How To Play Top Pair Against Draws

This hand is from 5NL, 6Max on PokerStars Zoom. Hero raises UTG, ends up getting a call and another call. They go three-way to it. Hero flops TPTK, c-bets, faces a raise, and here we are.

Everything leading up to this point looked totally fine, totally standard. At this point, we have a very important decision to make, and that decision is essentially, do we want to commit our stack or do we not want to commit our stack?

If we look at our options in this situation, we have three. We can fold, we can call, or we can come over the top and any raise is essentially a jam anyway.

Those are really our only three options. When I have a hand like TPTK, or any sort of strong hand, I always ask myself, “How could I rep a bluff?”

I don’t think I could really rep a bluff by calling. It would be very difficult to rep a bluff by taking that kind of line, just because there’s not really enough stack depth to do anything tricky. It’s just not really going to be a good idea. So, calling is kind of out of the option for me. Unless DS is just such, such, such a spew fish, I can call here because they bluff a ton, and if I check the turn, they’re going to continue bluff-jamming, and then we’re good.

That’s such a rare dynamic to have. So, as far as I’m concerned, as a very, very typical default, calling here is out of the question. It’s just, “Am I going to fold or am I going to jam it in?”

Folding is obviously very, very tight, and I would only really be able to do that if DS was just super, super nitty on the raising range.

One of the things I like to ask myself is, “Okay, how many combos of big hands are there?” If I look at things like sets, there are three combos of 44. Would this person 3Bet things like QQ and JJ pre-flop? If yes, then there are really only three combos of sets.

Why You Should 3Bet QQ

If, maybe, they would call with JJ pre-flop and 3Bet QQ, okay, there are another three combos of pocket JJ, but again, we’re not talking about a ton of those.

If they would have something like QJ in the range pre-flop, is it only going to be suited or is it going to be off-suit as well? If it’s just going to be suited, we see a queen, another queen, and a jack and all are of different suits, which means there’s only one combo of QJs left in the deck and that’s QhJh. If they only call with that pre-flop again, they’re down to very, very few combos of big hands.

If they have all combos of QJ, that’s a little bit different; two unseen queens, three unseen jacks, for six combos of that. But again, we’re still not talking like a ton of huge combos of stuff. I assume AA and KK are out of the question, which then brings us into the other part of the range, which is going to be draws.

Then, we’re talking spade draws, we’re talking pair on spade draws, we’re talking straight draws, like KT and T9. All of a sudden, we start to see this new range of hands that has all these combos of other things.

Even more so, if they’re going to call like QJo pre-flop, they’re probably going to have KTo, a decent amount, as well. Obviously, again, there’s a ton of combos of that.

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You really have to look at this from a combo perspective and say, “Okay, do they really only have the nuts here? How many combos of the nuts are there? Are there other combos of things that they would also raise?” If so, that can obviously influence our decision a ton.

Then there are two little things that I want to throw out there, real quick. I mentioned a bunch of types of hands that they could have in their range. The other one you want to ask yourself is, “Would they ever overvalue something?” Like KQ, QT, anything like that? Maybe AJ? Would they overvalue those kinds of hands? Would they bluff? Obviously that’s another important one.

Another question that I want you to seriously ask yourself in these situations and just often times in the future, because I think this is a question that oftentimes is very, very overlooked is: If I’m going to bet/fold here, am I just bet/folding way too much? Because if you’re folding TPTK, which is oftentimes going to be the toppers out of your range on a flop, if you’re bet/folding that, are you bet/continuing often enough or are you creating an opportunity where your opponent can blow you off a ton of the time?

Now maybe that doesn’t seem as important now, where you are in your poker career, but that question in the long run is going to help you a ton. I assure you, just keep it in your back pocket, write it down, consider that as time goes on, especially when you’re playing against better opponents.

In the situation like this, I’m playing 5NL here. I’m looking at an opponent, who I think has some combos of big hands, but is going to have a lot of draws, is going to have a lot of overvalued stuff, like KQ, which we do just, just fine against, just because players of this limit tend not to understand hand value, as well, and I think they tend to overvalue TP in a lot of situations. If they have draws, obviously they’re going to have varying amounts of equity, but we’re still doing just fine against those.

As far as I’m concerned, this looks like a great situation to jam it in and feel very, very comfortable. It’s just one of those where calling is kind of out of the question given the stack sizes and given the pot size as it was. I feel pretty good jamming it in here. Am I occasionally going to be really bad? For sure. Am I oftentimes going to be good enough? I assume so.

We end up getting called, 4h, 8c, on the run off and then for sure we run into A4o, so obviously this person turned out to be on the fishier side of the spectrum.

Again, this is why we just can’t bet/fold this on the flop. Unless you have really, really good hard-core reads that this person does raise a super nitty range, you’re just going to see this stuff in the micros. You just kind of hold on for dear life with hands like this and obviously make range decisions and think about combos. Ultimately, I think it’s too nitty just to bet/fold on the flop. It’s just one of those situations, we have to look at combos and we have to look at the average player at this limit. Assuming we don’t have actual information on them, then I’m totally comfortable getting it in.

Unfortunately, it ran like crap in this one and that’s going to happen from time to time, but as long as we made the right decision leading up to that point, that’s all that matters.

So Ben, thanks for the great hand.

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