Let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet me on
@FossilMan, or send me a message at info@ fossilmanpoker.com.
When I teach live seminars, we spend the first three hours lecturing, take a lunch break, and then spend the afternoon doing live DIY labs. In these, I deal with students trying to play their best game. At the end of the hand, they show their cards, and I offer feedback and criticism.
Published in 2019 FossilMan’s winning tournament strategies, a 42-chapter book that covers all the basic concepts behind being a winning tournament player, as well as many more advanced strategies. This book can be compared to the lecture part of my seminars. However, I was working on a second book, and I thought it should be more like Live Labs.
For this book, I’ll go over a dozen hands that I’ve played, breaking down each decision along the way. Although not finished yet, I thought it would be fun to provide excerpts from some of those hands here.
Here’s a fun hand from late on day 1b of MGM National Harbor Potomac Poker is open Main Event, $3,000 entry tournament.
I was in the big blind with 120,000, the 1500-3000 blind with the 3000 big blind, holding the dramatic A 4. Folded on the button, he’s a very strong, very tricky, very loose, very aggressive celebrity player who has a coverage range of 175,000.
Raised to 6500, and I was the only caller. We got an interesting flip of Q 3 3which I reviewed, and then called his 4,000 bet.
I checked again after seeing 2 In return, he calls his bet again, even though it’s as big as 14,500.
The river paired the plate again and brought a potential flow with 2. I checked again, and fired again after thinking for a while, and this time scaled down to 8500.
I quickly called and he said, “You’re good.” I turned my hand and lowered the pot.
This is a hand with a lot going on on the surface. This hand is about inciting deception and ignoring any feelings of fear you may have.
My first decision is what do I do with a very tacky hand of an A-4 suit facing an increase? If the raise comes from a weak player, or someone in an early position, it’s an easy fold.
Although you get a great call rate here, 3,500 to win a pot of 14,000, or betting odds of 4:1, don’t let that fool you. This hand reeks of implied reverse probabilities. By this I mean that this hand usually loses more chips than it wins on the post-flop move. So even though 4:1 is a great price against one opponent, this hand has too much to lose to make it a smart call.
However, here we are facing an increase from the last-placed player, who is notoriously incapable of being aggressive. Its range may be as wide as any two cards. Against this poor range, folding would be a huge mistake.
Instead of calling, why not use all three bets? This option has a lot going for it, and I would recommend this option against some players. Specifically against those who will make their first wide raise, but tend to fall back a lot on their first over. Here, the standard increment from me would be around 20,000.
The problem is that my hands, while very strong on the one hand, are also rather weak. If I don’t fail the ace, every other flop I lose my hand. Even if you pair all four, it will usually be a bottom pair, and it will be hard to tell if this is the best hand. Therefore, if such a strong opponent had not withdrawn beforehand, I would be doing a lot of guesswork after the flop. Since I don’t expect this particular discount to double, I chose to call.
Flipping pretty much misses my hand. The only plus is that I have 4, to draw a weak flow into the tailgate. However, it is a double board. This means that almost all hands miss this flop. So if my A-4 is the best ante hand, it can still be the best pre hand. Since I’m either in good or bad shape, I chose to check and call. Since he made a very small c bet, folding would be a huge mistake.
The only question is would it have been better to have the increase audited? Again, the answer to this question is reached by first answering another question. Does this opponent flex most of the time because he is weak? If he’s going to fold most of these hands, then yes, check out a raise. If he folds some relatively strong hands that miss this flop, hands like AJ, A-10 and minor pairs, then definitely, raising the check is the best decision. In my case this opponent is very deceitful, he might make three bets, even with the worst of hands, and expect me to fold often enough to make such a bluff profitable.
The turn is where this hand gets really interesting. After he checks again, he bets again, as expected. Only this time, his bet is on the bigger side. At this point, either he’s betting bigger to make his bluff more likely to work, or he’s got a very strong hand, and he thinks I’m going to pay him.
As such, there is no point in raising checks. On the ante flop and on the flop, increasing the pick will not only weaken many bad hands and deprive them of royalties, but you will also get at least better hands. At this point, with that much higher stakes, his range is likely polarized into strong hands that won’t bend, or weak hands that aren’t likely to catch up. The only real decision is do we call out again, or do we give in and back off?
A crucial aspect of this decision, and of all decisions in poker, is thinking ahead. What I mean by that is not only thinking of naming this bet, but also what am I going to do in the river? Will I bet on certain cards, either to value or to bluff? Will I check another river bet, and how much will this selection depend on the river card and bet size? It’s one of the most common mistakes I see in all poker games, players thinking about the current decision, but not thinking about the odds of what will happen next.
When I chose to call this bet a turn, I decided at that point that I would probably call most river bets, although there are certain river cards that might make me change my mind. More importantly, if the river bet is huge, I might as well change my mind. Fortunately, he thought his smaller bet on the river of 8,500 would be stronger than the big bet.
I think he was surprised that I called him so quickly, but since I had already made that decision when I called the role, I saw no need to change my mind about this bet size. ♠
Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, has won multiple major titles, and has earned over $7 million. He is the author of FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. Sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg, please tweet at @FossilMan or @FossilMan Visit their website.