finstein live hands

Your $1/$2 Hands Analyzed By A Live Cash Crusher

Featured Photo: Joe Giron & PokerNews (Edited from Original)

You posted the hands. Now, we break ‘em down.

With the help of live poker specialist (and crusher) Mike Finstein, I am going to analyze two $1/$2 live hands that were played by members of the Upswing Lab.

Each member posted their hand in the private Upswing Engage strategy group, then Mike Finstein reviewed them (along with others at varying stakes) in his most recent Lab module.

If you’re a Lab member, you can watch Mike’s module here. Not a member? Sign up here to upgrade your poker skills.

4 Concepts at Play in Today’s Hands

Before we dive in, I thought it would be helpful to go over some crucial concepts/tips that are relevant to the hands that follow.

  1. Play a more value-oriented strategy against recreational players.
  2. Build the pot as soon as possible with strong hands.
  3. Low stack-to-pot ratios will force you to make lighter plays for value.
  4. Play a situation-specific exploitative strategy against winning regulars.

Let’s get into the first hand to see these concepts in action.

Hand 1: Pocket Rockets Rumble

$1/$2 at Borgata in Atlantic City. $370 Effective Stacks.

Reads: UTG+2 called a preflop raise with A5o in an earlier hand.

Hero is dealt A A♣ UTG+1.
Hero raises to $12. UTG+2 and BB call.

At any other stake, this 6x raise size would be far too large. However, the vast majority of $1/$2 players will call this raise with a much wider range of hands than they should. Because of this, the raise size will oftentimes extract a lot more value than a smaller size would.

Regarding of our opponents’ preflop calling ranges, it’s a bit of a wild west-type of situation as they should be extremely tight in theory, but it’s pretty safe to assume that their ranges are too wide. Their ranges can include, but are not limited to:

  • Pocket pairs (22-JJ)
  • Suited connectors and one-gappers
  • Suited aces
  • All the broadway hands (except AK and maybe AQ)
  • Other suited hands
  • Some offsuit Ax
  • Offsuit connectors

Before moving on to the flop, let’s talk about the read that our Lab member noted in his post: “UTG+2 called a preflop raise with A5o in an earlier hand.”

This read is not very useful because it lacks context. If he called A5o when in the big blind vs a 3bb button open, that wouldn’t be so bad. If he called A5o from Middle Position vs a 5bb UTG open, that would be very bad. Without such context, this information has close to 0 value.

Pro tip: When making preflop reads, besides the actual hand the player had, remember the whole preflop action including the positions involved.

Flop ($37): 9 8 3♠
BB checks. Hero bets $18. UTG+2 calls. BB calls.

Given that both of our opponents have wide ranges, this is a very good flop for our range. Our hand is extremely strong and the board is very dynamic with a lot of gutshots, open-enders, and flush draws possible.

For these reasons, we should start value-betting our aces right away. The size that Hero used in this case is fine. Going a bit bigger here would probably be better as the calling ranges should be fairly inelastic between 1/2 pot and 2/3 pot, but the larger size grows an exponentially bigger pot.

Turn ($91): (9 8 3♠) 2♣
BB checks. Hero bets $75. UTG+2 raises to $200. BB folds. Hero calls.

We have a mandatory value-bet here. The 2♣ is one of the best cards in the deck for us as nothing in either opponents’ range has improved. We are still far ahead in terms of equity and there are still a lot of draws in both our opponent’s ranges.

Once we get raised, we should be going all-in. There is only $140 behind if we call and there are a ton of possible draws that UTG+2 can have. He may also raise some weaker value hands such as A9, TT, JJ, and with how weirdly some $1/$2 players play, QQ and KK may even be in his range. Additionally, it’s at least somewhat likely that UTG+2 would’ve raised his two pairs and sets on the flop.

River ($491): (9 8 3♠ 2♣) Q
Hero checks. UTG+2 bets all-in for $140.

As played, we should call this river shove. The Q is not the best card because it improves JT to a straight, but because the bet size is so small compared to the size of the pot ($140 into $490), we are getting very good pot odds, only needing to win 18.2% of the time to breakeven.

Additionally, it’s possible that UTG+2 shoves weaker hands for value (such as KK, QJ, QT, etc.) and there are still a lot of missed draws that he may be bluffing with.

Sadly, results of this hand are not available. Let’s think positively and assume our Hero called and won.

Hand 2: Flopping Two Pair Multiway

$1/$2 Home Game. $200 Effective Stacks.

Reads: Button is playing approximately 80% of hands preflop.

Hero is dealt A T in the BB.
CO raises to $7. BTN calls. Hero calls.

Hero’s preflop call is completely fine. In a tough online game versus a 3.5x open, this would be a close spot. However, given the looser preflop tendencies of players in $1/$2 live games, Hero’s preflop call is completely fine.

In the module, Mike makes a great point regarding the overall preflop strategy in this spot when you take into account the read given to us by our Lab subscriber:

He says that in this spot you will want to squeeze a wider than average range with hands (like AJo+, ATs+, KQ, KTs+, QTs+, 65s+ and 77+). This aggressive squeezing strategy punishes the button for playing too many hands.

Flop ($22): A♠ T 9♣
Hero checks. CO bets $11. BTN calls. Hero calls.

We should always start off with a check in multiway pots when out of position. Adding a donking range in these spots is extremely hard to implement correctly and adds almost 0 EV to our strategy according to solvers.

After the preflop raiser makes a 50% pot c-bet and the maniac calls, we should definitely raise for value. We dominate a ton of hands in both of our opponent’s ranges, and we can extract a lot of value from stubborn Ax hands, QJ, 87, and of course worse two pairs (A9 and T9). There are also a bunch of scary turn cards that will dry out the action, turns such as K, Q, J, T, 8.

Turn ($55): (A♠ T 9♣) 6♠
Hero checks. CO checks. BTN bets $25. Hero calls. CO folds.

As played, we go multiway to the turn which brings the 6♠, which is not the worst of the bunch. Yes, it improves 87 to a straight, which the button should have in his range given our read. But at the same time, a lot of draws are still un-made hands and he can have a bunch of weaker value hands that he will call with against a raise. Hands such as A8o, A7o, and maybe even weaker Ax hands.

Because of our read that the button is very loose, we should definitely raise in this spot and try to capture value and/or deny some equity from draws that he may or may not call us with.

Pro tip: This spot is completely different from playing against two winning regulars because of the ranges involved. Winning regulars have much tighter preflop ranges which lead to different proportions of very strong hands postflop. Against a good regular, we would lean much more towards calling on the turn.

River ($105): (A♠ T 9♣ 6♠) J
Hero checks. BTN bets $55.

On the J river, the idea of check-raising for value becomes significantly dicier. It’s much less likely that he will now bet and call a raise with a weaker Ax and some hands like KQ and AJ have now improved to beat us. This means that we are only contemplating a call.

Calling is clearly the right decision here. We beat some of his value hands (such as A9, T9, A6, maybe even AK/AQ) and it’s also possible he’s running some sort of weird bluff with his ultra-wide range.

To sum up, this hand should have been raised on the flop, and as played, should have raised on the turn. The line Hero took here likely caused him to miss value.

Would You Play Either of These Hands Differently?

If so, how? Let us know in the comments below.

That’s all for now! Thank you for your attention.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

Want more live poker content? Check out How to Adjust Your Strategy in Splashy Live Games.

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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