Grading Three Different Approaches to One Hand
A few years back, I was teaching my friend Jeff Pulver how to improve his limit Texas Hold’em game. Pulver is heavily involved within the VON (Voice Over the Internet) industry, and, in fact, a 2004 FCC ruling was named the “Pulver Order.”
The following hand came up in a limit Hold’em game at the Bellagio. The No. 1 position called the $15 bid with Kd-Ks, and Pulver “limped in” (called) with 8s-8h in third position. The fourth position (to Pulver’s immediate left) raised to $30 with Qs-Jd, and the fifth position (the button) called the $30. The big blind called, and the first position called $15 more with his Kd-Ks. Pulver then re-raised the bet to $45 total, and everyone else proceeded to call the $45.
With five players putting in three bets each, the pot was looking mighty big. When the flop came down 10s-9d-2d, the big blind checked, the first position (holding the kings) also checked, Pulver bet $15, and everyone else just called.
The turn card was the 8d, for a board of 10s-9d-2d-8d, making both a straight and a flush possible. Again the big blind and the first postion (Kd-Ks) checked, and now Pulver bet $30. The player behind Pulver had made a straight with his Qs-Jd and now raised it up, making it $60 to go. The button and the big blind folded, the first position called, and Pulver re-raised, making it $90 to go with his trip eights. The players with the straight and the kings now called.
The river was — you guessed it — the 8c, which made Pulver four of a kind. The final board was thus 10s-9d-2d-8d-8c. Now, finally, the kings bet $30, Pulver just called the $30, and the player with the straight called the $30 bet. Pulver then gave me a high five and cracked a very broad smile.
But what the heck was going on with the first-position player with the Ks-Kd? Limping in before the flop with two kings? His approach may have been OK in some situations, but he should have made it three bets after the first raise, or four bets after Pulver made it three bets. On the flop, the first-position player should have tried to narrow the field by betting out or check-raising the flop (raising on the same betting round that you previously checked). The bet on the river was particularly bad. What did the player with the kings think he could beat after the others put in three bets on fourth street? Overall grade: D-minus.
How about the overall play of the man with the Q-J? Pre-flop, what was that raise all about? Did he think he had the best hand after the first position and another player called? On the flop, why not raise it with the open-ended straight draw? In fact, if he does raise it up on the flop and the kings make it three bets to go, then Pulver can’t even call on the flop and the Q-J would win the pot. On fourth street, I do like the raise that this player made with the straight, even though there is a possible flush lurking out there. On the river, he had to call one bet with his straight. Overall grade: B-minus.
How about the play of my buddy in this hand? Before the flop, I would have preferred that he raise the pot with the eights instead of just calling one bet. The “back raise” (calling one bet and then re-raising it to three bets after someone else makes it two bets) was an odd play, but one that I think is OK. On the flop, I like Pulver’s bet because you never know when one bet will narrow some of the field (or win the pot for you right there) and leave you with the best hand against a likely A-K or A-Q. On fourth street, I like Pulver’s bet but his re-raise was a bit weak. Why not call the bet, and then try to check-raise your opponent if you make a full house (or quads)? On the river Pulver should have raised it up with his four eights: maybe the first player made a full house, and would reraise him, but in any case it seems likely that the player behind him would have called two bets with his straight. Overall grade: C-plus, but not bad for a beginner.
Just another limit Hold’em pot at the Bellagio!
A “back raise” is when:
a) You raise it up with your back to the table
b) You raise it up and say, “Right back at you!”
c) You call and then re-raise someone after the raise behind you
d) You raise it up after making a “backdoor hand”