vs flop raise

How Doug Polk Reacts to Flop Raises (3 Example Hands)

You’re about to get a look at three hands played by Doug Polk at $2/$5 on WSOP.com. The focus of each hand is on how to properly play against flop raises, which can be pretty tricky.

Doug recorded this session for members of the Upswing Lab to watch and learn from. Get in the Lab now if you want to watch Doug’s 3-part session in full.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the first hand.

Editor’s note: If you play Pot Limit Omaha or have considered trying it, you should check out this epic new preflop tool. 

Hand #1

This hand involves a particularly nasty spot: getting raised on a high, paired flop while holding an overpair.

The reason people dislike this so much is that against certain tight players, you’re going run into a strong value hand far more often than a bluff, so it can sometimes feel like you’re just always beaten.

However, as Doug will go on to explain, you should be wary of thinking in such absolute terms, and consider the correct defending frequencies when playing your hand.

$2/$5 on WSOP.com. $467 Effective Stacks.

Doug is dealt K♣ K in the big blind
Qualityfish1 limps on the button. Small blind completes. Doug raises to $35. Qualityfish1 calls. Small blind folds.

This is a larger-than-standard raise size, Doug explains, designed to take advantage of Qualityfish1, who – based on their open limp – is likely a weak player who will call this raise with sub-par hands.

Flop ($73.50): J T T♣
Doug bets $22.50. Qualityfish1 raises to $111.37. Doug calls.

Doug continuation bets for just under a third of the pot. Generally, we want to use small c-bet sizes on paired flops such as this because it puts our opponent in a difficult spot with a lot of marginal holdings like ace-high.

Using a larger size would make our opponent’s life easy because his correct response would be to continue with only strong hands (Jx+) or draws, which most opponents will do intuitively versus a large bet.

Once Qualityfish1 raises, Doug explains, we can divide our range fairly simply into calling and folding hands:

  • Our value c-bets – that is, Tx, Jx and overpairs – and strong draws should be called.
  • Our low-equity draws (like AK and AQ) should be folded.

The important thing to remember is that we can’t fold our overpairs on the flop, or else we’ll be folding far too often, allowing our opponent to exploit us with his bluffs.

Turn ($296): 8
Qualityfish1 bets $222.18.

This is where the hand gets a bit trickier. Qualityfish1 continues for three-quarters pot, leaving him with just $99.79 behind. When our opponent bets a size like this that leaves them with such a small amount for the next street, we should treat it like a shove, and either fold or check-raise all-in.

The real question is how often we should be doing each when holding an overpair. The theoretically correct answer, as it often is, is some of the time. If we always go with all overpairs, our opponent can profit from under-bluffing. Likewise, if we always fold them, our opponents can profit from over-bluffing.

How do we decide which overpairs to go with? The best way is to pick ones which don’t block bluff combos. So, in this example, that would be overpairs which don’t contain a diamond, as our opponent’s most likely bluffing hands are diamond flush draws. An argument could be made that it is also better to go with aces than kings or queens, because (besides being a stronger hand) aces doesn’t block KQ, which is another one of our opponent’s conceivable bluffs.

In this specific instance, however, Doug decides to go with his K♣ K, explaining that he’s willing to widen his stacking-off range versus weaker players. The key tells to Qualityfish1 being a weaker player here are his preflop button limp and the fact that he is sitting with under 100bb.

Doug raises to $321.97. Qualityfish1 calls all-in.

Qualityfish1 shows K♠ Q♠.

River ($939.94) 9

Not a great river for Dougie, but at least he got it in good!

Hand #2

This next hand starts out with another button limp, this time while playing heads-up. Here’s a clip of the hand straight from the Upswing Lab (bottom table, you may have to full screen to see the details clearly).

Keep scrolling if you’d rather read than watch.

Join the Lab now to watch the full session >>

$2/$5 on WSOP.com. $430 Effective Stacks.

Doug is dealt 4 3♣ in the big blind
iguanacar limps on the button. Doug checks.

This bottom-range hand is one we should raise occasionally over a limp. Raising and getting a fold is a very desirable outcome, and raising weak hands balances our raising range. Otherwise, we’ll always have a strong and/or playable hand when we raise, which is pretty easy to play against.

Reads are important when making this preflop decision. If our opponent is weak and tight, we can raise hands like this every time. If our opponent is a loose calling station, we should check hands like this every time.

Flop ($9.50): 6 5 5
Doug bets $7.50. iguanacar raises to $25. Doug calls.

Doug flops an open-ender and leads for $7.50 into a pot of $9.50 (WSOP.com seems to think that more rake is better) and gets raised. Now, 4-high isn’t an ideal hand to be calling a raise with – in fact, it’s probably the weakest hand we can really call with. However, it’s still an open-ender, as Doug states, meaning it retains too much equity for us to fold it. 

Turn ($60): 7♠
Doug checks. iguanacar bets $20. 


This is not a situation, Doug explains, in which we should consider trapping, as our hand is far too vulnerable and we may miss out on value if a scary card peels off. There are a lot of bad rivers for us:

  • A 5, 6, 7 puts substantially more full house combos out there.
  • An 8, 9, 3, or 4 puts four cards to a straight (good luck getting trips to pay you off on those).
  • Any heart completes a flush draw.
  • and a 3 or 4 reduces us to a one-card straight.

Moreover, our opponent can have plenty of combos of trips here, so we want to get value now while also taking the initiative, allowing us to value bet the river.

iguanacar’s small bet size also allows us to raise thinner for value and bluff more aggressively than we would against a bigger bet. Why? Because our raise size won’t be so large. If he had bet $50, we would want to size our raise at about $160, which should be accompanied by a stronger range than, say, a $110 raise.

Doug raises to $110. iguanacar folds.

Getting a fold here isn’t the worst thing in the world, as there are a good amount of rivers (see: list above) which put us in a difficult spot.

Hand #3

The final hand we’re going to look at involves a fairly infrequent spot which can be tough to play correctly: facing a raise in a multiway pot after calling an initial bet. The reason this can be awkward is that calling the initial bet can make our range somewhat transparent if we’re not careful.

Many players will raise all of their nutted hands versus the initial bet, particularly on wet boards, leaving only draws and medium-strength hands left over. This means that the range of hands that they can call the raise with will be disproportionately draw-heavy.

Anyway, let’s move on to the hand so we can hear how Doug overcomes the challenges of this spot.

$2/$5 on WSOP.com. $509 Effective Stacks.

Doug is dealt 8 7 on the button
DustedYou raises to $14.37 from the hijack. Doug calls. iguanacar calls in the big blind.

Clearly a playable hand on the button. The question is, do we call or 3-bet? Preflop solvers tell us either option is fine at some frequency, so we can really choose our own adventure with this hand, and similar hands in similar spots.

As with any close decision, we should weigh any information we have on our opponent to see if that pushes us one way or the other. For example:

  • If DustedYou folds to a lot of 3-bets, we should 3-bet to try to pick up the pot preflop.
  • If DustedYou is a very spewy player postflop, we should call to try to take advantage of his postflop mistakes.
  • If the small blind or big blind 3-bets a lot, we should avoid calling so we don’t get squeezed out of the pot.

This is just a few pieces of info that could sway our decision. Can you think of any others? Drop it in the comments below, please!

In this case, Doug decides to call and we take a three-way flop.

Flop ($45): J K 9♣
iguanacar checks. DustedYou bets $32.80. 

Now, Doug can either call or raise. Both, he states, are fine; however, he goes on to say that we should lean towards raising our worst draws, as we don’t want to raise our best draws only to get 3-bet shoved on. It’s a much easier decision when we get shoved on with our worst draws (fold).

In this instance, he decides to call, and adds that we can occasionally call some strong hands like QT and KJ in order to protect the weaker hands in our range — like, our 8-high flush draws.

Doug calls. iguanacar raises to $120. DustedYou folds. Doug calls.

We should always be calling versus iguanacar’s raise, Doug explains. Raising all-in will only result in us get called by hands we’re behind, such as QT, sets, or stronger flush draws, while giving up our positional advantage. Let’s take a turn.

Turn ($315.41): 6
iguanacar checks.

This is an interesting turn: while Doug hasn’t hit his draw, he’s picked up another three outs in the form of a 5. iguanacar’s check provides Doug with a great spot to shove his combo draw.

Doug does note that you need to be careful not to jam with too many hands here, as you won’t have that many value hands — probably just that slow-played KJ or QT we talked about earlier. That said, iguanacar will rarely check-raise a nutted hand on the flop only to check it on turn, particularly on a board of this texture, so we don’t have to worry too much about being trapped.

Doug bets $375.50 all-in. iguanacar folds.

Got one through!

Wrapping up

Today we covered just one of 158 Play & Explain videos from the Upswing Lab. There’s a mountain of valuable poker knowledge waiting for you there, and so I encourage you to enroll and join the team. It’s an amazing community to be a part of.

If you have to take away one thing from the three hands above: don’t let a fear of getting stacked stop you from making the correct decision when faced with aggression.

After all, poker isn’t about never getting stacked, it’s about playing the best we possibly can.

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Ben Ward

Ben Ward

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