Post Hands to Review


I hate to flood this, but the reason why I posted this one is to see from the better players (and anyone else - all welcome, of course) if I did anything ‘wrong’ in this hand. Hoping to get a little bit of feedback on hand ranges here and some considerations on what to suspect and what to do based on those ranges. I actually think I played this one pretty well, but have a few ideas on what maybe could have been done differently. I’m not 100% sure if I even made any ‘real’ mistakes or not, but would like to know from you if I did. As most often usual, I prefer to provide any information after replies to see if my retrospective thoughts meet any of your initial ones (and I’ll be honest - only hurting myself if I’m not). When you’re willing/able: Thank you!

I think you played it OK, sometimes you just get beat. I think you could reasonably guess this player had a big pair, and that became more certain as the hand went on, and no scare cards came up. I mean yeah there was a potential club flush on the board, but that didn’t really seem to influence the betting from what I could see.

Sometimes you hit a hand, your opponent hits the nuts, and he just lets you give him all your chips by calling you every street. Betting sends a message, and if I think I’m holding the nuts, I’ll let my opponent keep talking as long as he wants. That’s all your opponent did to you in this case.

You might have closed the hand if you’d bet to put him all-in when the 3c hit, representing that you’d filled a flush. That’s the only way i see you getting out of the hand. Of course a real flush would probably just check here, and let them bet, and come over. So probably that’s what you should have done, and if they check too, maybe just let it ride out to the River and keep the hand small since your Kings haven’t improved any.

With a big pair like AA or KK, conventional wisdom seems to be that you want to get your chips in pre-flop, betting big enough to get all but one to fold, and rely on the heads-up odds being in your favor.

Or, if you don’t get everyone out of the hand preflop, at least close the betting down after the flop, once you feel reasonably assured that the flop hasn’t improved your opponent’s hand, whether by betting everyone off the hand, or by check/folding if the board scares you and someone’s betting like it should scare you.

Going the other way, if your hand improves at the flop, especially if it improves in a way that can’t benefit your opponent, say like hitting trips or a nut flush or nut flush draw, and opposed to adding another pair on the board that could potentially make your opponent trips, then you can slow-play the hand, letting players ahead of you bet, and just call them as long as they keep betting, and finish off with a big bet on the river, after your opponent puts enough chips in to become committed to paying you off.

A lone pair, even Aces, is vulnerable to sick suck-outs, from two pair on up. And you’re playing just a pair of unimproved Kings, yet betting on every street like you don’t mind the hand continuing. You should be betting, but bet like you want your opponent to think very hard about whether they want to pay to see more cards.

In this case though, I don’t think it would have mattered. If you don’t get him to muck, you can either cool down and fold if he starts betting, or you can bet harder and hope the pressure will get to him. Or you can cool down and raise when he bets… Or… There’s a lot of ways to play hands of poker, and a situation and opponent for each of them.

I’ve been struggling with these hands lately. I seem to bet too small preflop, get too many callers, and then bet too cautiously post-flop, allowing my opponent to stay in the hand and make a comeback. I’ve started betting more preflop, but it doesn’t seem to be working. But I’m evaluating based on outcomes, and my outcomes have not been conforming to probability, which makes me feel like my play is bad, when in fact it’s pretty close to textbook. Certainly could be improved, some would say, but I’m doing 50% with hands that should pay me 80-90% of the time, and it make you doubt yourself.

Before I became as good at poker as I am now, I felt like I used to do better with big pairs. This is a paradox, I know.

But when I was more passive, I used to only limp or maybe min-raise with the big pairs, and then make a pot-sized bet on the flop to steal from as many players at the table as I could.

I think there’s actually some advantage to this. If you raise 7-10BB preflop, whoever calls you A) will be on a big hand themselves, and B) will be committed to that big bet they just put in a lot more than 8 opponents who each only put in 2 or 3 BB.

And if no one happens to feel lucky enough to call, then you’re winning blinds with premium cards that should be worth more, and that sucks almost as much as losing a big pot to an improbable suck-out.

You can see where I’m going with this, I hope. By raising only a little, you get a lot of calls – maybe out of 9 seats you bring in 5-6 passive players, each for 2 BB. You may then make a pot sized bet on the flop and get 5-6 folds, from everyone who missed the flop. Maybe everyone folds, maybe 1 opponent stays in.

If you get a call, maybe he hit top pair and isn’t suspecting you’re holding AA or KK yet. Maybe he thinks you’re on a set, or maybe you flopped a monster straight, flush, or boat. Yes, you’re semi-bluffing with pocket pair. Maybe he’s only 3 or 4 cards to a straight or flush, so he’s willing to call a 500-ish chip pot-sized bet to see the Turn. He misses most of these. Now you can bet big on the turn – another pot-sized bet, not going all in, to keep yourself safe if you’re not the big stack in the contest. He’ll think twice about calling again if you are charging 1500 to see the River on a 1500-chip pot. Unless he has AA, like he does here, then he’s probably not worried. But maybe you got to him with that third Club on the board, and maybe he’s suspecting that you made something better than a Pair. If you are the big stack, bet enough to put your opponent all-in, in one decision, while still leaving you comfortable if you get beat. If he still calls, well, he may have you beat. But if he’s already all-in at least he can’t make you lose any more chips. But if he folds, you just took a big chunk out of his pot, and didn’t put yourself at as much risk.

If you’re in earlier position, you can check to him, and let him bet, then come over the top with an all-in, and see if he collapses. If he checks to you, bet big to close the hand, and don’t worry about extracting every last chip with a right-sized bet for value.

I have no idea if this is optimal or not, I suspect a lot of other players would say this is the wrong way to play Aces. But I seemed to do better with them when I played them this way, than I do when I play them the the way I played them yesterday.

Just some ideas. Poker’s complicated. Maybe just keep it simple.

Focusing on just this hand, not how to play KK generally, I think you can just ask yourself, “How do I know when I’m beat when I’m starting with the 2nd best hand? How do I know when I’m up against AA?” Well, the first indication of that was when you bet 9BB and got called by the SB. At that point, maybe slow down after the flop, until you see a third King or a big enough bet that you question the soundness of calling it, and lay it down? It’s hard to lay down Kings, man.


I like your raise and your sizing.

The flop is quite good for you. When your opponent minbet leads into you, I think they mostly have a lot of single pairs, flush draws and straight draws that are trying to see a cheap turn card, so I like your flop raise and I like the size you picked. You’re going to be getting value from a lot of the hands that your opponent can have.

The turn card completes any club flush draws. It’s a bit of a scare card and should probably cause you to slow down a bit. I like betting the turn but at a bit of a smaller size - maybe about 40% pot. That way you can still get value from weaker pairs or any single card flush draws. If you get a call on the turn you can plan to check back on most river cards. If you get check-raised, or if your opponent calls the turn and then leads on the river, you probably need to fold.

As played with your larger turn bet, I would check back the river rather than bet, but I don’t think betting the river is really a mistake either - the size relative to the pot is small enough that you will still get calls from weaker hands.

Your opponent shouldn’t really have AA very often here - they should mostly be 3betting it preflop or check-raising it on the flop when they occasionally decide to call preflop. So I would just chalk this up to weird Replay-style play, and put a note on this opponent that they’re probably passive.


@moderators: Please can you not merge separate hands into this thread (and not merge hand review threads in general)? We now have a Hand Review forum and we should generally keep to one hand per thread. Otherwise it gets really confusing with discussion of different hands getting mixed up.


Oh, sorry. I thought we were back to talking about JoeDirk’s posted hand.


OK, I have some time to look at this at last - @JoeDirk, your hand was Ah Ax - what was the other suit? Really only matters on the flop if you held the Ac but why not make it as accurate as we can be? (I checked and his backdoor flush draws go from 12.9% if you don’t hold the Ac to only 8.3% if you do) Also, I entered your specified range and came up with 25.2%, not 26% and I gave him all AK. Wasn’t sure if you gave him AK in the limp/call range or if you are taking any/all out to put into the 4-bet range. Just LMK and we’ll take this bad boy out for a spin and see what we get.

BTW - If I give him all AK with this range and give you the Ac, your hand is smashing his range at 63.4% to 36.6% on the flop.


Thank you for taking the time to put a lot of insight and information into your reply. I certainly hear a lot of what you’re saying. Perhaps there were some points where I should have slown down a bit. Conventional play has also caused some problems for me. When I play that way at lower stakes, often people are silly and it can be difficult to make it work. When I move up in stakes, it works, and then the better players pick up on what I’m doing. I try to mix it up, and the better players know what I’m doing because I’m not at the level where I’m mixing things up effectively enough. But there also have been times where it worked either way at either stakes. The goal will have to be to try to slowly improve and consider the advice the players I trust are giving me. And any advice can be also be considered. There are so many angles to this complex game! Thanks for your reply.


Thanks. Turn and river are also the streets where I think need the play needs to be broken down and thought over for different ideas on what to do. Didn’t know my opponent, so slowing down a bit may have been more beneficial. I like your idea to add the note. Thanks for the reply.


I was wrong about the 26%. I was accidentally including AA/KK at that point. I took those out, but kept AK/QQ.

My hand was AhAc, so I did actually have the ace of clubs. I did not even think about how holding the Ac affected the backdoor flush draws he might have.

I definitely think I had to bet the flop (and ideally for larger than I did). But even if my range or my exact hand were still slightly ahead, isn’t it still best to check-back the turn because my hand is medium strength and near the middle of my distribution (KK/QQ/AJ/AT and AK/AQ with no hearts or 1 heart are worse and 99-JJ, AK/AQ/AT of hearts, KQs are better).

Edit: After running it through Equilab, the equity breakdown on the flop range vs. range was 59/41 based on the ranges I assigned. On the turn, my equity share goes down to 51% even against his ENTIRE preflop range. If I assume that on the flop he folds underpairs and unpaired suited hands without an 8 that are not in hearts (86/76/75/64/54/K6-K7/A2-A7), the equity breakdown becomes 43/57 in his favor. However, my exact hand is still ahead 55.6/44.5, which surprises me. Maybe I really should have continued to bet on the turn?

Edit 2: I still believe checking the turn is the right move because 1) it protects my check-back range because I am never folding a hand this strong to any turn bet with the nut flush draw. 2) Betting and getting raised would be terrible. The pot is 8m, so if I bet 5m, he could legitimately shove (or effectively shove by raising) both for value or as a semi-bluff, in which case I either fold the nut flush draw (and I may be getting an acceptable price to call, depending on what range we give him) or call knowing that I am likely behind. And I could be drawing dead to 2 straight flush combos. 3) The range he bets on the turn is weaker than the range he calls with. Only a few of his weaker hands continue (QQ/AJ/KJ/QJ/AT/KT/QT) while he has a bunch of combos that beat me. But he also could be floating the flop with his wide range, so he now has a chance to take a stab.


I am interested to know what people think about this exact hand, but it has also raised a lot of broader questions that could be key to greatly improving winrate.

Are we choosing actions based on the equity of our range versus our opponent’s range? Or based on where our hand falls within our distribution? Or based on who has the highest density of nuttish hands? After speaking to some of the top 5 players here, they expressed the importance of playing range versus range based on board texture, but I must admit I usually play my hand versus my opponent’s perceived range while also considering where my hand falls within my range.

For example if the board in this spot had come 367 rainbow, he can have the nuts while I can’t. But AA is the top of my distribution (I have no sets and no draws) and my range is still stronger than his.


Awesome - thanks for the added info. I’ll plug it into Flopzilla and see what comes out of it (including the continue range you assigned). Then we can look at the numbers and discuss optimal lines. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m also looking forward to discussing whether a GTO based approach or an exploitative approach is better in this situation or vs this player pool. IMO, while the GTO based approach is going to net a profit vs any population, it leaves too much value on the table vs unbalanced opponents. It looks like we will get into the debate over playing pretty poker vs playing maximally profitable poker. I struggle with this myself so I’m going to be very interested in how the debate goes.

Back in a few hours. Thanks again for posting a hand we can use as an example. Its no secret that I’m a total geek when it comes to hand analysis and debating lines with other players. IMO, this is the absolute best way to expand our understanding of the game and improve as players. I’m glad that there are people here who will engage in this type of thread.


On the topic of GTO vs Exploitative, I saw this article today:

I thought it was really interesting to see how they took a simplified situation (short stack heads-up push-or-fold hold’em) where the optimal play is actually known, and put numbers against how big the EV difference is between GTO and exploitative against different types of non-optimal players.


Excellent article. Here’s another current one on when to use theory vs when not to:

The issue I have with many of these articles is that they don’t include vital information - is your opponent capable of exploiting you back? If they are, then deviating too far from optimal is dangerous. If they aren’t, then the danger is only theoretical, not real. The vast majority of players outside of cash high-stakes are not capable of making the adaptations necessary to counter-exploit you on anything but the most basic levels. I’ve been going through databases of tens of millions of hands that bear this out. The field is not nearly as good as people think they are. That isn’t being rude or demeaning, its just reality. For example, the field in low/medium stakes online and live has a check-raise river percentage of ~3%. There are not nearly enough bluffs here to show any semblance of balance. That figure shows nearly 9 out of 10 river check-raises are value. Its much the same with every other street - that’s he data, not opinion.

We should do another thread on GTO vs Max Exploitative and when it is proper to use one or the other. Its another fascination of mine and I’m coming full-circle on the subject. Its about knowing your opponent. Sun Tzu had it absolutely right when he wrote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”


Yeah, little things make a big difference. I’m having fun with this in Flopzilla now. I hate to ask another question but did you settle on any raising range for him on the flop or his he just flatting everything he continues with?

@love2eattacos - I may need you to provide the screenshots of the Flopzilla results if Joe doesn’t have the program. I’m actually not sure how to return those images in a somewhat reasonable format and I don’t want to blow up this thread with giant images everywhere - I’d try to look up how to do this but I’m playing a tournament and Poker Masters is on so I’m out of available screens and ability to process anything new :slight_smile:

BTW - the guys playing this 100K event are the one’s you’d need a strong command of balance to play against and not get slaughtered. The game they are playing just doesn’t translate to anything we mere mortals are doing. It’s so damn beautiful to watch though. Anyone who loves poker would naturally want to play a game like this.

ADDED: OMG, David Peters (The Silent Assassin) just picked off a bluff on the river with AQ 3 handed. He took 2 1/2 minutes to think it over and made the call. You can see the wheels turning and you realize that he’s running Flopzilla plus a GTO solver in his mind, under pressure, while being filmed for broadcast. How cool would it be to be able to think at that level? I’m absolutely in awe of these people.

ADDED pt 2: Peters won the tournament, beating Dan Smith HU. Phenomenal final table and Peters worked hard for the $1.1 million he took home. $700K isn’t a bad consolation prize for Smith either. They went to HU about even so I’m guessing they made a deal on the money and were playing for the title.


@JoeDirk and @love2eattacos - I’ll just take everything villain continues with to the turn and cut out the range of hands that Joe thought villain would lay down. If we want to ascribe a raising range on the flop later, we can run the numbers again. The hand plays totally differently if we give villain any raising range on the flop.

Villain had 241 total combos in his limp-call range preflop. Joe’s hand (AhAc) had a 63.4% to 36.6% equity advantage on the flop vs villains range.

Flop of Jh Tc 9h - We assume that villain continues with 171 combos (71% of original range). We assume that villain is flatting his entire continue range here.

Turn of 7h - Because of removal, villains initial range is reduced to 234 combos by this turn. My numbers on raw equity differ from Joe’s so I’m wondering which hands passed through one of our filters that didn’t pass through the others? Maybe Taco can run it to double check? I come up with Joe’s hand still being ahead of villain’s range 52.85% to 47.15% with a 3.56% chance of a tie (3 non-heart 8’s would chop). Joe had it as 55.6/44.5, which is a wider margin than I had.

Now we have to look at it from two angles: 1) What does villain bet with after flatting the flop and being checked to on the turn? 2) What would villain continue with had Joe bet the turn? What would he flat and what would he raise (if anything)?

This is slow-going but I think we have already revealed some interesting points. One is that Joe’s hand had a large equity advantage on the flop, despite what looked like a board that “smashes” a defender’s range. Then, we see that Joe’s hand still had a wide equity advantage over villain’s range after the turn despite the specific turn card looking like it filled a ton of draws. If we look at the hand data from Flopzilla, we can also see how puny villain’s flush-draw range was. Maybe not something for people to fear as much as they do?

Stay tuned for the next installment :slight_smile: Joe and Taco, please take it wherever you want to and please check my results if you can. Its hard to do this without all sharing a screen or being able to see the Flopzilla readouts as we go. I’m hoping Taco can take over the visual effects and remedy that part. I’m also looking forward to seeing what hands villain can realistically call some bet with on the river. That will help answer Joe’s question about his river bet the way the hand actually played out.


The tournament you mentioned - forgive my ignorance, but I’m curious as to what’s the story on that. Was this the 2018 Poker Masters $100K Main Event? I looked it up and I found something saying it aired on NBC tonight…and that the event took place in September. Is that correct?


Yes, the tournament I was watching was the Poker Masters final event (100K buy-in). I don’t know when it went on live so I didn’t know the results until I watched it. I think they are replaying event #3 now on NBC sports if you want to watch it. Great field. The tournament I was playing was just an online $55 buy-in - not quite the same level of competition but I did manage a nice cash :):grin:


Great, thanks! I’ll try to find the broadcast. Good to hear you finished ITM on your online tournament!


I’m going to look at this more closely soon (and it’s likely my equity numbers were off), but I had another question about your analysis. How much does it matter how the flop hits range versus range? Hero’s exact hand is ahead of villain’s range, but isn’t it still the case that the flop “smashes” villain’s range because he can have far more nuttish combos and high equity draws than hero can? Villain has far more straight combos and flush draws, while the density of hero’s range is more QQ+/AQ+, so villain’s range “smashes” the flop.

Which brings me back to your question about his raising range on the flop. It seems very hard to make an accurate assumption. Villain should be raising this flop a lot because he can have so many 2-pair/set/straight/flush draws while hero often has an overpair or big Jx/Tx that can call a flop raise. So, villain may be slow-playing his entire range (incorrectly) by flatting, or flatting may show that he is weak and looking to steal the pot on the turn with a bluff rather than raising the flop for value. So, he could be flatting the flop with monsters and raising bluffs, he could be raising the flop with monsters and flatting with hands that bluff scary turns, or he may be flatting with both. This is very helpful to think about, but how do we figure these things out? I have played against this player a lot and still don’t think I can make an accurate assumption.


Vs a balanced player it matters a great deal. Vs someone who probably has no idea what you’re talking about is a different story. IMO, its probably more helpful to consider the types of hands he may have in what proportion and proceed from there. I mean we are already assuming he’s not balanced by giving him a 71% continuation range when he only needs to be defending about 64% vs your flop bet. I’m going to think about how to answer this more fully and get back to it. I’ve been told that I look at it in an odd way and focus on the tails and work towards the middle in the way I approach it. I look for hands I can fold out vs hands that are nutted and then work my way through to hands that can call that are worse. That’s because I know I’m not dealing with a balanced player most of the time so I look for exploits 1st. This works for me but may not be the way you look at it. I hope we can develop this with a few more players to see what works for whom.

Are we sticking with him flatting his entire continue range on the flop or can we make some assumptions that he will likely play like the average player and raise 2-pairs, sets, straight and strongest combo-draws? When you don’t have specific reads, its best to assume he will play like the field does, on average.


Agreed on Villain’s advantage in nut hands. On this very wet flop they are also going to have a larger than normal number of hands that caught a piece (compared with say K73 rainbow), so you’re less likely to get folds to a cbet.

This nut advantage is even more true by the turn - regardless of whether V raises some of their range on the flop - since on the flop they are going to fold all of their complete junk hands and be left with a high density of good draws and made hands. The 7h on the turn completes a chunk of their draws.

With your specific holding as you noted earlier, on the turn you’re ahead from an equity perspective (the blocker value of the Ah seems particularly high), but range vs range you’re behind.

I tend to come at it from the other way round. First I think about my own range and what I should be doing with different parts of it in order to remain balanced. Then I try to think about how my opponent is imbalanced and adjust ranges from there.

So on this turn, I am going to have a default range like:

  • Bet: some nut flushes, KQs, some gutshots that have a heart as bluffs
  • Check-call: overpairs with the Ah-Qh, AhKh, 88, 87
  • Check-raise: remaining nut flushes, some other gutshots with a heart as bluffs
  • Check-fold the rest

Now in terms of adjustments, for example if I think my opponent will over-bluff if I check, I can move some of the hands from the bet range into the check-call range. I can also add some more check-raise bluffs.

My general population read (please tell me if this is off) is that players in general call too much preflop, and play too straightforwardly/passively postflop. So here that would lead me to remove most bluffs and eliminate the check-raising range altogether - just bet for value instead.