Extra! Extra! Read All About It: Preflop Mistake Rewarded
If you've played poker before, the following story won't come as much of a surprise to you. The details may be technically interesting, but it is also important to put yourself in the possibly aggrieved party's shoes.
Would you feel aggrieved in those shoes? Would you get flushed, brimming with anger? And would you then be liable to give your opponents some more money next hand?
Read on and consider.
How Could You Call That Hand?
In a NL100 game of online poker (six-handed, $0.50/$1), the under-the-gun player — a perhaps weaker regular — made a normal opening raise of $2.50. It folded around to the big blind who three-bet to $10.
In the games these days a strong range is being represented with this three-bet, since it is so de rigueur to defend one's big blind. This also means four-bet ranges from under the gun are extremely tight while hands like and are almost always (these days) just calls.
The UTG player called with — guess what — a hand he probably should not have.
Continuing on the Flop and Turn
The flop was relatively dry. Many of the UTG's combinations of would have difficulty continuing on this flop and the big blind chose to bet $10, just under half-pot. UTG did call, however. Perhaps ace-king was not ready to give up, or maybe under the gun had one of the stronger parts of his range on this flop, like -suited or a big pocket pair.
In any case the turn card was the , unlikely to change anything at all. Even if the big blind was bluffing with -suited, he's still behind most of under the gun's range on this card.
Nevertheless, the big blind led again, this time betting $27 into just over $40. This does not commit either player, but it certainly leverages the stacks much more than a bet of $18 would. It also means the under the gun player has to give up with all combinations that are not exactly .
In other words, the big blind is really thinning UTG's continuing range, which means his opponent better have a good hand when he called again.
Down the River
The river brought the inconsequential . The big blind shoved for $56, and under the gun snap-called with for trip queens. The big blind discovered his had been cracked on the flop. Infuriating!
Let's go back and consider whether big blind took the right course of action (even though he was unlucky this time). Could he have gotten three streets of value in this situation? The answer is yes, the candidates to pay them off being , , and maybe .
Could he be beat in this situation?
The most likely queen his opponent could see the flop with is, of course, -suited. But look, the and are on the board and the and were both in the big blind's hand. Therefore it is combinatorically (and otherwise) impossible for -suited to be in under the gun's range.
Given the tightness of the ranges and the 10 BB three-bet size, a hand like -offsuit or -offsuit especially should go into the muck preflop here. -suited might have something to say for itself (I would fold it), but even then that only makes for two possible combinations.
From the big blind's perspective, that's two combinations versus more combos of kings and jacks. Even if the UTG player made it to the flop with -offsuit, the big blind could still be in a position to value-shove with aces.
In the cold sobriety of hindsight we can see that UTG made an ambitious, maybe stubborn, preflop call with an offsuit hand he should have folded... and was duly rewarded.
He had a (perhaps more annoyingly) easy route to win the money from the flop onward — simply click call one time after another. But over the course of millions of hands, the big blind would rather under the gun do as he did. He can hardly fault him for it, can he?
We have to accept that we are going to be beaten sometimes both when our opponent makes an error before the flop and when they don't. We'll be beaten when it rains and when it shines, when it is sunup and when it is sundown, and when someone heard the tree fall in the woods and even when it doesn't make a sound.
The big blind look the best line on every street of the hand, but there is still one more street to play, the one that comes after the hand is over. The most profitable route after seeing that scoop the pot is simply to accept it and move on.