Facing A Cold-3Bet With Pocket Tens

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Hakon wanted me to look at a hand and he prefaces it by saying he was playing at a 25NL Zoom table. He has no ideas on the other players from previous hands, and he’s dealt pocket tens in the small blind. There is a min-raise from MP2, a small 3bet from the button, and hero decides to call.

I want to talk about this for a moment because I feel like a lot of players do call this and it’s kind of an important situation, if nothing else, just to understand it conceptually. Having pocket tens in this situation,  out of the blind, facing a 3 bet is extremely awkward to figure out what the heck you want to do with it. It’s just tricky because if you think ahead, how are you going to make money here? If you call and MP2 shoves, what are you going to do? If you call and MP2 calls, how are you going to play that situation on the flop, going to be give or take around six and change in the middle, it’s going to be a pretty small SPR against MP2, it’s going to be about four-ish against the button. That’s going to be a really tricky, complicated decision and it’s going to be really hard to figure out how the heck you’re going to play that.

If you’ve never really looked at how tens hit the flop in general, if we take out Flopzilla and plug in pocket tens, you notice that we’re catching a lot of pocket pairs below top pair, aka second pair, and a lot of weak pairs, aka third pair. So we’re going to be catching the large majority of uncomfortable single pairs where we’re trying to figure out what the heck we’re going to do with it and even when we flop an over pair, what the heck are we going to do with it, right? I mean, the button could easily be 3 betting a decently strong range of hands, he is 3 betting against a shorter-stacked opponent or half-stack. Again, we’re in an unknown environment, we don’t know, but by the same token, I think by calling here, we’re going to put ourselves into a situation where probably going to be getting involved in a decent size pot, even if MP2 just calls and we don’t really know how the heck we’re going to make money. So there’s a lot of confusion, there’s a lot of risk and what’s the upside? If we’re just calling here to try to smash our set, is there any difference between tens and pocket fours? Not really, it’s essentially the same thing and we’re just calling to set mine at a 3 bet pot for better or worse.

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It’s really important that we think about that in advance. How are we going to make money with the hand, how does the hand hit and perform in play in general, and then what’s going to be the best line with that information.

Given all of that, I’m usually not going to be calling here. There’s obviously the issue that the hand doesn’t hit particularly well, it’s going to be very difficult to play post flop out of position. There’s also the issue that if anyone can hand read, I kind of turn my range face up. Most people when they cold call a 3 better doing so with like tens plus ace/king so it’s really, really face up as to what I have and I just don’t see this being a super profitable spot for me. A lot of players will say, “Well, that’s just too damn weak tight, how could you possibly fold pre-flop with pocket tens to such a small bet, I mean, it’s really only eight big blinds,” But by the same token, if you can find me a way where this is going to be profitable and you run it through an EV spreadsheet, and you’re looking at it going, “Okay, there’s enough upside to justify, if you can find edge here in calling”, then let me know and I’d love, love, love to see the work on it and/or talk about it and I think it would be great. But I think too many players are going to over estimate the strength of tens, they’re going to over estimate their own edge, even out of position and I think too many players take way too much loss by cold calling 3 bets out of the blinds with these kind of pairs.

It’s a situation that doesn’t arise a ton, but when it does arise, making an incorrect decision here can be pretty brutal. So another option is just to 4 bet it, essentially turn it into kind of a semi-bluff and again, it’s more of a semi-bluff only because you don’t have any information on these two players. It could easily be for value against MP2 if he’s a bad opponent, but we don’t know that, same concept against the button.

In general here, I would actually have no problem just folding, getting out of the hand rather than put myself into a very expensive guessing game, which is what I’m assuming this hand is going to turn out to be. Hero does decide to call and actually ends up getting called by both other players, $8 in the middle, and flops an over pair.

At this point, hero checked and he said that he checked intending to take action to any best. There’s an open shove by the big blind, call from MP2 and a fold from the button.

Facing 3Bet With TT

So this is extremely awkward. We’re getting about 2:1 need to give or take around 34% equity to break even here and this is really tough in an unknown environment to figure out what the heck we’re going to do in this situation. Do we call here? Do we fold here? We have to remember that any ace is likely going to—from the big blind—is likely going to be like an ace/king or ace/queen type hand, which is going to have two over cards to our hand, plus a gut shot, which is obviously not great for us.

So you’re going to have decent equity with that. He could have sets, which obviously crush us, he could have some over pairs that beat us, like jacks and queens. I’m assuming he probably 4 bets aces and kings pre-flop, but again, unknown environment, it’s difficult to say. I just think this is a really, really uncomfortable spot and how the heck are we going to get out of this one?

One thing we could do since we are looking at this off the table and we have a lot of time is to pull out Equilab and see how we’re performing. Now the EV of this exact situation is going to be a little bit different because MP2 has a different stack size, which means there will be give or take on around a $9 side pot, which obviously MP2’s equity won’t influence. So if you’re going to do a full EV equation, this would actually be a little advanced, but by the same token, we can at least just take a broad look at it in Poker Strategy’s Equilab.

Let’s do MP2’s range first, let’s give him sets, because he’s a bad player, he could have those, pocket threes, sixes probably through tens, he probably would’ve come over the top with jacks plus pre-flop and let’s just give him that for now, that’s kind of fair. Against the other guy, let’s say that he could have the same range and there will be some overlap for sure. Again, I’m assuming he would’ve come over the top with aces and kings pre-flop but we can’t obviously 100% be sure. Then I’m also going to give this guy some ace/king and let’s give him like an ace/queen suit for the times that he calls a pre-flop and jams it here, just tried to generate folds.

Let’s look at that and we have 35% equity, we need 34%, this is like super, super break. You notice that if we take out like any of this stuff or even just a large majority of it, that our equity starts to tank down and we’re back into kind of like break even land.

I don’t view this as being super profitable. Again, it’s very difficult to say what range the big blind is shoving, how much over lay MP2 is or is not offering and I think this is a really, really tough spot. I think it’s kind of break even and when it’s break even in kind of a best case scenario, I’m usually going to be totally fine folding it just like hero did.

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In this exact situation, it’s kind of funny run out, big blind ended up having ace/nine, again, couldn’t have assumed that he was going to be shoving that wide without some other info, MP2…I guess, I’m very, very confused by how this hand rolled out and it’s just kind of an awkward, tricky situation. Obviously sometimes you’re going to run into things like this, but even if we go back here and we widen out ranges to say include things like 7/6 and 5/6 and 8/6 and stuff like that, if we do, and obviously if he has 8/6, he probably has 8/7—maybe, maybe not, we’ll get rid of that just for the moment. Going to go to okay, and even if we give him something like ace/nine, which probably means he’s shoving this stuff as well, maybe some king/queen just to buff it out. We get the equity boost but this is in like kind of a better case scenario, where we’re hoping that those are the ranges that they’re shoving but we certainly can’t be sure that they are.

This is yet another hand that gets sent to me where I’d say the major thing we want to look at is pre-flop. Did we enter the hand correctly? I am kind of on the fence as far as whether or not we should be calling that pre-flop. In general I think that a lot of players would perform better by getting rid of the spot early rather than just calling because “LOL it’s tens” and then trying to figure out what the heck to do post-flop. In this exact situation, both of these players turned out to be very fishy, but in an unknown environment, we couldn’t know that. We could maybe estimate it, but we could easily be estimating super wrong and get super screwed in situations like that.

Whenever I’m in a situation like that, I always just kind of ask myself, “Okay, what’s the upside, what’s the downside, how’s my hand perform and how am I going to make money in that scenario?” If you think it’s going to be good, then by all means get involved because you are expecting an edge and even better when you have a plan, but just calling because “LOL has pocket tens” inherently is not going to be a complete thought process and will get you destroyed in the long run, unfortunately.

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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