Last month I managed to make the final three tables of the Sunday Million on
PokerStars before bowing out in 26th. Yesterday poker pro and online star Bryan “bparis” Paris shared his thoughts concerning a couple of key hands I played along the way, and today we conclude the discussion with Paris looking at three more important hands from late in my run.
Hand 3: Overplaying Ace-Nine from the Button
Blinds had just gone up to 25,000/50,000 with an ante of 5,000, and after winning a couple of hands against smaller stacks I was sitting with a respectable stack of almost 55 big blinds when I opted to raise to 105,000 with from the button.
The small blind folded and the big blind called, and the flop came to give me middle pair. After being checked to, I bet 125,000. My opponent called, then checked again after the turn. This time I bet 260,000, and again was called.
We both checked the river, with my opponent shipping the pot after turning over .
Paris: Not much to say preflop, as our raise on the button here is completely standard. On the flop, I am fine with c-betting the best nine here, likely opting to check back and as they suffer less from allowing a free turn and they can’t get called by as many worse nines. can still get plenty of action from worse nines, all sevens, and the variety of straight draws he can have on this board.
The turn, however, is a different story. The jack is a much better card for his range than it is for our hand, as many of his hands we were ahead of on the flop have now improved to either a pair better than ours, two pair, or a straight. Our hand still has some amount of showdown value, enough to the point where I don’t really want to turn it into a bluff, which I believe makes the turn a check.
Once we have arrived at the river in this fashion, I actually prefer going all the way with turning our hand into a bluff and betting a third time to fold out some of his pair+straight draw hands, of which he has many (, , , etc.). This is a spot where he’s not folding turn very often at all, but will have to fold many of those hands on the river to a third barrel which puts tremendous pressure on him, especially this deep in the tournament.
I should clarify that I don’t believe we should plan on three-barrel bluffing with this hand; I think my three-barrel bluff range in this spot would mostly be comprised of backdoor spade draws that missed with possibly some combos mixed in. However, I do think that once we’ve made the mistake of turning the hand into a bluff on the turn, we now have a potentially profitable third-barrel bluff spot on the river.
Lessons: Avoid inadvertently bluffing with hands that have enough showdown value to check. Identify the street where your opponent is folding the most if you do want to bluff. If you make a mistake and bluff when you’re not supposed to on an earlier street, sometimes it’s better to commit to that course of action than to cut it off halfway through and suffer through the worst of both worlds.
Hand 4: Calling a Three-Bet with Pocket Sevens
With blinds remaining the same and starting off the hand with 42 BBs, I raised to 105,000 from under the gun with . I was three-bet to 250,000 by a player in later position with 24 BBs, which at the time seemed cheap enough for me to call even though I felt he was strong.
The flop was actually a good one for me. However, I opted to check-fold to my opponent’s bet of 305,000.
Paris: This is something of a standard call when the stacks are deeper, but this late in the tournament with stacks this short, we simply can’t afford to see a flop out of position against a strong range. The fact that we wound up check-folding on one of the best boards for our hand illustrates this fact.
There is also an increasingly large ICM effect deep in tournaments, which means that chips we risk out of our stack are worth more than the chips we can win, unlike in a cash game or early in the tournament where the value of each is roughly equal (or exactly equal in the cash game).
If we somehow have a strong read that our opponent is three-betting too wide in this spot (very, very few people do, but they are out there), then we should just jam preflop to maximize our fold equity and be ahead some percentage of the time when we are called by or . Realistically, I would just fold in this spot the vast majority of the time, as sevens is fairly weak relative to the rest of our UTG opening range.
I picked this hand partly because it illustrates something I’ve noticed, which is that a lot of players overvalue “set mining” in tournaments, especially if they have a background in soft live cash games where hitting a set frequently means stacking an opponent who dramatically overplays an overpair for heaps of big blinds. The situation is very different in tournaments, as the stacks are much shorter, and online the players tend to be much better so you don’t get the automatic double when you make your set.
I would advise anyone looking to break into tournaments in general, and especially online tournaments, to abandon your notions of what constitutes a profitable “set mine” except in the very early stages. Low pairs deep in tournaments are much more likely to be profitable when jammed for a combination of value and fold equity than to be played as a set mine.
Lesson: When deep in the tournament, avoid spots where you are looking for a miracle flop in favor of making decisive moves with hands that are likely already best. Set mining sucks.
Hand 5: Three-Barrel Bluffing with King-Queen Suited
Blinds increased to 40,000/80,000 with an ante of 8,000 and I had chipped back up to 42 BBs when I opened the action to 168,000 from the cutoff with . Everyone folded but the big blind who opted to call.
The flop of presented a ton of value for me as I had both the flush draw and overcards. My opponent checked, I opted to bet 200,000, and my opponent called. While the on the turn was of no value to me, after being checked to I decided to appear strong and bet again — this time for 300,000 — and once more was called.
When the completed the board, my opponent checked a third time. I tried to represent this was a good card for me and bet 700,000. My opponent called, shipping a big pot with .
Paris: Preflop here is again completely standard, although I might open to a slightly bigger size as the player in the big blind is an aggressive regular who’s not a big fan of folding, and charging him more to see a flop seems to be in our best interest even when our hand is this strong. On the flop I agree with the c-bet, as we have a great draw but also only have king-high, meaning we benefit from putting pressure on his , , and ace-high hands as we get to win the whole pot the times we make him fold those.
The turn is, once again, where the hand becomes interesting. In general I believe this is a spot where we should be checking the turn a lot, as his range becomes stronger than ours on the turn for two reasons — we are going to be c-betting wider than he is going to be calling as we are the preflop aggressor, and he has way more hands than we do (since we probably don’t raise many of them, and frequently check back flop with the few we do raise).
I would be checking this turn quite frequently with the intention of inducing bluffs from busted draws on the river, or possibly bluffing myself if he checked again, depending on what the river is.
With all of that said, this specific hand does benefit from being three-barreled, as we have merely king-high but a lot of equity, so if we want to have a three-barrel range this should certainly be in there. However, I think this deep in a tournament, if we want to take the three-barrel route we should size the turn big enough to set up a river jam. A three-barrel is primarily targeting his and , so we need to size big enough to the point where we convince him to fold some of his weaker hands by the river if we want to make it profitable for ourselves.
The problem with the sizing we actually used in the hand is that almost all of his hands will be able to comfortably call on many rivers. If our goal isn’t to fold out some number of hands, I think we’re better off checking back turn and possibly bluffing some rivers, as targeting only isn’t enough to warrant betting all three streets.
On the river, we hit a fantastic card for the three-barrel bluff plan, and I think the sizing is fine given the way we sized the turn. However, our turn sizing came back to bite us as he continued past the turn with a fairly weak holding, one he may have been compelled to fold to a larger bet. As far as this specific hand goes, our line would have worked on many rivers, but I believe I would go with either checking back the turn or sizing it large enough to set up a river jam if we want to apply maximum pressure.
Lessons: Frequently when the bottom or middle card pairs on the turn, that is better for the big blind’s range than for the preflop raiser’s range. When three-barreling, size your bets to put maximum pressure on the opponent’s stack, regardless of whether you’re bluffing or going for value.
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Thanks to Bryan Paris for his help and insight. You can get coaching from him at bryanjamesparis.com and follow him on at @bparispoker.
You can also follow this author on at @JaxonPoker.
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