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Hand ranges and comments on commentary

I watched a hand of ‘the best damn poker show’ on TV a couple nights ago and it was very illustrative of  the tactic of putting your opponent on a range of hands based on their actions in a hand, and then reacting correctly to it. It also featured very incorrect comments by Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke.

The hand opens with Christina, generic pretty woman in an unfortunate hoodie, raising Under-The-Gun (First to act pre flop) to 500 with A-Q, blinds were 100-200 at this point, every folds to John, a generic guy in a T-Shirt, who calls the 500 with K-J. Annie doesn’t like this play, saying he should raise or fold. The last thing on earth you should do with a hand as middling as K-J is re-raise somebody pre-flop, then they can blast you with a re-raise back and push you off the hand. So I guess she wanted a fold here, which is a fine play, but calling for a flop in position isn’t bad either.

The flop comes down an amazing 9-T-Q with 2 spades, giving Christina top pair, top kicker, and Jon a flopped straight. Christina bets 1200, Jon calls. Hellmuth likes the smooth call, and also mentions that a min-raise would have been good there. Phil is right, this is the only comment either one of them make that is correct.

The turn is another 9 that’s not a spade, Christina bets 1500 now, and Jon raises to 3000. Hellmuth declares that this will be ‘tough to get away from’ for Christina. Who folds, and Phil gives her a great deal of credit, when honestly, if you look at the hand logically, this is a pretty easy fold.

Let’s review the hand from Christina’s point of view. She raises from first position, and gets called. Then the 9-T-Q 2 spades flop comes out, and she bets 1200 and gets called, when another 9 that doesn’t make the flush comes out, she bets 1500 and gets raised to 3000, what hands make sense for these actions by our opponent?

Well we rule out Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks, because any of those hands would have re-raised us pre flop almost assuredly.

Tens and Nines are possible, and they both fit the actions of our opponent perfectly, he called with his middle pair, flopped a set and just called us, sandbagging a big hand, then turned either a full house or quads and decided to fatten the pot with a min-raise. While it’s hard to give somebody credit for quads,  this looks like the actions of a man who could have them.

Eights or less are clearly impossible, he’d have folded on the flop to our bet, and he sure as heck isn’t going to make a bluff min-raise on the turn in the face of us raising pre-flop, betting the flop, and then betting the turn, unless he’s got a sick read on us and thinks he can bluff us with nothing. (Which is all a pair 8 or less would be now)

Of the non-pair hands, he doesn’t have A-K cause he’d have re-raised us, he most likely doesn’t have AQ cause we have one of each of those, and maybe he‘d have re-raised us, but after the flop all his plays fit A-Q perfectly. No other hand with an ace makes sense.

K-Q might make a little sense, but all he has is top pair, second kicker, why would he put in a raise on the turn with such a middling hand? This hand could be a winner if she’s bluffing and just trying to push him off the pot, why turn an acceptable hand into a bluff? I’ll leave it in just for the sake of giving us a hand we can beat.

K-J makes perfect sense, he makes a slightly loose call pre flop and drills a straight, he gets a bet on the flop and the turn and decides it’s time to put down the hammer.

Q-T makes perfect sense here also, calling a little loose pre flop and flops top two pair. The 9 on is a bit of a problem, cause he was beating Aces or Kings before, and now he’s losing, so he puts out a min-raise to see if he’ll be blasted by those pocket pairs.

Q-9 is unlikely because it’s a junk hand that he shouldn’t have called pre flop with.

T-9, suited most likely, is another hand that fits everything our opponent has done, flopped bottom two pair and turned a full house, facing an aggressive opponent betting the whole way, he finally decides to fatten the pot on the turn.

Any other hand with a 9 makes little sense, because the 9 was bottom card on the flop, and he shouldn’t be calling 1200 chip bets on the flop with bottom pair hoping to hit some fluke card on the turn.

A flush draw doesn’t make sense because a flush draw would min-raise on the flop to try to slow the aggressor who’s out of position down. What I mean is, you have a flush draw and your opponent bets 1200, you raise to 2400 and they just call, now odds are they’ll check on the turn, so if you miss your flush draw on the turn, you can check behind them and get to the river for free. A flush draw does not suddenly raise the turn against an opponent who’s shown us strength the whole hand.

Any straight draws would follow the same logic and thusly can be discounted.

So let’s review the hands that make sense given all the action of calling 500 pre flop, calling 1200 on the flop, and raising a bet of 1500 to 3000 on the turn.

T-T, 9-9, T-9, Q-T K-J all have us crushed

A-Q we’re splitting

K-Q we’re beating, but again, this isn’t really that likely.

Now let’s add in the possibility that our opponent is in fact running a delayed bluff on us. That would be a bluff that’s set up by a call on one street to allow a raise on a later street, and he in fact has nothing.  How likely is that? Well given the fact that we’ve shown nothing but strength and he’s made a raise that’s very tiny, practically begging us to call him. I’d say maybe 10-15% of the time he’s bluffing.

So let’s go 15% on the bluff, and 5% on the unlikely K-Q and A-Q holdings, that means that 80% of the time our opponent is holding one of the skull cracking monsters we’re afraid of. This is a clear fold, not only because calling this raise makes us lose more chips, but also the fact that we’re going to be facing a bet on the river for even more chips that we’re going to be stuck calling cause we’ve let the pot get to big and have to avoid the risk of being bluffed out.

This is one of the key skills pros use, ‘playing back the hand’ in your mind. Trying to figure out why you would make the bets you made, trying to understand how you played the hand, and thusly deducing what your hole cards are, think the actions of your opponent through, and your reads will become far better.

You can reach mike at 

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