Mailbag: Going Crazy With a Low Flush

Thinking Poker MailbagQ: My son and I have different opinions on a hand I played this week and would love to here your take. The game is live 1-2 and I have been running crazy good and only showing down big hands. My stack is at $1200.

Villan is young aggressive and only been at table for about and hour and has run up to about $700 playing about 75% of hands but playing well post flop and showing down several hands such as 8-3s 7-4s and 9-5s. No one else at table has more than $300. 

I raise to 7 from late mid pos with j-8s (questionable I know) and he calls from button. Flop is 347 all spades (flopped flush) and I lead for 10 and he raises to 30. I put him on wide range with maybe ace and just flat. Turn is a blank and I check and he leads for $45. I raise to $145 and he reraises with $300 on top with about $200 back and I hated life. I decided based on the player I couldn’t fold and put him all in and he called and showed 9-6s for smaller flush. My son thought my lines were ok and thought i had to get it in but I thought we both made mistakes and should not be playing a $1400 pot with these hands…. I always enjoy your analysis and Im curious as to your thoughts.

A: I’d say that you identified the central problem in your question: playing J8s from middle position when effectively 350 BBs deep with a loose-aggressive player on the button is a disaster. The bad spot that you end up in post-flop is a direct result of this decision. Funny how what seems like a 3.5BB decision spirals into a 350BB disaster, eh?

When you’re playing a game that has “no limit” right there in the title, you have to be conscious of the fact that your entire stack could end up in the pot at any time. That means that you need to play with an eye towards making hands that will be worth your stack, and thus the hands you choose to play should be different when you’re 100BB deep than when you’re 300BB deep.

This hand illustrates how difficult it is for J8s to make a hand worth 300BBs. Obviously with just a pair of Jacks or 8s you wouldn’t want to stack off. How would you feel about a JJ5 or 887 flop? Even when you make one of the very best possible hands these cards can make, you’re still reluctant to bet everything. That’s an indication that you shouldn’t have been in the pot to begin with. You just won’t get that T97 rainbow flop very often.

Your standards can be a little looser when you have position, which makes it easier for you to control the size of the pot and determine where you stand. Here, though, you had reason to anticipate that this player would play his button, since you knew how active he’d been. That drastically restricts the number of hands that you can play pre-flop, and you should weight your range heavily towards suited Aces, pocket pairs, suited broadway hands, and the biggest suited connectors. These sorts of cards have the potential to make nut and near-nut hands and draws to same, which even nut draws are often easier to play than marginal made hands with little hope of improvement.

In the actual example, I think you should fold to his turn three-bet. If we assume that he never does this without a flush but would do it with any flush no matter how small, you’re still way behind. There are quite a few more combos of suited Aces, Kings, and Queens than there are suited small cards, particularly given that you hold two of those small cards. I actually just published an article on this in Card Player magazine, but it doesn’t seem to be available on their website.

The only thing that could change my mind would be if he 3-bet his button very often and that in particular you knew that he liked to use suited Aces for this purpose. If we could assume that he would 3-bet many of his suited Aces and suited broadway hands, then the combinatorics probably favor a call given there’s already a fair bit of money in the pot.

Needless to say, his turn 3-bet is even worse than your 4-bet. To be honest, though, assuming I wasn’t going to play it that badly, I’d rather have his hand on the button than yours in middle position. Position just matters more and more the deeper you get.

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7 thoughts on “Mailbag: Going Crazy With a Low Flush

  1. I disagree with your statement “If we assume that he never does this without a flush but would do it with any flush no matter how small, you’re still way behind”, at least the “way behind” part, and folding to his turn 3 bet.

    Since he’s playing 83s we can assume he’s not going to fold 72s or 32s on the button. I fired up PokerStove, and if you take out all of the flush combo’s without a J,8,3,4 or 7 you get 21 combinations that beat his jack high flush and 16 combinations that lose to it. Not including rake at the time he made the turn 3 bet there was already $567 (1+2+7+7+30+30+45+145+300) and $200 behind. So you can fold, or risk $355 (calling his raise + raising him all in) to win $767. Folding is worth $0 dollars. Shoving he loses $355 21 times ($7455) and wins $767 16 times ($12272), for an average profit of $117.48 ([12272-7455]/41). For each suited ace you can realistically discount that adds about another $17 to the average profit. Wether he should have gotten to the point of the turn 3 bet is one thing, but once he’s there he cant fold (against this Villian).

    Hope I did the math right.

  2. Whoops, I miscounted. I way miscounted. This is why I should probably invest in Flopzilla. Anyway there are 18 flushed better than jack high and 11 that are not. So you win $767 11 times and lose $355 18 times, so the math works out to be $75.81 on average ([8437-6390]/27).

    • I regret not actually doing the combinatorics in this post – I was trying to get it up in a hurry – but your comment prompted me to count. I came up with 19 combos that beat J8s and 9 that lose. Not sure why our total number of possible combos differ, but I imagine you counted 65s as a hand Hero beats, when in fact it makes a straight flush.

      Also shoving will cost Hero about $500 (Villain’s 3bet was for 300 more with another 200 behind), and he’ll win ~$875 (the money already in the pot plus Villain’s $500 behind) when he wins. So I get ($875*9 – $500*19)/28 = -$58 in EV.

      It’s certainly not unheard of for me to screw up this sort of thing, and I haven’t yet had my morning coffee, but that looks right to me.

  3. Interesting hand here .. and also the exact type of hand I commonly see at 1-2. Depending on the setting (player/table dynamic) this is the type of hand I want to have OOP against such an opponent. With him only flatting pre-Flop (and assuming to give him credit for seeing my stack and wanting to tangle) I put him on junk trying to hit a Flop and out play me. He is going to raise any A, K and maybe Q suited pre-Flop. I also see no where in your comments indicating what you think he is putting us on … which is almost as important as what we put him on, right?

    He must be putting us on xAs or set, maybe overpair with spade and has a fear of the River … otherwise why not just flat our 145 and let us hang ourselves some more on the River? Does he even consider we have a flush? Not in most cases that I have found. I have even seen 56 turned over in this spot. Your math is only considering combinations of made flushes and shows a small loss … so by default (since I don’t have the tools) my head tells me if you start to inlude many more of the potential holdings that this type of player may have you should show a positive outcome long term. He is actually putting us on the same type of hands we are putting him on … not the nuts/can be beat/make um pay to draw since I think I am ahead.

    Hey … we are playing 1-2 … we have no patience for AA v KK. This is right up our alley and although we are dealing with a WAY above average pot size this is the outome we are going to get with even above average players that I have run into. Would you expect any different from the high stakes cash guys on TV playing 300-600 and putting in 200k? Did you say something about 300BB behind … hmmm.

    He has to have one of 3 cards that beat us (and he is going to raise if he has one of those cards most of the time pre-Flop) … then he has to have a suited partner (which increases the likelyhood that he raises pre-Flop) … or he is behind and banking on pushing us off our hand = huge price to draw or weak made hand. If he has strt flush, then nice hit and move on … our emailer is still up for his session and only fearing that this guy will cash out soon.

    Not to look like a rant, but we are playing 1-2 for a few hours … not 10 tabling on the ‘net for days. Maybe not the smartest rout, but why does Tiger take irons out of bunkers from 200 over other bunkers when the middle of the green is available? To see if it an be done … to feel it!! We pay $7 for a movie right? Why not be part of one .. so to speak.

    • Thanks for the comment, answer. Regarding whether Villain could have worse than a flush, I was just going with what seemed to be the Hero’s assumption. Certainly dropping non-flush hands into Villain’s range, particularly two-pair and straight combos that are drawing near-dead or dead, will greatly improve your equity to the point where getting it in here would be profitable. Likewise if you assume Villain would have 3-bet many of the better flush combos in his range, which I did allude to in my post. Are you saying that you’d expect Villain to 3-bet any suited K? That’s quite an assumption to make without a very specific read.

      I do want to address what I think is some flawed logic here:

      1. “He has to have one of 3 cards that beat us (and he is going to raise if he has one of those cards most of the time pre-Flop) … then he has to have a suited partner”. Yes, the odds of him having been dealt a hand that could beat us are slim. That would be relevant if we were playing against a random hand. The odds of him being dealt a worse flush are also slim, even slimmer in fact. But he has to have something, and if Hero doesn’t think he would play anything but a flush this way…

      2. “still up for the session” is never a reason to make a decision. The right play has nothing to do with whether you’re up or down, how you’ve been doing in recent hands, etc.

      Thanks again!

      • Thanks for setting my math straight. In addition to not counting 56s as a losing hand, I mis-read when he wrote “all in for 300 on top” for “all in for 300”. That’s what I get for trying to solve poker problems right before bed.

        answer20 makes an interesting comment, “Depending on the setting (player/table dynamic) this is the type of hand I want to have OOP against such an opponent”. If someone is going to spaz out with a baby flush like this then you would think that’s exactly the type of person you want to play against out of position, since he’s playing predictable with a weak range.

        I’ll give an example from my last live session. Sitting with $110 behind at $1/$2, maniac on my left. I limp UTG with JJ, maniac raises to $10. Since maniac is raising the majority of his hand from all positions the other players correctly assume he’s probably weak, and 4 other players call. I shove, maniac calls, and another player eyeing maniac’s stack callsj (they both were about $400 behind). Maniac bets $100 on a T high flop to drive the other player out, and my JJ holds up against JTo and I triple up.

        But as the math shows the deeper you are the less you want a hyper aggro in position on you, even the maniacal bad spazzy ones. In this particular example with the low flush Hero’s line is unprofitable when the effective stacks are 350BB, but if the effective stacks were 270BB it would be. It’s just not a very intuitive conclusion unless you do the math or have experience playing that deep.

      • Didnt see your comment pop up. Agreed that if Hero puts him on a flush, then it is a bad call. I am eliminating most (if not all) flushes that beat us based on what I think this player would do pre-Flop with a suited A,K or Q, which is 3-bet to $15-$20 due to an assumed heads up with another big stack forth coming.

        Agreed again, but you and I both know that the recreational player has this button and it will be pushed … and is very effective for recovering from previous suck-outs whether against this player or not. The hot seat, hot card/suit, deck change, seat change … all of that lives a very good life at 1-2 and you just need to be there to be apart of it!!

        Keep the emailers coming as you know this is the type of blog I am drawn to … see you at the tables.

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