The hand I’m about to walk you through was from this year’s $3,500 World Poker Tour event at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J. We were in the third day of the five-day tournament. Blinds were 4,000/8,000 with an ante of 1,000. I had 450,000, and my opponent, a splashy, middle-aged player, had 800,000.
With Jh Jd, I raised to 19,000 from middle position. My opponent called from the hijack seat. Everyone else folded.
The flop came Js 7c 6d, giving me top set. I thought it probable that my opponent had a marginal made hand or a draw, and that, due to his splashy nature, he may decide to bluff me. When you flop a strong but vulnerable hand, the best play is usually to bet. I bet 26,000 into a pot of 59,000, and my opponent called.
The turn was the Jc, a more-than-decent card for me. While slow-playing certainly had some merit, I thought the better move was to continue betting. I suspected that if I checked, my opponent would strongly consider checking behind on the turn with a middle pair, which would be a disaster for me. I also didn’t think he would pay me off if I check-raised on either the turn or river. Occasionally, he may even get out of line and raise as a bluff. I bet 40,000, and my opponent called.
The river was the 8c. Since I thought my opponent’s range going to the river was comprised almost entirely of marginal made hands and draws (which would now be middle pair or a straight), it didn’t make sense to bet huge. Most opponents would only call a small bet with their worst made hands. If my opponent was a calling station, a larger bet would have been ideal. I bet 57,000 into a pot of 191,000.
To my surprise, my opponent instantly raised, making it 100,000 more. At this point, I assumed my opponent’s range was very polarized to premium value hands and bluffs. Most players are not capable of getting away from a strong hand on the river to any reraise size. This should lead you to make a large reraise in similar situations.
After matching my opponent’s raise, I had 207,000 left in my stack. Since I thought my opponent had either an overly premium hand or nothing, I went all in. My opponent instantly called with Ac 6c (a flopped bottom pair that backdoored into a flush), awarding me a gigantic pot.
I want to make it clear that I think my opponent erred by calling my all in. Unless he thought I was blatantly crazy, my river-bet reraising range is almost entirely full houses.
After the hand, my opponent was beating himself up for raising my initial river bet of 57,000. I think his river raise was acceptable because I could be expected to have trips often in that situation and would at least consider calling a raise. If he thought I’d call a river raise with trips, raising the river with the flush was a great play. But if he thought I’d fold trips to a river raise, he should have just called. For him to raise, he must be disciplined enough to get away from his hand once it becomes clear to him that I think I have the nuts. Even when you have what you perceive to be the effective nuts, when your opponent is playing as if he has the actual nuts, you must be disciplined enough to get out of the way.
Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and coach. He is also the author of numerous best-selling poker books, including his new ebook, “The Main Event With Jonathan Little.” Check out JonathanLittlePoker.com, and follow him on Twitter: @JonathanLittle.