Calling a big raise for a chop


This is a Tournament hand with blinds at 50/100 and ante of 10.

  • UTG (8000 - 80BB)
  • UTG+1 (9000 - 90BB)
  • LJ (7000 - 70BB) 
  • HJ ( 10000 - 100BB)
  • CO (12000 - 120BB)
  • BU (7000 - 70BB)
  • SB (10000 - 100BB)
  • BB (10000 - 100BB)

Preflop: Villain is in the CO. Folded to him. He opens to 300. It folds to the BB who calls with Jc7c. We go heads up to the flop.

Flop (Pot size 680): 6s8h9c

Hero checks. Villain checks back.

Turn (Pot size 680): 7s

Hero checks. Villain checks back.

River (Pot size 680): Td

Hero bets 1400. Villain raises to 8000. Hero calls. Villain shows QdJd and wins with a straight.


It is the early stages of a tournament. Villain raises from the CO to 3x and hero defends with a suited Jack. On a low connected board, the hero checks to the aggressor. 

It seems standard so far, however, a case could be made for leading this kind of flop. It favors the big blind range a lot more - BB has all the two pair combos and straights that CO may not have. Also it is a great board for hero's exact hand - pair+open-ended straight draw+ backdoor flush draw. However, check call is fine too. As it turns out, villain decides to check back.

On the turn, hero makes a pair. In this spot again, checking and betting both are fine. We prefer checking because in case the villain was pot controlling with an overpair or a 9, we are not going to fold out those hands anyways. We do run the risk of letting the villain catch up with his hands like KJ, KQ etc. On the other hand, if we bet and get raised here, it wouldn't be that great a spot since it is a board where if we make our straight, we are not going to get paid since the straight is so obvious. As played, checking is fine. Villain checks back.

The river brings in a straight on the board. And we have the second nuts. Here we have two options - either we can bet to extract value from a hand that is playing the board. Or we can consider a check raise on a reasonable sized bet. As played, hero decides to overbet and we like this play. It allows us to get maximum value when we are ahead. If villain is playing the board, he is calling much more to win a smaller portion of the pot. 

However, in this hand, things get interesting when Villain decides to raise big. When he does this, Villain is essentially representing a naked Jack or QJ, the absolute nuts. This leaves us in a tough spot. What do we do? 

Let's talk Maths. We have to call 6600 to win a pot of 10080, i.e. we need ~40% equity to call. And we might not even win the pot and instead end up chopping it. Do we have that much equity? If we assign the villain a range of naked Jacks (AJ, KJ, JJ) and the nuts (QJ), we see we have ~34% equity. So it is a -EV call and we should fold.

calling for a chop.png

If we decide to throw in some bluffs in villain's range like hands which block the nuts like KQ, we might get enough equity to call. But realistically, do people bluff often enough in this spot? We don't think so.

The probability that the villain is bluffing here is even less likely because you overbet the river which screamed strength. If the villain now raises over that, it means you are likely beat or chopping. It sucks to fold the second nuts when played this way, but the general player population just isn't capable of bluffing in this spot. Calling a big bet just for a chopped pot is not a great position to be in, and we recommend folding this hand. Sure, you will sometimes be folded off a chop, but you are also protected against that during the times when you yourself have QJ and play it this way. Moreover, it is the early stages of a tournament, and you would do well by waiting to find better spots to build your stack.

Turning your pair into a bluff

Cash Game: Blinds (50/100)

  • UTG (10000 - 100BB ) 
  • HJ (10000 - 100BB)
  • CO (10000 - 100BB)
  • BU (10000 - 100BB)
  • SB (10000 - 100BB) - HERO
  • BB (10000 - 100BB) - VILLAIN

Preflop: Everybody folds to the HERO in SB who looks down at AcJh. Hero raises to 150. Villain is in the BB and she calls.

Flop (Pot size 300): QdTs2c

Hero checks. Villain checks.

Turn (Pot size 300): 4s

Hero checks, Villain bets 200. Hero calls.

River (Pot size 1100): Jc

Hero checks, Villain bets 750. Hero raises to 3000, Villain folds. 


When everybody folds to the SB, he has two options - call or raise. Blind vs blind AJo is a very strong hand and you want to put in more money in the pot. So raising is never bad. But as a strategy, you should consider what you are going to do with weaker hands. If you always raise with your strong hands and call with weaker hands, a good player in the BB can apply tons of pressure since she can be sure that you don't have strong hands when you call. It is not a big part of the analysis, but just some food for thought.

As played, raising is fine, but just be aware of the strategy you pick. Let's see a flop.

On the flop, hero can choose between betting and checking. When the villain calls pre flop, she has tons of broadways in her range (KQ, KJ, QJ, QT, JT, AT...). All of those hands have either made a pair or have a draw or both. So if hero bets, he doesn't accomplish much since it is unlikely villain is going to fold a lot. Hero can check and call a bet with his one overcard and gutshot and keep the pot small. As it happens, villain checks back.

On the turn, by the same logic as above, there is no reason to bet. When villain bets, hero decides to call. If hero is behind, he has some outs to improve. A jack or an ace might be good. A king will give him the nuts. And Ace high might be good if villain is bluffing.

On the river, hero makes a pair and is now good against any 8 the villain was betting for protection. Here, we often expect the action to go check-check and lose the pot against a Q some % of the time and win against an 8 or a worse J some %. But here, villain decides to bet. And now all three options: call, raise, fold are available. What do we do?

When villain bets on this board, it is very unlikely that she is value-betting a worse hand. So calling becomes unattractive. Folding is fine but we will be getting bluffed here by a lot of hands like turned flush draws. Or hands like 35s or 63s or a bunch of other gutshots. 

The third option - raising. The nuts on this board would be AK. And the only person who can have AK in this spot would be the hero. And hero would play it like this most of the time. Villain is unlikely to have AK since she can be expected to 3-bet this often pre-flop. Hero could also play JJ in this way. And by check-raising the river, hero is representing tremendous strength. Villain will have to fold most of her medium strength hands and even some strong ones like weak two pairs.

A word of caution: Turning pairs into bluffs is an advanced play that you should not go overboard with. Usually, taking your showdown value is a good idea. In this particular hand, this move worked out. But some players might get stubborn and call you down anyway. Choose your customer wisely. Just remember that you have this weapon in your arsenal, and used sparingly, it is mighty effective.

Going broke in a limped pot

This is a Tournament hand with blinds at 150/300 and ante of 30.

  • UTG (12000 - 40BB) 
  • HJ ( 10000 - 33BB)
  • CO (15000 - 50BB)
  • BU (14000 - 47BB)
  • SB (18000 - 60BB)
  • BB (12000 - 40BB)

Preflop: Villain is in the CO. Folded to him. He limps in. Button calls. Hero is in the SB with 9s7c and he completes. BB checks his option. We go four ways to the flop.

Flop (Pot size 1380): 9d8h6c

Hero bets 600. BB calls. Villain shoves. BU folds. Hero calls. 

Turn is 3h. River is Jh.

Villain shows 8d6s and wins the pot with two pair.


This hand is fairly straightforward in terms of strategy. But it introduces an important concept which I'll come to a little later. Let's get to the hand first.

Preflop, the villain limps in instead of Raising first in, which gives us our first piece of information: He is unlikely to have a strong holding (premium pockets, broadways). Most likely, he has a hand he wants to see a flop with for cheap. We have a decision with our off-suit connector. Usually, I wouldn't mind folding this hand right away even when we are getting such a good price. Reasons:

  • We will be out of position against 3 other opponents. It'll make it difficult for us to realise all our equity.
  • Even when we flop a pair, we are not happy with the situation with a bad kicker.
  • Our hand will often be dominated by better 9s or better 7s.
  • When we make two pair, it will often make concealed straights for our opponents.
  • We don't make strong hands often enough and when we make a weak hand, we lose a lot of money.

Basically, a lot of bad things happen. If it were suited, I can get behind the call much more.

As played, leading the flop is fine, although I much prefer to check-call to control the size of the pot. On this board, when we get raised, we are often behind. When we call, and do hit our straight, we might be chopping, up against a better straight or will not get paid since the straight is so obvious on that board. And when we hit a 7, we will be forced to call another bet even after knowing that the opponent probably has a straight.

Against villain's exact hand, we do have enough equity to make a mathematically correct break-even call but we don't know that he has 86o. When villain raises, he can have any of these hands - 98, 86, 96, better 9, same hand 97, 57, 7T, 88, 66 - These are a lot of hands and all of these beat us. I doubt if villain will shove a hand that we are beating. So against villain's complete shoving range, we don't have enough equity to justify a call.

Calculation of equity:

We need to call ~48BB to win a pot of ~59BB. So we need 48/(48+59)% or ~45%. But based on villain's range, we have only 33% equity. 

Calculating equity using Flopzilla

All this talk of strategy is less important than what I am about to tell you right now. The age old saying in Poker: 

Never go broke in a limped pot.

What this means is that if it is a limped pot, where no one raised pre flop, you don't want to stack off with a mediocre holding. Reasons:

  1. In a limped pot, unless you know the opponent inside out, you have no idea of his range. All that you can say is that he probably doesn't have premium pairs like AA or KK. Even that you can't be sure of if villain is tricky and was going for a limp-3bet with these hands.
  2. Without this critical information, hand reading post flop becomes difficult. When you bet and get raised, you are in a no man's land.
  3. Calculating your equity against villain's range becomes a nightmare.
  4. In a limped pot, there is less money in the pot pre flop. So if you go all in, you are risking much more to win a smaller pot - never a good idea.

A solid, aggressive pre flop style makes for a good winning poker strategy. Hopefully, you don't find yourself in this situation again, and when you do, remember the saying and proceed with caution.

Have any questions/thoughts for this hand? Let us know in the comments below. Or if you have a hand you want us to analyse, send us the details here:

Did I make a mistake by slow-playing Aces in this spot?


Cash Game: Blinds (10/20)

  • UTG (2000 - 100BB ) 
  • UTG+1 (2000 - 100BB)
  • LJ (1000 - 50BB)
  • HJ (2000 - 100BB)
  • CO (2000 - 100BB)
  • BU (2700 - 135BB) - HERO
  • SB (4000 - 200BB) - VILLAIN
  • BB (3000 - 150BB)

Preflop: UTG+1 limps in, Hero raises from the BU to 80 with AcAh, Villain is in SB and he 3-bets to 260. UTG+1 folds. Hero calls. 

Flop (Pot size 560): 9c6dTh

Villain bets 400, Hero calls.

Turn (Pot size 1360): Ks

Villain bets 2040 putting Hero all-in, Hero calls.

River: 2s

Villain shows KhKc and wins the pot.



Even though the question asked is 'Did I make a mistake slow-playing Aces?', we don't think it is the biggest mistake in this hand. Let us explain.

Our first critical decision comes pre flop when we are facing a 3-bet from the villain in the small blind. We have an option of whether to 4-bet or to call slow-play our aces and just call. There are merits to both, and your decision should be based on the following factors:

  1. Is the villain aggressive post flop? 
  2. Does the villain play fit or fold?
  3. Is the villain likely to bluff often when he whiffs the board?
  4. Is the villain exploiting the fact that you are on the Button and thus your perceived range of hands is not that strong, especially when you are isolating a limper?
  5. Does the villain have it in him to bluff 3-bet wide?
  6. Does the villain call a 4-bet lightly pre flop or 5-bet shove with a worse hand often?
  7. How deep are we?

If you think that 1, 3, 4 and 5 are very likely, then you can consider slow playing. This is because villain will often do the betting for us with his weaker hand. On the other hand, if we 4-bet, he might be able to fold a lot of his bluffs and worse value hands.

If you think 2 and 6 are likely, then you can 4-bet for value. This is because post flop, the villain might not give us a lot of value with his worse hands, but pre flop he is likely to make more mistakes and shove with hands like TT, JJ, AK which we are well ahead of but which may not pay us off post flop.

Also, consider the 7th point. If we are very deep, say 200-250BB deep, you want to put in more money in the pot with a premium hand. Your intention is to get all the villain's money, so building the pot in position is good, because otherwise, being this deep, it may not be possible to stack him off post flop.

Another reason to slow play here could be to balance your range. For example, if you always 4-bet your Aces and Kings, then when you flat, your opponent can discount these hands from your range; and you can be put under a lot of pressure post flop.

Let's talk about the flop.

We like the decision to flat. By raising, we force him to fold his bluffs. And there is no fear of missing value from worse hands since we are in position and can bet if villain checks to us. Moreover, the flop is quite dry, so there are not a lot of draws that we are afraid of. The only possible draw that could be there is QJ and maybe a gutshot draw like KJ, KQ.

On the turn, when the King comes, the villain jams putting us all-in. The pot is 1360 and the bet is 2040, so it is a big overbet. Usually, overbet signifies polarised range- i.e. either the villain has a very strong hand or a very weak hand. We don't expect the villain to do this with a medium strength hand like AT or QQ.

A. What hands are beating us? TT, 99, KK, QJ (25 combos)

B. What worse hands is the villain betting for value that we beat? AK (6), maybe KQs(3). If the villain is crazy and is 3-betting us light with hands like KT, 9T then those too but it is very unlikely.

C. What bluffs can the villain have? AJ(8), AQ(8) - assuming he pulls the trigger with them.

If we compare A vs B+C, the answer isn't conclusive. Next we need to see the odds we are getting. Since it is an overbet, we need to call with fewer hands and can fold a large part of our range. How do we decide which hands to fold? 

We should fold the bottom of our range. What hands can we have in this spot? We can have all the sets - 66, TT, 99, KK; two pairs 9T, KTs, K9s (if we decide to flat that pre); straights 78s (we might call this pre given we are so deep), QJs.

As we see, we will have much better value hands than Aces in this spot. So, we can fold especially when the villain doesn't have a lot of bluffs (unless he is a complete maniac and can bluff with a wide variety of hands like A5s).

Another reason to fold is that we are blocking some of the hands that our villain can be value-shoving with (AK).

So, even though it sounds weird to say, but Aces are nowhere near the top of the range of hands that we can have in this spot. It is in the middle part of our range (along with AK that we decide to float the flop with, KQ, KJ). It is a tough spot and so much of this hand is villain dependent. And although we don't fault the hero for calling, a fold is better against an unknown opponent.

Lastly, never think of a poker hand based on its result. The outcome of a single hand should never direct the way you think about that spot. So losing this pot shouldn't mean that you never slow play aces. And for what it's worth, the outcome would have been the same even if you had played it fast pre flop.

Have any questions/thoughts for this hand? Let us know in the comments below. Or if you have a hand you want us to analyse, send us the details here:

Playing a Pair plus Open-Ended straight draw out of position


This is a Tournament hand with blinds at 200/400 and ante of 40.

  • UTG (12000 - 30BB ) 
  • UTG+1 (16000 - 40BB)
  • LJ (8000 - 20BB)
  • HJ ( 10000 - 25BB)
  • CO (8000 - 20BB)
  • BU (14000 - 35BB)
  • SB (8000 - 20BB)
  • BB (12000 - 30BB)

Preflop: Villain is on the BU. Folded to him. He raises to 850. Hero is in the BB with 9h6h and makes the call

Flop (Pot size 2220): 8c7s6d

Hero checks. BU checks.

Turn (Pot size 2220): Kh

Hero checks. BU bets 900. Hero calls.

River (Pot size 4020): Jd

Hero checks. Villain checks.

Villain shows AhJh and wins the pot.


Preflop is standard. In tournaments, the big blind needs to defend widely because there is a lot of money already in the pot. So, the odds that the BB gets are good enough to justify a call with a wide variety of hands. And especially against a raise by the button who will open widely. 96s is a hand that has decent playability; if it was offsuit, a fold isn't too bad.

The first point to note comes when the button checks back on the flop. It tells us that the button doesn't have too many nutted hands. Surely, we can expect him to bet all his straights, sets, two pairs, and overpairs on a board which is so coordinated. Villain can also be expected to bet his draws or pair+draws with some frequency. What we can infer from this is that the villain has some kind of a hand which has showdown value (some weak pairs or Ace highs or some King highs) that he doesn't want to play a big pot with or he is giving up. We don't expect him to slowplay his strong hands too often on this board.

The second point to note is on the turn. Hero decides to check-call. Checking is fine because Hero has showdown value with his pair and open ender. Also, the K favors the Button's range much more than it does Hero's. When the villain bets, just calling the villain's bet is a little dicey. We are essentially in a bluff catch mode while hoping to make a straight on the river. But what happens if the river is a brick, say 2d, and the villain bets again? We can't profitably call with our 4th pair and bad kicker. This is also a spot where the villain can put a lot of pressure on us because he has a lot of K with good kicker kind of hands which decided to check back the flop. By check calling we also allow the villain to realise his equity when he has two broadway cards without a K (AJ, AQ, QJ, JT, etc), which is what happened in this case. So, what's the better play here?

Consider check-raising the turn. The flop is the kind of board which hits your range very hard. And when the villain checks back, he doesn't have too many strong hands. So, when he bets the turn, he is saying that he essentially has a K or nothing. When we decide to check-raise, we can represent a wide variety of value hands that beat his range. We have all the straights (9T, 95s, 45s), two pairs and sets. By taking this aggressive line, we not only deny equity to villain's broadway hands with no pair, we also put a K into a tough spot. If villain calls, we can reevaluate and choose which river we want to bluff on and on which cards do we want to shutdown and check with our showdown value. A hand like 96s is especially good because we block some of the straight draws villain might call with; we can decide to bluff/value bet on a lot of different river cards.

In most cases in poker, the better way to play is an aggressive rather than a passive style. By doing this, we allow ourselves to win the pot without showdown and not just rely on hitting our cards to win.

Have any questions/thoughts for this hand? Let us know in the comments below. Or if you have a hand you want us to analyse, send us the details here:

Aces getting cracked. Did I play it right?


Cash Game: Blinds (25/50)

  • UTG (8000 - 160BB ) 
  • UTG+1 (4000 - 80BB)
  • CO (7000 - 140BB)
  • BU (6000 - 120BB)
  • SB (8000 - 160BB)
  • BB (7000 - 140BB)

Preflop: Hero is UTG with AcAh. 

Hero raises to 150, 2 folds, BU calls, SB calls, BB folds. 

Flop (Pot size 500): Kd4s2h

SB checks, Hero bets 300, BU calls, SB raises to 900, Hero calls, BU folds.

Turn (Pot size 2600): 9s

SB bets 1500, Hero raises to 3600, SB calls.

River (Pot size 9800): 6s

SB shoves 3350, Hero calls.

SB shows Kc9h and wins the pot.


Preflop is standard.

The first point to note comes on the flop when the SB check raises. Let's think about what hands he can be doing this with.

SB can be doing this with top pairs. If he is the kind of player who doesn't slowplay his sets, he can be raising with those too. There are not a lot of draws on this board so he is unlikely to have any draws. But just for the sake of discussion, let's give him some backdoor draws like 35ss or A3ss. Also, we assume that SB is not bluffing here with complete air, since when we c-bet, and the BU calls, it shows that at least one of us has to have something. 

Based on this, we can say, we are ahead of some of villain's value range and behind some. Also, we are ahead of his draws. So how should we proceed?

What Hero did was the best option - flatting. The SPR (Stack-Pot Ratio) on the flop is big (~7850/500). In such scenarios when the SPR is high (anything more than 4-5 is high enough), we want to play our top pairs/overpairs cautiously. Because it would be bad to get it all in on the flop when we are more than 150 big blinds deep. Remember, the key to winning at poker is to maximise winnings and minimise losses. So, we want to lose the minimum when we are up against sets. And since we are in position, we can always extract value from worse hands (like Kx) on future streets.

The second point to note is the turn 3bet by Hero. Once the villain check raises, he is no longer representing just top pair. And against that range, we are not doing well. We are behind sets, two pair (K9 and in unlikely cases K4s and K2s which villain decides to play this way). There is still a lot behind in our stack, so we should get into a bluff catching mode. It sounds weird given we have Aces. But aces do get cracked sometimes. And when they do, we want to lose the minimum. So, we should just call on the turn.

The river is bad for us. It brings in the backdoor flush. And when the villain jams, it is a tough spot. It is unlikely the villain is doing this with a hand that we beat - Ak, KQ, KJ, KT. Because the line we took represents a lot of strength which villain is also aware of. So even though we are getting a decent odd to call (2.9 :1 ; i.e. we need to be good 25% of the time), it just feel like a spot where unless the villain is a maniac, he is unlikely to be bluffing. Hero cannot be blamed for calling here given the odds. But, the key was the turn 3bet which should have been avoided to keep the pot smaller, and then the river call would have been much easier to make.

Getting beat when you hold aces (or commonly knows as Getting your Aces cracked) is one of the worst feelings in poker. We hope this analysis improved your understanding of how to play pocket aces in a deep stacked situation.

Have any questions/thoughts for this hand? Let us know in the comments below. Or if you have a hand you want us to analyse, send us the details here:

Did I make a good fold with AKo?


Blinds (5/10)

  • UTG (1000) 
  • UTG+1 (800)
  • CO (1000)
  • BU (700)
  • SB (1400)
  • BB (1100)

Preflop: Hero is BU with AsKc

2 folds, CO raises to 30, BU 3-bets to 100, SB and BB fold, CO calls

Flop (Pot size 215): Ad Jh 4h

CO checks, BU bets 150, CO calls

Turn (Pot size 615): Jc

CO checks, BU checks.

River (Pot size 615): 7c

CO bets 300, BU folds.


The first point to note is the stack size. The hero has just about 70 big blinds. What we recommend is to always have at least 100 big blinds to start a hand. This allows for more post flop maneuverability. 

Preflop, it is standard. Cut off raises, and we have a strong hand to 3-bet. The sizing of 3.5x the initial raise is also good. CO calls. This means that, we can discount strong hands like AA, KK and sometimes QQ and AK from his range, because we assume that CO will always 4-bet us with them. Other hands that he is flatting our raise with could be broadways (AQ, KQ, KJs, QJ, QTs), suited connectors (89s, J9s), pairs (22-JJ and sometimes QQ). 

Flop, it is a good flop for us. Villain checks, we bet and he calls. Now we need to assign a range for his flop continuing range. It could be Top pairs (AQ, AT, A9s kind of hands), Gutshots (KQ, QTs, KTs), Middle Pairs (QJ, KJ, JTs, J9s), slow played set (44)

We assume that the villain isn't calling with small pairs. Also, we assume that villain is not slowplaying his two pair (AJ, A4s), so we discount that from his range. 

Turn, it is not a great card for us. Since Villain has a lot of J in his range. Villain checks and we decide to pot control and thus check back.

River, villain leads out for 300 which is about half pot, and we have a decision to make. This is a tough spot. 

If we look at villain's value range - QJ, KJ, JT, J9, 44

Bluff range - All the gutshots and flush draws - KQ, QT, KT, T9s, 98s, 87s

There is also Ax kind of hands in villain's range which we cannot say for sure if he is going to bet on the river.

Villain's value range has slightly more hands than his bluff range.

The decision should be based on the following factors:

  1. Does the villain call our 3-bet with a lot of small suited connectors?
  2. Is the villain going to lead the turn sometimes when turning trips?
  3. Is the villain going to bet bigger for his value on the river?
  4. Is the villain going to sometimes bluff raise his flush draws on the flop?
  5. Is the villain going to value bet his top pair weak kicker on the river?

If villain is more likely to do 1, 2, 3, 5 and less likely to do 4 then we should call. And vice-versa, we should fold.

Leave your questions and comments below.