Last month, I played the Main Event at the Cherokee WSOP circuit stop. A hand came up in which a loose aggressive player opened from the cutoff to around 2.5bbs. With an effective stack of 60bbs, I three-bet to 7.5bbs from the small blind with QT. CO decided to call and we saw a flop of Q63. With about 17 bbs in the middle, I checked and called a bet of 8.5bbs. The turn brought the 2. With about 34 bbs in the middle and effective stacks of 44bbs behind, I called a turn shove. My opponent turned over K4. The river was the 5. I was so focused on the fact that he missed his flush that I almost didn't even notice that he completed an inside straight draw. I shared the hand with several friends, many of whom had trouble understanding my line of thinking in the hand. I decided it would be a good one to analyze for this month's Two Plus Two Magazine.
I figured that Villain would be opening a fairly wide range from the CO as most people are inclined to do. Given that he was aggressive, I actually expected him to be opening even wider than most. This hand certainly works well as a call, but in order to prevent him from seeing the flop in position more often than he should and taking more than his fair share of the blinds, I'd need to three-bet him quite a bit because the players on the button and in the big blind were overly tight. I hadn't tried this before and was unsure exactly how Villain would respond, so choosing a hand that plays as well as this one in case he decided to call made perfect sense. I like to use a depolarized range with plenty of hands like this one until I see evidence that villain is capable of four-bet bluffing a wide range.
Up to this point, I had been playing tightly and hoped that my image would get Villain to fold many of his weakest Ax and Kx hands. Additionally, most players will always call my three-bet with hands like JTs, T9s, and T8s. This allows me to effectively value bet and bluff with the same hand. My three-bet will often result in me having the initiative in a heads-up pot with an uncapped range against an opponent with a capped range. Calling will often result in me having a capped range in a multiway pot without the initiative and out of position to two players. For these reasons, I chose the more aggressive option.
On the flop, I had top pair with a marginal kicker on a very dry board. This is the sort of situation where I was either way behind better Qx hands & sets or way ahead of pretty much everything else. I could not expect to bet this hand three times and be ahead when called on the river. I could at most get two streets of value from pocket pairs between the 6 and the Q and possibly from a couple of combos of Q9s/Q8s, but not much more than that. On the other hand, if it went check check, many of the hands better than mine would be discounted from Villain's range, making it easier to value bet him as well as discounted from my range, making it easier for him to bluff catch me with the hands I mentioned as well as any second pair that he could have made on the turn.
An added benefit of this plan is that often an aggressive player like this one would take my check as a sign of weakness and try to get me off of my marginal bluff catchers like 99 or AK by the river. Against this type of player, it's nice to have some top pair combos in my bluff catching range. QT was a good candidate for this because it didn't have as many value targets as a hand like AQ. As stated, the aggressive Villain bet when checked to and I just called.
The turn brought the 2 which looked like the quintessential blank to me. It didn't change much. If Villain chose to bet again, I'd still be behind the hands that already had me beat and ahead of any flush draws he may have picked up as well as pure bluffs. Against a typical player who doesn't bet as often with worse in these spots, I would have likely made a tight fold on the turn. Against the Villain in this hand, I would have comfortably called the turn and possible found a fold on some rivers. Fortunately for me, Villain made a big mistake on the turn that allowed me to avoid these tough spots and gave me an easy decision.
With 34bbs in the middle, Villain decided to over bet shove for the 44bbs I had behind. A bet of this size is extremely polarizing. It seems to be one that is hoping for a fold instead of a call, so I could remove many of his weaker value hands and discount his stronger ones that may sometimes choose a more typical value sizing. He probably wasn't shoving with a hand like QJ or KQ so that removed many of the combos that had me beat. Given that he just flatted my three-bet preflop, I removed QQ+ from his range as well. He made a polarizing bet, meaning one that he would only make with nutted hands or nothing, in a spot where he had a lot more nothing than nutted hands. His over bet combined with his previous actions in the hand left him with an unbalanced polarized range.
He either had a set, a straight, top pair top kicker, or a flush draw here more times than not. There were 9 set, 4 straight, and 8 top pair top kicker combos in his shoving range that had me beat. That's 21 combos, but let's say he only shoves these half the time because he sometimes chooses a bet size that is more likely to get called with these hands. That left him with about 11 value combos that had me beat and more than twice as many flush draws that I was way ahead of if he called preflop with suited aces, suited broadways, suited connectors, and suited one-gappers. I needed to win about 36% of the time to break even on the call. I had around 50% equity against his range so I made the call. Fortunately, he had a flush draw as I expected. Unfortunately, this particular flush draw also gave him a gutter which he hit on the river to send me packing.