Breaking preflop math rules

If you have read some of my columns before or are familiar with my training material over on you know...

Posted Jun 25, 2014



Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

If you have read some of my columns before or are familiar with my training material over on you know that I strongly believe that in most live, restricted buy-in, no limit holdem games most mathematical mistakes are made by calling with the wrong types of hands preflop. People do not realize that most of the time the effective stacks are not deep enough to call with implied odds types of hand like 86 suited. However, even in capped games, if you have a plan for the hand, especially with position, you can sometimes break these mathematical rules if you think there are other ways to win besides getting to showdown with the best of it.

A few weeks ago I played such a spot at the $5-$10 $1500 capped no limit game at the Commerce Casino. The game was a little bit short handed and I found myself in the cutoff with A 4h:. A couple of extremely tight players were in the blinds so I opened to $30 with $2100 effective stacks. The small blind three bet me large to $200. Now about 99 percent of the time this is either a fold or a four bet for me--weighted way more towards a fold. The reason why I would four bet with some frequency is that for some players this large sizing preflop represents a hand like nines or tens that does not want to see a flop and that will fold to another reraise. But for this particular player this sized reraise also represents the top parts of his value hands too as he does want to play out of position against me. He also does not have much of a three bet bluffing range.

So why would I want to call $170 more against a probable tight range only $2100 effective with a hand like A4 suited? Because I was thinking that on certain boards I could bluff him out of the hand. I was also very familiar with this opponents playing style and new that he always pot controlled one pair type hands after the flop and that he would sometimes allow me to realize my equity on the river after giving a lot of free turns. So with this plan of action I decided to call. The flop came out J 5 3 give me a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw. I also had an over card to a hand like QQ or KK. Much to my delight my opponent bet out only $200. Against some players I would perceive this as weakness but against this particular player I read the situation as him not wanting to build a giant pot up with one pair. So the pot laid me about 3-1 as it was $600 for $200. If we count the ace and the backdoor flush draw as outs we have eight. If we also assume (and this can be a stretch but I thought with this particular player it would happen with a high frequency) that our opponent would check the turn we can look at our equity on the flop as if we are going to see two cards--similar to an all in. A short cut way of doing this is to multiply our number of outs by four giving us 32 percent equity. When he gives us 3-1 on the flop, and we see a free turn, we only need 25 percent equity, so I am getting the right price to hit even if I do not make any money later on in the hand.

Obviously this "free turn card" is a pretty big assumption but I have played with this particular opponent for years. He is definitely a small to moderate winning player and has been a long time professional rounder. However, I know that he is adverse to high variance situations and that he likes to avoid good players. I also know that if a spade came in the turn and I bet-bet to the point of putting him all in on the river it would be extremely difficult for him to call.

I ended up getting one of the best scenarios for me on fourth street. The turn was the 2h. He checked and I elected to bomb, betting $600. He did take too much time with it and check raised me all-in. Unfortunately the river brought out the 4s and I chopped the pot versus AA.

The result really does not make any difference. The reason why I bring the hand up is because I think that I had a proper plan for the situation and in this unique scenario it was profitable for me to make what usually is an unprofitable preflop call. I will caution you, however. You should not make it a general game plan to try to bluff people off of big hands at the lower stakes of no limit.

Log in or register to join the discussion.