Winning big pots is crucial for your bottom line.
Whoever wins the big pots during a session is very likely to be the biggest winner at the end of it. Playing well and avoiding mistakes is of the utmost importance.
In this article series, I am going to analyze 3 big pots that Upswing coach and cash game boss Fried “mynameiskarl” Meulders played at $2.50/$5 Zoom on PokerStars. Each of these pots were pulled directly from his latest Play & Explain session in the Lab. My analysis will be informed by Fried’s explanations and PioSolver solutions.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the first hand.
The hand starts off with the player on the button raising to 2.5 big blinds (bb). Next to act, Fried 3-bets to 10bb in the small blind with AJ offsuit and the button calls.
Both the raise and re-raise sizes are standard. These sizes simultaneously accomplish what a preflop raise size should aim to accomplish, namely:
- Give the raiser a good price to steal the pot.
- Put pressure on a wide array of their opponent’s ranges by making the odds to call somewhat enticing, but not too enticing.
Onward to the flop.
The flop comes: J♣ 5♥ J♠
Fried fires a 7 big blind bet into a roughly 21 big blind pot and the Button calls.
In Fried’s words:
It’s a nice flop for both our hand and our range, which makes us want to c-bet at a high frequency.
Indeed this flop is very good for the 3-bettors range, as he has both a range advantage (with ~57% equity against a standard button calling range) and a slight nut advantage due to the one combination of quads in his range (a combo that the button should never have in his range).
(If you are unfamiliar with the nut and range advantage concepts, read this article.)
Indeed, the solver agrees with Fried. As you can see in the image below, it elects to c-bet at an almost 100% frequency, mostly for a small size:
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The turn is the (J♣ 5♥ J♠) K♦.
Fried fires a 14bb bet into a 35bb pot and the button calls.
A high-frequency double barrel is warranted as this turn highly favors the small blind’s range (as it still retains slightly over 54% equity in the pot).
Fried elects to double barrel for a small bet size, which is an option that the solver chooses at a high frequency. You can see this in the image below where it elects to bet 33% of the pot around 60% of the time.
We can see that by using this sizing, Fried is also able to value-bet as thinly as Kx. This bet size puts a lot of the button’s range in a tough spot since hands such as pocket pairs and 5x become marginal calls, at best.
Since we cannot implement solver strategies in real-time and we need to use some humane strategies, we have two options:
- A merged, high-frequency small bet strategy
- A polarized, lower frequency big bet strategy
Let’s outline each!
The Small Bet Strategy
With this approach, you will want to barrel with all your Kx and better hands for value and use even non-natural hands as bluffs. Hands such as A9s, A8s, A7s, A6s, T9s and 98s become great candidates as they block both the strongest hands (AJ and the odd AK) and the marginal calls from the villain’s range (hands such as pocket Ts, 9s, 8s, 7s, and 6s).
The Big Bet Strategy
Using this strategy, you will want to use stronger hands for value. Hands such as Jx and better will fit in this range. Since your value range becomes narrower, so does your bluffing range. For this reason, your bluffing range will also diminish. You should only use natural bluffs (such as AQ, AT, QTs, and Q9s) as anything else would likely shift our balance towards over-bluffing.
The river J♥ completes the J♣ 5♥ J♠ K♦ J♥ board.
Fried bets 22bb into a 66bb pot, the button shoves and Fried calls. The button shows K♥ T♥ and Fried scoops the pot.
This is one of the most interesting possible rivers. Fried once again has a range advantage as the button should raise a lot of his Jx hands on the turn. For this reason, Fried will be incentivized to fire the third barrel more often than not.
Now comes the question of sizing. Should you use only an all-in size, only a small size, or a mix of the two?
The best option, in theory, is to mix the two sizes. The reasoning is that since Fried used a merged strategy on the turn, he will have 2 major categories of value hands: hands that beat Kx (quads and AA) and Kx.
AA and Jx benefit most from shoving, trying to win the whole enchilada from Kx. The Kx hands will want to bet a smaller size (around 66% of the pot) to target a wider range of hands for value.
The more difficult questions involve Fried’s bluffing range. What size should he use when bluffing? And with which hands should he bluff?
The solver appears to favor shoving with hands that block Jx combinations, such as AQ, AT, Q9s at varying frequencies. To balance the small betting range, the solver elects to bluff for 66% pot with T9s and 98s as these hands unblock the top of button’s range (AJ and QJ).
Of course, this balanced strategy would be very hard to pull off in-game. It is likely that a more opponent-based strategy is advisable in this spot, favoring one bet size over the other depending on how loose or tight the opponent is.
For example, if you think the button will fold the middle pocket pairs 100% of the time to the 66% pot size, you should bluff with all your unwinnable hands for 66% pot.
There is a lot that goes on in a big pot. You need to keep your focus very high and think about the ranges that each of you has at every stage of the hand. Put all the pieces of the puzzle together and aim to make the best play.
For further reading, check out “5 Not-So-Easy River Spots Explained By A Game Theory Expert“.
That’s all for now! Click here to move on to the second hand of this series.
Please drop any questions or feedback in the comments down below.
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