Inside the Mind of a Pro – Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
If you’re going to get a horrendous run-out, it’s better to get it out of the way in a small pot. Unfortunately, my flopping-well in 4-Bets pots skills were lacking yesterday. In this hand I call a 4-Bet to get a disastrous flop and concoct a stubborn plan to avoid folding. Let’s go over my thought process.
It all started with me being dealt 7♣ 7♥ on the BU at 100NL ZOOM and facing a CO open from a regular to $2.50. The effective stack was around $100.00. Pesky middle pairs are a recipe for sticky post-flop situations. Alas, life is short, and the hand is meant to 3-Bet most of the time, so I go ahead and juice it up to $9.00. Villain inconsiderately 4-bets to $22 ruining the EV of my hand. I now have the not so enjoyable choice between shoving, calling, and folding. The good news is that each of these actions is roughly equal in value against a balanced player so it will be hard for me to screw this situation up, at least pre-flop.
Folding loses 9BB. This is pretty obvious.
Shoving loses just under 9BB against someone who bluffs a sensible amount of the time but will quickly start to lose less than this against someone who 4-bets too wide or makes silly folds against shoves. This play is my go-to whenever I suspect Villain might be guilty of bluffing too often. If I’ve been 3-betting him a lot in recently, I’ll probably just jam the sevens all-in when I face the 4-Bet.
Calling also loses just under 9BB but will perform better than average if I have a skill edge post-flop or if Villain’s range contains too many bluffs. If all else is equal, then calling is microscopically better than shoving, but there’s almost nothing in it. If I have a skill edge post-flop, and Villain is using a balanced 4-Betting strategy, then calling will be the best play.
Regardless of which line I decide is best, we must be clear that my goal is to lose less than 9BB. I need to try to get back a little bit of my 3-Bet. This will be a losing hand for me, on average, but which line loses the least?
Since I can’t be sure that this payer is overdoing it with his bluffs, and because I fancy myself as the next Phil Ivey, I arrogantly call. Let’s see how versed you are in playing 4-Bet pots out of position, Villain!
The flop ($45.50) comes A♣ 8♥ A♦ . This board is not the worst flop possible. I’d say it falls into the second worst sort of texture for me just behind nightmarish boards like AK5 and QJ2. Villain is highly incentivised to bet small and bet often here. This is because his range contains far more Ax than ours, but there is no need for him to build the pot quickly at this stack to pot ratio. Sure enough, Villain bets $14.26. My hand is way down there in my range and folding now is the default play, but the devil inside me has a different idea.
I feel like this spot is played fairly poorly by the general population. If they have an Ace, it is very likely that after I call flop, they will go all in on either the turn or the river and not protect their checking range across both streets. I plan, therefore, to peel this flop bet with the intention of turning my hand into a bluff on the river if the turn goes check-check and Villain also checks the river. My lowly sevens allow Villain’s range to contain all of the combinations of JJ-KK and these are the very hands I strive to fold out with my Machiavellian plan! I am getting a really good price to see if thing unfold the way I desire so I call the flop bet.
The turn ($74.02) is the blank 8♠ . There is just $63.74 remaining in the effective stack. This card does not change the plan one bit. Now we need Villain to check. I think this is highly likely regardless of what he has. There is simply no need for him to do any of his value betting now given how little need there is to build the pot at this point. Moreover, he would like to get free information when he has air before bluffing so I wouldn’t expect KJs and the like to bet right now, even if they are inclined to bluff at some point. Saying this, I think it’s highly unlikely that many people will want to bluff at any point here. It is just very likely that I hold an Ace now. Many of my JJ-KK hands would have got it in pre-flop and it’s tough for me to call the flop bet with too much else.
Villain checks. We are through the first hurdle. I check behind since I would wait until the river to value bet my Ax hands all-in. I have zero turn betting range, so I delay my bluff for one street.
The river ($74.02) is the uneventful 2♥ and we reach the moment of truth. If Villain shoves here, his range is likely swimming in Ax that he didn’t feel the need to bet on the turn. It is very unlikely that he would choose to jam KK or QQ here. On the other hand, a shove by him could be a bluff, but I think this is disincentivised by the board texture and what my range is likely to be.
It’s time to execute my plan and try to get folds from JJ-KK, which I still believe to be a large part of my opponent’s range. I pull the trigger, sending the remaining $63.74 into the middle and Villain starts tanking. He activates his time bank and I’m now nearly 100% sure that he has a big pair. Is he really going to look me up after I called this flop bet? What on earth am I supposed to be bluffing with here? And finally…he folds. My stubbornness has paid off this time.
Sometimes it’s possible to use reads on how the average player is likely going to be unbalanced on later streets to make non-standard investment on an earlier one. Both my pre-flop and flop calls in this hand were largely inspired by the idea that people will misplay subsequent streets. If the population protected its river checking range with more Ax here, my plan would be far less effective. Similarly, if they bluffed the river more often with KJs and the like, my flop call would also be more dubious.