Giving up a little value is OK sometimes

April 23, 2012  

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Ante Up senior strategy columnist Jonathan Little’s new book, Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Vol. 2, which was published in April. You can buy this book or on Amazon.

This hand is from a $10,000 WPT event I played at Foxwoods. We had just gotten in the money. Once this happens, I tend to not get too out of line while waiting for the short stacks to bust, but I still try to chip up.

The relevant stacks are:
HIJACK: I have 50 BBs. I have been fairly loose and aggressive so far.
CUTOFF: 30 BBs. This player has been tight so far.
BUTTON: 70 BBs. This player is a WPT champion who has no problem taking flops and getting out of line.
SB: 40 BBs. This player is known to be super tight.
BB: 20 BBs This is an amateur who tends to play straightforwardly.

I raise with {a-Spades}-{10-Clubs} to 2.2 BBs out of my 50-BB stack. The button calls and we see a flop of {k-Spades}-{10-Diamonds}-{3-Hearts}.

I make a 3-BB continuation bet and my opponent calls. He could have a fairly wide range at this point. I imagine he would raise with top pair, top kicker or better. This leaves us with a range of pairs 10 or higher, Q-J, A-Q, A-J, Q-9 and J-9. He is also capable of floating with air here from time to time, although I imagine most of his floats would be with gutshots.

The turn is the {a-Clubs}. Before I get too excited, I need to see how this affects his range. If he has a gutshot with an ace, he will almost certainly bet the turn if I check. If he has something like K-9 or J-10, he will almost certainly fold to a bet, which is bad for me. If he has one of the missed gutshots, he will probably bet if I check. So, betting only gives me value from hands like K-Q and K-J that may check behind.
If I check, I allow him to bluff his air, value-bet most of his value hands and save money when he has Q-J. So, I check. He bets 7 BBs into the 12-BB pot and I call.

The river is the {5-Clubs}. I want him to continue betting with air, so checking is the only option. If I lead into him here, he will call with any value hand worse than mine and raise if he has better. So, it’s almost always bad to lead with medium-strength made hands. I check and he bets 16 BBs. I have a pretty easy call. Again, check-raising makes no sense because he will only call when I’m beat. I think he would value-bet all aces and all worse 2-pair hands. He may or may not continue with his gutshots, but that doesn’t matter much. I call and lose to his Q-J.

Notice if I had bet the turn and he had raised, I would be in an awful spot and probably end up broke. Instead, I left myself with around 13 BBs, which I used to take eighth place in the event. If you pay attention, there are numerous spots in tournament poker where you can give up a little value and have a few chips left when you are beat. This trade is almost always worth making.

— Jonathan Little is the Season 6 WPT Player of the Year and is a representative for Blue Shark Optics. If you want to learn to play a loose-aggressive style, which will constantly propel you to the top of the leaderboards, check out his poker training website at