Watch out for poker playmakers

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Often while playing poker, especially if I’ve been overly aggressive or simply not showing down many hands while winning a lot of uncontested pots, I’ll look across the table and see one of my opponents glaring at me. When you spot someone giving you “the look,” you can be fairly confident they’re going to make a play at you sometime in the near future. Knowing they’re going to attack you ahead of time can turn normally easy folds into snap calls. You also need to be sure to let your opponent bluff you. If you pile the money in against them, they will be forced to fold but if you make any sort of made hand, you should be confident going into check-call mode.

The following hand came up during a $2,000 event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. As usual, I was playing my standard aggressive strategy, though I was never too far out of line.

A young European player across the table was giving me “the look,” though he had yet to play a pot with me. I raised with a random hand, made a continuation bet and took down a small pot. On the very next hand, with the blinds 300-600 and a 75 ante, I raised to 1,400 with {j-Spades}{10-Clubs} from middle position. My European friend in the small blind reraised 3,400. I had around 45,000 and he had around 34,000. Seeing as I was getting decent odds and thought my opponent easily could be making a play, I decided to call with the intention of calling down if I hit a decent flop.

The flop came {j-Hearts}{6-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}. My opponent bet 4,600 and I called. At this point, I could be way ahead or way behind, but I certainly am never folding when I have top pair and I think my opponent’s range is wide open.

Notice raising here doesn’t make much sense because he will fold most of his air and call with all better hands. The turn was the {6-Spades}. He bet 7,000 and I called. The same logic I used on the flop applies on the turn. If he has a better hand he’ll always call if I raise. If I raise, I also blow him off all of his bluffs, which I keep in his range by simply calling.

The river was the {8-Clubs}. He bet 7,600 fairly quickly out of his 18,000 remaining stack. When players throw out a bet really fast on the river, it means they usually planned on betting regardless of the river card. I always wait around 20 seconds to call in spots like this just in case my opponent gives off a tell I can use later. In this case, since his range should be made up of mostly bluffs and a few nut hands, I think I have an easy call. I made the call and beat his {a-Spades}{9-Spades}.

Notice if I raised the flop or turn, he would’ve most likely folded, unless he was an absolute maniac. I think the optimal line in these situations is to simply call down.

If I had something like A-A in the previous hand, I still would have taken the check-call line. I would not raise the river because again, he will usually only call when you’re beat.
By playing hands like this in these situations, you keep all the bluffs in your opponents’ range while making it impossible for him to bluff you. You also make it tough for your opponent to get a lot of value when he actually makes a hand because you never put in a raise. Hopefully next time this situation arises, you will take this line and allow him to bluff off his stack.

— Jonathan Little is the Season 6 WPT Player of the Year and is a representative for Blue Shark Optics. If you want to learn to play a loose-aggressive style, which will constantly propel you to the top of the leaderboards, check out his poker training website at FloatTheTurn.com.