Can I Fold A Straight? Or Is That Too Nitty?

Can you ever correctly fold a straight? Sure the board is paired, but with no flushes possible it’s tough to make this tight of a fold. In this hand, we’ll review a hand sent in by Josh who played an interesting hand at $2/$5 live. After isolating from the button with 98o, Josh improves to a straight on the turn and ends up raise/folding on the river. Let’s see if that this fold was solid – or too nitty.

STAKE: $2/$5 Live
HAND: 98o

Personally, I think 89o is a little bit too weak, a little bit too wide to isolate with in this situation, but I always love to see aggression in poker over passivity. At least we’re on the button in case things go awry. I personally think it’s a pinch too wide, but we’ll work with it and go forward from here.

We end up getting called by villain, not too shocking. We end up flopping an open-ender which is always fun. They check, we bet, totally good so far. If we flop an open-ender, chances are I’m going to be aggressive with it and continue. So totally good with this so far. Villain calls. Turn, we improve – making life nice and fun. Villain checks, and hero continues betting for $70 on the turn.

I know that I complain about bet sizing all of the time, and, unfortunately, I need to continue here. So think about villain’s range. Think about the kind of hands that villain is going to call the flop with: limp call, preflop, check, call, flop? What are they going to have there a lot of the time? Sure, they can have some slow play 10x, they could have 7x, they could have the same hand that we have. Or they could have 55, 88, any sort of weakish stuff that a passive fish is more likely to have.

I think that if villain is going to continue, they’re going to continue with things like 7x. Of course, some of the 7x they have is either going to pick up bottom two pair with 76. Obviously, that’s negated. But they could also have things like 78, 79, 68, 69, things like that, again, depending on exactly how passive/fishy we’re talking.

I think that if villain is going to continue, they’re going to do so with pairs, pair and draws, and of course trips, and I think they’re going to do so fairly inelastically, which means when they continue, they’re going to continue at roughly the same frequency regardless of the size. You don’t have to bet $500 here, but chances are if you bet somewhere between $75 and $100 and change, they’re going to call that at roughly the same frequency with the range that we just talked about. So with that in mind, I’d really like to see a larger size here, really punish the times that they have. Either sticky trips, sticky pairs, pair plus draw, whatever they need to get sticky with, whatever they need to see a river with, punish them for it. So because of that, I’d really like to see this be a little bit closer to $100. I think $70 leaves some money on the table. And, again, if they have that kind of sticky draw hand, this is probably going to be our last major chance to get value from it.

We end up getting called by villain.

The river is an ace. And all of a sudden, villain leads into us for $45. So this is where things get a little bit wonky. So I’m going to first start by showing you what happened and then we’re going to talk about the whole thing. So in this situation, Hero raises, and typically most people would raise in this situation, raises to $150, which of course is pretty small compared to the overall size of the pot. Because villain’s bet size was so small in the first place, villain decides to 3bet and Hero decides to fold. Keep that in mind as we go through and have the rest of this conversation.

At first glance, you may look at this $150 raise and say, “Wow, that is just ridiculous. That is a completely awful play. Bad, Josh, bad.” Now, I will say that at first glance, I looked at this and I had the same thought. I was like, “This is weird. This can’t possibly be good.” But then I sat there and I thought about it for a moment. This is what you want to be doing when you’re analyzing hands, whether it’s your own hands, hands on a poker forum, hands in these videos, whatever it is. Even if you see a play that at first glance looks absolutely ridiculous and awful, always at least ponder for a moment, ‘Could there be a time and place for that play? Could there be some validity? Could there be some assumption that would make this play good?’

Sometimes, yes, sometimes, no.

But at least by doing that, you’re stretching your poker brain and you’re really challenging your original assumptions. It helps you get out of getting stuck in this default, overly-standard and ABC play that oftentimes will keep you from taking more optimal lines because you’re veering away from creativity. That’s my small, little rant and ramble on that.

In this situation, I think if we raise, we can still get called when villain has sticky 10x, and that’s mostly what we’re looking to get called by, maybe sticky 7x, but realistically, we’re probably looking at trying to get called by sticky trips.

Now, looking at villain’s line, what do they have here? Why did they go limp, call, preflop, check, call, flop, check, call, turn, and then lead for almost penta (1/5th) pot on the river? What are they doing that with? I think sticky trips make sense. I think weird 7x that’s trying to see a river for cheaper makes sense. I don’t know how you would get here with an Ace, but maybe A8, A9 could make a little bit of sense. So, ultimately, I think there are hands that can and will call your raise that are second best.

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At first glance, you may look at this and say, “Well, given the size of the pot right now, if I were to make a pot-sized raise, it’s roughly a shove, so why don’t we just shove here?” I think that if you shove, T9, JT, all those kinds of hands, they go away. I don’t think you’re going to get 3bet by just trips in this situation. If I have information on villain, obviously my opinion on that can change quite quickly, but I don’t think as a pure default, that that’s going to be the case. So in this exact scenario, I think that when you shove, you only get called by boats and the same hand, in which case, again, there’s no value being generated.

Looking at the smaller raise size, I say, “Okay, well, what if I raise to something like $200? Then could I get called by sticky trips, weird Ax, whatever it is?” And I think you can. I also think that if you raise to something like $200 here, yes, a little bit bigger than the $150 chosen, if you raise to $200 and they decide to 3bet ship, I think you’re always behind. I don’t think they shove there with JT or anything like that. I think it’s only weird boats and same hand, and I don’t think same hand is going to be there a ton of the time.

Because of that, I actually don’t mind raise/fold here. It’s not going to be raise for pot because, again, pot is going to be too large. I actually don’t mind raise/folding for, like, $190 or something like that, I think you can get looked up by enough second best, and it’s kind of sparked by this looking to this creative raise to $150. I’m not saying it was necessarily good or bad or done with the right reasoning, but I think it’s the right thought process here is to raise/fold, and it’s made with the overall assumption that if you shove here, you don’t get looked up by second best. If you go up to $200, you can get looked up by second best and you will. And if you raise to $200 and they shove, they only have boats.

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That’s the overall assumption matrix that I’m using here and because of that, I actually really like just raising to something like $190 and folding if they decide to jam. So in this exact scenario, again, we end up facing the 3bet, Hero decides to fold, all well and good. Totally fine with that. But I think that it’s really important when you view something that you see as bad, or you view as ridiculous, stop and ponder and wonder, ‘Could that be good? Are there any places where that does make sense?’ because it will force you to expand your play book, it will force you to challenge your original assumptions, and that will inherently make you a much stronger player at the end of the day.

So, Josh, thank you very much for the great hand and hopefully this helps you play this spot a little bit better in the future. And, again, I really like what you’re doing on the river, I just want to make sure it’s being done with kind of the right rationale, and, again, I think the size could be a little bit larger both on the turn and the river as played.

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