PezRez and md261 are two of the poker world's most consistent 6-max SNG players. Together they run, which offers coaching and staking services. Here they dissect hands and games they've played. Also found at:

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Check Raise on the River

PezRez on the 23rd February 2013

Hi guys,

Long time of no posting again. After my Masters I went travelling for several months in South America. Little time was left for poker, and in a month or so I’ll be starting that PhD that I put off for a long time, so won’t be playing much more. In the meantime though I’ll be playing a little.

One of the things that always strikes me after a long period away from poker is how clean and fresh all of the theories, plays and moves you know seem when you start playing again. Unencumbered by the frustrations (or elations) of recent plays, recent failures and recent successes, your mind seems to find it easy to spot the right conditions to pull moves which may previously have fallen out of your arsenal.

One such recent opportunity came for me when, after 3 months of no poker, I found a good spot to pull a bluff check-raise on the river (and such spots are few and far between). This isn’t a play that comes up very often in Sit and Go’s – indeed I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have pulled it – but it is very satisfying when it does.

I was heads-up and on the river, looking at a situation where it was likely both my opponent and I had a draw:

PokerStars Tournament $27.58+$2.42 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200)
Seat 1: Villain (4382 in chips)
Seat 2: Hero (4618 in chips)
Villain: posts small blind 100
Hero: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [5h Ts]
Villain: calls 100
Hero: checks
*** FLOP *** [8s 3d 9d]
Hero: checks
Villain: checks
*** TURN *** [8s 3d 9d] [Jc]
Hero: bets 200
Villain: calls 200
*** RIVER *** [8s 3d 9d Jc] [Ah]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 400
Hero: raises 600 to 1000
Villain: folds
Hero collected 1600 from pot
Hero: doesn't show hand

With T5o, I am quite happy to see a free flop. The flop texture doesn’t look great for bluffing, and I have very little to go with, so I check with the intention of giving up if my opponent bets. He doesn’t though, and we go to the turn.

The turn brings me a straight draw (albeit an obvious, one-card non-nut draw). Having said that, it is still strong enough to bet into an opponent who has shown no strength whatsoever. He calls. While he might have some kind of made hand, it seems likely he would have bet the flop with it. Its more likely he has some kind of straight draw or gutshot himself, perhaps in combination with a small pair or overcard.

An Ace on the river is an obvious scare card. In fact, its so obvious that its not remotely scary at all when someone bets it! With no hand myself, the straightforward play would be to check-fold. Since my opponent probably has a draw himself, I could put in a bluff, since he probably won’t be able to call me.

However the Ace probably looks to him like a great bluffing spot. He will bet many of his busted draws, and probably check behind a small and medium pair. If I check-raise, I will be taking advantage of the fact that his betting range in this spot is very weak.

The move is superior to betting out – if I bet, he folds his busted draws but calls and wins with a few mediocre pairs. If I check (planning to check-raise), he probably checks behind with those mediocre pairs (and wins), and I lose no additional chips. Even better, when he does have those busted draws, I usually win even more chips by inducing a bet and then forcing him to fold. The only occasions I come off worse are when he value-bets a mediocre pair (unlikely) and then he calls the check-raise (unlikelier), or alternatively he checks behind with the busted draw and his high-card beats mine (distinctly possible, but my opponent has been aggressive).

Overall, the checkraise clearly wins! I don’t need to make it much – I’m trying to fold out hands with no value, after all – and so 600 more seems like plenty. He does fold, and maybe my 4th (?) successful stone-bluff river check-raise goes into the history books.

The circumstances here that make the play a good one are my aggressive opponent, the high likelihood of him having a draw (and likewise the low likelihood of him having a made hand of any considerable strength) and the rivered Ace which just made it so likely that he would bluff (and which it is so unlikely he holds). The confluence of these conditions makes the check-raise the ideal play in this spot.


Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Simple Hand

PezRez on the 8th April 2012

PokerStars Tournament $27.58+$2.42 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level I (10/20)
Seat 1: Player 1 (1630 in chips)
Seat 2: Player 2 (1900 in chips)
Seat 3: Hero (790 in chips)
Seat 4: Villain (1740 in chips)
Seat 5: Player 5 (1630 in chips)
Seat 6: Player 6 (1310 in chips)
Player 2: posts small blind 10
Hero: posts big blind 20
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [7s 5h]
Villain: calls 20
Player 5: calls 20
Semi-Pro15: calls 20
Player 1: folds
Player 2: calls 10
Hero: checks
*** FLOP *** [4h 6c 7h]
Player 2: checks
Hero: bets 60
Villain: calls 60
Player 5: folds
Semi-Pro15: folds
Player 2: folds
*** TURN *** [4h 6c 7h] [7c]
Hero: bets 140
Villain: calls 140
*** RIVER *** [4h 6c 7h 7c] [Kc]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 620
Hero: calls 570 and is all-in
Uncalled bet (50) returned to Villain
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Villain: shows [Td 9c] (a pair of Sevens)
Hero: shows [7s 5h] (three of a kind, Sevens)
Hero collected 1640 from pot

A simple hand to serve as a timely reminder that in these aggressive days, a simple check is often the best, and perhaps only, way to extract value from your opponent’s range.

Having checked the big blind in a 5-way pot, I find myself with a little baby-top-pair-no-kicker and a one card straight draw. It isn’t a monster hand, but as far as flops go it’s as best as could be hoped for with 57o. I clearly need to bet to protect this intensely vulnerable hand against the depredations of four other random-as hands on the turn. On the other hand, coming out with a pot bet or more isn’t the best way to go, because with four players out there the chances are not negligible that I don’t have the best hand. No need to dig myself a hole too deep, so I lead out for 60% of the pot, to see what’s about. One call is a great result. With my weak pair/weak draw combo, multiple players could have me destroyed, but against a single player it’s likely that I have one side of the hand working for me.

A seven on the turn is really the best card I could hope for. It is far better than filling the straight, which is non-nut, hugely obvious and possibly splitting the pot. With a mountain of draws he can still call with, and some made hands in there too, I need to bet. With 220 in the pot, I lead for 140, plenty enough to charge him the wrong price to draw with only one card to come, and small enough that he probably still will call anyway. He does call, and the stacks look perfect for a river all-in of 570 into 500.

Perfect indeed, but when the King falls on the river, it is clear that I am not the man to make that bet. Whilst pushing may get a call from a few stubborn sixes or pocket pairs that would have checked behind, a great chunk of his range on a board like this consists of failed straight draws and flush draws. A quick peek at his aggression factor (a considerable 2.2) and I have all the information I need. Those hands will not call, but an aggressive player with it’s-the-only-way-I-can-win-the-pot syndrome may be unable to resist the temptation to make that pot-sized shove.

I check, he shoves in it and after I call he shows me T9o for two over cards and a gutshot. I love it when they make it easy for you…


Monday, 13 February 2012

Putting on the Post-Flop Squeeze

PezRez on the 13th February 2012

Hello All,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a hand... I have recently gone back to University to do a Masters, and between coaching and the course I haven’t had much spare time to play, let alone post hands. I’ll try to pull my socks up and post a bit more regularly...

Anyway, I played a session recently and had an interesting hand against a solid regular. He raised from UTG, a raise which I gave a lot of credit, and finding myself in a multiway pot with a tricky board found a nonstandard way of playing the hand, taking advantage of the squeeze my opponent would find himself in.

PokerStars Hand No Limit - Level II (15/30)
Seat 1: Player 1 (1710 in chips)
Seat 2: Player 2 (1245 in chips)
Seat 3: Player 3 (2086 in chips)
Seat 4: Hero (1170 in chips)
Seat 5: Villain (1094 in chips)
Seat 6: Player 6 (1695 in chips)
Player 3: posts small blind 15
Hero: posts big blind 30
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [9c 9d]
Villain: raises 60 to 90
Player 6: calls 90
Player 1: folds
Player 2: folds
Player 3: calls 75
Hero: calls 60
*** FLOP *** [8h Jh Ts]
Player 3: checks
Hero: bets 165
Villain: calls 165
Player 6: folds
Player 3: folds
*** TURN *** [8h Jh Ts] [2d]
Hero: bets 240
Villain: folds
Uncalled bet (240) returned to Hero
Hero collected 690 from pot

First of all, some of you may be tempted to 3-bet preflop, but I don’t like it much. As I mentioned above, I give a lot of respect to the UTG raise from this player, and give him a range of AQ+, 99+ (with maybe 88 and AJs thrown in, but maybe not). In any case, against this range - a) my hand doesn’t do so well and b) my opponent won’t fold much. With a medium pair generally you want to find yourself in a heads-up situation (relying on the strength of your pair) or a multiway pot (looking to flop a strong set). Here I’m already in a multiway pot with good pot odds, so I thought it most prudent to go down the latter route.

The flop is a tough one. I still have my pair, plus a straight draw, but the board is a very dangerous one in a four-way pot. The normal line would probably be to check-fold, except to a tiny bet that prices in our straight draw (which is particularly weak being a non-nut one-card draw - therefore obvious when you hit and not guaranteed to win the whole pot - not to mention the flush draw which cuts down your outs and could still hit the river when you hit on the turn). Looking back at my estimate of my opponent’s hand range -which also hits this flop quite nicely - maybe that would have been the best thing to do! But I knew that if I led into this opponent, he would feel himself in a really tough squeeze with two players behind on a board like that. I felt guaranteed that he would never make a play in that situation, not least because my lead on that board into the UTG raiser looks very strong. So I thought a lead here would be a great way of finding out where I am on this flop. I also felt guaranteed he would almost never slowplay, given a four-way pot and a board like that. As for the other two players, Player 6 who called in position appeared very weak/tight (with a VPIP/PFR of 16/0) so I thought it was very likely he would fold too. As for Player 3 in the small blind - he was a massive fish with a VPIP of 57%! He was the most likely player to call me by far, being so loose and closing the action, and I actually thought if he called I would likely have the best of it, especially considering that I had position on him in later streets. So I took the plunge and led 165 into 360 - a small bet to be sure, but one that would clarify my situation immensely.

And Villain flat calls. Well, he definitely had to have something there - but he definitely wasn’t happy about it. I was confident that if he had a set, he would have raised to protect it, and if he had a big pair which he was willing to commit with he would have done so immediately on the flop. I reckoned he was on a pair which he wasn’t happy about, or possibly an AQ double-gutshot and just maybe an AK.

The blank on the turn changed nothing, and I was sure that he would fold any AQ/AK type hand to another bet. As for the pairs, I didn’t count on it, but I considered it possible, given that I know my opponent is solid, capable of making a good fold and bound to read a lot of strength into my bets in this spot and with this board. I bet 240 into 690, another small bet - but around 30% of my opponent’s stack, making it look a lot like I was setting it up for a river all-in and trying to price him in. To my opponent, these two small bets must have reeked of strength - and after only a brief pause on the turn, he folded, to reveal immediately after that he had in fact laid down Aces:

Villain: aa obv
Villain: nice to have u back :/
Hero: :)

Although with retrospect my bet on the flop was a little dangerous given my estimate of my opponent’s range, it was a very cheap bet which I knew would appear very strong and make the situation much easier for me. As for the turn, when you can smell your solid opponent is uncomfortable, a ‘threaten-your-stack-bet’ of around 30-35% of his stack on the turn, even if it is a small proportion of the pot, will succeed in winning the pot more often than you’d think.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Ridiculous Fold

PezRez on the 17th August 2011


A situation came up for me recently that left me with a ridiculous choice to make. It’s the bubble and on the button with 4bb I‘ve got to shove any two. I found T2o and shoved it - or meant to, but I didn’t quite slide the bar all the way up and so raised to 700, leaving myself with 100 behind.

Then something incredible happened: the middle stack shoved and then the big stack shoved over the top! I watch in glee (“They’ve got it all in!”) - and then realise the action is back on me. Oh yeah, I opened this hand. And I have 100 left. All the chips are in the middle, and I have 23-1 pot odds to call all-in here with T2o. It seems like a no-brainer, but I just clicked fold and coasted into the money. Here’s the HH:

PokerStars Game $93.25+$6.75 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200)
Seat 3: MidStack (1515 in chips)
Seat 5: BigStack (6685 in chips)
Seat 6: Hero (800 in chips)
MidStack: posts small blind 100
BigStack: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Tc 2d]
Hero: raises 500 to 700
MidStack: raises 815 to 1515 and is all-in
BigStack: calls 1315
Hero: folds
*** FLOP *** [Jd 4h 5h]
*** TURN *** [Jd 4h 5h] [Qs]
*** RIVER *** [Jd 4h 5h Qs] [Kd]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
MidStack: shows [Ad 5c] (a pair of Fives)
BigStack: shows [7s 7d] (a pair of Sevens)
BigStack collected 3730 from pot
MidStack finished the tournament in 3rd place
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 3730 | Rake 0
Board [Jd 4h 5h Qs Kd]
Seat 3: MidStack (small blind) showed [Ad 5c] and lost with a pair of Fives
Seat 5: BigStack (big blind) showed [7s 7d] and won (3730) with a pair of Sevens
Seat 6: Hero (button) folded before Flop

Now I revisited this hand at the end of the day and really wanted to know whether you should call or whether this ridiculous fold with 23-1 pot odds, leaving me with half a big blind, could actually be correct!

Unfortunately, ICM calculators like SNG Wiz aren’t capable of dealing with situations where you have already acted in the hand, such as here. In this situation, we need to do the ICM calculations longhand. Here it is also complicated some more by the fact we have two possibilities to consider: our probability of winning if we call (which we’ll label p) and the chance the Midstack busts if we fold and therefore we sneak into the cash (let’s call this one x).

For those of you who are not too bothered about the maths of poker, skip to the ending. To the rest that remain, let’s have a go at this problem.

So first off we are going to need an ICM calculator, such as can be found at Thankfully this does the really hard stuff, so we are left to concentrate on only the moderately hard. You stick the stack sizes and payouts into the calculator and it tells you each player’s equity, according to ICM. We can use this to figure out what our equity will be in various outcomes, and then construct an equation to compare.


If we fold, we are going to have 100 left after the hand. If the big stack wins, we’re in the cash! But if the midstack wins, with 100 left we are going to be f♠♦♥♣d.
The ICM calculator tells us that our equities in those two situations are:

EQ[we fold, bubble pops] = 35.33%

EQ[we fold and midstack wins] = 1.55%

1.55%. That’s what f♠♦♥♣d looks like.


Here we need to make an assumption to simplify things. We are going to assume that we know what their hands are in this situation and if we win the main pot (most likely by spiking a Ten) then the Big Stack will win the side pot, as it will mean that the Mid Stack failed to spike his Ace and so came third in the hand to my pair of Tens and the Big Stack’s 77. This will nearly always be the case, unless we get some funky board like A55 or TT55x or maybe AT2. These things are gonna happen, but very infrequently (like maybe 5% of the time), so let’s discount them. As for how this will bias our calculations, it will slightly overestimate our equity for calling and so we’ll end up with a slightly lower winning percentage we need to make the call.

So either we triple up and end up heads-up with Big Stack or we bust and get nothing. The ICM calculator gives our equity in the first case as:

EQ[triple up, make the cash] = 44.00%

And it should be obvious that if we bust, our equity is zero.


To analyse whether calling is better than folding, we need to set the equities of the two against each other in an equation and then solve it. The probability we calculate will be the winning chance above which calling will be better than folding. But since we have both p (our chance of winning) and x (Big Stacks chance of winning when we fold) in this case, we cannot “solve” the equation. We will have to introduce some likely values for one to look at what that would make the other.

So setting EQ[FOLD] = EQ[Call] will mean the following equation:

EQ[FOLD + CASH]*x + EQ[FOLD + F♠♦♥♣D]*(1 - x) = EQ[CALL + WIN]*p + EQ[CALL + LOSE]* (1 - p)

Putting our numbers in:

35.33*x + 1.55*(1 - x) = 44*p + 0

33.78x + 1.55 = 44p

Now we have our equation, let’s put in a couple of values. First of all, the Big Stack here is likely to have a tighter range than the Mid Stack, and he’s a much less fishy player, so let’s assume he is a 2-1 favourite when we fold (that is, x = 0.67). In that case:

35.33*0.67 + 1.55 = 44p

25.22 = 44p

p = 0.5732 or a 57.32% chance of winning

Well look at that! If the Big Stack is a good favourite here, you need a 57% winning chance to call - and I’m pretty sure that’s impossible with T2o in a three-way pot. It’s not just a fold - it’s a huge fold. And remember, because of the bias introduced by our assumption, this number is an underestimate.

What about if the Big Stack is not such an extreme favourite? Let’s see what happens if the two of them are all-in for a coin flip (x = 0.50):

35.33*0.50 + 1.55 = 44p

19.22 = 44p

p = 0.4368 or a 43.68% chance of winning

So whilst that has made a big difference, again you’re never gonna be winning 44% of the time with T2o in a three-way all-in. Remember, with a random hand versus two other random hands you are 33%. Here you have a decidedly below-average hand against two clearly well-above-average hands. Still a huge fold.

In fact, against a range of the top 20%of hands for the Mid Stack and the top 15% for the Big Stack, your T2o has a 19.5% winning chance. With these ranges, when we fold the Big Stack has 54.9% equity in the pot. So looking for x = 0.549 and p = 0.195...

EQ[FOLD] = 20.10%

EQ[CALL] = 8.58%

Calling here would cost me 11.52% equity, equivalent in this $100 buy-in game to $64.45!


These calculations have proved that in this situation it is in fact correct to fold the hand, despite your 23-1 pot odds and half a big blind remaining. Not only that, but it would be a grave error to call here, costing me in fact almost two-thirds of my buy-in in equity if I call. SNGs, whilst being such a repetitive and formulaic format, never fail to amaze me sometimes. Never would I have thought that calling with 23-1 pot odds could possibly cost you $65 in a $100 buy-in game. If you take anything from this post, it should be that in SNGs, ICM is King.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Full Tilt Hearing

PezRez on 2nd August

Hey guys,

No strategy discussion for this post, but I thought I would talk a little about the situation at Full Tilt. As I'm sure everyone is aware, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, who regulate Full Tilt, pulled the plug a little while back, throwing everyone's funds into limbo. There was a lot of vitriol directed online to the AGCC, and to the United States - and President Obama. While Obama may or may not be a tool, in this case I suspect the real culprit are Full Tilt. If the AGCC had discovered, for instance, that Full Tilt were unable to pay out their customers, then by pulling the plug they absolutely did the correct thing. If they knew that there was a rotten company trading, they could not do nothing and allow people to put more money into the business with little hope of getting it back. Having said that, the AGCC should make every effort to ensure players get their funds back, and they don't get sucked into the Black Hole of Doom that is the US treasury, to cover interest on repayments to China and bullets for shooting Afghans.

So the AGCC public hearing was held in London last week, and Al(md261) and I decided to go along to see if we could find out what was happening to our money. The room was full, with maybe 70-80 people, and proceedings started a little late. As a portly gentleman whose interest was obviously as a player rather than an industry observer derisively snorted, the lawyers for Full Tilt, explained that they wished to make a preliminary appeal for the hearing to be held in secret. They had good reasons, they said (to more snorts from our friend in the fifth row); just those reasons were a bit sensitive too, so they made a Pre-Preliminary Appeal to explain to the AGCC exactly why the preliminary appeal needed to be held in secret.

Now I'm not a big fan of secrecy, but as ridiculous as it sounded, this seemed quite reasonable. Our portly gent, no doubt planning to make a scene from the get-go, stormed out, saying, "This is a disgrace, you should be looking after the players and not this corrupt company", or some such. But I think maybe that's what the AGCC were doing. The thing is, it sounded to me like Full Tilt needed a rescue in order to save it from oblivion. There have been rumours swirling around about a possible buy-out, which if it occurred, needless to say, would result in the players being returned their funds as a matter of priority. However, Full Tilt's argument was that, essentially, they had been so naughty (tsk tsk) that if it was revealed what they had been up to, their reputation and so any hope of a rescue for the company (and my cash) would be destroyed. Which is absolutely understandable. Of course, Full Tilt were acting in their own interests when they asked for secrecy, but in this case I think it's quite likely those interests coincide with our own, as players hoping to retrieve the money we may have lost. So I think that man's self-indulgent rant, planned from the beginning, was a little off the mark.

In any case, secrecy was granted and nothing much happenned that day. There is to be another hearing, some time in September I think, which after this experience I will think twice about attending. For all of us hoping to recoup our losses, let's hope that Full Tilt gets bought out swiftly.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Destroying Value Part 3

PezRez on 25th June

PokerStars Game $27.58+$2.42 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level II (15/30)
Seat 1: Player 1 (1315 in chips)
Seat 2: Hero (1295 in chips)
Seat 3: Player 3 (1280 in chips)
Seat 4: Villain (830 in chips)
Seat 6: Player 6 (4280 in chips)
Player 1: posts small blind 15
Hero: posts big blind 30
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Js Jc]
Player 3: folds
Villain: raises 60 to 90
Player 6: folds
Player 1: folds
Hero: raises 165 to 255
Villain: calls 165
*** FLOP *** [6d Ad 2s]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 525
Hero: raises 515 to 1040 and is all-in
Villain: folds
Uncalled bet (515) returned to Hero
Hero collected 1575 from pot
Hero: doesn't show hand
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 1575 | Rake 0
Board [6d Ad 2s]
Seat 1: Player 1 (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 2: Hero (big blind) collected (1575)
Seat 3: Player 3 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: Villain folded on the Flop
Seat 6: Player 6 (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)

Yes, that’s right children – another instalment in the smash-hit Destroying Value series. And yes, kiddies, it’s the same as always. But when this hand occurred today, I had to post it as yet another confirmation of my point (as if parts 1 and 2 were not sufficient).

Preflop I make a pot-committing reraise against a terrible, terrible fish. Imagine a donkey made sweet love with a fish; he could be their illegitimate child. No really; he is awful. But I think you get the picture.

So on this flop, given how awful he is, I could just shove, and he probably would call with a fair few hands (I should call this post “Slightly Minimizing Value Pt.1”). But I remembered the exhortations I made of you all in previous posts, and went for the check. He quickly bet 525 of his 575 remaining. I put the rest in, and he insta-folded (I laughed quite hard at the time).

Told you he was a fish.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Recognising what range my opponent perceives I hold...

PezRez on 11th June 2011

PokerStars Game $70+$6 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level IV (50/100)
Seat 2: Villain (4067 in chips)
Seat 3: Player 3 (1200 in chips)
Seat 5: Player 5 (1383 in chips)
Seat 6: Hero (2350 in chips)
Hero: posts small blind 50
Villain: posts big blind 100
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Kc As]
Player 3: folds
Player 5: folds
Hero: raises 150 to 250
Villain: calls 150
*** FLOP *** [Qd 9s 7d]
Hero: bets 300
Villain: calls 300
*** TURN *** [Qd 9s 7d] [Ah]
Hero: bets 550
Villain: calls 550
*** RIVER *** [Qd 9s 7d Ah] [Kd]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 2200
Hero: calls 1250 and is all-in
Uncalled bet (950) returned to Villain
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Villain: shows [4d 4c] (a pair of Fours)
Hero: shows [Kc As] (two pair, Aces and Kings)
Hero collected 4700 from pot

First of all, I must offer my sincerest apologies for not having posted any new hands for over 2 months. I spent the time in Spain, brushing up on my Spanish, and so took a holiday from poker and posting. I’m now back and raring to go, albeit in a poker world which seems very different from the one which I left in April, after Black Friday, the repercussions of which are still being felt and I’m sure some of which remain to be seen. But ho-hum. [Some of you may notice that this hand is an old one, as the buy-in is no longer offered on Pokerstars (all these changes, sigh). This is in fact an interesting hand from several months back, which I had saved (with several more where that came from). ]

So this post is all about recognising your opponent’s perception of your range. My opponent in this hand is an excellent player who just loves to get all up in your grill. Contrasted with my opponent in ‘A Cautionary Tale’, who I needed to recognise had no thoughts/expectations/brain, this player is very likely to read the sequence of the hand in a certain way, which I was lucky enough to be able to exploit with the hand that was dealt to me.

So first things first: I’m second in chips, with the big stack, an excellent player, to my immediate left in the big blind. And I have AK. Contrary to how many people might feel about this situation, I’m not thrilled with my hand here. AK can be hard to play out of position, especially with this stack size and especially against a player of this calibre. I don’t really see any other options, however, than a standard-sized raise. My opponent calls. Uh-oh, here we go.

The Q97 flop is not good at all. Generally flops with a JT,QJ,J9,T9 etc combination are bad to continuation bet on, and I feel like my big-stacked opponent is highly likely to float me here. Nonetheless, I feel I probably have the best hand, he could fold, and it would just be too weak a way to play AK to check-fold when I miss here. I put out a grudging C-bet with my fingers crossed and my opponent quickly calls. Well, I did see it coming.

The turn brings likely salvation. A shiny Ace of hearts gives me top-top. You might think the thing to do now would be to check and allow my opponent, who is likely floating, to represent the scare card, then BAM! – hit him with the check-raise. However, I need to think how my opponent will perceive my various actions. True, when I check he will likely bet. But a call or raise will give away the fact that I definitely have a piece of this board here, and my action is likely to stop there. What if I bet? Well, my opponent would have expected me to C-bet with the majority of my range on this flop. The Ace would appear to hit my range solidly, but he knows I know this. When I bet strong, it’s probably not a middling Ace (A7-A9, for example), as I might prefer to check these hands, let my opponent bluff and avoid difficult situations. So it’ll be a big Ace (exactly what I have), OR... a bluff. He knows that the Ace looks like a tremendous scare card for me to bluff with. So when I bet, I think the range he will put me on will be big hands (big Aces, two pairs, sets etc.) or a shit-load of bluffs. In fact, since most regulars reliably bluff scare cards too often, the bluffs far outweigh the real hands. I think my tenacious opponent, with a mountain of chips, won’t be able to lay down any hand here, as he will think there is just too good a chance he can take this pot away from me. He calls.

The river gives me top two-pair and I feel pretty confident I’m ahead. The pot is 2200, and I have 1250 remaining. Perfect to push all-in, right? That would be the plan if I thought my opponent was value-calling me. But as I elaborated previously, I think he is quite possibly itching to make a move, and I need to give him an opportunity. So I check, he snap-pushes, I snap-call and he had pocket 4s! At least this time my estimation of my opponent was spot on.