How Should I Play The Nuts?

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Today we’re going to review a hand sent in by Matthew. This is a hand from 100NL 6max online where Matthew has AQ and finds himself in a pretty interesting spot because he picks a pretty a-typical line. This hand is from Bovada Zone Poker, so there are no HUDs. And he said players are a bit fishy when calling you on these tables. And he just wants us all to know that he does not normally play like this, but he just wants a quick line check on an odd line that he took.

He opens AQs, gets called, gets called, goes three-way to it, goes here, check, and hero decides to check instead of taking a normal see bet line. Matthew says, “I absolutely smashed the flop. Unfortunately, my range is way, way ahead of my opponents. And the hands I would really only get value from are things like weaker Aces, maybe asdf few small flush draws.”

He doesn’t normally slow play, but this isn’t the kind of flop that he thinks betting is going to be best on. Now, in this situation, I agree. Like, if you bet, you’re only really getting value from things like 9x, Ax, flush draws, straight draws, those kind of things. But what’s the alternative? You check and what? You maybe get one bet from someone? Because if you decide to start taking check-call line, you’re just repping maybe A7, maybe something like JJ. But, ultimately, you’re repping decent pairs, so you’re probably not inducing a tremendous amount of big bluffs. And if you start trying to check-raise, it’s tough to get a lot of value from that, unless, of course, they think that you’re check-raise range is so weak-weighted.

Given the alternative lines, that’s the way you have to think when you’re trying to develop a strategy in these spots is, “Okay, if that doesn’t work, when does my check work and how is the EV going to look, and which one is going to be more profitable and optimal at the end of the day?” And I would say just firing is going to be way more valuable, right? You can get people to float you. You can get people to call a single pair. You can do things on future streets. But I don’t think you’re really fooling anyone if you try to start developing this in a check-call or a check-raise. I think you’re more valuable just going straight forward, especially when you view the games as a bit fishy and a bit calling stationy. I think you’re just leaving money on the table by checking this.

We end up going here, turn, we improve, hooray, check, hero decides to bet, awesome, love the word betting, but this bet is way too small. I know this hand is a little bit weird because we took a weird flop line, but the whole reason why you would take that flop line is to under-rep what you have.

If you’re doing that, it’s to get people to call lighter on future streets. So you do that, you make your value back by betting bigger on those future streets when you have the stronger stuff and they have a range that’s second best, that they feel they have to continue it with. And I think people are going to continue with flush draws pretty incorrectly. Just again, you describe the tables as fishy and calling-stationy.

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All you need to tell me for me to say, “Okay, I need to be in a value bet mindset and my value bets need to be on the larger side of the spectrum.” And I think this is a perfect time to throw in a really nice, big bet, probably something like $7.50, $8.00, and just go for it from there. This is far too small and you’re giving people just way too much slack to get off the rope here. I mean, you just need to keep them on and you need to keep attacking, and big sizes is how you do it.

You end up getting called in both spots. Okay. River is a queen. Check. Hero decides to bet. Love the fact that we’re betting? Bet size looks a little bit better, but, again, I still think we can go larger, especially given what you’ve described of these tables. And, again, it’s multi-way. I assume that if someone has Ax, like AT or improves, well, they can’t really improve on the queen very many ways. But, you know, if someone improves with something like two pair randomly or something like that, we just have to punish them, and just going to $14.37 doesn’t punish enough.

Again, you can make this $17, $18. Yeah, it’s a little on the face-up side of the spectrum, given the way the hand is played out. But by the same token, like, just given who your opponents most likely are, I think you’re totally fine going bigger.

So we end up getting called, end up facing a check-raise, and hero decides to call. Let’s talk about this for a moment…

This is from Matthews write-up. He says this

Retrospectively, I think I made a mistake, but here is my thinking. Big blind is pretty much announcing his hand is a flush, but I know that if I jam, I’m pretty much announcing that I have the nuts. I think I really only get called by K-High flushes and that is pretty small portion of big blind’s range. Looking back, I think that assessment was wrong. But I think the button called a pretty big bet and might get sticky with a stronger portion of his range.

I definitely agree with the first part of that statement where you said, “I think I made a mistake.” I think he definitely made a mistake in this situation. First and foremost, you seem to be over-thinking the heck out of this and probably giving way too much credit to players that haven’t really deserved it yet.

You’re essentially saying by calling here that it’s going to be more valuable if you call and induce a $30 call from seat 5 than it is if you shove and never get called by seat 1, right? I don’t think you can ever make that assessment that seat 1 won’t continue with a second best hand.

I think if seat 1 has a flush, whether it’s king high or jack high, 10 high or any other high flush, I think they’re calling a large chunk of the time. And also remember that the 9 and the 5 and the 3 are all spoken for. So the only flushes that are really left are, like, king high flushes, jack high flushes, ten high flushes. And those are flushes that I think you can definitely see getting a little bit stickier here. And, remember, the whole reason why you checked the flop was to under-rep and really make it seem like you would never, ever have this hand.

Personally, I don’t think there’s any way that you can think seat 1 is never going to call with a second best flush. I agree this check-raise looks like they have a flush, or maybe they decided to do something silly with two pair thinking that you guys could never have flushes. I don’t know.

But doI think that they’re only ever, ever, ever, ever going to call me with a king high flush? No. I don’t think that’s true. Nor do I think that it’s true that you make more value just by trying to get seat 5 to call another $30. I don’t think that’s going to be the most valuable line here. Just punch it, hope that seat 1 gets sticky with their flush, and go forward from there. You’re way over-thinking this. You’re trying to give way too much thought credit and just general ability to fold second best flushes to people who, again, probably haven’t shown a propensity to make that kind of play.

If you have actual history and information on a player, okay, this kind of information is really important. Can they fold a second best flush? If yes or no, okay, I’ll factor that in. But against your average person, getting them to fold a flush is, like, impossible. No, I don’t think you have to worry about that. Just jam it in here, get in against the second best flush, giggle about it and enjoy the money.

As it all turns out, the button calls as well. We end up winning of course with the nuts and it is what it is. Matthew wraps this whole thing up by saying, “So what do you think of my flat on the river? Brilliant or leaving value on the table?” And, of course, you know my answer. I think you left a lot of value on the table, about $49.75 worth.


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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