Tough opponents at the poker table means easier decisions

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I played an interesting hand against John Hennigan in the $5K six-max pot-limit Omaha event at the World Series this summer. We had an extremely tough table where a lot of moves were being made, such as check-raising small on flops with semibluffs and what not. John was playing loose-aggressive and since it was my first time playing with him, I’m pretty sure my image to him was that he could run over me.

Eventually a hand came up where I had {k-Clubs}{j-Clubs} Jx 9x UTG+1 at 100-200 where a new player had to post 200 in the cutoff. I opened to 625 with a 15K stack. It folded to Hennigan in the small blind, who called with a 17K stack, and the big blind folded.

The flop came {10-Clubs}{4-Hearts}{2-Spades} and he checked. I bet 725 and he check-raised to 2,250. I called.

The turn was the {4-Clubs}, pairing the board and giving me a flush draw. John bet 4,450. I tanked for a minute and moved all-in. John grumbled and folded.

My play in this hand might seem pretty absurd, especially for a tournament, but before you call me the fish of the century, let me walk you through my thought process.

PREFLOP: Limping is a solid option with my hand in a tournament, but with dead money out there I opened and would fold if I got three-bet, which wasn’t happening much at the table.

FLOP: Heads-up in position against John on a super dry flop of 10-4-2 rainbow. Before I bet, I know he’s check-raising me with a super wide range on this flop. Checking back is way too weak, so I craft a bet size of less than half pot so I can float in position pretty cheap if I get check-raised.

Once he check-raised to 2,250, I put him on a semibluff a large percentage of the time. I couldn’t really see him check-raising my image with a set. He wasn’t playing too loose out of position preflop so two-pair combos were out. The hands I see most good players check-raise in this spot, with the relevant dynamic, are hands such as 10-9-6-7 or Q-10-9-8 as a semibluff to protect equity.

TURN: My read on the flop is solidified. His set and two-pair range has been reduced, and he’s in a pickle with a lot of hands. Before John bets, I know if his bet size is too large it’s another sign of weakness. If he really had the board locked up he wouldn’t want me going anywhere, especially since I only have 12K. The first thing he most likely thought before his big bet was, “This is a safe bet because this kid can never raise me in this spot.” Wrong.

I think there are only two good plays in this spot, fold or shove to protect my equity. He really exposed himself with a big bet on the turn, and the beautiful part about shoving is that with the hands he’s supposed to have most of the time, he simply cannot call even if he knows I have a weak hand. There is, of course, the random four to worry about, but I decide to go with my read because if I’m wrong, I’m not drawing dead, and if I’m right, I almost double my stack with no showdown at a tough table.