WHAT HANDS are your opponents likely to play? What does their betting on each street tell you about the strength of their holdings? What are your relative stack sizes?
Those are some of the questions you need to answer as you compete for a pot, especially if you face an all-in call on the river.
Young, maniacal pro Joe Sebok put the pieces together in this hand from the 2007 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event. With blinds at $100-$200, Sebok held 9-10 suited in the big blind. Four players limped and the small blind completed the bet holding A-J suited.
"If there are a couple limpers, I'd consider raising and trying to take down the pot," said Sebok, who represents the Full Tilt Poker online site. "But the fact that there are five other limpers, that's the perfect hand. You're going to play it well against a lot of players. It plays well against big pairs because you can get paid off so well."
Sebok checked, and six players took a flop of 9-10-6, two spades, giving Sebok top two pair.
The small blind checked, Sebok bet $700 into a $1,200 pot, and the player to his left raised to $1,500. Action folded to the small blind, who called.
"I'm thinking he's on a draw," said Sebok, the son of top pro and "Big Game" regular Barry Greenstein. "I didn't think he'd have 7-8 because he's one of those players who would raise immediately even if he had the nuts.
"I re-pop it to $5,500 to try to get the raiser out. He folds; he must've had something like Q-10, J-10. The small blind calls. I was scared of the spade draw."
The turn came the 4 of clubs. Both players checked.
The river came the ace of diamonds.
"That's a perfect card for me," Sebok said. "Most of those times when people have a spade draw, they have the ace."
The small blind immediately moved in for his remaining $12,000 or so.
Sebok faced a tough decision, but he knew his opponent's hand. Plus, he had the cushion of a stack of around $27,000.
"I would still have a lot of chips behind if I did lose," Sebok said.
"That's a big factor, a massive part of the equation. If it was for all my chips, I probably would've folded my hand."
Sebok called and busted the player's aces with his two pair.
"The bottom line is, if he has the stone-cold nuts on the end, is he really going to jam it?" said Sebok, whose Web site is joesebok.com. "He's probably going to want to get paid off, especially after I checked on the turn, feigning some weakness. Then he'd never want to push, feeling he'd never get paid off."
Street: Another name for each round of betting; the turn is also known as fourth street because it's the fourth board card, and the river is also known as fifth street because it's the fifth board card. *
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