What’s Your Play? I HAD Top Pair

We had some fun rivering quads, so let’s play this game again.

Villain views me as aggressive but not crazy. It is extremely unlikely that he is checking behind either a strong made hand or a strong draw on the flop, and he knows that I know that. Other relevant history is that I caught him turning a pair into a bluff when I underbet a river that completed several draws; I had actually rivered a straight.

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $20.00 BB (2 handed) – Poker-Stars Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com

Hero (BB) ($9526.50)
SB ($3306)

Preflop: Hero is BB with Q, K
SB bets $60, Hero calls $40

Flop: ($120) 3, 10, K (2 players)
Hero checks, SB checks

Turn: ($120) 6 (2 players)
Hero bets $120, SB calls $120

River: ($360) A (2 players)


If you bet, be sure to tell us how much and how you will respond to a raise. Likewise, if you check, let us know your plan if Villain bets. I’ll post my thoughts after people have had some time to comment.

30 thoughts on “What’s Your Play? I HAD Top Pair

  1. i think due to some previous history i’d bet something like $150 here. this gives him the chance to make a bad call with any pair that’s not an ace, and protects you a bit if he did float you to the river with an ace as i think any re-raise is going to be something around $500, giving you roughly 2 – 1 on a call. conversely, checking here doesn’t seem like a great option since he’s unlikely to call any re-raise from you with a worse hand. my initial thought is that he has some pair anywhere from 77 – jj and he’s playing cautious as he knows you are aggressive and could 3 bet him anywhere here and put him in a tough spot. it’s hard to see him playing a set like this with the draws out here. the only hands that make sense to me are the above pairs and maybe AJ or AQ, with a chance of QJ, but that’s such a marginal hand to play out of position for a 3x raise pre flop. either way i think the underbet is the way to go here as it gets a bit of value from smaller pairs sometimes and gives him a chance to bluff when the scare card comes down.

    • it was pretty late when i posted, and i didn’t realize this was heads-up. thus QJ is a bigger factor in his holdings here. i still like the smaller bet, but i wouldn’t be so apt to call a big raise if he’s so inclined to put one in. you say that he’s not likely to check behind a big draw, so maybe it’s not as big a factor as it may look. either way, i would expect him to raise any weak ace that paired on the flop and maybe the turn, so i believe you can downgrade any two-paired ace hand from his range. i can also see him playing A hi here like this to the river, since he doesn’t really have to define his range at any point in the hand. still seems likely that he’s trying to get to showdown somewhat cheaply, and i also wouldn’t rule out him trying to turn a weaker pair or K into a bluff here if you do check. all things considered, i like the underbet/call line here as before but i’m paying special attention to his raise sizing on the river for any other clues you may have gleaned from him to help you make a better decision.

  2. I would check call normally since so many draws missed but since the flop was checked, it seems that he really wants to get to showdown. If he has any sort of King I think he would bet (leaving smaller 2nd-pair pocket pairs) and if he had a draw he wouldn’t play it this passively. So, he looks like he has some sort of showdown value hand, such as a pocket pair, strong aces, and Tx hands. Which means you should bet right? Added to that is the fact that if he views you as aggressive, then he expects you to barrel the Ace with almost any hand you bet the turn with. If he is calling you with a wide range then I think a bet is profitable. I would bet around 285.

  3. Oh, and probably fold to a raise. For the aggression reasons mentioned before, he is probably not turning a made hand into a bluff there because there are many bluffs in our range.

  4. I’m torn between betting ~1/2 pot or check-folding. I don’t like check-calling cause this is how I’d expect him to play Ahi pretty often on the flop and the turn, so the A really isn’t a great river card. I also don’t like check-calling because he’d usually bluff most of his draws on the flop, so the fact that a lot of draws missed isn’t really important if he doesn’t play any draws like this.
    I guess it depends on how often he’ll call with marginal hands like Tx or small pocket pairs. This is pretty villain dependent. He might expect you to try to check down Ahi on the turn, so a bet might look very suspicious, if he doesn’t expect you to bet Kx. And there are only so many monsters you can have. And last but not least, you could have all the busted draws in your range.
    So long story short, against an unknown I’d probably c/f. Against a guy that can hand read I like betting ~190 and fold to a raise. While you could make an argument for polarizing your range and betting big, because he’ll usually only beat a bluff anyway, I just don’t think a pot sized bet will get called very often at all unless you have some relevant history.

  5. Kinda a weird spot where check-calling seems -EV but you can probably still value bet. If you think due to history he’s likely not going to try turning 88 or whatever into a bluff again here, then a smallish bet seems good. 1/3 – 1/2 pot. Fold to a raise.

    • FWIW I don’t think it’s weird at all to be able to value bet but not check-call. Unless a lot of draws missed or your opponent is otherwise likely to bluff a lot of hands on the river, your choice is very often between value betting and check-folding marginal hands. This is because a value bet can get called by marginal hands that Villain would not himself value bet if checked to.

  6. In many cases I’d be apt to check-call but here;

    Not only am I value betting less than half the pot but I am snap calling pretty much any size raise because unless the Ace made him a rare a3 a6 two pair, I don’t think he’s raising just a pair of aces and assuming he would be raising to turn his pocket pair into a bluff.

    Furthermore I think he would follow through with a c-bet with AQ, AJ, QJ, any two clubs, unless you had prior information it seems like he would bet. ALSO considering his stack size, it seems like you have been beating him which would also lead me to believe that he’s more apt to make a move like raising as a bluff on a river

    How do you feel? and What did you do?

  7. Bet-Fold half the pot.
    Because three assumptions:
    1.I expect him to be honest because hero image and past history.
    2.I expect him to call Hero with a pair of Kings because of hero image.
    3.Deep stacks with flop and turn betting pattern looks like pot control and could indicate his willingness to show his Kx.I do not exclude QJ for str8 draw or some “low” flush draw.
    I am close to eliminate nut A-flush draw or “Qs Js” because of stack and passive lines.So I see very unlikely he has Ace in his hole .

  8. In a vacuum (which this obviously is not) I bet about $240 and fold to a raise. Without understanding some of your history, I think of a better play.

    My reasoning is it looks like he has some type of hand with showdown value, but is probably weak. If he had a pair, he might pay off. If he rivered a pair or better he will often raise you. He could bluff raise that card, trying to represent the nut flush draw, broadway gutterball, or the open-ender, but my guess is that he raises any of those prior to the river. Thus, those are not really in his range. I think you can safely bet/fold.

  9. Since you imply he can’t have checked QJ on the flop you have the advantage that you’re the only one who can have the nuts, and quite a lot of combos (up to 16) at that. I guess that must somehow play a role here … you could turn your hand into a bluff? Something I would hardly dare to do myself, but I’ll try to discuss it. One thing to note is that the many QJ combos in your range make it hard for him to rebluff you off your good pair.

    As you’re out of position and can’t secure a free showdown anyway, you might as well bet a bit to get value from weaker hands. Can you then 3-bet-bluff if he raises your underbet, quite possibly with an A in his hand? However, that might look too much like a deliberate replay of the earlier hand where you rivered a straight. He might get suspicious. You don’t want to divert his attention from the hand ranges, which work in your favour here, to history mind games.

    So, because of the history, an underbet may make life difficult for you. You could bet more confidently instead, say 2/3 the pot. Maybe he can still call you with a lower pair or lower kicker. If he raises and you can’t call you might then be able to 3-bet-bluff him off what might be A3 or A6. (Or a bluff. And I always say “might” because I’m not sure at all what the best play actually is, or even what the ranges are at such high stakes.) Would the 3-bet line look suspect because the other time that you rivered a straight you started instead by underbetting the river? No, I don’t think so since this situation is different enough. You are representing the nuts. I assume that in the earlier hand a flush draw hit as well, so your rivered straight wasn’t the nuts.

    If you bet big or overbet he will not raise you and thus deny you such a 3-bet-bluff opportunity.

    If he wouldn’t call your 2/3-pot bet with enough worse hands, then a check looks better, plus possibly check-raise, with similar reasoning to above.

  10. Are you SB or BB? You say you are BB preflop but then you act first vs SB postflop???

    Assuming you are SB and villain is BB based on how you describe the hand…. I bet whatever amount looks bluffy to villain to get him to hero = probably 2/3 pot. I fold to a raise.

  11. Except perhaps for A6, I can’t put him on a hand that can stand a check-raise. So I check. If he checks, fine, I got to see a cheap showdown. If he bets anything, I raise.

    I think betting is all wrong here. If he has an ace he’ll just call, giving me zero chance of getting him off it. If he has less, he’ll probably fold. It would be really hard for him to bluff-raise here, even I make a come-get-me bet. If for some reason I did bet and he raised, I’d probably call, but I don’t think he’s going to raise.

    FWIW, I would have bet the flop.

      • “It is extremely unlikely that he is checking behind either a strong made hand or a strong draw on the flop, and he knows that I know that.”

        I think villain will often feel obligated to pay off a c/r with Ax, because the way the hand went down, he’ll very rarely have a better hand than that. It would also be a not very standard line to take for value and in my experience (at a lower level) people are more suspicious when they face an unusual line. Even if Villain gives Hero credit to take this line for value, the only hand that makes sense is QJ, sets and maybe AT. If Villain thinks Hero is capable of c/ring the river, I doubt he’d fold Ax to a c/r.

        • Of course, if you believe he will call a check-raise often enough to put you in -EV if he has an ace, then you don’t check-raise. I’m just saying that check-raising is the only way to get him off an ace. I’d try it against a 10/20 HU player based on the minimal information given. I think the chances of his bluffing if I check are far greater than the chances of his calling with a losing hand if I bet, and I have exactly zero chance of getting him off an ace with a bet.

          Against many opponents, I’d either check-call or check-fold. Against a hopeless calling station who thinks calling with any underpair is de rigeur, I would bet, but you don’t run into a lot of CS’s at HU 10/20.

          • Fair enough. I just don’t think it should be the goal in this spot to get him off Ax because I don’t think that will happen very often (I could be wrong obv).
            Also I don’t think he has to be a calling station to pay off a medium sized river bet with a worse hand. He knows he showed weakness on the flop and he can’t let himself get bluffed out of the pot whenever he checks back the flop and doesn’t improve on turn and river. So he should either check back a monster on the flop some times or call down light in spots where a lot of draws miss or he has reason to be suspicious for some other reason. There is the flush draw that missed and some gutshots that villain could be bluffing with, so I don’t think it’s a bad spot to hero call with Tx or something similar.

              • well… why not? if he’s likely to play A high this way then why couldn’t the other card be a Q or J? i don’t play anywhere near these stakes, so maybe the dynamics are completely different, but my thinking is that you have yet to identify your range in this hand – is it not reasonable to believe you may fire out a pot sized bet on the turn with air or a draw? by him checking the flop and then calling the turn there are all sorts of hands he could have – and you said yourself that he isn’t likely to check behind on the flop with a strong draw. with that in mind, i don’t see it as out of the realm of possibility that he calls with AJ on the turn. his hand still has some showdown value in case you are betting with a draw, no?

              • Sorry, I should have been more clear. I was saying that a busted gutshot isn’t a hand he could be bluffing with on the river, because he wouldn’t call turn with like J9. I agree that AJ/AQ are possible because they have showdown value in addition to their outs, but they don’t need to bluff the river, either.

  12. slight overbet for value, somewhere around $420.

    It’s a merge for sure…but when villain checks behind on flop and calls the turn bet his hand looks like weak showdown value (10x, 44-99). It is possible he can have some Ax, but I think he bets his strong Ax (aj,aq) on the flop for value, and he may fold his weaker Ax to your turn bet instead of trying to bluffcatch 2 streets…so I discount that a bit.

    With given history, an underbet will get you a cheap showdown, since even if he shows up with Ax he won’t be able to raise for thin value…But I think an overbet will get herocalled much more since your percieved range will look more polarized. Also, I’d expect the overbet to almost never get raised since your range is much more nutted than his.

  13. AdTd,AhTh,AsTs,KdQd,KsQs,QJs,Q9o,Jc9c,9c8c,9c7c,9c6c,8c7c,8c6c,7c6c,7c5c,6c5c,6c4c,ATo,KJo+,K9o,QJo
    Those are the only hands I see him playing this way.
    I check call up to $400ish, you have 50+% equity in the pot vs his range. Your hand has value and you are holding one of the Q’s. He is probably not gonna bluff with his weaker hands because he will not want to get blown off of them. He is not going to fold or bet A10, KQ, KJ, AJo, J10 (which is really the only marginal hands he could hold.) With AK, sets, and strong draws he would have been betting. You are either way ahead or way behind.
    He is bluffing more than he is winning with a polarized range.

      • I hate to waffle on my original argument but of course he bets A10 and AJ too. But I still like the check call. I don’t think he will fold to a check raise with anything that is ahead of you because of the possibility that you are bluffing a missed draw.
        It would suck if he had KQ but other than that, I check call.

  14. I think I like bet 1/2 pot, call a pot size bet.
    If you bet 1/2 pot I think he thinks he can get you off an ace or a king.
    Like everyone says you both know he probably doesn’t have ace but you might.
    Plus he can comfortable fold if he is bluffing if you re-raise since you are so deep.
    of course this deep and these blinds is way out of my league so I am probably way off 🙂

  15. i was thinking check/call, but i agree with chris about the villain playing Ax like this. therefore i like bet/folding about 1/3.
    it’s a little cheaper than check/calling and an underbet looks like you’re trying to induce him to ‘make a move’ again.

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