The Small Top Pair - Poker Cashgame Strategy
In the video below we see Lex 'Razsi' Veldhuis playing a $1/$2 heads-up session against a player he regularly comes across at the tables. We see Lex playing a hand and discussing an important concept in low limit No-Limit games.
Before this hand took place I had already played numerous hands against this player and had a couple of reads on him. He calls us very lightly, he knows we open a lot and that I play like a banana sometimes. I made use of this by valuebetting lightly and sometimes making light calls. The effective stacks (the smallest stack from players in the hand) are 140 bb's deep. I just mentioned in the video that I want to ride to valuetown with as many marginal hands as possible.
The following hands is out of position. He makes a standard raise of 3x the bb to $6 and I make the call. The flop is and I flop top pair with second nut kicker, a hand I am not planning to give up anymore. I check and he checks behind. The turn is a good card, the . I now make a valuebet of $10 because I'm assuming I will always have the best hand here. He could have turned a straight with A4. I don't even think about him playing 4-6 as he would have most likely bet the flop with that. He could have also turned a random two pair, but I'm not going to reach these kinds of conclusions yet. Now it gets interesting.
He raises us to $35. This is one of the most important concepts of Heads-Up Poker these days. Players check hands behind that they don't want to get check-raised with on the flop, but that do have some showdown value. You could think he is holding a weak 7 or a 5, in this case maybe with a 4 or 6 kicker, otherwise he wouldn't be blowing up the pot on the turn. What it comes down to is that he checks the flop behind and raises the turn with, for example, a 7. He does this to make me pay more for my spade-draw, my 4 or a pair with a straight draw. By doing this he now takes over the initiative in the hand. This means that we will check most rivers to him and he then has the option to check behind. By raising the turn he can therefore now control the pot on the river, and in addition he lets me pay more for my draws.
This is a very profitable line to adopt, especially against an opponent who often frontbets the turn. You win an extra bet if your opponent has nothing and you get paid off more against weaker hands, because your betting-line actually seems very strange. If you didn't hit the flop, why would you raise the turn? You will often see players calling you here with a second pair or something like that, as they will often think you are bluffing.
Seeing as we know this now, or at least put some thought into it, you will see that we can also turn this around. We can regain the initiative, as calling is not our only option. This is a good spot to 3-bet on the turn. In this example I wasn't too happy 3-betting because of the stack sizes. We are both a little deeper than usual and I don't think I will get my stack into the middle with the best hand often enough here. He could maybe fold a weaker 7. I could also represent a missed draw on the river after flatcalling the turn. The only disadvantage is that I am giving him a free card if he re-raises with a draw. Up until this point he was very unpredictable, so I decided to give him a free card in the hope that he would fire out another bet on the river.
The river is the and I check to then call a bet, but he also checks behind. As soon as he turned over I almost fell off my chair. I would have definitely expected a valuebet here. If the roles would've been reversed and I hit my Q on the river I would've definitely thought "Nice, he won't see this one coming". He basically did what we discussed earlier in this article, just that he himself was on a draw. I have to say I am still happy with how the hand played out, especially with stacks like these.
Bear in mind that had we been playing with stacks of $200 I would've pushed all-in on the turn to counter his semi-bluff or to take away his check-behind option on the river with a weaker hand. This hand is a great example of one of the most important concepts nowadays, especially on the turn. Therefore, you need to pay a lot of attention to realise in advance what kind of situation you are in, rather than realising it when it's too late. The advantage of thinking about a hand like this is that it also improves your psychological analysis in different situations. You could, for example, make your bet stronger on the turn if you 3-bet him, or slowplay and represent a draw and frontbet the river. There are A LOT of possible lines in this situation, and bear in mind that you don't always have to bet to have initiative.