Marginal Call

Marginal Call

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Sami "LarsLuzak" Kelopuro looks at an interesting hand from the Finnish Open.

My opening table consisted of several experienced tournament players, like the Finnish pro Pasi Heinänen who was sitting two seats to my left. We were in the second level and I had been very active in the first few levels, as is usual for me. I had raised on Pasi's big blind several times already and most of the times he had reluctantly folded. Now the blinds were at 100/200, I was dealt Qs4s on the button and raised to 600. Pasi called and the flop came Js9s9d, giving me a flush draw with one overcard.

After Pasi checked, I bet 1,000, but Pasi woke up with a check-raise to 2,500. I had 11,000 behind and Pasi had slightly more. I went into the tank, thinking about what Pasi's raise meant and what to do about it.
Of course, his raise is not necessarily an indication of a strong hand. He knows I will play almost any two cards on the button in an unopened pot and it's likely the flop has not helped me at all. He could be raising with nothing, but it's more likely he has some kind of a hand and he wants to see my reaction to a check-raise.

His range is hard to define in this spot. He could be raising with a nine, a jack, a small pocket pair, a straight or flush draw or just complete air. I don't find it plausible that he would have just called with A-A through Q-Q pre-flop.

This means that the only hand I'm clearly behind to is flopped trips, and it’s also the only hand that calls me if I move all-in. So after a while I decided to ship it in with my flush draw.

Pasi did not call right away so I knew he did not have the nine. He then announced that he wouldn't make this call against any other player at the table and called with QdJc.

I was really surprised to see him call with that hand, and was annoyed to see his kicker blocking my only overcard. He knows I will never shove here with nothing so I must have at least a draw. Also, I would play trips or an overpair the same way. With a straight draw I'm probably just calling, and the same goes for K-J or A-J.

If my overcard were alive, I would be approximately 40-60 against top pair. And with QsTs it's 50-50. If I had an overpair or the nine, Pasi would be drawing really thin. So, considering my shoving range, Pasi knows I'm almost in a coinflip or clearly ahead of his top pair.

Since he's the one who has to make the call, in my mind, he should definitely fold here. Calling is an option in a cash game where he can just reload his chips, but in tournament play it's just a bad call. My raise is a large one and he will be severely crippled if he loses the hand.
Pasi told me later that he had a read on me, and fair enough, this time he got it right. However, luck was on my side: I turned the flush, and the river failed to bring him a full house.

Even though Pasi "got it right" this time, the wisdom of the story lies elsewhere. In poker, and especially in tournament poker, it's top priority to avoid situations where you are either ahead by a small margin or way behind.

Here are some of my possible shoving hands in this spot and the percentages against QdJc:

Qs4s 33%
Ks4s 42%
QsTs 50%
AsKs 51%
9h7h 88%
KhKs 90%
KhJc 74%

As you can see, a flush draw is only a small underdog or a coinflip against QdJc. And if I have a made hand, QdJc is way behind.

Tags: Sami LarsLuzak Kelopuro, Strategy