gary ten-nine suited

All-In with Ten-High! Poker Hand Analysis | Upswing Poker Level-Up



This article is a transcription of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by Upswing VP Mike Brady with Gary Blackwood. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.

Mike Brady (00:00):

Let’s analyze some poker hands with poker pro Gary Blackwood, you ready to go bro?

Gary Blackwood (00:06):

I’m ready. Let’s do it. Let’s jump in.

Hand #1 – Submitted by Simon

Mike Brady (00:08):

Alright, this first one was submitted by Lab member Simon. He’s playing a $0.50/$1 cash game online on the website GG Poker. He’s in the cutoff with ten nine of hearts and he’s got a $131 stack that’s 131 big blinds. He open raises to $2.50 the button, who covers him three bets to $9 and the blinds fold.

Gary, what are you doing here with the ten nine of hearts in the cutoff facing this three bet?

Gary Blackwood (00:35):

I’m spinning the random number generator. I’m calling 75% of the time, but this is going to be our four bet for us sometimes when we’re playing online cash, this does make it into our four bet range, so a little bit of four bet, but mainly just call.

Mike Brady (00:47):

I think that’s interesting too because a lot of people build their four bet ranges more around removal. They’ll want to have a hand like Ace five of hearts or even a King Jack of hearts. So you have two high cards that block a lot of the Ace Kings, the pocket Kings, things like that. But these hands, like ten nine of hearts specifically do get in the four bet ranges sometimes, especially in these late position battles, right, cutoff vs button.

Gary Blackwood (01:12):

Yeah, absolutely. You think of some of the hands that you can make folds, if you’re going to have Jack Ten of hearts you can make King Jack offsuit fold for example, and it’s nice for us to have that little bit of board coverage for when the flop comes down 678. We’re not just completely snookered, can I say snookered?

Mike Brady (01:29):

That means nothing to an American.

Gary Blackwood (01:34):

So it’s definitely important that our four bet range is thorough and it’s complete and it’s not lacking hands like this. I think that’s a nice way to put it. There are a lot of benefits to four betting a hand like this at some frequency.

Mike Brady (01:47):

For sure. It is very nice to occasionally hit those boards very hard with your four bet range. So four betting a sliver over the time calling most of the time if you just always call this hand you’re not making a huge mistake but you might want to start mixing in some four bets against looser players at least, if you’re up against a very tight player, just call maybe even make a very tight fold.

Alright, let’s move on to the flop. So Simon calls that three bet with the ten nine of hearts.

There is now 18 or so dollars in the pot and the flop comes Queen eight six with two diamonds the queen and the eight are the diamonds Q86, $18 in the pot. We check over to the button and the button goes for a big size here the button goes $12 into about $18-19, so around a two thirds pot bet.

Gary, before we talk about what Simon should do against this kind of bigger bet size with his double gutshot straight draw, what do you think of the button size here?

Gary Blackwood (02:41):

I think that’s a great question and the reason I think it’s a great question is a lot of us when we’re reviewing hands will just look at how we played the hand, but we can learn a lot by looking at how our opponent played the hand as well. If I played this hand against one of the players in my pool, I would check to see if my opponent’s size was correct and the reason for that is my instinct tells me that this is not the size that I would bet personally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m correct.

So I would go into the solver and check to see if this is the correct size or if my size is correct. So when we’re reviewing hands, let’s take the time to see if our opponent played the hand well as opposed to just assuming that they didn’t because we can learn from both sides of the coin essentially.

Having said that, I’m not a fan of the buttons c-bet size here. I think it is too big. We can go one third or half pot. The EV is very similar. I lean towards half pot because of the connectivity of the texture, but I think this is just a little too big from the button.

Mike Brady (03:31):

We can verify what Gary just said about the buttons flop size being too big using the Lucid GTO trainer, which is a tool currently in development coming soon to Upswing poker. So we’re going to recreate the spot using the trainer. I’m going to have the cutoff raise just like Simon did in this hand. I will note that the cutoff here is using a slightly smaller raise size 2.25 big blinds instead of 2.5. That does make a difference but overall it’s going to be basically the same result. So now we’re going to have the button three bet and it’s going to fold back to us in the cutoff and we can see that ten nine suited is a call most of the time, 72% of the time to be exact and a four bet 28% of the time, just like Gary had said.


Now let’s get a queen eight six flop and then we’re going to check over to the button and you can see here the button is given an option to go one of three sizes here. They can either go one quarter pot, half pot, or two thirds pot like the player did in Simon’s actual hand. That bigger size of two thirds pot is chosen 0.0% of the time by the solver here. That means it is a size we never want to be using on this board with any of our hands. The smaller size is half pot and a quarter pot are far preferred just like Gary was saying, but if we do force the button to use that big size, we can immediately see how Simon is supposed to react with that ten nine suited. Gary, what was your instinct when we were looking at this hand? How would you play verse that big size as Simon?

Gary Blackwood (05:19):

So the first thing I want to talk about here is something that we’ve spoken about in the past and it is a really amazing golden nugget of information. So to the viewers listening at home really ingrain this one into your psyche. So what I’m going to get Mike to do now is I’m going to get him to force the button to c-bet one third then to c-bett half pot and then to c-bet this size again. And what we’ll see is that our raising range is the same virtually. There’ll be some slight differences here and there but the frequency drastically changes. So if we force the one third c-bet here, we will see that we’re raising the exact same range as we will when we force the half pot c-bet. So if we force the half pot c-bet now we’ll see that the range is very, very similar. The frequencies just drop and then we’ll force the larger bet size and once again the range is the exact same, the frequencies just drop. What do we learn from that? It’s really great for us because we now know that the range that wants to raise as the exact same, we just raise less frequently versus the larger bets. It’s really quite cool to see that the range is virtually identical. The frequencies just come down.

Mike Brady (06:24):

And for those of you listening, what we’re seeing on our screen right now is all of the hands that are raising on this queen eight six flop, the ones you’d expect, pocket sixes, pocket eights, some ten nines, some jack tens, some ace queen. So a lot of top pairs, sets, straight draws, hands like that are the hands that like to raise and as I flip through the different bet sizes, those hands all stay the exact same for the most part, but the percentage of the time that they raise goes down as I click through it. So versus that really small bet size a quarter pot, in this case Gary was saying third pot but it’s going to be the same idea either way all of these hands are raising at a decent frequency. The overall raising frequency versus the small bet is 21% and it’s all those hands I mentioned and several similar ones. If we force the half pot bet it’s the same hands, it’s just the raising sliver of the range goes down. So we’re only raising 17% of the time now, but it’s with the same hands then if we force the two third pot bet that Simon actually faced in game, we’re only raising 12% of the time and no hand is raising at a super high frequency except for specifically pocket eights and pocket sixes, which tells you that the hands that want to raise the most in this scenario unsurprisingly are middle and bottom set.

Gary Blackwood (07:38):

Yeah, absolutely. And I just want to very quickly touch upon why the solver does this. There are a couple of different reasons, but the main one is that the pot sizes essentially too small for the solvers liking when our opponent uses that small bet size, but when our opponent uses the larger bet size, we can still play for stacks and play for bigger pots much more comfortably. But that smaller bet size isn’t big enough for the solver’s liking when it has the strong hand, you build your range around your value and the solver does the exact same. Yeah,

Mike Brady (08:05):

so the solver sees that small bet it has a set and it’s like that’s not enough money, we’re going to put in more money on this flop, let’s raise. But if it sees that big bet it’s like you know what, I have a set, I’m going to go ahead and just call your big bet and we’ll go to the turn in this bloated pot.

Gary Blackwood (08:19):


Mike Brady (08:21):

Going back to our hand here. So Simon is facing this two-thirds pot bet on the Queen eight six board with his ten nine of hearts and Simon actually ends up going for the raise, he makes it 29 to go, that is a solver approved size. If we pull this spot up in Lucid, Lucid likes to raise to 30 and Simon made it 29, so that’s a very close. Simon got his size right here. The issue though is that his specific hand ten nine with no backdoor flush draw and ten nine with no flush draw, never really wants to raise here. His hand falls squarely into the just call category here and yet he goes for the raise and that could lead to some sticky situations later in this hand. Simon’s opponent does call his check raise and the turn is the king of diamonds. That’s a third diamond on this queen eight six king board. Simon still has his double gutshot straight draw with the ten nine but it’s scribbled up quite a bit, right? Now that there are three diamonds on the board, he might be drawing dead if his opponent has a flush he could be drawing very thin if his opponent has a pair with one diamond. So considering all that Gary, what are you doing on the turn here with this ten nine of hearts?

Gary Blackwood (09:35):

This is a really interesting turn card and it’s very interesting to think about how we construct our range here. So generally we want to either have blockers or high equity draws. The issue here is that we just don’t have a hand like Ace Jack with a diamond or Ace Ten with a diamond and the reason for that is that we don’t call these hands pre flop. So normally we want to have a naked Ace of diamonds type hands because one, we have a high equity draw and two, we have a very nice blocker to our opponent’s range, but this is one of those rare instances where we just can’t have a hand like that. So we are forced to choose some other unattractive combos if you like. And the reason I call it unattractive is because as Mike says, we could be drawing dead here, our opponent could have just turned a flush but we need something to bluff with and if we don’t have a hand like Ace Jack with Ace of diamonds or Ace Ten with the diamonds, we have to choose something else and we prefer to choose something that has decent equity.


Yes, we could be dead, but we do still have a double gutter here so if our opponent’s got a set or one pair or two pairs, we’ve still got outs. So this is a really nice selection to continue barreling with in my opinion. We would rather have a hand like Ace Jack, Ace of diamonds but we just don’t have that. So we want to choose a hand like this. We do have some naked diamond combos. The solver will always find some really funky hands to check raise the flop with, case in point here the solver is going to check raise a hand like pocket fives with a diamond, pocket fours with a diamond, maybe even a hand like sevens or nines with a diamond. So we do have some of those naked diamond combos working for us but they’re very few and far between. So out with those we want to choose our higher equity draws if you like, and ten nine with a double gutter. I think this is a really good hand to continue to barrel with and I really like the size as well. The solver loves to use smaller bet sizes when flush is complete so I really do like this small bet size of $25 from Simon. Yeah, really nice selection, kind of forced to choose this hand and really nice sizing as well.

Mike Brady (11:30):

Yeah, so Simon does go as Gary just said, $25 into the $77 pot, so like a one third pot bet roughly and it sets up a river shove of about half pot. So pretty well-planned out hand from Simon here other than the check raise on the flop in general because the ten nine of hearts shouldn’t really be check raising but once you reach this turn, this is a really nice size, so well played on the turn here Simon. The button does call on the turn and we get the brickiest of all brick rivers, the two of clubs. So the final board is Q86K2 with three diamonds. There’s about $125 in the pot and Simon has $67 behind. Are you shoving it in here as a bluff with this ten high Gary?

Gary Blackwood (12:19):

Alright, I think we need to take a second here and break down our opponent’s range. We have check raised the flop and they have called that eliminates a lot of air from their range. We have barreled this flush completing turn and they have called again. The point I’m making is that range is relatively strong once they call our flop raise and call our turn bet. So I like the turn bet with that equity but once called, I think we really want to have a diamond blocker in our bluffing range here. As mentioned they are very few and far between but there are some hands in there so a hand like pocket nines is fine to turn into a bluff. If we’ve got the diamonds, we’ve got those fives and fours. You think about pocket fives with a diamond, blocks ace five of diamonds, pocket fours blocks ace four of diamonds, pocket nines with a diamond blocks, ten nine jack nine, king nine and so on our hand doesn’t really block anything.


If anything our hand blocks folds in the form of pocket tens with a diamond and pocket nines with a diamond because we block pocket tens and pocket nines. It might be easy to think to yourself, well I’ve come this far, I’m just going to go all in and hope for the best. I think we really want to focus on having a diamond blocker here. We want to block our opponents calling range and unblock our opponent’s folding range. So I don’t love this river jam. It’s very tough to find those combos that can shove the river here, but they are there, they do exist and it’s really important that we have the strength as poker players to make this play of check raise flop, bet turn and have the discipline to not just go ahead and shove the river. We have to sometimes just wave the white flag and check fold and I think this would be one of those spots.

Mike Brady (13:52):

It’s getting into very nerdy territory, but this is really important if you want to play poker at a super high level, there’s this concept that I heard Nick Petrangelo use this term of manufacturing bluffs, in poker you can’t manufacture value. In a situation you get into the value hands you have are the value hands that you would have played that way up until that point in the hand, right? But what the solver does, what we’ve learned from solvers over the last six or so years is that they occasionally will check raise the flop and barrel the turn with certain hands like these pocket fives with a diamond that Gary is talking about, hands that really seem potentially counterintuitive but it allows you to have bluffs in all of these different situations so you’re not just always shoving this river with value and nothing else. The solver will mix in these hands like pocket fives with a diamond, which you might think I would never check raise pocket fives with a diamond on queen eight six with two diamonds, right?


I have an under pair, I’m just going to fold but the solver likes to mix them in some of the time and a big reason it does that is so it’s able to bluff this turn and then efficiently bluff this river and that’s what playing poker at a really, really high level, especially online is about in 2023. Listen, if you play live, I know you might even be rolling your eyes thinking I’m never going to do this stuff. You guys are talking about things that are not even relevant for my games. And you might be right, you may never have to make plays like this in your 1/3 live game, but that said it is really useful still to internalize the mechanics behind these plays and understand why they’re happening because you might be able to find similar stuff in your live games that maybe you’re not finding this fancy triple barrel bluff with the fives against the random 1/3 player you’re playing against, but maybe you find another situation where a similar mechanic is at play and you’re able to find a very cool bluff that works sufficiently against your opponent.


So let’s look at the results. Simon does go all in for 67 into 125. Once again, I do want to compliment Simon’s sizing scheme here because he really did set up a good sizing on the flop, nice bet size on the turn and then a nice half pot shove on the river. So overall sizing, very good, hand selection just a little off and his opponent does call with king eight of hearts. So his opponent had three bet pre flop with king eight of hearts, which is a fine play at some frequency, flopped middle pair c-bet big on the flop, which is a very odd decision to c-bet big with that hand in particular. I think this player that Simon was up against just doesn’t have their sizing strategy down quite well enough. Then he called Simon’s check raise, which is understandable, turned two pair and at that point is never really going to fold. I’m sure he wasn’t loving life on the three diamond board but far too strong of a hand to fold. Would you agree Gary?

Gary Blackwood (16:42):

Yeah, I think you just shut your eyes and call. I would kind of expect to not win that much but our hand is just too strong. We’ve got to just call and see what our opponent has.

Mike Brady (16:52):

Yeah, totally makes sense. So that was our first hand from Simon and as you probably noticed it was pretty technical. It was online, we were talking about ranges, we pulled up a solver, all that nerdy stuff that you may or may not like. These next two hands that we’re going to cover are not like that at all. If you play live poker, you are going to love these. This is some straight up jungle shit.

Hand #2 – Submitted by Sam

Hand two was played by Sam, another Lab member. He’s playing $2/$5 live cash and the stacks are deep, $2,500 effective, that’s 500 big blinds. A keynote in this hand is that a King was exposed and mucked pre-flop to the player on the button so we know that one of the Kings is dead, a very live poker specific dynamic here with a King being dead and everyone at the table knowing it and it’s going to get very relevant. Just wait until you hear what this flop is. So under the gun one raises to $15, the button three bets to $60 and then Sam has pocket eights in one of the blinds. He didn’t specify small blind or big blind, but it’s basically the same thing. Gary, what are you doing with the pocket eights here, especially considering stacks are so deep, I assume with $500 stacks, a hundred big blinds, we’re just always folding the eights here, but do things change when stacks are much deeper like this? What do you think?

Gary Blackwood (18:14):

I would still just fold. It’s kind of a boring answer and a lot of people are not going to want to hear it, but I think I just go ahead and fold this. We’re $2,500 effective, I just don’t envisage winning a lot of money by continuing with this hand in the form of a cold call or a four bet. We’ve got to remember that UTG+1 is raised, I’m assuming this is either 8-max or 9-max. That’s a pretty strong range and then the button has three bet into that pretty strong range. We don’t want to cold four bet with a middling marginal meh pocket pair, out of position, super deep into a strong range. It’s boring, it’s nitty but the right answer here is to just go ahead and fold I think. What do you think, Mike?

Mike Brady (18:57):

Yeah, I’m folding this unless I have a read that under the gun one is super loose and splashy and terrible and then the button is also loose and splashy and terrible and then maybe I flick in the call and just try to hit an eight and win a huge pot if they’re allowing me to over realize equity when I do hit an eight, but I would need a lot of information to consider putting in money here with the pocket eights. I’m just folding. I think there’s even some element of when you’re this deep reverse implied odds when you do hit a set, when the flop comes Queen Jack Eight and a bunch of money goes in $2,500 goes in post flop, you’re going to be up against pocket queens or pocket jacks a pretty chunky percent of the time. So I don’t even think hitting a set is like your gin necessarily. You might actually run into some very nasty scenarios. So I think we just fold get out of the way. Let these two guys battle. We’re out of position, we don’t need to hop in there.

Gary Blackwood (19:52):

One thing I want to quickly add is that I really don’t think cold calling is the right play here. It’s really important we don’t have cold call ranges. There are some instances where it’s okay, particularly in live poker. I think there are some instances, but this for sure is not one of them. I think just being a solid, disciplined good player here and just letting it go is the right play.

Mike Brady (20:12):

Yeah, oftentimes the sort of boring play is the good and correct one in poker we don’t love it either, but it just is the case. Obviously if we’re showing you this hand, Sam did not just fold, that would be pretty boring. Sam does decide to go for a pretty savage four bet to $200 with the pocket eights and both players call. So now we’re playing out of position in a very bloated pot, very deep with our pocket eights and the flop comes King King Jack, rainbow. Sam is first to act. There’s $600 in the pot. These players have $2,300 behind each, so still a pretty solidly deep stack to pot ratio. Gary, what are you doing on this flop as the pre-flop four better?

Gary Blackwood (20:56):

There’s just so much going on right now. First of all the open and then the calling of the cold four bet and then the other guy calling, the mucked king, the deep stacks. This is just an absolute jungle hand and I absolutely love it. I’m here for it. Okay, let’s break it down. So I’m really not loving life here with my pair of eights on King King Jack. Yes, there has been a king folded, which is obviously a benefit to us because it’s less likely either of these players have a king and this is in theory a relatively decent board for our range. But then again in theory people don’t cold call cold four bets, so that kind of negates that factor. I think I just check we can have some hands like Ace Queen, maybe Ace Ten with the backdoor flush draws that have better blockers. I think I just lean towards check. If we’re heads up I would love to c-bet this board. I would probably see bit my entire range, but when you factor in that cold call that really concerns me. I think I start with a check here.

Mike Brady (21:49):

Yeah, that makes sense. I mean under the gun raised to $15 faced a pretty big three bet $60 three bet, although granted with deep stacks, that is a good three bet size adjustment and then now he’s facing a cold four bet out of the blinds, which should be a super, super strong range and then he just calls, I’m going to range under the gun one here as having hands like TT+. I think maybe they get in there with nines or something if they’re a little loose, but I think it’s going to be tens, jacks, queens. I think even kings and maybe even Aces are going to just call sometimes. Aces may put in the five bit, but put that aside. I think Ace King is a very possible hand for UTG+1, maybe an Ace Queen suited, but I don’t think it’s going to be much looser than that.


I think that’s pretty much what we’re looking at when we’re considering our opponent’s range talking about UTG+1 player. So with that said, I don’t really think a c-bet is going to get through. I think we’ll get pocket tens specifically to fold. Ace Queen suited I don’t think is going to fold really not much is going to fold, so I think we just check this flop, right? Even though we know a king is dead, I don’t think that necessarily means okay, we can attack this board way more because our opponents also know we are less likely to have a king. So that all just makes me think another boring answer just to clear check and fold, maybe hope it checks around and try to turn an eight. That’s kind of my hope at this point.

Gary Blackwood (23:12):

Yeah, I think you’re right. Again, I want to reiterate the point heads up. This is a really good board for us. I’m really happy to c-bet here, but when we factor in this cold calling of our cold four bet, that’s going to change things a lot. We want to really focus on having higher equity bluffs here. We don’t have Queen Ten, we’re not going to cold four bet that. So we’re really just looking at Ace Queen, Ace Ten as our bluffs here and our value range is going to be very straightforward as well. We’ve got some King X, we’ve got some pocket jacks, pocket Aces I would probably c-bet, because we block Ace King, pocket Queens not so much. We don’t have a King X blocker there. But yeah, really narrow c-bet range here. But then again our range is supposed to be really narrow anyway, so it kind of fits in nicely.

Mike Brady (23:50):

Yeah, for sure. Although in this case our range is not so narrow because we’ve got the eights, so who knows how savage Sam is getting pre flop here. In any case, the savagery continues, Sam goes for a $100 bet, one sixth pot. I think that is a pretty reasonable size multi-way. You can go smaller multi-way in general, I’m kind of just speaking from intuition. I don’t have any way to verify the right size on this board, but I think this just does seem pretty reasonable to me. Maybe a little bit bigger would be better. In any case, he does go a hundred and UTG+1 calls and the button folds, so we are going heads up to the turn King King Jack was the flop and the turn is the nine of hearts which completes a full rainbow on the board. There are no flush draws, so now there’s $800 in there. Gary, how are you playing this turn with your overall range? What are you going to continue betting with and how big are you going to bet?

Gary Blackwood (24:41):

Okay, so I think I would construct my bluffing range here around having equity and slash or blockers Ace Queen, Ace Ten. It’s the same as the flop to be honest with you. Our cold four bet range is really quite narrow and these are the only equity bluffs that we have here. These are the only blockers that we have here. So pocket eights wouldn’t be a barrel for me on the turn. I would really just really want to have some equity or blockers here. Our opponent has called our cold four bet and then called our c-bet here. His range is really strong on this texture. We want to have equity, we want to have some blockers going on. Ace Queen, Ace Ten would be my bluffs. And as mentioned, our value range is really quite obvious.

Mike Brady (25:22):

So basically the exact same flop betting range just carried over to the turn. We’re going to continue barreling. And did you say what size you’d go for into this $800 pot?

Gary Blackwood (25:30):

I think I would be setting up for a river jam, so I’m not quite sure what the SPR is here. I would imagine there’s like 2200 behind, so the SPR is almost three, so something around half pot, there’s going to be 1600 in the middle and we can shove for around pot if we want to. So $400-$500, something like that would be good in my opinion here.

Mike Brady (25:49):

Sam does go for about that size here he goes for $550 into $800 with his pocket eights so roughly the right size. We’ve already harped on his hand selection here being quite a bit too loose pre flop and on the flop. But in any case, we are now going into the river with about $1,900 in the pot and Sam has $1,650 behind and the river is a second nine. So we have a double paired board here, KKJ99. And to recap the action one more time, Sam four bet pre-flop, bet the flop, bet the turn and is now heads up on the river against UTG+1 who originally raised and then cold called a four bet. Gary, what do you think now that we’ve gotten to this point with pocket eights a hand that is playing the board, we can never win. Do you think we have to shove it in if we get here with this hand?

Gary Blackwood (26:45):

No, just give up please just wave the white flag already. I don’t think shoving here would be the best. It’s so weird with this mucked king pre-flop and the whole metagame and things like that, but once again, the strength of our opponents range, what can he have that will fold the river here? Pocket tens, pocket queens maybe if he’s got jacks, nobody’s folding jacks here. Yes, he’s been counterfeited but he’s just going to rage call. We’ve all seen it in live poker or somebody’s just rage calls with Aces on Queen Jack Ten Nine because they’ve got Aces. He is not folding pocket jacks here. He can still have a king. There are very, very few hands. The board is pure rainbow. He doesn’t have a hand like ace queen with a turned flush draw. There are so few hands that are going to fold here. Our opponent has shown a lot of strength and people don’t like to fold in live poker. I think I would just wave the white flag here and give up.

Mike Brady (27:39):

Yeah, I wouldn’t even expect him to fold especially wouldn’t expect him to fold pocket jacks given that a king has been exposed. I mean yeah, his full house has sort of been counterfeited now any king beats him, but how worried about that can you really be when a king was exposed pre-flop you would just have to call. So we’re never getting him off that, like you said, I think if he has queens or tens that called the turn, I think we will get the fold from those hands and maybe those are a good chunk of his range.

Gary Blackwood (28:05):

The only good thing going for us here is that as Mike says, he might fold queens and tens and we do unblock those hands, but still I think this is a bit ambitious.

Mike Brady (28:16):

To get back into super nerdy territory for a minute, I want to talk about this concept, this phenomenon that happens with people who study with solvers. Sometimes they’ll use tools that essentially allow you to look up a strategy similar to what I was doing with Lucid earlier.

There’s a bunch of tools out there where they have the preloaded solver work and then you can click through it and see how you should have played the hand. But there’s a big problem with a lot of these tools where it’s very easy to verify a play in particular a bluff and say, oh it was a good bluff. Because oftentimes when you get to the river with a hand like this, a low frequency hand that you should very rarely have but has no chance of winning, the solver will bluff it every single time. It’s this concept that I kind of mentioned earlier of manufacturing bluffs so you can have the appropriate amount of bluffs when you get to the river, right?

So if you look this one up in a solver, I bet pocket eights does technically four bet pre-flop like 0.001% of the time. That’s kind of just how solvers work. Where a hand will be in there an extremely, extremely small fraction of the time and then on the flop pocket eights will be a bet, maybe a very small fraction of the time we’re talking under a percent of the time even. And then the turn, it bets the turn some fraction of the time. And then when all of that happens, when you somehow find yourself on this river with pocket eights, the solver will bluff it every time.

The problem is I don’t think that was Sam’s strategy here. If you’re actually getting to the river with eights here, I don’t think you actually did randomize your strategy and only four bet with the eights one in 300 times.


I think Sam looked at the spot and was like, I’m going to four bet, I’m going to mess with these guys. I’m going to play these pocket eights. He wasn’t playing this very randomized strategy where he is just peppering it in there at a very small fraction like the solver would. So I want to urge caution for those of you who use these lookup tools, there’s a bunch of them out there.

Be careful when you’re verifying, “verifying” your plays, especially when it comes to river and turn plays because sometimes that solver work that you’re looking at can be very misleading and I don’t want you to just think with every river bluff you make, oh it was a good river bluff. This tool says I should be bluffing that hand every time. But did you have that hand at the same frequency that that tool had it on the turn and the flop and pre flop? If not, you’re going to be bluffing way way too often.

So I think in theory pocket eights should be bluffing here a fraction of the time on the river, maybe even every time if you had that hyper mixed strategy on the earlier streets. But because I assume Sam is getting to this river too often with pocket eights, I think the right move is to maybe randomize a very low frequency all in like maybe you jam this river like 10% of the time or something. Does that seem like a reasonable on the fly approach, Gary?

Gary Blackwood (31:20):

So after all that, after everything we’ve just spoken about, completely agree with Mike by the way, that confirmation bias of using solvers to justify certain plays after everything we’ve just spoken about, I’m going to change my answer. I don’t love the pre flop, flop or turn line, but as played, I don’t mind betting the river and it’s purely because two reasons, one that exposed king is really important and two, our opponent has queens and tens and we unblock those hands. If I wouldn’t want to shove a hand like Ace Queen or Ace Ten because that blocks the hands we’re trying to make fold.

When we’re shoving rivers, we want to block value and unblock folds, unblocking folds here is really important. So hands like queen or tens are our opponents main folds here. So I think as played, I know I originally said that I would just give up, but if you really think about it, we shouldn’t be here with pocket eights, but if we are, it is one of our better river bluffs because we unblock the hands that we’re trying to make fold and really importantly that exposed king means it’s less likely our opponent has a king in their range.


So I am going to change my answer, Sam, I hope you shove the river here because I think it’s one of our best shoves because we unblock the hands we’re trying to make our opponent fold.

Mike Brady (32:35):

It’s always a really interesting discussion when you get to a point in a hand the river in this case with something you should never or extremely rarely have because it’s kind of hard to have a strategic discussion around it, right? Your gut said, I think when you had your original answer, your gut was like, well we should never be here with eights. Let’s just wave the white flag and not lose any more money, right?

Because we’ve already dusted enough with these eights where we’re playing too loose, but you kind of reconsidered like, oh actually on the river, now that I’m thinking about how this range is composed, pocket eights is actually kind of the ideal bluffing hand. If you happen to find yourself here with eights, you got to bluff it and Sam does just that. He jams the river for 1650 into 1900. And he forces the fold from pocket queens that a boy, Sam, if I was you, Sam, a hat’s off because if I was you, I would’ve lost whatever my blind was in this hand.


If I was in the small blind, I would’ve lost two bucks. I would’ve just folded the eights. But instead Sam had the foresight to four bet pre, bet the flop, barrel the turn and shove the river and he won a chunky pot here. He won like 900 or a thousand bucks. So Sam, hats off to you. That took a lot of stones. I always like when lab members are airing on the side of too aggressive, I think so many poker players out there are too passive. So it’s really nice to see, even though I think you could make a strong argument that pre, flop and turn in this hand, we’re pretty spewy from you Sam. I got to be honest, brutally honest, but once you got there, you got it through and you’re airing on the side of aggression, which I think is the way to go. It’s certainly what Doug recommends.

Gary Blackwood (34:12):

Mike question. You play this hand the way. Sam plays it, your opponent folds. Do you show your pocket eights?

Mike Brady (34:19):

I show one eight, got to show one eight.

Gary Blackwood (34:25):

I windmill both across the table. That’s what I do personally, but…

Mike Brady (34:28):

Yeah, that’s fair enough. Let us know what you would do in the comments.

Gary Blackwood (34:31):

I hope you showed buddy.

Mike Brady (34:32):

Yeah, I hope he showed too and let us know in the comments what you would do if you got this bluff through on the river. Would you just slide it into the muck quietly? Would you show one? Would you show both Windmill it like Gary said, let us know.

Gary Blackwood (34:43):

I feel like the people who would make this play would always show, I feel like the people who say I’m never going to show are not the type of people to cold four bet the pocket eights and blast it off. So I think we already know our answer to be honest.

Mike Brady (34:55):

Yeah, well let us know anyway, we’ll take the comments.

Hand #3 – Submitted by David

Alright, moving on to our last hand, hand number three, moving down in stakes. We’re playing a $1/$3 live cash game with $290 effective stacks. This hand is still kind of in the jungle. Some stuff you don’t see online, some limps, some big raise sizes, some donk bets, but it’s not as in the jungle as the last one. It’s tough to do that. So in this hand David is in the hijack with King Queen with the king of hearts that king of hearts is going to be very relevant in a moment. UTG+1 limps and the action folds to David in the hijack. What are you doing with this king queen of hearts? Gary, you’re obviously raising, what size are you making it?

Gary Blackwood (35:36):

Okay, so we’ll say a hundred big blinds effective here. I know that people tend to use massive isolates in live poker. I think I would go 15. What do you think, Mike? 15. A little too big, a little too small.

Mike Brady (35:49):

If I know absolutely nothing about my opponent, I’m going 15 or 18. I think. My default size in $1/$3 it’s usually like 12, so I would add one blind, but sometimes I make a 15 especially in later position. That said, I will oftentimes have information if I’ve seen that UTG+1 player limp and call a raise with a hand, like eight four offsuit, which I’ve seen stuff like that before. I think I would go for a much bigger size. I know he’s going to just call with whatever and I want to put in more money against that super weak range, but if I don’t know anything, yeah, I think in the neighborhood of 15 can’t be too bad. David goes for 20. So on the bigger side maybe he did have some sort of read the button and the big blind call behind.


So he’s going to be playing against one player who has position and one player who he has position over and then ironically UTG+1 folds, I cannot imagine what that player had to limp face a raise two calls and then he folds, but who knows? That’s live poker for you. The flop is Queen Seven Three all hearts and we have the king queen, king of hearts, so really, really nice flop for us. We have top pair, we have the second nut flush draw on this three heart board, but it gets a little dicey right away. The big blind leads for basically full pot, $55 into $60. We do have a player behind in the form of the button who called our pre-flop raise. Gary, what are you doing versus this lead? Are you ever finding a raise or are you just calling with this hand?

Gary Blackwood (37:15):

I think this is a very clear call. We’re loving life on this flop. We’ve got top pair, we’ve got the second nut flush draw a relatively good flop for us and then it all kind of turns on its head a little bit when the big blind leads out for a very big size. Mike, do you think we can read into this size, the lead? Would it be different to if you see a $30 lead here?

Mike Brady (37:34):

For sure. It’s obviously just going off of intuition and kind of anecdotal evidence and my experience playing live poker, because this is not a play that’s theory approved, you’re not supposed to lead as the big blind here on this board. So you kind of just have to use intuition and think about human nature and think, okay, a live $1/$3 player, what type of hands are they seeing this flop and they’re choosing, I’m not going to check to the raiser I’m leading out in my opinion, and this is just an opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. When I see the bigger lead here, I am quite fearful that I’m up against a low flush that kind of wants protection and wants to pump the pot up right away, doesn’t want to see it check around, doesn’t want to see a scary turn so they just go for a big chunky bet size.


Maybe they have pocket sevens, maybe they have five floor of hearts, something like that. That’s what I expect them to have when they go for a $55 bet here. I think it’s a very strong range. If it was more like a $30 lead, a $20 lead, I think it could be a lot looser. I think it’s a similar idea where they don’t want to check around, they don’t want to see a scare card, but they’re going to be doing it with a much wider range of hands. I wouldn’t be surprised to even see Queen Jack off suit, no heart if they led into me for 20 or 30. What do you think intuition wise?

Gary Blackwood (38:53):

I completely agree with everything you’ve just said. You can read into the strength of your opponent’s hand by the size that they choose. There’s going to be a massive difference in our opponent’s range here based off whether they lead $20 or $30, which can absolutely have some weak one pair of hands with no flush draw and a very big size like this. It’s important to remember the texture of the board here. So the big blind is not going to have too many two pair hands. It’s obviously a lot different if they lead on Queen Jack Five or something like that or Queen Six Five, something like that. But they don’t have seven three, maybe we’ve got some queen three and queen seven suited type hands, but not too many two pair combos and the big size. I’m not loving life. I think this is very clearly just a call obviously never folding, but I think raising here would be a little dicey, so we kind of just want to call and proceed with caution on future streets.

Mike Brady (39:39):

Perfect. That’s exactly what David decides to do. He just calls, the button gets out of the way. So we’re going heads up to the turn and it’s a pretty good one for us. It’s the king of diamonds, so we turn top two pair and we still have our second nut flush draw really crushing this board, but again, kind of feels like we might be up against a better hand and when the big blind bets again for another big size, he goes $145 into $175 on this Q73K board. Yeah, it just doesn’t feel great, but it also feels like there’s no way we can fold this hand if we’re up against a low flush. We have, what is it, 11 outs to win. If we’re up against a set, we have 13 outs to win. Maybe once in a while we somehow do have the best hand against a lower two pair. So what do you think? We’ve got $225 total, so facing this $145 bet we’re going to be committed. So it’s basically all in or fold at this point. Would you agree with that?

Gary Blackwood (40:42):

Yeah, absolutely. There’s one thing I just want to quickly talk about. This is live poker. You’ve just said that we might have the best hand. I think it’s possible, absolutely. We’re not just calculating our outs here if we’re behind, as Mike says, it’s still very possible that we’re ahead here against some random ace of hearts against some random two pair, against just some random air ball that this dude has just decided to blast off with. I think our hand is very strong. We’ve got top two pair, we’ve got the backdoor second nut flush draw if we need it. We can’t call and I’m definitely not folding. I’m putting the rest of my chips in hoping for the best. I don’t think this is a particularly ghastly spot. We’ve got a strong hand, we’ve got the redraw if we need it. I’m happy to put the money in here. If we’re much, much deeper, obviously just calling even if we’re a bit deeper just calling. But given the low stack to pot ratio, the big bet, there’s nothing else we can do here. Put the chips in and pray.

Mike Brady (41:36):

I think you made a good point there about a random ace of hearts. I could see certain live players having a hand like Ace of hearts, seven here, like off suit Ace seven, which obviously would never call pre-flop, but I wouldn’t put it past random live players to occasionally call with that hand and then in their mind they flopped a monster, they flop middle pair and the ace of hearts nut flush draw on this Queen Seven Three all heart flop. So maybe that’s possible. Maybe you could be up against something like that, like Ace of Hearts + seven Ace of Hearts + Queen, Ace of Hearts + three. Yeah, it seems possible to me.

Gary Blackwood (42:10):

King Jack with a jack of hearts. The list of hands that live players can have in this spot are endless. We are a little worried given the big lead, but it’s live poker. I’ve seen many things in my time, so yeah, it’s not as scary a spot as we might initially think here.

Mike Brady (42:25):

Yeah, I think we just got to go with it and before we see the results, I want to quickly tell you about the Lucid GTO trainer. We are starting the closed early access period soon. That’s the tool we were using earlier in this podcast to verify those spots in our first hand from Simon. If you are interested in being one of the first people to use the Lucid GTO Trainer, kind of be along for the ride with us, you’ll be in a private discord with Doug, Gary, myself, a bunch of other people from our team and we’ll kind of talk about and iterate the tool until we’re ready to release it to everyone. Go ahead and go to You could also just go to, go under the training tab and you will see Lucid as one of the options. Sign up there, choose your preferred device and we will reach out to you when the tool is ready for you to use it. Back to our hand. Let’s see the results. The river is the 10 of hearts gives us the second nut flush, but unfortunately we’re up against the Ace Eight of hearts. The guy leads big on the flop with the nut flush. Bombs the turn, this big blind did not want to miss out on value, did they? Gary? They were going to do the betting themselves.

Gary Blackwood (43:42):

Where is the justice? Where is the justice king of spades on the river? This lead for pot, this bomb the turn. I mean it is just spineless, isn’t it? I hope the person with the Ace Eight of hearts is watching this. It’s spineless. It’s terrible.

Mike Brady (43:57):

Yeah, it is really just to critique their play a little bit, and I don’t want to bash them too much here, but what they’re hoping for when they make this play is, well, I hope I’m coolering my opponent. That’s essentially how they played this hand because if they had the five four of hearts, there actually are benefits to denying equity, to building the pot, to not letting get checked around. But when you have ace eight of hearts, you’re not afraid of anything. You don’t have to just jam money into the pot immediately and hope you’re coolering your opponent because if you’re coolering your opponent, you’re probably going to stack them anyway, so you don’t really have a big upside to making this play over just making the more standard play of checking on the flop check raising if you want, whatever you want to do. This just wasn’t the right way to play the nut flush and I feel bad for David that he happened to have this super strong top two pair with a redraw and was pretty much dead to those four outs. The king or the queen on the river. Too bad.

Gary Blackwood (44:56):

Yeah, we’re bashing the guy with the Ace eight of hearts, but he’s won the maximum, so maybe shouldn’t be bashing him as much. In all seriousness though, David, if you’re watching, sometimes you’re supposed to get stacked and you should never feel bad if you get stacked in one of those spots. This is very much one of those times, it’s just a cooler. Losing your money by being coolered is completely okay, so don’t beat yourself up about it. You played the hand just fine. For those of us watching, we have to be comfortable with getting stacked. We have to be okay with losing money. It’s part of the game and sometimes it’s inevitable, so sometimes you can get stacked and misplay the hand. Sometimes you can get stacked and play the hand very, very well. This is very much one of the latter times. This hand is well played, we’ve been stacked. That’s completely okay. We rebuy and we go again.

Mike Brady (45:41):

Yeah, I would rebuy at this table. It’s clearly a soft one and hopefully David was able to turn it around in this session. One more note on what Gary was saying. The best players in the world who play cash games all the time, they’ll go on 10, 20, 30 buy-in downswings somewhat regularly because this stuff is just supposed to happen. You’re supposed to get coolered sometimes and get stacked. You’re supposed to make a hero call sometimes and get stacked. You’re supposed to make a big bluff sometimes and run into a good hand. That’s just poker for you. You have to be ready for that variance and don’t let it deter you from continuing to grind. You just have to know that it’s going to happen.

Play your best, always try to get better and take steps forward even when your bankroll might be taking some steps back. With all that said, we hope you enjoyed this special hand review based episode. Thank you very much to the three lab members who submitted hands.

If you enjoyed this type of episode, please hit that like button, hit the subscribe button if you want to watch more episodes of Upswing Poker Level up and we’ll see you in the next one.