Playing Overcards With A Gutshot

More often than not, unpaired hole cards are going to miss the flop. But bigger unpaired hands, like AK, AQ, and KQ, are going to be overcards to the board – making them far different holdings than undercards. While it’s typical to just fire these overcards, especially when they have backdoor draws and/or flop a gutshot, there is some nuance to handling these hands.

To highlight this, let’s breakdown a hand that Alex sent in and see if semi-bluffing is the right approach…

STAKE: $1/$2 Live

In this hand, Hero has Ace Queen suited in a live $1/$2 home game. To start Seat 7 limps and Seat 8 & 9 fold. Hero decides to raise $8 knowing the players at the table overvalue their hands. If Hero’s goal was to isolate players, a bigger bet would ensure that not everyone would call though. Hero could’ve increased his raise to $12, $15, or even $20 given that the table plays loose and this would be high enough to generate more folds and/or value from the limpers.

After making this small raise, we go 5 way to the flop and Hero has a gutshot with his overcards. Seat 7 checks and Hero C-bets for a $25. When C-betting in a multiway pot, be careful especially with 4 or more players. Most of the time, your bet isn’t going to make the majority fold. Because they are overvaluing their hands or now holding a top pair, they are not likely to fold. Instead, checking here would be far better – primarily given the multi-way nature of the spot.

Hero has one caller (seat 4) which again was the best case scenario. Seat 4 is new to the table and we have no information on how they play. Because we don’t really know whether or not they are overvaluing their hand keep that in mind when advancing.

Ace King Book

So the turn is a 7, Hero checks and Seat 4 bets $30. In response, Hero shoves $142. Hero’s thought was the $30 bet seemed weak and that going all-in would scare Seat 4 off.

By using the free poker EV tool we find that depending on how often the villain folds, our EV rises. So to find the best raise we can, we have to look at how often Seat 4 folds. Now considering we need Seat 4 to have a chance of folding in order to make Hero’s shove profitable, would it have been smarter for Hero just to call the $30 instead?

Yes, calling is certainly reasonable here, as we are getting a great price at 4:1, and you definitely have some implied odds which will be easy to play out. When compared to shoving, which could very easily be -EV if you think the villain isn’t folding, then it turns out that this could be a much better call than going for the check/shove.

So the aggression was appreciated but wasn’t really needed. If Hero would’ve played out the pre-flop or flop better, the Hero wouldn’t be in this situation. When you are put in a tough spot like this, think back on how you played in previous streets. Mistakes made earlier tend to put pressure on you later and trying to avoid those mistakes can make decisions a lot easier and make your plays a lot more profitable.

Unfortunately, Seat 4 does end up making the call with Jx and we fail to improve. But knowing if the line was good or not, and comparing the line to other available options, is what off-table study is all about!

P.S. A few people asked for a more complex breakdown of the math. If you’re interested, I do an extra breakdown of this hand here:

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