Poker Hand Analysis Number One: A Quick Example of “the Guessing Game”

Game type: $20 live single table tournament
Tournament details: It was before the first break, I believe the blinds were 50/100 at this time.

My stack: A bit less than average.

Pre-flop action: With the blinds around 50/100, I’m sitting in the small blind. A tight-aggressive player comes in with a standard 3-5xBB raise. It folds to me when I look down at pocket 9s. I call. There is around 950 in the pot. Everyone else folds and we see the flop…

FLOP: 4-J-5 (I don’t remember the exact suits but I remember it was a rainbow flop.)

Post flop action: I check. My opponent bets 250. I think for a few seconds and go all in for only about another 400-500 more.

My thoughts: At this stage in the tournament, I’m playing pretty tight. My opponent knows this which is why his play doesn’t make much sense to me. I check and he bets about 1/4 of the pot. If the hand was multi-way, I could see betting this maybe to get at least one call for pot odds, but heads up against someone who he knows as another tight opponent, I think the right move here is to check. With his 1/4 of the pot sized bet, I put him on a lower pocket pair 55-88 which is what influenced my decision to re-raise all-in. When in reality the small bet was to try to lure me in in case I did have over cards homepage.

Post flop action (cont.): He calls and flips over pocket Jacks. I flip over my nines. The turn and the river are blanks (A king on the turn and an 8 on the river) and I’m knocked out of the tournament.

How I would have played it: With pocket jacks the whole table is playing pretty tight. Pocket jacks are quite a vulnerable hand, of course, seeing as any Q, K, or ace on the flop can make you think you’re done. A standard 3-5xBB raise is still good here. Even if the players who act after you have a bigger than average stack or are even “big stacked” at this time, if they pay attention to what you raise with and take you as a tight player, they should give you credit for a hand.

So my opponent calls from the small blind. Personally, I rarely make calls from the small blind to a raise so if I was the initial raiser and saw someone calling from out of position, my guard would be up. So the flop comes (4-J-5, rainbow)… my opponent who’s first to act checks to me. I’ve got a monster and looking at that flop, it seems like I’m not going to get any action unless the turn helps my opponent. I’ll check it.

The turn brings a king (4-J-5-K). Now, at this point I’m thinking(hoping) that this card has helped my opponent and would want them to bet. If my opponent checks again, I’ll go ahead and bet. Why? Think of it like this. Say my opponent called me preflop with A-Q, A-10 and I check the turn and a 10 or a queen comes on the river for a straight. I’m screwed. Both hands are only looking for 4 outs here but if it happens, I’ve doubled up an opponent I don’t want at the table.

So back to the hand, I would bet this turn for about half the pot. With the opponent having a shorter stack, he really has two moves: all-in or fold. With a straight draw he’d risk tournament life to suck out or with a king or the case jack, he’s still done. If my opponent had pocket 9s, like I did, the logic move is to fold. This is how I would play the hand, and if you’ve paid attention to my thought process, you’d see I wouldn’t make as much as the reverse situation. If I think my opponent is slowplaying aces or kings, the bet on the flop would be a good move (except the kings would hit their set on the turn.)

Conclusion: Perhaps this hand wasn’t as exciting as others but I wanted to write about it to hopefully influence you to try to play the “hand guessing game” at the table. I hope to write more in the future. Feel free to comment.

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