When you make any action, you have to be prepared for what you will do in subsequent betting rounds. Let me offer an example: Player A, a solid player, open raises in early position for four times the big blind. Player B calls from the big blind and they see a flop of J-Q-2 rainbow. Player B checks. Player A bets the pot. Player B calls. The turn is a 5.
Player B checks. Player A makes a two-thirds-pot bet. Player B calls. The river is a 7.
Player B checks. Player A goes all-in for his remaining chips, which is about half the pot. Player B is extremely short-stacked and would be crippled if he called and lost.
Player B thought for a long time and folded his hand. I really think he was genuinely conflicted on the river so I didn’t think he missed a draw playing a hand such as A-K or 10-9. I see this kind of play way too often, so I wondered what he could have held that would allow him to call all the way but fold on the river. Curiosity got the best of me and I did something I rarely do which is to ask him what he had. To my surprise, he turned over pocket 10s. I have no idea what he was thinking and he played this hand so poorly on just about every street.
However, I want to focus on just one aspect of this hand. Player B seemed oblivious that he would be out of position and facing bigger decisions on each subsequent betting round if he continued to call. I see players call decent sized bets preflop with hands such as 7-8 suited in the later stages of tournaments.
That may be a fine play in the early stages, but can be problematic in the later stages. If you hit a draw, you’re going to face some tough and expensive decisions. You have to be prepared for that. Players too frequently get in trouble by not thinking ahead. You have to know opponents and how much you’re willing to commit to a hand at any particular stage.
Hands may increase in value if you believe you have another edge such as an opponent you think you can take the pot away from if he doesn’t hit anything. But you have to have an in-depth understanding of these factors and weigh them before you make that first action to enter a pot. Calling to see what develops or with optimistic hopes of hitting a dream flop is no way to play poker.
— David Apostolico is the author of Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.