Playing Bad with the Best Hand

by , Apr 17, 2009 | 4:54 am

This is quite a complex principle to understand to most players, as it seems to go against the intuitive logic of how poker works. I have the best hand, surely getting my money in the pot in any way is the right way to play?

This is actually not true in many situations, as often in poker you face choices that make the strength of your hand largely irrelevant.

As an example of this, I want to look at a hand I once played deep in a large ten dollar rebuy online. We were down to 27 players out of a starting group of over a thousand. I had been playing extremely loose and aggressive, running over a table of stacks that basically ranged from twenty to thirty big blinds, with one stack that had around a hundred blinds on my left. This big stacked player had been causing me problems during the last few orbits, regularly re-raising my opens and forcing me to fold.

With this background, I raised UTG 1 with jack eight suited. The big stack player re-raised and it was folded back around to me. Due to our history and stack sizes, I put in a re-re-raise, and left the player with the choice of calling a bet which would have left him with basically one pot sized bet remaining, folding, or shoving over my raise (which I clearly would have folded to). I fully expected this player to either shove all in or fold, but instead they elected to call.

The flop came out Qc8d4h. I shoved and the player thought for a long time before calling with ace queen off suit. I rivered an eight and eliminated him. The important part of this hand (apart from me winning a big pot by sucking out), is that they actually played the hand very badly, even though they got their money in good on all streets. The reason that they played this hand badly is that ace queen off suit is an awful hand against my range of hands, especially to flat call with.

Really this player should only be considering the pre flop likelihood of me re-raise bluffing them. This is simply because ace queen plays terribly against all my possible hands (it would only be 60/40 against a total bluff from me). If they think I am bluffing, they should be shoving all in pre flop and forcing me to fold, if they think I’m not bluffing, then they should be folding.

If we think of all the possible flops that can come, none of them are good for their hand against my very strong looking range (which is either a total bluff or a monster). If they flop a queen, they will often go broke against aces or kings, if they flop an ace they will often go broke against my ace king or top set, or enable me to possibly get away from kings or queens. Any time they miss the flop I will always win the pot with my flop shove.

The point of this is that even though this player looked like they did everything right, and will no doubt go back and tell everyone about how unlucky they got and what a fish I was, they actually played this hand horribly, and if we ran it over and over again they would lose far more than they would make over the long run against my range of holdings.

Always try and think about the hands you play in totality after a bad beat – it may be that luck is not the only problem you had with the hand.

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5 Comments to “Playing Bad with the Best Hand”

  1. Johnny Hughes

    After a big pot that I am not in, I enjoy telling the absolute truth about poker by saying, “No matter how bad the poker players play, someone will win the pot.”

  2. jdb

    you’re an idiot

  3. Johnny Hughes

    I am still banned?

  4. grunkzzz

    We discussed your hand on a poker forum and decided that from the prospective of the person reraising you he should fold (or go all in if it was live and he had a good read on you). Since it was the first time you did that.

  5. DanM

    Grunkzzz … share the link!