Busted nearly out in AA vs 87, recovery, busted with JJ by 86

From my first SNG of the day:

Start here, and step through until I’m eliminated.

AA called by 78, and beaten: https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/452907077

How this guy is able to call my bet on the flop, I have no idea. On the turn, there’s a straight draw, if he’s holding 67, but who would call with that here? And then a 7 comes on the River, giving any 6 a straight, but I’m not super worried about that given how this hand has progressed, but when the showdown happens, there it is: 2 pair, 8877. I have 62 chips.

I manage to recover by going all in for the next 3 hands, and get a semi-healthy chip stack back in front of me.

A-high Flush gets me to 288 chips, 3700 chips going to the two other players in the hand who chop Broadway: https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/452907357

JAo, 4-way pot, 1182 chips come back to me, thanks to a lucky river that pairs the board and gives me a better 2 Pair, Jack kicker AA77J to beat my villain’s earlier 2 Pair AA66 hand, improved to AA776. https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/452907633

One more shove, AKo just gets me the blinds: https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/452907855

I settle back down and resume my usual style of play.

Then I get JJ, and the player ahead of me raises big, I go all-in. Not a real great call to make on my part since it’s only Jacks, but I’m not so attached to this table given that I had just reincarnated, I feel like if I go out here, so what, and if I double up again here, then I’m back in it for real. So it’s an alright gamble for me to take.

My opponent raised 4.5BB holding 86o, then calls my all-in re-raise, and crushes my Jacks with 3 8’s.


At the end of this series of hands, I “should have” been sitting on half the table’s chips, instead I’m out 9th.

Not every time, but every single time I get some high cards and bet them big, I get a “bad beat” outcome. When I raise more modestly with them, I win some, I lose some. Sometimes I have to dump the hand, sometimes I take in a great pot by the end.

Tell me, why is it good strategy to bet big with big pairs? I think it’s a poor strategy. Sure, you can win heads-up with AA 85% of the time. So the number of times that actually happens? You bet too big, you end up stealing the blinds, and get BB+SB for your premium hand, which is poor value. You bet too small, you get 4-6 callers, and someone dunks on you with 2 pair or better. There’s about a 2-chip gap between too big and too small. When you do bet too big, unless you’re playing my opponents, the only hands that will call you will be another premium starting hand, so unless you’re holding AA, it’s not worth it to bet like it and find yourself with JJ or TT facing down AA AK KK or QQ.

Plus, if you do go for a very big raise only when you have top cards, you’re tipping everyone off that you’re holding top cards, and they pretty soon learn to get out of your way when you bet like that. You can’t have too big a gap between your “regular” playable hand raising and your premium card raises – it’s a tell.

To be a better player than I am, when you play big pocket pairs, you have to be able to let go of them sometimes. Currently that’s too difficult for me.

Glad to see you’re capable of answering your own questions. :slight_smile:

On a more serious note, there are definitely some takeaways from this set of hands. In no particular order:

  • If you’re getting your chips in the middle when you’re way ahead, THAT’S A GOOD THING. You’re playing well, convincing your competitors to make mistakes. Occasionally they’ll get lucky and suck out against you. Make sure your bankroll is structured to take the hits when that happens. If you’re making good decisions, pat yourself on the back, reload, and get back to hunting.
  • Preflop bet sizing is important. Open-jamming UTG+1 with 20BB when the UTG player folded is too aggressive. Betting 4.5BB in the hijack with two earlier flats is probably not aggressive enough, given the number of callers. The biggest struggle I faced coming up through the low-to-medium stakes was how to appropriately calibrate my bet sizing.
  • Postflop bet sizing is important, too. I’d mentioned this in another thread, but you need to be careful about betting the pot on the flop. In this case, it made for awkward bet sizing on the turn, since you had about 1300 chips behind, while the pot with a single caller was 2300 chips. If other players had called, your stack-to-pot ratio would’ve been too small to get any sort of folds with an all-in bluff on later streets. Also, would you have folded on this street facing a re-raise for your tournament life?
  • Be careful about pot-committing yourself. In that same AA vs 87 hand, your turn bet left your opponent with just 78 chips behind, with a pot of over 4700. He’s not going to fold that, and neither should you. Just get it all in the middle on the turn.
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Good questions. I have the same dilemma. If I pick up AA early in a tournament, depending on the number of limpers, I will usually put in a big bet (more limpers, bigger bet) and then examine the texture of the flop. If you have a single caller, the odds that they have a pocket pair and have hit a set is slight, but a possibility. They may also have flopped two pairs, or even a straight. If the flop comes single suited and you do not have an Ace of that suit I would put in a bet of about one third the size of the pot and assume that if the opponent does not raise me, that they are still on a draw, or at least not on a set or two pairs.

In some instances, for example the flop looks drawish, for example QT on the flop that might jigsaw with KJ in the hand of the villain I might just go all in on the flop as another Ace would not help me.

Overall, I think that early in tournaments these hands are a good chance to get a large pot and take it down at the flop. You can also play the same way as a bluff with imaginary AA, raising high preflop getting one caller, flop comes low, you make a stab at the pot.

To me this is more effective that limping into lots of pots and hoping to get hit by the flop, and folding to preflop raises from players in position. These limpo pots can get very expensive if you get a piece of the flop and can’t let it go.

Later in a tournament, depending on stack sizes, I am likely to just raise all-in preflop, or raise enough to put any caller all in on the flop. Ideally I would want to be all-in preflop against a larger stack, so that I could double up.

Of course position is important too. Imagine how sick you will be if you are called by a player in position, you make a stab at the pot on a dry flop, opponent raises you all-in, then flashes KK when you fold.

Poker is a bugger.

There are no easy answers and multiway pots are brutal on everyone. The easiest way to play large pocket pairs multiway is to remember that 1 pair is often not good by showdown. Don’t overplay them pre or post flop and learn to recognize when those pretty hands are no longer best. When you know they aren’t, fold them and move on. Don’t let any starting hand become an albatross around your neck that you can’t put down.

As to the particular hand at the start of the thread, that flop was not great for an overpair multiway if the hand got to showdown. So many 2-pair and strong drawing hands got enough of it to continue. Be really cautious on any flop that dynamic if you have 1 pair and very little chance to improve.


So I laid this hand down pretty good: https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/453002106

KQ hearts, flopped 2 hearts, 2 deuces. I weigh my flush draw against possible danger from the pair of 2’s turning into a boat. Turn brings another deuce, I bail. No sense bringing a flush draw against that hand. But then, that should be flippin obvious to anyone.

Then blow a big hand with AK: https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/453003827

So the question I have is, why does the 15% bad beat happen to me 50% of the time? Is it because so many of the times when I would have won a showdown with AA, everyone folded? Then my EV is +(BB+SB) 50% of the time, -(All-in) 50% of the time, and +(All-in) once or twice in a blue moon.

AA sucks. It’s the worst hand to play.

That’s an easy one. AA has about 80% equity heads up, but as you add competitors, that drops a lot. If there are five players heading to the flop, as often happens in lower-stakes Replay games, you’ll only have about 50% equity. That’s why you need to raise big preflop and knock out most of the rest of the field.

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That’s what I mean. When I do a big raise, there are 3 outcomes:

  1. Everyone folds, and I get the blinds. Mostly this is what happens when I have it in early position. I could try check-raising, but it’s uncommon that anyone raises on limp-friendly tables.
  2. I raise big, and get 4-5 callers, and get beat. I get told I didn’t raise high enough, I try various ranges and there’s like a 2-chip difference between “everyone calls” and “everyone folds”
  3. I raise big, one idiot suicide-calls with like 4-2, and hits 2 pair or a straight.
  4. Once in a while I actually win a decent-sized pot with top pair, AA, 2 Pair AAxx, or Trip Aces.

But it feels oddly low percentage for such a strong hand. I’m sure there’s some confirmation bias going on, but I swear my EV with AA is terrible, well off what probability suggests it should be, and quite possibly negative.

try altering your betsizing on the players you’re playing against.
the baseline is usually raising 3BB’s +1 for each limper. but on a nitty table you could try 2,5 instead. however with a bunch of stations at the table you need to try altering your betsizing based on how loose they are playing. if won’t matter even if you’re making a 20BB raise as long as it means you still get called

I’ve tried a variety of strategies, and betting very big hurts the most.

Betting more than my standard raise is also not very good, it tips people off when I do have a good hand, making those hands easier to avoid, and my weaker hands that I’ll enter with more vulnerable.

My new strategy seems to be working better, so I’m not going to talk about it, and see how I do with it for a while.

i agree on you points in normal circumstances,
but just to be clear, i meant you could raise bigger only if the table has players calling too much. in your previous example you mentioned that you raise big and still get 4-5 callers. such a table is what i mean calling (way) too much. so if you try to increase that betsize until you get 1 or 2 opponents, then your sizing is right. i fully agree that raising that high on a strong table is a terrible strategy, but it’s not when people call too much. instead you get a huge pot with less people with a hand that literally dominates everything.


Well, sure, yeah I agree. Sometimes it helps to know which table I’m at :grin: If it happens early enough on in a tournament, and I don’t have a lot of history on the players, that’s hard to know. But I can see that your advice is sensible. Knowing exactly how to apply it, I’m working on that.

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Agreed - but your “standard raise” size should be one that gets only one caller. If your open size consistently sees 3+ callers, increase it; if you’re finding that you often knock everyone out of the pot, drop it back down. That should be your open size for ALL hands you open, not just your super-premium hands, or else as you’ll become exploitable, as you pointed out. If that means you’re opening to 10x, so be it, but make sure the larger you go, the more you tighten up your range.

With your action on each street, you want to have an idea of how you’ll continue on later streets. Preflop, the goal should be to whittle the field down to one competitor. That’ll make it easier to win the pot, either through value or a bluff.

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I hear ya, and that makes sense, but I’m struggling with how to make that actually work in RPP mid-tier SNG and MTT, which is mostly what I play.

I can’t seem to control the number of callers I get – there’s no magic amount of chips that will isolate to one opponent. The amount varies widely depending on: the blind levels, the number of players still in the game, who those players are, what cards they’re holding that hand, and my position when I’m betting.

What I’ve found is that when I put in 3-4BB + 1BB per limper ahead of me, depends on the situation:

  • If I’m in late position with many limpers, 4BB + 4-5BB is a huge amount of chips, often approaching the point where I might as well shove rather than leave any room for someone else to come back over me. Best outcome here is for everyone to fold to me and I just steal blinds/antes and limp bets, for a reasonable, but small pot. If I do get a caller, I’m worried they have AA AK or so, and then I’m outclassed unless I’m also holding premium pocket cards

  • If I’m in early position, betting just 3-4BB from UTG will normally get very few callers, but sometimes it’ll get 3-4, or someone at the end of the line will raise all-in and then I have to dump the hand if it’s not a premium pair. And even when it is, I’m often up against Aces or Kings, so AK, AQ, AJ, QQ aren’t great in that situation. It seems like a great tactic here would be to limp-raise, but at a lot of mid-tier tables there’s maybe a 10-20% likelihood (roughly) that someone will raise rather than everyone limp. There’s almost no re-raising in RPP mid-stakes play, except once in a while when 2 players have premium cards and re-raise each other until all-in ahead of the flop. If I could count on someone raising later in the hand, I could limp myself with early position and then come around and re-raise when it gets to me. This has maybe happened all of a handful of times in my experience.

  • Later in the game, It’s easier to isolate to one player when the table is down to 5 seats, but when there’s still 9 at the table, a lot of the times you’re going to be 3-5 handed at the flop, almost no matter what you bet. So, it’s dawning on me, maybe this type of 3-4BB + 1/limper play just isn’t good early in a tournament, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad late in a tournament, when we’re down to 4-6 players.

  • But what kills it for me late in a tournament is the size of the blinds, and the size of the stacks. If we’re 5-seated, the blinds are up to say 100-200 or 150-300, even 3BB will often get most people to fold, or else induce them to shove. If they’re short stacked, that 900 chip bet is probably close to the 1200-2000 chips they have left, and if they’re already committed through the blinds, or if they just have decent playable cards, they may shove in response to just a 3BB raise. And anytime someone shoves, if I’m calling then we’re seeing a showdown, which takes away some possible ways to win the hand (eg inducing them to fold through a strong bet.) If I have the big stack at the table, I can sustain that, and successfully bully with bets of 3-5+BB often enough for it to be profitable. If I have a middle or short stack at the table, that bet is such a large chunk of my stack that if I’m wrong and have to dump the hand, or if I get beat, I’m usually toast, so I have to size my bets smaller.

It feels like the style of play that is prevalent at mid-tier stakes in SNG and MTT play is:

  1. Fold if you don’t like your cards,
  2. Otherwise (most players) limp to the flop,
  3. Or raise small (2-3BB, max) if you have slightly better cards or aren’t quite such a beginner,
    3a. If someone does raise 2BB, the passive players will mostly call, and maybe 1-2 players will drop out
    3b. If someone raises 3BB, typically anyone acting after them will fold, and anyone who bet ahead of them will call, and it’s a coin-toss whether the SB or BB will call. Occasionally someone acting after the 3BB raise will also call.
  4. Get 3-5 callers to see the flop, and then
  5. One of them steals the pot on the flop or turn,
    5a. Usually with an aggressive pot-sized bet or bigger,
    5b. Occasionally with just a feeler bet if everyone missed the flop or some scare cards come up, like a pair, all-suited, a straight draw, or one or more Aces.
  6. Usually with a 3-4 handed flop, 1-2 or sometimes all will drop out of it at the flop if someone bets.
  7. If there’s 4-5 in the hand at the flop, it’s more likely someone hit the flop and plays to the river. Once in a while it’s a 3-way showdown. But better than half the hands played end in a fold when someone realizes they’re beat.
  8. In my experience in mid-tier SNG and MTT play, it’s really pretty rare for the pre-flop betting to isolate two players to a heads-up situation, and it’s much more likely that there will be 3-5 players in the hand at the flop. Heads-up at the flop does happen sometimes, but just less commonly. In the hands I choose to enter, it’d be good to figure out how to make that happen.

I seem to do OK in games that play like this, and I seem to do worse when I try to bet my playable cards higher to try to isolate the action to me and one other player. So why is that?

  • Maybe it’s my range, and I need to tighten up more. But when I do tighten up, I end up burned by holding cards that could have made straights or boats, even though they weren’t painted, and missing out on those hands feels like a major lost opportunity.
  • Maybe it’s something else I haven’t figured out yet.

Right now, I’m debating whether a single player’s betting behavior alone could be enough to influence the style of play for the other 8 at the table, in a manner that is profitable to that single player.

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It happens all the time and I wish I could tell you that you get used to it after a while :rage:
In this one, a guy cold-calls my 4-bet from the small blind. I had just had 2-pair beat by the wheel straight 3 hands before so maybe he thinks I’m tilting? Still, he isn’t worried about the original limper or the guy who min-raised him, or the next guy that flat-called. Flop comes 8/9/K and he donk-shoves. I’m getting 2:1 on a call with the overpair so there isn’t a thought about folding it. I’m not drawing dead against anything there and in great shape against most Kx, 9x and 8x. I don’t want to see 88 or 99 but I can’t fold just out of fear of monsters. BINGO!, he has 9/8 and flopped two pair. Nice catch amigo! LMAO and move on to the next game:

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And that my friends, is the only way to stay sane and play online poker.
Kudos Comicguy, we all know just how hard it is to do that. :+1:


I watched that replay. In either position I probably would have done just exactly what the two of you did.
He called a raise equal to less than 5% of his stack with suited connectors to see the flop. After the flop he made a power play to protect his two pair. None of that is really crazy. And I damn sure wouldn’t have folded bullets to an 8 9 K flop. I might have scratched my head before I called a bigger stack all in but a lot of the time I’d go for it.
As you said, nice catch.

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Another one where the cards were going to play themselves. Got AA in against KK and he spikes a K on the flop. You almost know its coming. LOL. Not a thing you can do about it but brush off the momentary shock and move on. Its not Zen or anything like that - you play enough hands of poker and these things happen. Its the weird hands I’ve seen here that bother me - this is pretty normal, even if a bit gross :slight_smile:

Worst part about it is that I knew exactly what he had before I raised - I know the player well enough to know that he raising range is KK and AA (and sometimes AK if he’s feeling frisky). Maybe I could have just called and made sure the flop was clear before getting it in? Nah - get 'em in good and let the cards do their thing. Last night I folded QQ to a shove because I know that player only has one hand he shoves - AA. Nothing is automatic in this game and no hand is a sure winner.


This is the thing I have learned about playing pocket pairs, of any strength: They’re only pairs. Any pair. Even AA.

If you’re all-in, either of you, you’re seeing the river.
Your pair has to hold up until then.

Your pair has ways to improve: Hit a set or quads. Hit a second pair for two pair. Hit a set and a second pair for a full house.

Those are some great ways to improve. But if your hand doesn’t improve, and your opponent hits two pair, trips, or whatever, your pair just got beat.

If you bet your big pairs big, you’re just making the flop expensive to see. You get called, you find out you missed the flop, maybe your opponent hit it. Now what? Now you’re in for a big preflop bet, and it makes you feel committed to the pot. Maybe you shove to protect and try to end the hand, but maybe you’re already beat. Maybe the flop is scary: a pair in the flop, or all-suited, or a sequence that could make a straight. Or if your opponent also has a pair, any single card that happened to turn their pair into a set has your Aces beat.

Pocket pairs are strong, and I want them. Don’t get me wrong. They’re better than not having them. But they’re beatable. If someone’s getting all their chips in, you’re going to see the river, and that’s the best chance they have of beating that pair.

So maybe it’s better to keep the betting small enough that your opponent can realistically still fold. That way, you have one more way of beating them and collecting the pot.

The downside with that thinking is that, if your hand really is the best, then you want to take every chip you can, and keeping the pot relatively small so that the opponent can afford to muck runs counter to that strategy.

There are times to bet big, even all-in, with your premium pocket pairs preflop. But it’s not the right move in every case. Depending on: how early in a tournament it is, how big the blinds are, how big the stacks are, your position, you probably have other options that are better. I’ll play the cards according to the situation, not just according to their face value.

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Concur, 100%.