Aug 21 2008

#5a: Is this hand really a bad beat?

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Far too many people at the ULBPC events believe they suffered a "bad beat" when they showed down at the river … when in fact their hand was most probably trailing by the river. The very texture of the board often dictates that you fold to a solid re-raise on the river if numerous players saw the flop!

Did Mike really suffer a bad beat when he called a solid re-raise on the river?

Ask yourself — did Mike really suffer a bad beat when he called Alan's solid re-raise on the river?

A recent hand from a real-cash game on the 10/30/06 episode of "Live at the Bike" demonstrates just how weak your monster hand really might be. On this hand, six players go to the flop with a straddled, unraised pot. "Mike" and "Alan" love to see flops with any two cards. Both players flop trip deuces. Mike bets out, Alan calls, and the other four players fold, including one player with a 5 in his hand.

Both players have a poor kicker — yet each player knows the other will bet/call with less than trip deuces! On the turn, Mike’s kicker will almost certainly give him the win on the river, and he’s picked up a redraw to the flush. Mike bets out again and Alan calls again. We know someone folded a 5, so Alan is drawing to a two-outer. Sure enough, Alan nails it on the river. Mike makes a simple value bet — and Alan pushes all in.

Yes: Alan nailed a two-outer on the river. But let’s look at it from Mike’s perspective. Alan smooth-calls him to the river and then suddenly re-raises all in. "Live at the Bike" co-host Bart Hanson made an important observation when he questioned Mike’s hand based on the texture of the board!

  • Mike knows Alan will limp a straddled pot with a deuce, so he plausibly has the case deuce. If Alan has it, then Mike loses to eight kickers! He only beats three kickers (3, 6, 7) and ties with one (9).
  • Alan is known to limp with a middle pair when multiple players are already invested in a straddled pot. If Alan had pocket 8s, then he flopped a full house and smooth-called the flop & turn because he knows Mike will show aggression when he’s out of position.
  • Alan will sometimes even call a straddled raise with any low pair, and he oftens pays to see the turn without regard to the texture of the flop. If he limped in with pocket 4s, he made a full house on the turn and smooth-called because he knows Mike will show aggression when he’s out of position.
  • Repeat: Alan will sometimes even call a straddled raise with any low pair. If he limped with pocket 5s, then he’s only facing one overcard. With two deuces on the board, Alan might believe it’s somewhat unlikely that Mike has a deuce — and Mike didn’t raise on the straddle, so he probably doesn’t have a pair. The turn card is lower than a 5, which could easily convince Alan he might have the best hand. The river gives him a full house and he pushes all in.
  • Repeat: Alan oftens pays to see the turn without regard to the texture of the flop. If he limped with any A3 or a suited 63, then the turn gives him a gutshot straight draw, and Mike knows Alan chases gutshots.
  • Mike knows Alan will typically just call a river bet with trips, even with a big kicker. After all, there’s a lot of plausible hands that A2 can’t beat.

Yes: Alan nailed a two-outer on the river. But as "Live at the Bike" co-host Bart Hanson often asks, "what can you beat here?" Mike can’t beat two-thirds of the deuce kickers. He can’t beat pocket 4s. He can’t beat pocket 5s. He can’t beat A3. He can’t beat 63. It’s unlikely, but he can’t beat pocket 8s.

Mike faced five opponents on the flop and then faced a strong re-raise on the river. It’s not that Alan sucked out — rather, it’s that Mike couldn’t beat the majority of Alan’s plausible holdings. This happens all the time in ULBPC events!

Suckouts happen when four or more opponents go to the flop and two people get to the river. If a check-caller suddenly makes a strong re-raise on the river, you need to ask "what can I beat here?" If you can beat the majority of plausible holdings, then call. If you can’t beat the majority of plausible holdings, then fold.

"But Rob!" you moan, "these ULBPC events reek of bluffs!" Yes. Some idiot might have gone to the river with any ace, thinking "I’m golden if I can pair it." And he might be sitting there facing your value bet, and he might be thinking "this guy is amazingly tight and is actually trying to win, so he just might fold a monster if I push all in!" And he might raise you all in on an outrageous bluff. It happens. A lot. If you can beat the majority of plausible holdings, then call. If you can’t beat the majority of plausible holdings, then fold.

"But Rob!" you moan, "these people think a paired ace is the nuts!" Yes. A fish will call to the river with bottom pair or just ace-high, each time thinking "maybe I’ll improve on the next card." And the river might give him something bizzare like "bottom three pair." And he might actually be thinking "hooray, I’m gonna double up!" And he might actually re-raise you with a bizarre holding you can easily beat. It happens. A lot. If you can beat the majority of plausible holdings, then call. If you can’t beat the majority of plausible holdings, then fold.

Know this. Few players in the ULBPC events can identify the plausible holdings that would beat them on the river. You’re almost certainly the best player at the table if you can do it. To paraphrase "Live at the Bike" co-host Dave Tuchman … you’ve mastered the game of THNL when you can call with JACK-HIGH because you know your opponent’s most plausible holding is SIX-HIGH!

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