I knew my opponent better, I could probably pinpoint his range with a high degree of accuracy. When someone takes a weird line like this, they almost certainly have the nuts, a marginal made hand or a draw. If you know exactly which type of hand someone would lead with in this situation, you can play perfectly and win a lot of money.

The river was the {7-Hearts}. My opponent quickly bet 16K into the 48,900 pot. At this point, the only hands I really beat are the draws that had a seven, such as A-7 and 10-7, K-Q and some random bluffs from a made hand such as Q-10 or A-8.

If that was all there was to this hand, I should probably fold. However, I’m not sure my opponent would bet with anything besides a premium hand on this river, meaning his betting range should be hands that can at least beat a straight or total air, as I clearly have some sort of hand to call the turn bet. If my opponent had K-K, I doubt he would bet the river. All that being said, I think, given the excellent pot odds, I have to call. If my opponent made a larger bet on the river, around 38K or so, I would be forced to fold. After a few minutes I called. My opponent disgustedly turned up K-Q and I won a nice pot.

It’s important to think about what your opponent’s range is and how he would play it on each street. If you find yourself dozing off at the table, you may miss quite a bit of useful information that will allow you to pinpoint your opponent’s range in a future hand. If you can play smart and figure out exactly what your opponent has, you can avoid a guessing game for a lot of money.

— 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.