Can I Fold Top Pair?

(Enjoy at 720p and check out the transcript down below)

Welcome back to another episode of “Ask SplitSuit a Question”. I’m James “SplitSuit” Sweeney here for and today we’re going to answer one of your questions. Today’s question come from Ian and Ian says “Hi James, really enjoy your videos. I was hoping you may be able to help me with a persistent post-flop problem I have. I constantly over-value Top-Pair type hands. I was hoping you might explain your thought process with similar hands and how you come to your decisions about how to proceed when facing resistance”.

That’s a great question and this is kind of a tricky situation right? One that is even trickier to talk about when I don’t have a specific board or a specific opponent to talk about, but I’m going to do my absolute best here. If I’m in a situation where I have top pair, or I have an over pair, and I’m facing aggression…one of the big things I suggest is having a poker plan early on. I think too many players will call the original resistance and then reevaluate on the next street.

That’s often times not going to be the best plan of attack. Simply because, think about how often your going to always call the original resistance and then when the next street comes off, expecially when it doesn’t change the board and you continue facing that resistance:

    1. Are you shocked that you faced aggression on the next street?
    2. What the heck are you going to do?

It’s the kind of situation where I always start by looking at my opponents are saying “OK, are you an aggressive player or a passive player?” If a passive individual gets aggressive, usually I’m much more petrified, particularly when they do it on turn or river. But even when a passive opponent gets aggressive on the flop, I still just have to look at the board and say “OK, realistically what’s going on here? Could I ever be good? Is this someone who is passive or would over-value a top-pair type hand? Would they raise a lot of draws?”

Now a passive opponent in general, I don’t think is going to play draws very aggressively. They are passive, so I don’t assume that they are going to raise draws every single time. But when it looks like a top-pair type of hand I have to say “OK, do I beat any of your top pairs?” If the board is say Ace, Nine, Five and I have something like Ace King, would they check raise with Ace Ten because they don’t know how to play Top-Pair? The more I think they would, the less I’m ever going to fold my strong pairs and the more I’m probably going to consider going for a three-bet for pure value (or call and let them continue being silly the rest of the way down). But again, I have that plan!

A♣ K♥ on A♠ 9♥ 5♠

If my opponent is aggressive, it gets much trickier because they could have bluffs in their range. They could have more draws in their range. But obviously it is going to be very board dependent. The more and more aggressive that they are, the more I’m thinking that my top pair is going to be fairing better. There are going to be more bluffs in their range, more draws in their range, and they obviously won’t improve 100% of the time on future streets…so I get a little bit stickier.

Just in general, think about their aggression and what they are really likely to check-raise. A lot of this is really going to boil down to hand-reading and you need to get better at your hand-reading skills so you can say “OK, with confidence, I think you have a hand that beats me here just too often.” Maybe they don’t have a ton of combos of stronger hands, but maybe that’s really their only aggression range in that situation. You have to be able to know that and you can use stats to your advantage.

Also practice hand-reading to further understand how their previous range got them here and what their range looks like now. Working with software such as Flopzilla will help you be get very comfortable with this. It will take time, it will take practice but hand-reading is really the name of the game when it comes to finding spots where you need to hold on for dear-life with Top-Pair…and spots where it’s time to get out early. But as always, have that plan if you’re going to continue, don’t play totally reactive poker…pro-active poker is the way to go.

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