MOST OF THE TOP poker players advocate aggressive play in tournaments because you need to amass chips to win, and top poker players are looking to win, not just get into the money.
They point out that aggressive play gives you two chances to take down a pot: Your opponent might fold, or you might have the best hand.
But sometimes simply calling a big bet when you have position on an opponent can be just as intimidating and profitable.
At the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2007, with blinds at $200-$400 plus a $500 ante, Johnny Chan drew K-7 suited on the button, the most powerful position in the game after the flop because every opponent must act before you.
With a big stack that allowed him to play a wider range of starting hands, Chan called a raise to $1,200 by a player in middle position. Heads-up, the two players took a flop of 9-8-3, two diamonds.
The original raiser made a pot-size bet of $3,500. With the second-nut flush and a backdoor straight draw, Chan called.
"He probably had a pocket pair, maybe two 10s or two jacks," said Chan, who won the World Series of Poker main event back to back in 1987 and '88. "I could've raised it, but I didn't want to gamble at that time. I figured that because I had position, if a blank comes off, he's going to check anyway."
The turn came the 3 of hearts, pairing the board, making a full house possible. The original raiser checked, allowing Chan to check behind him and take the free card that his calls before and after the flop had earned him.
The river came the queen of diamonds, completing Chan's flush. His opponent checked again. Was he trying to trap the aggressive Chan into betting into a full house or the suited ace of diamonds? If the original raiser held that type of hand, it was more likely that he would make a value bet of about half of the pot.
So, using the value of position and having shown strength by calling down his opponent earlier, Chan made a value bet of his own.
"When he checked, I knew I had the nuts," said Chan, who has won a remarkable 10 WSOP bracelets. "That's why I bet $5,000. If I bet $10,000, he probably wouldn't call.
"I put him on two 10s or two jacks and nothing changed. When the queen came on the river, it was an overcard, so I was pretty sure that the $5,000 was the right bet. I could've tested the water and got greedy, but if he doesn't pay me off, then I'm $5,000 short of where I could've been. Now I had an extra $5,000 in my stack."
Backdoor straight draw: Three cards to a straight with two cards to come.*
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