Thanks for all the comments on What’s Your Play? Suited Broadway Preflop. You all came up with some really diverse suggestions, and some interesting conversation resulted. I do think that changing the game conditions and player profiles (including, as some of you astutely mentioned, those of the players still to act behind you) could swing this to a fold, a call, or a raise.
The Case For Folding
This is the least appealing option, and in practice I probably just wouldn’t sit in a game where the conditions that would cauto pse me to fold this would be likely to arise. Against two top-notch opponents, and especially with more tough opponents behind you, I’d fold. Even under these conditions, deeper stacks could compel me to call or three-bet, but with these stacks you need an appreciable post-flop edge that is not merely positional because you figure to be in bad shape against their ranges for entering the pot in such early position. Thankfully, we are not playing against such players, and against weaker opponents this is exactly the sort of hand you want to use to exploit their mistakes.
The Case For Calling
UTG is the mark at the table, and we’d like to play pots with him. Calling gives us the best chance of bringing him along and keeps the stacks nice and deep which maximizes our positional advantage.
Gareth and others make the important point that the risk of a squeeze from someone behind could take a bite out of the profitability of calling, but I agree with Aldune that, “Generally I would never worry about getting squeezed in a 2/5 game. This happens way too infrequently for it to a decisive factor in this hand.” It’s worth asking whether someone behind you will make this play with a good frequency, but the answer will usually be no.
Several commenters shared Piers’ concern that “[the raiser’s] range has us crushed so much of the time you’d have to be concerned about calling his c-bet on a T or Q high flop.” Even if his range really is that strong, though, position can help us to navigate these treacherous waters, though. For instance, if we have a read that UTG2 won’t continuation bet a whiffed Ace-King into multiple callers, then we can fold to a bet even if hit top pair without any redraws, but we can also count on stealing a lot of pots when checked to. Otherwise, it will probably be safe to peel one when we flop top pair and fold to further action from him.
As for UTG, Mh says, ” I expect the loose UTG to check/call the flop most of the time.” This is a common misconception about loose players. A player who sees the flop with an excessively wide and weak range is actually going to check and fold a lot of flops (or, if he doesn’t, he’ll check and fold a lot of turns). Weak pre-flop ranges turn into weak flop ranges, and even if his standards for what counts as a “fit” are on the low side, he’s still going to have a lot of “folds”.
These players actually end up being very good targets for semi-bluffing, because there comes a point where they have to let go of all of those weak hands. Basically, all of their calling ranges are too wide. They call pre-flop and fold flop often. They call pre-flop and flop and fold turn often. They call to the river and then fold often. And, because their pre-flop ranges are so wide, they still have enough weak hands to call three barrels too often. So you can keep firing with your draws, profit from the many weak hands that will fall by the wayside on each street, and also benefit from their willingness to pay off when you complete your draws.
I discuss this concept in greater detail in How To Bluff a Calling Station.
What you cannot afford to do is try to “set mine” with this hand and expect to profit by being loose and passive. In other words, you can’t call, hope to flop two-pair or a draw, fold when you don’t, play passively when you do, and expect to show enough of a profit on the rare occasions that you actually make a strong hand to make up for all those earlier calls from behind. This is the mistake that Ed Miller calls “playing poker like a slot machine”. If you’re going to play this hand, you need to use your position and your draw equity to push your opponents out when the opportunity arises.
The Case For Raising
Given that you’re anticipating some post-flop aggression, it would be great to get the ball rolling pre-flop. After all, by flatting you take most of the strongest pre-flop hands out of your range, and that makes it harder to represent strength later.
As Piers points out, the big drawbacks to 3-betting are the risks of putting in a lot of money against a very strong range and possibly even being blown out by a 4-bet. Several people correctly mention that 4-bets, like squeezes, are rare in these games, and we can probably assume that UTG2 is not going to 4-bet light. It seems, then, that a lot of the risk of 3-betting could be eliminated if we could exclude the top 5% or so of hands from UTG2’s range.
Brian was the only commenter to mention the possibility of sizing tells, but if we have reason to believe that UTG2 would have made a larger raise with his strongest holdings, then this has the potential to swing a call to a 3-bet. Many people assumed that because this player is described as “bordering on nitty” that he must have a big hand. What would you expect such a player to do with 99 or AJ in this spot? Trying to isolate a loose player with a small raise seems in character.
What about if this same player had AA? The best players will keep their pre-flop sizing consistent so as not to give away information like this, but many people will be tempted to make a larger raise. After all, they can expect UTG to come along even for a larger raise, and many of these players hate getting drawn out on or playing multi-way pots when they have big pairs.
If we’re right about UTG2 capping his range with this raise size, then 3-betting and barreling will be extremely profitable. Only low probability events such as someone behind waking up with a monster or someone calling and flopping a monster should keep us from winning this pot.
I think a lot of people are overestimating the value of a strategy built around making a huge hand and getting paid by UTG (as I argued before, his looseness doesn’t necessarily translate into auto-stacking him; in fact the opposite may well be true) and not appreciating the value of locking up, with a high probability, the $30 that is already in the pot. I even think that there are further implied odds attached to 3-betting, not just because you will occasionally make a strong hand but because you may well make more money from barreling than from getting folds immediately.
With only 120BB stacks, there’s not a need for a large raise. $50 – $55 should be enough to isolate UTG2 (though if UTG wants to cold call that’s fine too) and set you up for more profitable bluffing later should you get called.
A new post is coming shortly for discussion of flop action.