My last post had a “homework” assignment of sorts - I gave you a set-up (four of them, actually) and I asked about your expectations, and whether or not what you expected your opponent to have (reading him for a hand, or a range) actually mattered. Here was the set-up:
Six-handed table, you’re in the cutoff (one from the button). First player folds, you raise, and are called by the button. Everyone else folds. Flop comes…well, this time it’s Ace-Ace-Jack, with all red cards (Ace-Jack of Hearts, Ace of Diamonds). You check. Button makes a big bet (twice the pot).
What do you EXPECT your opponent has when you have:
- Ace-Nine (both spades).
- K-Q Hearts (potential straight, flush, and straight flush).
- Jack-Ten (both spades).
- A pair of black sevens.
Bonus question…does your expectation matter? Why or why not?
Kind of a trick question. What you hold is not relevant to what you can expect your opponent to hold EXCEPT for the fact that if YOU hold one (or both) of the cards you might expect him to have, the odds of him having those cards is actually LESS. In other words, if you hold an Ace (and there are two on the board) the chance of him having the case Ace is drastically reduced. Ditto two hearts if you think he’s holding two hearts, etc.
And…if you have a read on him, AND you have a good grasp of his tendencies, you might be able to piece two and two together and play the hand differently than if you just assumed that his big bet meant that he had a solid hand.
In my real-life situation, I held the KQ-hearts (the second example), and normally, his overbet would have told me that he had a Jack (for two pair), or maybe even an Ace (for trips). But I had played with him enough at this table to know three things:
- He usually (90%+) made some kind of bet when it was checked to him on the button.
- He usually made a larger bet with smaller holdings (and made small, inviting bets when he had the nuts, to encourage play), and most importantly,
- He ALWAYS made a bet whenever a pair showed on the board.
It was this last bet that allowed me to dismiss any kind of a real hand and to consider a call or a raise. The call seemed good enough to me at first (I figured I was ahead of whatever he had and had a chance to make a monster hand though pot odds were not quite right), but the raise would give me more information (and a bigger pot if I was correct in my assumption…and it held up), so I raised him by the same amount (twice the original pot). To my surprise, he just called.
Now, I paused to reconsider his holdings. He tended to be somewhat loose and aggressive, but I expected him to either fold (if he had air) or, if he had trips or the expected two-pair, to re-raise (probably all-in). Even if he was on a flush draw like me, the expectation was that he’d re-raise. Of course, I had the higher flush draw…but he didn’t know that. So what was he doing calling?
He either wanted to see the next card, like me, or he was planning to take the hand away on the turn regardless of what card fell, either because (a) he had the nuts, or (b) wanted to represent the nuts, regardless. But which one?
The debate inside my head ceased the moment the third heart hit the board. My flush was complete, but…did I lead out? Or did I check again, allowing him to dictate the action? I made a bet for half the sizable pot, and waited to see how he reacted. If he had junk, he’d fold. If he had the flush, too, he might call or re-raise. But again, he just called. I still put him on a J-x hand, though two smaller hearts was a possibility.
The river card was the 7 of diamonds, a real nothing card as far as I was concerned, and I made a pot size bet. And then he raised all-in.
Back to my expectations…one of the hands I thought he might have had but dismissed on the turn was the holding of a small pair, like sixes, or…sevens. If he did have the pocket sevens, he now held a boat that crushed my flush. But would I expect him to play the hand this way if he had two pair that was likely to be the SMALLER of two pair if I held a Jack?
Actually, yes. And a fold from me was in order. Except…go back to #2. He was the classic, “weak means strong, strong means weak” player (thank you, Mike Caro). He had been strong all along, and his call on the turn despite there being a potential flush draw showed patience…as if he planned to go all-in on the river all along. I had him covered, and he was basically all-in for his tournament life (we were the last six of a two-table 18-player tourney). So I called.
I was right - he DID have a small pair - fives. My flush held, and he exited in 5th place. The win catapulted me to the lead, and I eventually won the tournament. Not braggin’, just fact.
He erred not in being aggressive, but in failing to realize his own expectations of ME. I had not made a re-raise at the final table with anything less than a solid hand (I was playing maybe 15% of all hands, and he was playing three times as much). Yes, THIS time I was betting on the come (and made it), but my initial re-raise (and my bet on the turn) should have set off alarm bells. My pot-size bet on the river was a call for a white flag, but instead, he decided to ram a lesser holding at me.
And I expected it.