Thanks for all the comments on What’s Your Play? Out of Position With a Flush Draw.
A few people questioned/criticized the pre-flop call, and rightfully so. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s literally marginal, meaning it’s a close decision that’s extremely sensitive to small changes in a number of factors. For instance, if Villain’s raise was to 60, this would be a clear call. If he raised to 90, I’d be much more likely to fold.
The value of a suited connector comes from three sources: implied odds from betting for value after making extremely strong hands, bluff equity derived from taking opponents off of better hands (which is most profitable when you have a draw as a fallback plan), and pot equity derived from showing down a marginal winner. This is true of all hands really, but what makes suited connectors both versatile and tricky is that depending on the situation, they can perform any of these functions more or less well, whereas a small pair for example will almost always rely on implied odds for the bulk of its value. Because suited connectors require so many judgment calls, it’s especially valuable to have position when playing them.
Here I believed that a combination of decent pot odds and an opponent who seemed inclined to play very straightforwardly, mitigating the value of his position, would enable me to turn a profit. I don’t think folding pre-flop would be at all bad, particularly not if you lack confidence in your post-flop and hand-reading skills.
I do think that three-betting would be a mistake, because although suited connectors can be good candidates for light three-betting, this isn’t otherwise a good spot for it. Villain seems mostly to be opening hands he’s serious about, and although he does seem to have a willingness to widen his range in late position, he may well widen his range for playing back to a three-bet appropriately as well.
Swallsjr identifies the central problem with check-raising: “We called preflop. This makes it difficult to rep a range of hands which includes any set (10s,Ks,As), top two (AKs) and even top and bottom (AT).” We have reason to believe that Villain is opening a relatively strong range pre-flop, and this is a flop that connects well with that range. Because it’s so difficult for Hero to represent a nutted hand, Villain is unlikely to fold even his more marginal hits to a check-raise.
The other problem with check-raising, which Gareth points out, is that “the range of hands against which we want to get value when we hit our flush will all have the option of three-betting the flop should we raise.” No matter what Hero does, his draw will not be particularly well-concealed. The hands most likely to put in another bet from behind after a spade hits are generally strong enough to three-bet this flop, causing Hero either to fold away substantial equity in what’s getting to be a big pot or put in even more money from way behind.
Calling doesn’t mean we have to give up on playing this draw aggressively. It just means we’re going to postpone that aggression unless and until a better situation arises. I think there’s reason to expect that such situations will arise with some frequency if Hero calls the flop.
The most common will be Villain checking behind the turn. I very much disagree with those who say that check-calling flop would turn Hero’s hand face-up. On the contrary, while Hero is unlikely to be nutted on this flop, he could very easily have any number of broadway hands that flopped a pair plus straight draw, bottom two pair, or top pair with a mediocre kicker. Any of these hands would check-call the flop. If Villain checks behind the turn, Hero can bet the river and expect that Villain won’t hero call third pair just because a flush draw missed. Of course Villain will sometimes check back hands like KQ or A9 that call the river, but if he checks the turn, that should shift his range into weak enough territory that a river bluff will be profitable when Hero holds 9-high. In any event those hands wouldn’t fold the flop, so this line isn’t costing Hero anything more than check-raising the flop, and I think it tells a more plausible story.
The biggest danger with this play would be if Villain barreled many of his weaker hands on the turn. This is a good board for that, but based on how he’s played so far Villain doesn’t seem likely to do it. If we believed he was, then there would be a case for check-raising the turn, but in this circumstance I would just fold to a second barrel on a blank turn unless it was very small.
The other option which several people pointed out would be to bet turn cards that complete possible straights. Unlike a flop check-raise, this line fits with many hands that could be in Hero’s range. It’s not something I would do with air, but the added equity of a flush draw should be enough to make this profitable. I think it’s important to barrel non-board-pairing non-spade rivers if you take this line, because Villain will have a lot of two-pair combos that will probably call turn and fold river.
I would also bet out on spade turns, in no small part because I don’t expect Villain to bluff or value bet them very often.
If there’s value in check-calling, then there’s no reason to fold.
Another viable option, precluded here because of the way I phrased the question, would be taking the lead away from Villain and betting this flop. Hero can represent a wider value range with this line than with a check-raise, and it denies Villain the opportunity to double-barrel bluff, which we’ve seen would be bad for a check-call strategy. I’d like that strategy best against a better player where the turn bluff was a bigger threat, but here it denies us the opportunity to get information from Villain for free simply by checking and seeing what he does, since he seems to be straight-forward.
Hero (BB) (t3555)
Hero’s M: 79.00
Preflop: Hero is BB with 8♠, 7♠
2 folds, CO bets t75, 2 folds, Hero calls t45
Flop: (t165) K♦, 10♠, A♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, CO bets t90, Hero calls t90
Turn: (t345) Q♣ (2 players)
Hero bets t240, CO calls t240
River: (t825) Q♠ (2 players)
Hero bets t444, 1 fold
Total pot: t825
Hero didn’t show 8♠, 7♠ (nothing).
Outcome: Hero won t825
Thanks again to everyone who participated!