It's All Relative - Folding Strong Hands to Re-Raises

First, a basic lesson that most of you know:

Absolute strength in poker refers to the inherent value of a specific hand. For instance, a pair of aces is an objectively strong hand. Novice players often focus solely on the absolute strength of their hands, assuming that a strong hand almost guarantees a win. This approach can be misleading and, in some cases, detrimental to their overall game.

Relative strength, on the other hand, takes into account not only the value of your hand but also its strength in comparison to the community cards on the board and the potential hands your opponents might hold. Understanding the relative strength of your hand is crucial, especially in NLH, where the community cards are shared among players.

Understanding the Significance of Relative Value - An Extreme Example

That this can be complicated to grasp in the heat of the moment for even professional players is illustrated in this extremely big pot where most think it’s just a massive cooler. But is it?

What possible bluffs can Mariano have here when Andy makes a big bet on a board with 4 hearts? Some GTO-players may argue that if you can make an A high flush fold you can just move all in as soon as you have a blocker to the straight flush: In this case a King of diamond or a Ten of diamond. But if your opponent has one of these cards in addition to his ace he blocks you instead, so that is a very risky bluff.

If you were in Andy’s situation would you:

A: Snap call and think “Party on!”

B: Think it over but still call since you are at the top of your range.

C: Fold since no sane person has any bluffs in this situation, so he must have a straight flush.


Hi playbetter

Nice Topic absolute sick hand disgusting spot.

I would have to choose option B

You would always have to think it over in this big of a pot.

And as you stated your at the top of your range and there is only 2 combinations you lose to which are.

10 7 Diamonds and K 10 Diamonds

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Hi, RhinoRyan89.

I suspect most players will go for B as you did.

Maybe I should wait for more answers before I give my opinion - but have you seen Doug Polk’s analysis of the hand?

I think it’s very informative:

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Maybe you could find a better example , one with a harder decision . This hand , should you put him in a straight flush hand , and that would mean that you would have to fold ?? Would that be possible ?? Ever ?? For anyone ?? Is that a real question . I would call every time . I think it’s a crappy hand , you just have to pay him , you cannot avoid this . It’s a bad luck hand or bad beat . Unfortunately it’s part of the game .

Now if it was a straight on the flop (hypothetical different scenario) , but on the river board got paired and now you fear a FH , that hand would be worthy of thought , the possibility of danger of the other to have had a set on the flip which became FH on the river , that would be a more interesting hand to talk about . A fold on that case would be worthy to think about . But in this case , no man , just pay him his straight flush , nothing else you could do .

My first thoughts were that you wouldn’t want to bluff with the Kd, because the K high flush can value bet, and that’s one hand you might have a chance of folding out (and the second nut flush can also probably just call). So I think tens with a diamond is the only bluff candidate.
On the other side, I don’t think T8s is going to 4 bet, so really you’re only losing to KdTd.
That’s one combo beating you vs 3 possible bluff combos, but the straight flush is raising there 100% of the time, and TdTx is bluff raising hardly ever. The pot odds are pretty good though, so if they find the bluff 1 out of 15 times it’s pretty close.
The online crushers probably find it, so you’d have to call. Weaker players won’t, but will also turn up with random nonsense sometimes, so you’d have to call. Against a really solid live player like Mariano, he’s never going to be bluffing, and it’s a fold (that probably only Doug and a handful of others could make)
(PS I hadn’t seen that hand or the analysis before, so thanks @playbetter )

A great topic and a good ground for reflection.

Watching this video, the solution seems simple: discard the cards. But when we play, we always think: naaaaaah, it can’t be, it’s so rare and so on…

I vibrate the “B” variant, because even assuming that the opponent may have a straight flush, I will always think that this is such a rare situation that it’s just stupid to reset the upper Flush.

In the end, I think that, in most cases, I will win with this arrangement of cards and because of the chance of losing, I will not fold my cards.

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Wow, what a great hand. The option B will be the natural choose of course. I don’t see my self folding “Ace high flush” in a cash game. I would not snap call, thinking theres a straight flush in that board but like i say before, i’m not folding. But if you think about it… What cards can he actually had? KsTd it’s very likely and make more sense of AoKd or KoKd.

Yeah, I think it’s also an interesting question what you would do in Mariano’s position if he did just have the K high flush? Worse flushes likely aren’t overbetting, so call seems bad, but raising and folding aren’t appealing either.

The example is fine. Because if you ever play over 10NLH online or 2/5 Live it is an obvious and clear fold to the re-raise.

If you don’t believe me maybe you believe this article:

I see that you think about the situation instead of acting by instinct like most players at the lower levels.

If you play here on Replay or very low stakes online or Live maybe you could find a call. But it’s for some of the reasons you mention very, very rarely a bluff so it’s a not easy but clear fold. People just don’t find bluffs in this kind of situation if they are not pure maniacs or so bad that they overvalue every flush.

The fact that there are four to a flush on the board makes it even more standard to just call (or fold) a worse flush since a big bet often is the ace-high flush on this board. If you have a king high flush here you basically bluff-catching or calling an overplay. You certainly not raising or re-reasing since you can’t be called by worse from almost any player.

Here is an article from a colleague of Doug that explains the same thing as in his video:

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Interesting topic! I agree that a good player must take relative strength into account based on the board texture, the action pre and post flop, and the range you put your opponent on. In this example, I would go with option B. I could not fold the Ace high flush. It is just too tough to put him on the straight flush even though that is the only hand other than a bluff that makes sense in this extreme case.


All of it is bull on Replay because we don’t have but a few seconds to make the play.

Very interesting topic with nice poker video.
I think there is one situation where an excellent player should be alarmed on turn with the 3 on board, where action starts because on flop pot isnt big and they are checking, on turn Andy(A-4) checks in first position and is acting very passive and then Mariano(K-10s) is betting 1/4 potsize - and Andy is reacting with a raise to 35.000 which is only CALLED by Mariano. I would be very cautious on river and not make a bet which is higher than potsize- i think his move wasnt good because maybe he wasn´t even thinking about straight flush( 2 options 8-10s or 10-Ks) and his villain Mariano played it awesome. Mariano had nuts already at flop and really played it cool and got a big pot out of it!!!
So in my opinion i would check and fold at river in worst case!

It’s a very extreme hand.

I would definitely go with A option. Mariano open-raised/4bet UTG so he represents a hand like AxKd or KxKd, definitely a very strong hand. He gets brutally lucky as he flop the straight flush. The hand goes as it should go till the river. Mariano moves all-in on the river, but he wouldn’t do this without the absolute top of his range. As Andy played the hand he could very easily have the Ace of diamond. Of course he couldn’t muck the hand. I wouldn’t put an opponent who 4bet pre UTG on a K10s hand. But happened.

The board is not paired, so no way I would muck my nut flush.

One thing to consider is of course the moment when the re-raise is made. How many of us would fold a strong hand in pre-flop? Especially if we knew that our opponent is not a solid player? Flop should always make us re-think our situation, but in pre-flop it is a gut decision if we truly have strong cards in our hand.

In my place I would continue calling but carefully not too forcefully with these cards on the table I don’t think anyone would dare to try to steal the pot