Nosebleed online poker has made a comeback in 2020.
With people stuck inside, we’ve seen a spike in online poker traffic. This has taken place at every level, from the micros to stakes as high as $1,000/$2,000.
That brings us to our subject today: a hand played by Tan Xuan (tan4321) and Timofey “TrueTeller” Kuznetsov at the modest stakes of $500/$1,000 with a $200 ante on the GG Network.
Let’s dive into the six-figure pot.
The game is 5-handed and Tan raises to $2200 with K♥ K♣ from the cutoff. Timofey calls with Q♣ J♥ from the small blind.
Tan should be opening around 30% of the time from the cutoff given that the game is also played with an ante. The dead money from antes incentive wider open-raise ranges compared to non-ante games. KK is obviously a no-brainer raise from any position.
From the small blind in a non-ante game, you’d usually want to either 3-bet or fold when facing a raise. By just calling, you increase the EV of the big blind’s strategy by enabling him to squeeze with a decently wide range.
However, when there’s an ante present, the small blind is getting much better odds to call. So much so, that it counteracts the EV loss encountered through getting squeezed.
QJ offsuit is one of those borderline hands that can now call. Other reasonable hands with which to call include:
- AT offsuit
- KJ offsuit
Basically, hands just outside of the 3-betting range can make okay calls given the antes. So far, both players have played well.
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The flop is dealt Q♥ 7♥ 5♥ and the pot is $6,400.
Timofey checks, Tan fires a $1,920 c-bet, and Timofey calls.
Monotone flops like this one are notoriously hard to play because it’s very difficult to create a balanced/well-built strategy on them. Keep that in mind as we continue the analysis.
Timofey’s check is standard and he should do so with his whole range. You should never donk-bet on the flop in practice.
For Tan, KK with the K♥ is certainly a very high-frequency c-bet in any strategy. It can extract value from a ton of worse hands and has the chance to improve to 2nd nut flush, which can comfortably value-bet three streets.
Tan’s 30% pot-sized bet is also appropriate as it leverages just enough to fold out the bottom one-third of his opponent’s range. Timofey makes a very easy call holding top pair with a redraw to a J-high flush.
The turn comes J♦ making the board Q♥ 7♥ 5♥ J♦. The pot is $10,240.
Timofey checks and Tan bets half the pot ($5,120). Timofey calls.
Timofey’s check is once again standard.
Tan’s bet size choice is not the best here from a theoretical standpoint. He is at an equity disadvantage right now as his range contains a bunch of hands with little equity. Timofey’s range is more condensed and has higher equity. For these reasons, the optimal bet size here is bigger, around 75% of the pot.
Having said that, betting with this size is not a big mistake if coupled with the appropriate turn c-betting strategy. But if Tan is using a smaller size with this type of hand and a bigger size with stronger hands, then he can get in a world of pain against a cunning player against whom he plays a lot.
Timofey’s call is very good, as he’s now holding top two-pair and a redraw to a medium flush. Raising could make sense against certain players, but the standard play is to call.
The river comes the 3♠, making the board Q♥ 7♥ 5♥ J♦ 3♠. The pot is now $20,480.
Timofey checks, Tan fires another half pot bet ($10,240), and Timofey goes into the tank. Eventually he raises to $51,200. Tan takes his turn in the tank and eventually makes the call.
Timofey’s check is once again standard.
Tan’s bet size is not necessarily bad, but it is difficult to balance a range that bets this size. This is because it’s very easy for a human player to go for a bigger size with stronger hands such as flushes and two-pairs, and then only use this (smaller) bet size with a strong-but-not-nutted hand such as KK.
If Tan does bet this size with only/mostly those strong-but-not-nutted hands, and if Timofey knows or suspects this, Timofey can check-raise versus this size with all hands stronger than KK/AA. This play would also allow Timofey to add a bunch of worse hands as bluffs, increasing his overall EV by a very large amount.
Against a balanced range, Timofey shouldn’t raise with his two-pair as it’s merely a bluff-catcher against the myriad of flushes and sets that Tan would have in his range. From his decision to raise, however, we can deduce that he believes Tan is unbalanced in this spot and raised in order to capitalize on this weakness.
Tan’s call would make sense if his strategy was actually balanced on the river (which it very likely isn’t) as it would fit into the top part of his range. At the end of the day, all of the thought process described on the river is theoretical as we can never know what each player’s strategy was unless they actually tell us.
River strategy is a very important part of a player’s win-rate. Against a strong exploitative player (like Timofey), you can end up losing a lot of money if your strategy is not strong/balanced enough with the correct bet sizes and the correct range composition.
Want more hand analysis? Check out Set vs Set vs Flush for (At Least) a $224,000 Pot.
That’s all for now, good luck, grinders!
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