I recently played in a $1,100-entry Mid-States Poker Tour event in Black Hawk, Colo., that had a prize pool of nearly $500,000. Not bad for an 18-table poker room in a sleepy mining town high in the mountains an hour from Denver.
Blinds were 1,000-2,000 with an ante of 300 when an active player opened to 4,500 from middle position. The crafty regular who was next to act three-bet to 11,000, leaving him with 79,000 in his stack. I was two down the line in the cutoff position, looked down at As Ks, had the regular covered and made it 23,000 to go.
The decision to reraise was an easy one. If you are only cold four-betting with A-A or K-K, then you’re doing it wrong, especially against competent opponents who have proper opening and three-betting ranges.
There is no reason to four-bet to more than 23,000 with effective stacks of 79,000. Poker legend Doyle Brunson said that the key to no-limit Texas hold ‘em is to put a man to a decision for all of his chips. I could argue that the proper four-bet size in this situation is even smaller than 23,000. However, I believed that the likelihood of my opponents calling was higher than it should have been.
In my opinion, the three-bettor in this hand should either fold or shove to the four-bet -- but not everybody thinks like I do. If I was certain that my opponent would either fold or shove, then betting about 20,000 would have been better for me, as I could only lose 20,000 while still leveraging my opponents’ entire stacks.
Everybody folded to the three-bettor, who neither folded, called nor shoved. Instead, he made it 41,000 to go, with 38,000 behind.
A bet like this would often induce me to fold, since it frequently signals a really big hand. But I knew that this dude was capable of making moves, so there was no way I was folding my suited ace-king. My first instinct was to shove. If I made an aggressive move, maybe there was a chance he’d fold.
But really, I didn’t think there was any chance he’d fold.
Somehow I needed to convince him that I had a really big hand if I wanted to get him to make a mistake. If I called, would he just shove after the flop? Or maybe he thought I was strong and would check-fold if the flop missed him? Could I get him to fold a small pair on the flop? If I reraised now, was there any chance he’d fold?
When he clicked it back on me with his fifth bet, he was trying to represent a really big hand. If he actually did have a big hand, he would now call if I shoved, or shove himself if I reraised.
Or maybe he didn’t have a big hand, but he believed that his minimum raise effectively represented one. That made me wonder: If I clicked it back on him rather than shoving, would he see that as a sign of strength and think that I held a big pair?
I make it 61,000 to go. He folded.
I have no idea what he had.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Known as “Devo” on the tournament circuit, he has amassed more than $2 million in career earnings. Follow him on Twitter: @devopoker.