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:

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: