How To Play A Turned Top Pair

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In today’s spot we’re playing 4-handed. We have AJ in the big blind. There’s a steal from the button, call from the small blind, and the Hero decides to 3bet.

Alastair in the write-up says this: “I wanted to send this hand because I’m working on expanding my 3bet range and quickly realizing that you do get into tricky spots, especially with a deep SPR such as this.

And in this spot, the button is 29/24/3 over 18 hands, which Alastair admits is not a ton, but enough to probably suggest they’re opening wide for the button and you can probably squeeze AJs for value.

So first and foremost, I love the fact that we’re squeezing here. Yes, 18 hands is not a ton. Yes, this dude is probably stealing, and, yeah, I’m totally cool squeezing AJ.

Now, as for the size, which is going to be really, really important. I would much prefer to go something closer to 4X here and just take this up to, like, 250 and go from there.

I don’t really want to go only 3X here. This size gives the button a great price, plus position, so he probably calls and the small blind comes along as well and now all of a sudden, it’s a bloated, 3-way pot.

And it just doesn’t really do anything because I probably wouldn’t squeeze this for $1.80 for value. I’d probably go larger for value, so I also need to keep my bluffs in that same range. In fact, I think 4X is going to be a much better multiplier here. So definitely in the future, go larger. As played, get called, get called, and go 3-way to the flop.

So in this situation, the small blind checks. Hero decides to continuation bet for $3.10. And we really have to decide if we like to see that, yes or no? In this situation, a middle-ish, connected board is one that I typically don’t do a lot of c-betting on multi-way pots, just because these are the kind of boards where players are going to hit a very, very non zero percent of the time. We have a hand like AJ, so we block out combos of over-hand cards like KJ, JT, all those kind of things. Well, JT doesn’t go anywhere in this board, but you get the point.

So it’s one of those where you’re not getting a lot of folds here in my opinion. You’re certainly not getting two players to fold a very, very large chunk of the time. So you already have to be looking towards double and triple barrels. And against the small blind, you don’t have enough flexibility for that. And, yes, we do have backdoor flush, backdoor straight, over cards. We have all those kind of potentials, but I don’t think we have a lot of fold equity here or later. Because of that, I don’t particularly love this c-bet and I’d much rather just check here and kind of see what the button does, maybe get a free card and go forward from there.

I think just firing out here is not going to be a very fruitful play, and chances are, you don’t have a lot of plans for turns. And especially if there’s any chance the small blind could continue, and I think there’s a very decent chance of that. Not super in love with this bet.

But we’re going to get a call with the button, small blind goes away, go to the turn, improve, and Hero decides to go for a check and then check-call of $6.10.

So here’s the thing. If you don’t continuation bet the flop, you don’t really ever get to the turn the way this hand is played out so far. Keep that in mind. But one thing I want to say is this just looking at the rest of the hand. Hero decided to go check-call on the turn, river decides to check-fold. Keep that in mind as we talk about this.

When you just check-call on the turn, what do you represent? You represent probably a single pair or a draw that doesn’t really know what else to do or decides that check-calling is best. Maybe you’re checking to induce more bluffs. It is what it is. You decide to check-call.

But if that’s the case, when the river completely breaks out, you kind of have to continue with that call. Otherwise, what are you ever continuing with? In a situation like this, this is something that you may want to consider, but if you took the line on the turn to check and induce bluffs, you have to assume there’s going to be at least some bluffs on the river.

Maybe he turns something like 87 into a bluff or 56 into a bluff or busted diamonds into a bluff. Or maybe he’s betting a nine thinking that it’s for value and that you’re somehow going to call with – I don’t know – AK or 66’s or something like that.

But either way, you can’t be certain enough that you’re smoked here. And if you’re going to take the check-call on the turn, you have to take the check-call on the river. It really doesn’t make much sense to play it this way and then fold here. It just isn’t something that you want to be doing.

But, again, the major thing is in the hand, squeeze, awesome. Just make sure to size a better preflop. On the flop, if you’re going to continuation bet, you need to have plans on turns and rivers, especially when you actually improve on those cards. And I don’t really love this line as played because in the write-up, Alastair did mention trying to induce bluffs on the turn. And if that’s the case, then follow it up, induce that bluff on the river, and make sure to call it and expect to win the pot a very non-zero percentage of the time.

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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