More Hold ‘Em in Madison
In a recent column, I dissected a hand that I played in the annual Christmas poker game in held in Madison, Wis. This game, held once a year, had a $1,000 buy-in pot limit Hold ’em game with $500 rebuys. The game was held in “Big Jon” Green’s beautiful poker room overlooking Lake Ripley. After a lively game — and a relatively small $1,450 win for me — another game was held in late December. This time we had a $500 buy-in with $500 re-buys, and again we had some top Wisconsin poker players sitting at the table; Dewey Weum, “Concrete Larry” Beilfus, Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon, “Big Jon” Green, and “Timmy Boy” Belstner to name a few.
I had just won a $2,000 pot the hand before (finally!), when I looked down at the Ah-Qh and decided to raise it up the maximum before the flop. Thus, after three others called $5 apiece, I called the $5 bet and raised it up $35 more (making it $40 to go); I had to smile at the craziness of the game as seven of us took the flop. The flop was 10h-7h-4s, four players checked to me, I bet out $100, and a total of four players called the $100 bet. The next card off was the Jd, and now Brian Hetzel bet out $450. Two players folded, I called, and the remaining player folded. The last card was the 4h (10h-7h-4s-Jd-4h) Hetzel checked, and I studied for about 30 seconds before I bet out $850. Hetzel called, I showed him my ace high flush, and then he said, “Nice hand,” and I collected the hefty $3,380 pot.
Let’s take a closer look at the play of this hand. Before the flop, it is a natural and easy tactic to raise up the size of the pot as the first raiser. Of course, the fact that I had just won a big pot the hand before makes it an even easier play, as I was feeling good about risking chips at that moment: due to some extra confidence and a recent surge in the chip stack. On the flop, my $100 bet was about perfect. I definitely think that it is important to bet out here; both to build a pot, and to put myself in position to continue to draw in the hand later on. I mean my hand — an ace-high flush draw and two over-cards — was now a favorite over anyone that had a pair on the board, or even over pocket jacks. Also, by betting merely $100 on the flop, I am pricing players into the pot. I mean, with $280 in the pot my $100 bet was modest, and it did in fact lure four players into playing along with me. One more reason I like the $100 bet is that I was limiting the amount that someone could reraise me on the flop, thus I was controlling the size of the pot. Check this out; by betting $100, I could only get raised $480 more (a $100 call, plus my $100 bet, plus the $280 in the pot) vs. an $840 raise ($280 plus $280 plus $280) if I bet $280.
On the turn, Hetzel’s $450 bet — with what turned out to be a made straight (9-8) — was perfect. Should Hetzel bet more here? Many top pros would say that he should. They would tell you that Hetzel needs to protect his hand with a huge pot-sized bet that would drive all of his opponents out of the pot. But why drive someone out of the pot that has one big pair, and is thus drawing dead? Why drive someone out of the pot that has a weaker straight draw than the made straight you already have completed? Deciding on the perfect amount to bet depends on a complicated risk/reward scenario and the strength of your hand. In this case, I agree that Hetzel should make a bet of at least 30 percent the size of the pot. Keep this in mind, it is hard to complete a straight, and I like to get paid off when I do finally make it! As to my $450 call on the turn, I do not think it a hard call at all. After all, I did have a heart draw and I needed a king to complete the best possible straight.
On the end, after Hetzel checked, I felt great about my flush, and now I began to think about being a salesman: how much could I get Hetzel to call? I knew that I should wait at least 30 seconds before I bet, as an instantaneous bet oftentimes gives off a powerful scent, and I wanted a weak scent as I had a powerful hand. I thought, “If I bet the whole size of the pot or too much money, then Brian will fold his hand.” Finally, I just sort of felt like I should bet $850, which was about one-half of the size of the pot.
Pot limit Hold ’em with my old “Homeys” in Mad-town is always a great time. Two years ago I lost $14,000 in the game; last year I won $8,000; this year I won $6,000 for my two sessions. I’ll be back, and win or lose I’m guaranteed a great time!
Choosing the right-sized bet with your hand:
A) Is a risk/reward scenario
B) depends on the strength of your hand
C) not an easy thing to master
D) all of the above