Today I will share with you a hand from the $1,111 buy-in Little One Drop event that took place during the 2015 World Series of Poker. This event attracted a huge field of 4,555 people. I managed to take 67th place for $7,215, which is always nice. When playing in a tournament consisting of mostly amateur players, it is important to steal lots of pots by making your opponent feel as if his entire stack is at risk while only risking a small portion of yours. It is also important to quantify your opponent’s range and choose bet sizes that will allow you to achieve whatever result you want. The following hand beautifully illustrates these concepts. I thoroughly discuss these concepts, and many more, in my best-selling book, Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments. Be sure to check it out!
The blinds were 50/100. A tight amateur raised to 250 from second position out of his 8,000 stack. Another tight amateur with 13,000 called from middle position. I, with 15,500 chips, woke up with Ad-Kc on the button. In this spot, both calling and reraising are fine options. If I thought the initial raiser was only raising with premium hands, I would call because if I reraised and the initial raiser applied pressure, I would be in a tough spot. Even if he called my reraise, I would not be thrilled. If instead, I thought he was capable of raising lots of hands that are inferior to A-K, such as A-10 and K-J, I would certainly reraise. This time, I decided to reraise to 700. I picked this size in order to keep my opponents in with numerous hands I dominate. Notice if I reraise large, perhaps to 1,300, which is the play most amateurs would make, my opponents would fold the dominated hands I really want to keep in. Both the initial raiser and the caller called 450 more.
The flop came 6h-4h-4d. My opponents checked to me. I could easily have the best hand on this flop but that does not necessarily mean I should continuation bet. If I think my opponents will only call with hands that beat me, such as 9-9 and 6c-5c, I should check behind. If I made a large continuation bet, perhaps 1,600 into the 2,250 pot, that would often be the result. However, I thought if I instead made a bet of 800, numerous hands I crush, such as A-10 and K-Q, would call to see what develops on the turn. It is important to always think about how your opponents will react to each bet size then pick the size that leads to the result you want. Since I do not want to give a free card to hands like Q-J and 10-9, I need to bet, but if I bet large, my opponents will only call when I am beat. This makes a small bet ideal. So, I bet 800. The initial raiser folded and the tight player from middle position called.
The turn was the (6h-4h-4d)-9c. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought that if I continued firing my opponent would likely fold all marginal made hands, perhaps middle pair and worse, while still calling with all draws. Since my opponent only had 11,400 remaining in his stack, I wanted to choose a size that would imply that I could go all-in on the river, reinforcing that he should fold his marginal made hands. Since the pot was 4,050, I thought a bet of 2,600 would make him realize that he could face an all-in river bet. Notice if my opponent calls 2,600, he will have 8,800 remaining in his stack and the pot will be 9,250, allowing me to go all-in on the river for a touch less than the size of the pot. You should always size your bets such that you can find yourself at the river with the ideal stack for your situation. Do not simply blindly bet any street for ½ or 2/3 of the size of the pot every time. You must think ahead if you want to succeed at poker. I bet 2,600 and unfortunately, my opponent called.
The river was the (6h-4h-4d-9c)-2h. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought my opponent either had a flush, an overpair, a stubborn middle pair or a busted draw. I assumed he would certainly check with his overpairs, middle pairs and busted draws. I was unsure if he would bet into me or check with a flush. It is quite common for amateur players to lead out when they complete their draw because they don’t want to look foolish when the river checks through. This led me to assume he had mostly one pair hands and busted draws in his range. It is important to recognize that I could easily have a flush because I would almost certainly play all flush draws the same way up until this point. I was also unsure if my opponent would be willing to risk his entire stack on the river by making a hero call. All of this led me to put my opponent all-in for his remaining 8,800 stack. My opponent looked miserable and thought for around three minutes before folding.
While this play is clearly risky, I think the bluff is mandatory on the river, especially against a conservative player. If I can make him fold all of his one pair hands, which should be a large portion of his range, an all-in river bluff will show significantly more profit than checking. Always be sure to quantify your opponent’s range and choose your action based on that range.