Should You Check Behind With Top Pair?

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In this hand we have A♠Q♠ on the button. There’s a raise from MP, call from a cutoff. Hero decides to squeeze and because this is on Bovada, I’m assuming there’s really no HUD stats or information and nothing was given to me, so I’m just going to assume we’re kind of playing against unknowns here. In general, definitely going to be squeezing with ace/queen suited here, very, very, very happy with everything so far. I’m getting called by MP, fold for the cutoff, go heads up to it, check, Hero decides to bet, and here we are.

Mohammad didn’t leave me a lot of notes in this hand, but one of the notes he did leave is that his plan here was to barrel on any spade. One thing you want to think about here is when you three bet MP calls, then you c-bet and then MP calls, what kind of range does he realistically have? I’d say he probably has some sort of like showdown value-ish pair, maybe it’s eights, nines, tens, something like that. Think about the kind of hands he would four bet pre-flop. Is he going to four bet with queens or more likely just to call it?

But realistically when he just decides to check call you on the flop, you’re probably looking at a range that has maybe like a seven/eight suited, but typically it’s going to be like pair or short on value pair, medium pair-ish, heavy, maybe the occasional float or something like that. Typically I’m assuming it’s going to be a lot of pair-type stuff.

I’m really happy to see Mohammad thinking ahead here, thinking about, “Okay, how can I barrel out?” You just really want to keep that in mind early because you’re probably not going to generate a ton of folds right at this moment, so you have to be thinking that step ahead. If the plan is, “Okay, I think I’m going to fire two, if not three shells and I think I can get him to fold a pair a very non-zero percentage of the time,” then we have a totally fair plan. But don’t just bet here and then be like confused and awkward when he calls, because he’s definitely going to call here a very non-zero percentage of the time.

Understand the upside of barreling with The +EV Double Barrel Guide.

In this situation, MP does call, not shocking. Queen on the turn, check, and Hero decides to check behind. Mohammad says that he checks and he’s planning to value bet on any river.

There are a lot of poker players that would also check this turn behind and their thought process is, “I’m just going to check it back here. Maybe I can induce a bluff that I can call on the river, maybe when he checks the river, I can value bet and get looked up by pocket nines or maybe nines would’ve folded on the turn, whatever it be.” That’s a very common showdown value, heavy mindset.

To be honest, I used to think like that a lot as well, but I’ve changed my mind a lot, especially over the last year or so and one thing you want to consider on this turn, is let’s just say you were sitting here with nonsense. Say you were just messing around pre-flop with king/nine suited, whatever, and all of a sudden this queen shows up. Would you bet it? Would you turn your hand into a double barrel bluff? Chances are yeah, because the queen is a scary card (article about how Scare Cards Are Perfect For Bluffing) It benefits you more than it benefits them and it applies a lot of pressure to all of his pairs, like eight/seven, pocket nines, pocket tens, all that kind of stuff.

If you would bluff the card a lot, why wouldn’t you value bet it sometimes as well? Because if your range is 100% bluffs, you’re screwed. If your range is every 100% value, you’re typically screwed, unless you’re talking about being against a total fish. So you’re in a situation where when you’re playing against someone who is maybe even slightly decent you have to have a balance in your range. You can’t just be 100% value or 100% bluff.

Betting this for value makes sense, because you want to be betting this often enough that he has to be continuing with pocket nines, that he has to continue with pocket tens. If you’re not doing that, you’re leaving money on the table.

scare-cards

For a clear example, read this article explaining the art of betting scare cards on the turn

 

In this situation, I don’t really like going the showdown value route. I’d much rather see Hero bet this out for something like $55, 60, whatever he would bet with a bluff as well and continue that pressure. Is he going to get action 100% of the time? No, probably not, but if he’s betting this spot often enough, he’s definitely going to start getting second-best action quite consistently.

In this situation, again, turn went check, check, king on the river, and we face an $80 bet from MP. One of the first things I ask myself in this situation is, “Okay, is it possible that the king improved MP’s hand? Is it possible that somehow he had something like ace/king or king/jack or even king/queen?” I’d say it’s probably pretty unlikely. I think ace/king most likely goes for the four bet pre-flop, so I think that’s gone. If he had king/queen, it’s kind of an awkward situation to check call on the flop. It’s possible but, eh. King/jack, same rationale, there’s just slightly more combos of king/jack than king/queen.

In this situation, this is one where I don’t think the king really improves him very often and it’s really difficult for MP to have like a monster hand here. Maybe he has something like pocket sevens or pocket sixes and good for him if he does, but ultimately, I’m not super concerned about him having a real hand.

Remember, part of the reason why you check the turn with a showdown value mindset is so you can induce bluffs on rivers.

The king is not my favorite card in the world because it looks like we could have something like ace/king when we decide to check back on the turn and him betting into that is a little petrifying, particularly for pot, but honestly, I’m just going to pay this off if I ever get here, because you have to show it to me. You have to show me some sort of big hand, otherwise I just have to assume there’s a margin of error of bluffing in there and I’m just going to call and go forward from there.

That being said, the turn is way, way, way more important, because if you play the turn better, then this river situation doesn’t arise, it just doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter.

Again, I’d much rather see us fire the turn again rather than put ourselves in a situation where we have to dig out a river call. Don’t get me wrong, the king is not my favorite card in the world and it’s not my favorite bet size either, but I still think that if we play the turn better, this river situation just doesn’t happen.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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