As we all know, a huge part of winning poker is trusting your reads, then making the right plays based on those reads. Getting away from big made hands when you think (or know) that you’re beat will save you huge in the long run. “Bob” and I played for a rather large side pot on Wednesday. While my move pushed him out of a decent-sized pot with the best hand, I think he analyzed the hand correctly and made a good laydown given his read of the situation. While the video below might read as a successful bluff by EMG, I think it is a great example of a winning play by a good player. I’d like to think I could make that laydown (and I have in the past), but I’ve also lost plenty of huge pots by failing to go with my gut…
Preflop: EMG middle position. His hand range for limping is rather wide. Given the tighter action at the table, he could have a medium pair, suited connectors, big cards, etc. In this case, he has AQ, which is an interesting play. Since he had been playing tight, limp-calling a moderate raise disguises the strength of his hand. In addition, in multi-way pots, a player can get away cheap on a flop that misses. Or, in the case of a raise and a big reraise, EMG can just throw his hand away rather than play a huge pot in middle position with AQ. Dooley has an okay hand with KJ offsuit. It is playable, but in position, he’s fine to pop it up to $2.50. Given his tighter image, he has a chance to scoop a quick $1.25 without a fight.
Fat Tony comes over the top for all of his chips on the short stack with AJ. I’m fine with this play. He is very likely to have the best hand right now. He is hoping for 2 live cards or a race against only 1 of the 2 remaining players. In this case, he is a 3:1 dog to EMG, but is a 3:1 favorite to Bob. EMG smooth calls a pretty large reraise after a limp. Bob should be suspicious about this play, but calling with 3.5:1 pot odds with big cards is an okay play here. The main pot is about $24.50, and EMG and Bob will play on the side.
The Flop: This is a scary flop for any hand that doesn’t hold a club. Even though Bob has an up-and-down straight draw, he could easily be beaten by a made flush/straight flush, the J of clubs is freerolling against him, and QJ has a made straight. EMG checks, so Bob wants to isolate for the main pot. His $10 bet is a little small, but he’s probing for information. He’s asking EMG, “Do you have a made hand or a big flush draw?”. EMG flat calls the raise, which probably says, “Yes, I have a big flush draw or a J.” The side pot is now $20, with the total pot around $44.50.
The Turn: Good news! You hit your straight with the Q. If EMG has a lone J, you are now crushing him with the nut straight. The Q is also not a club, meaning your opponent has not made a flush if he had the Ac or Kc. If I’m Bob, I feel pretty good about my situation. In a somewhat surprising move, EMG goes all in! You immediately have to replay the hand in your head. He limp-calls preflop, check-calls a decent bet on the flop, then pushes all in on the turn on that board? The likely hand range here: the made nut flush, AJ with a lone club, A-x with the Ac, a small made flush (like the 4c-5c), or KJ with a club. In real life, Bob thought about this for a long time before folding. It was an agonizing decision, and if he saw my cards, he would have instacalled. However, from his perspective, I played this very oddly, and he was completely caught off guard by the play.
The River: With Bob throwing away the best hand (correctly, as I noted), Fat Tony has the made straight, and it holds up for a decent pot. EMG scoops the side pot for a small net gain.
Analysis: Going through the hand from Bob’s perspective after the EMG all in, I have to eliminate the made flush. If EMG had the nut flush, he’d likely check-raise the turn to get all the chips in the middle. If he had a smaller flush, he’d probably fire on the flop and push the turn to protect his hand against a big club draw. If I’m in his shoes, I probably put him on a set of 8’s, maybe KJ with the Kc, or maybe a hand like A-10 or A-Q with the Qc. Getting 3:1 on my money, I am getting the right price. I’m almost certainly beating most hands he could have bet that way with. Folding is not the right play there mathematically unless I am definitive that he has a made flush. It is a ballsy play by EMG, and I let him off the hook. Regardless, I (Bob) definitely put it in my memory bank for the future.
From my perspective (as EMG), I read physical weakness in Bob when he called Fat Tony’s all in behind me pre-flop. Even so, I checked a scary board on the flop, hoping to get a free draw at my flush. I expected a bet from Bob, but I read definite uncertainty in the way he bet that $10 on the flop. I flat called with pot odds to hit my flush and with an idea that I could push all in on the turn and probably take the side pot. I probably should have went with my read and reraised there (representing a made flush) and taken it down. I played a little scared, and it could have cost me dearly. The Q was actually a bad card for me because it made my opponent’s hand and strengthened my own. My read was that Bob had J-10 with no clubs. I determined that I was about 80% likely to take the side pot right there with a shove, and I and might even be ahead of Fat Tony for the main pot. If I’m wrong, I still think I have the biggest club out there, so I have up to 9 outs on a redraw on the river.
Overall, that is a scary, scary board. It takes heart to fire out there to begin with, and it takes a ton of heart and discipline to make a fold like that. Hats off to Bob for playing well. Even though it turns out he didn’t make a correct decision based on the results, he made a read and trusted it. That is the important thing to take away here. Edit: In reading comments from others, Bob likely didn’t make the best play. With 3:1 pot odds, he pretty much has to call.