“How much did I have to raise to get you to fold?”
That’s what a lady asked me last Thursday in my local casino’s $65 no-limit hold’em nightly. First off, I hate that question. If inspiring a fold is the only reason you’re raising, then you’re doing something wrong. Sure, getting a fold is a satisfactory result, but it can’t be your only goal. If you’re going to raise, you better have a postflop plan, especially against active players like me.
Alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me set the stage. The tournament attracted approximately 70 players and each started with 12,000 in chips. We were approaching the second break of the day — in fact, it was the last hand of Level 8 (500/1,000/100) — and I was sitting with roughly 60,000 in the small blind while my opponent had 45,000 or so in the big blind.
Players were apparently eager to go on break as action quickly folded to me in the small blind. I looked down at and promptly raised to 3,000.
A little background... I’ve been trying out a new style in smaller buy-in tournaments where I aim to accrue as many chips as possible early on. I’ve witnessed players like Blake Bohn and Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon find quite a bit of success doing this — I’ve never seen players build big stacks straight out of the gate like these two — so I’ve opted to emulate them a bit.
In the nightly, that style — raising frequently, seeing a lot of flops with a wide range of hands, constantly putting pressure on my opponents with a variety of check-raises, making big bets — was working well. As such, I had a loose-aggressive image. (I’m well known at my local casino not only for my line of work, but for being a player capable of making big moves.)
So to answer her question, for me to fold that particular hand she would have had to make an absurdly large raise, one that would certainly be –EV for her. She ended up making it 8,000, and I opted to call the additional 5,000 to see a flop. (Thinking about it now, I probably would have folded had she three-bet to 13,000 or more.)
The flop looked pretty good to me, giving me the nut flush draw with a gutshot to Broadway. I checked with the plan of moving all in over the top if she continuation bet. Sure enough, she fired a big bet of 20,000 (she was obviously committing herself), and I stuck to my guns with the all-in check raise. She snap-called off and showed for two pair.
She was certainly stronger than I anticipated (I figured her for just an ace), but all things considered it wasn’t a bad spot (she could have held a jack or diamond to kill some of my outs). As the cards lay, she was a 60.4% favorite while I would come from behind 39.6% of the time. Fortunately for me, this was one of those times as the dealer promptly burned and turned the to give me the straight.
My opponent could still have caught either an ace or ten on the river to fill up — something that would happen 9.09% of the time — but neither came as the river actually improved me to a flush.
My opponent was clearly upset, and that’s when she asked me what it would have taken for me to fold. Aside from a much larger preflop raise, there wasn’t much. Once I saw the flop, I was going with my hand. Had it been a bigger buy-in tournament I might not have been so willing to gamble, but in a nightly such as this I’m happy to see flops and commit to 60/40 spots postflop.
For me this hand was demonstrative of a few things. First, when you play small buy-in tournaments, expect people to gamble more, which in turn means they’ll suck out more. The best you can do is get your chips in good (which my opponent did) and hope your hand holds (which hers didn’t).
Second, if you’re going to three-bet, don’t count on a fold. If it happens, great — you’ve managed to pick up chips without even seeing a flop. But if it doesn’t, you’d better have a postflop plan. Clearly my opponent in this hand was going with top two, but I can’t help but wonder what she would have done had she missed the flop.
Finally, blind-versus-blind hands tend to swell. Seriously, pay attention to how such pots tend to balloon, especially in cash games. I’ve always believed that blind-versus-blind hands are full of ego (even more so when a chop is denied in cash game hands), often escalating into mano-a-mano affairs in which neither player is quick to back down.
I wholeheartedly believe the woman in the big blind was taking a stand against my aggressiveness. Unfortunately for her, she played with fire and got burned… at least in this hand. ;)