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Poker by Jonathan Little

Since the World Series of Poker is underway, I want to share a hand from last year’s WSOP $1,500-buy-in Monster Stack event. This tournament is different from other $1,500 events in that every player starts with an overly deep stack (15,000). This hand was just the third of the day.

With blinds at 100-200, a player who appeared to be in his 30s raised to 525 from middle position. Everyone folded around to me, and I called from the big blind with 4c 3c.

Calling and folding were both fine options in that spot. I suggest that you learn to profitably call in such situations, because being able to continue with a wide range of hands will make you much more difficult to play against, as opposed to if you only play strong hands. If you constantly keep your opponents guessing, they’ll make mistakes. If they usually know where you stand, they’ll play well.

The flop came Ac Jc 4d, giving me bottom pair and a weak flush draw. I checked to my opponent, as I tend to do with all of my hands, and my opponent bet 700 into the 1,150 pot. I check-raised to 1,700.

If the stacks had been either shallower or deeper, I likely would have called. If the stacks were shorter, my opponent easily could have gone all in, forcing me to make a decision for my tournament life with a hand that would win roughly half the time. (In general, good players want to avoid coin-flip scenarios.) If the stacks were deeper, my opponent could call and play well after the flop. With these stack sizes, going all in would be a huge overbet for my opponent. And if he called, it would allow me to put significant pressure on him on the turn by betting again.

My opponent surprised me by reraising to 5,000, leaving only 9,475 in his stack.

I was fairly confident that my opponent liked his hand. However, I thought that he could like a hand such as A-K or A-K but still be willing to fold if I reraised all in.

I recognized that countless players had traveled a great distance to play this event and would certainly not want to bust out on the third hand of the day. I didn’t especially care if I busted out, because this event was one of many that I would play throughout the series. For a professional, no individual event is emotionally significant. This gave me the courage to go all in. While attempting to bluff someone off what’s likely a strong hand is rarely a good idea, occasionally it makes perfect sense.

My opponent looked disgusted. He asked me a few questions, trying to get a read, but of course I didn’t reply. He thought for about three minutes before folding A-J face up. He told me that he knew I’d been lucky to flop a set and that no one else at the table would have been able to make such a great fold. (Don’t be one of those players who think they always make the right play.)

If I had thought my opponent had an effectively unfoldable hand like top two pair, I certainly wouldn’t have tried this semi-bluff. When your opponents are looking for a reason to make a big fold, don’t be afraid to get out of line and induce them to make a huge mistake.

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and coach with more than $6 million in live tournament earnings. He is also the author of numerous best-selling poker books, including his new ebook, “The Main Event With Jonathan Little.” For more information on Jonathan, check out JonathanLittlePoker.com, and follow him on Twitter: @JonathanLittle.