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Game: Online Tournament $75+$7
Hand: A 3
Blinds: 600-1,200 with a 150 ante
Preflop: Hero is Small Blind with A 3
CO folds, BTN raises to 2,400, Hero raises to 6,600, BB folds, BTN calls 4,200
Flop: (15,000) 10 5 3 (2 players)
Hero checks, BTN checks
Turn: (15,000) J (2 players)
Hero checks, BTN bets 7,650, Hero calls 7,650
River: (30,300) 4 (2 players)
Hero checks, BTN bets 34,615 and is all-in, Hero calls 34,615
This hand is taken from a four-max tournament. In general I feel that people over-adjust when playing short-handed poker. They think that with fewer players they need to play a lot looser because otherwise they will blind out.
It is true that 50 percent of the time you will be in the blinds in four-handed play but it’s also important to note that there are five fewer antes in the pot each hand. This means that from the big blind you are getting a worse price to defend and also there is not as much in the pot each hand to steal. Of course in a nine-handed game you can’t be opening the same range from under the gun as the cutoff because you will end up playing too many pots out of position against cold callers and three-bettors. However, in short-handed play I often see people over-adjust; for example opening a button-type range in the cutoff or defending too much against three-bets etc.
This hand is actually an example as my opponent defends a three-bet in position with K-9 offsuit. They open on the button with a 40-big blind stack and I three-bet A 3 from the small blind. At this point my opponent should either be folding or making a four-bet with their hand. Even though they are in position, K-9 offsuit is crushed by my range and it isn’t going to make a profitable defend. Instead they call the extra 4,200 and we go to a flop out of position.
The flop comes 10 5 3 giving me bottom pair and a backdoor wheel draw.
It’s likely that I’m still ahead here although I’m not looking to build a really big pot with my hand, given that it will struggle to improve and my opponent is going to have a lot of floats on a low texture board such as this. I could definitely bet around 1/3-pot here for both value and protection, although the hand could subsequently get tricky to play on some turn and river cards. So, check-calling at least one street is also an option. This time I elected to check-call but it’s a spot that I’d approach with a mixed strategy of betting 50 percent of the time and check-calling the other 50 percent of the time. No bet comes from my opponent though so at this this point I’m assuming I’m ahead or possibly behind versus a bluff-catcher such as 4-4 or 6-6 etc.
The turn card is the J, which doesn’t help my hand at all, but does bring a bunch of straight draws for a lot of my opponent’s range. At this stage there is no real point in betting as I’ll only get called by better hands and I have enough showdown value that I don’t need to consider bluffing. I check to my opponent again and this time they make a bet of 7,650 into 15,000 (around 1/2-pot). I call this turn bet, figuring them for some J-x and a lot of straight draws (such as all K-Q combinations) and then some K-9, Q-9, 9-8, 9-7 and 8-7 suited combinations.
The river is the 4, which puts a possible flush on the board, but it is unlikely that either me or my opponent has a hand close to that strong. I check and my opponent makes a slight overshove for 34,615 into 30,300. Given how the previous streets had played out they could do this for value with a jack with a decent kicker (which I think would be good given how many bluffs they will have on this river card) but I also see a lot of opponents unknown to me get ‘scared’ here and either make a smaller bet or even check back with a hand as strong as top pair. For these reasons I elected to call and was shown a hand I didn’t even put in my opponent’s range, K 9 for the offsuit variety of the missed gutshot K-9.
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