Peter Hallberg
World Backgammon Champion 2004

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March 2011

Let me give you a hand

Mar 7th by Peter Hallberg

Sometimes I get really surprised how many decisions
a seemingly uninteresting hand can have

Yesterday I played a hand that went a little different than I expected. I have now spent quite a lot of time analyzing the hand with other poker players and I'll give you a walk through of the hand below.

The table
The game is NL100 5-max and everybody is sitting at the table for the fish playing 69/30 and never folding anything. He is now in BB. In the CO a very aggressive player is doing everything he can to play hands with the fish. If any of the other players, including me, try to interfere he get's in our face too. He is aggressive on all streets. BTN has lost most of his chips in the last hand to HJ and has only $9 in front of him because he forgot to reload (not happening automatic at Bet24).

HJ folds and CO makes a standard raise to $3. He is playing 26/21 with an aggression factor of 11 over 110 hands. It's a small sample but my feeling was that he was very aggressive. BTN folds and I look down at A Q. There are two options:

3B: CO is folding 83% to 3B. This means that if we 3B we'll fold out his worse hands and keep in the few hands that play well against my AQo.

Call: With a call we give the fish in BB the chance to play and we keep all of the hands we dominate in COs range.

I'm most in favor of calling here.

BB folds and the flop comes J 6 4.

There are $7 in the pot and now I'm faced with even more options.

Check/fold: Avoid playing a difficult hand out of position that could be somewhat marginal.

Check/call: We have two overs and a draw to the 3rd nuts. The hand is simply too good to fold.

Check/raise: We believe he would continuation bet this flop with his entire range and a c/r would earn us an extra bet. The problem is that we have to fold to further action on the flop and thus give up some equity there.

Lead: We can lead to try to pick up the pot here and now or maybe on the turn.

Over the board I went for the check/call which is also the option I still favor. I checked and CO bet $5.5 and I called.

The turn were the 2. At this point there are $18 in the pot and effective stacks are $90.5. The options are:

Check/fold: CO is aggressive and we would expect him to bet again on this turn card once more with most of his range. It would be difficult for us to extract value on the river when we hit the flush. We have no idea of weather an A or a Q is good on the river.

Check/call: Same arguments as for check/fold but we believe we are still ahead of COs barreling range and call.

Check/raise: Because we believe that CO is barreling most of his range here it would be very difficult for him to call a check/raise from us. We are repping very strong hands and the occasional bluff.

We decide to go for a check/raise and the action were: We checked and he bet $13.5 into $18. We are now faced with a betsizing problem. Say we

raise to $30: Most of the hands CO holds at this point is folded and if we get a call we shove any river card maybe exept spades.

raise to $40: We have a little more fold equity and we are telling CO that we are comitted even though we aren't. If we're put allin I think we have to fold because we don't have the 25% we need against his shoveing range.

After having time to think about it I clearly favor a raise to $40 and give up on the river. In the hand I only raised to $30 and got called.

The river were the 3 putting the 4th spade on the board. There are now $78 in the pot and effective stacks are $60.5. Now all the options are available again.

Check/fold: If we believe that no worse hand can call us if we bet and that no worse hand will bet we are faced with this option only.

Check/call: If we believe that some of his smaller flushes would bet for value and some of his lesser made hands would be turned into bluffs this option is good.

Bet $30/fold: If we are afraid that he can't call with worse if we shove, we can bet less and maybe get value from smaller flushes. Say we are put allin we can fold because only better hands would raise when we bet. The big problem with this is that if CO decides that we are making this betsizing to be able to take this exact line, he would bluff us once in a while. If CO bluffs more than 30/200=15% of the time we are making a mistake folding.

Shove: If we think that lesser flushes might call and that he is never turning his lesser hands into bluff this is the best option.

I would expect the odd hero call way more often than CO turning a made hand into a bluff. This make me think that shoving the river is the best option. In the actual hand I shoved and he folded. Of all the options available only the c/r on the flop and the c/c on the turn had no advocates among the players I talked to (they are all very good players).

Playing poker well takes a lot of skill indeed.


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