New! Podcast Breakdown: Episode 39

Here at Just Hands Poker we're always trying think of new ways to help our readers and listeners improve their games and enjoy thinking about poker. With our private students, Jack and I often recommend doing a lot of active studying, primarily in the form of range analysis. Trying to put players on an exact range of hands is difficult, but the process helps one's intuition in the moment at the tables improve more than any other method I'm aware of. So now every week, either Jack or I will be demonstrating what this type of study can look like when applied to hands we feature on the podcast. Sometimes after careful thought we might end up disagreeing with our thoughts recorded when we first heard the hand. And maybe sometimes you might even disagree with us - we hope these regular posts further the conversation about our podcast hands and if you have anything to add or disagree with what I came up with, your comments below will be much appreciated!

Here's a recap of the hand from this week's podcast:

Location: Bellagio

Stakes: $5/10

MP (1500) limps, Hero (5k) makes it 40 in MP+2 with A3s, Button (5k) makes it 140, BB (2500) calls, Hero calls.

Flop (430)


BB checks, Hero checks, Button checks.

Turn (430)


BB leads for 260, Hero calls.

River (950)


BB bets 450, Hero calls.

So for the hand discussed on Episode 39 of the podcast, I started with putting both of the players in the hand with Leo on specific ranges based on the information Leo gave us. Note that yellow means all combos, and green means 1/2-1/4 of the combinations.

For the button, we didn't have much information except that he somehow showed up postflop with 42o in a raised pot and was able to thinly value bet correctly. I inferred from this that this player is fairly to very aggressive and is likely unbalanced in his 3betting range on the button towards bluffs, hence the propensity of lower suited connectors and suited aces. (Note: after having the chance to reflect on my thoughts, this range is a little different than the one you will hear at the end of the podcast).

Button Range

My big blind flat calling range seems pretty uncontroversial to me - I think when most players flat 3bets OOP, they're likely to be unbalanced towards high card hands and medium pocket pairs. I put the other combos in because some players will always call to set mine in that spot and some players just can't bare to fold AJ, AQ, or J10s for just a single 3bet.

Big Blind Range

So now on the flop, against these ranges it's clear Leo likely has the best hand with 55% equity in this 3-way pot. 

So should we check or bet? After thinking about this spot a lot, it all really hinges on two assumptions that are difficult to know:

1) What percentage of the time he's turning his very low equity hands like 910s into stabs on a board like this that favors his range.

2) How often he is value betting A2-A10.

Even for someone who is quite aggressive and bluffing too much in this spot, I think given the action it's a safe assumption that he on some level senses these two ranges are strong even if he still has a range advantage on this board. Therefore he will likely not barrel most of his hands that completely missed. But because he did show up somehow with 42o in a raised pot, I think we can't completely rule it out. But even if by checking he now will bluff 20% of the time, that's still not enough reason to check as missing a street of value from the big blind's high Ax heavy range is worse than missing value from the 5-20% of the time the button will make a low equity bluff.

So if this player will opt to thinly cbet his weaker Ax hands the majority of the time, this is a clear check-evaluate. We get to see what the big blind does and potentially make an exploitative fold against a straightforward player if he raises. We also get to decide if based on what the big blind does, if we think a check raise is likely to get called by worse hands from either player. But if this player is checking back his Ax hands, then by checking we're missing a ton of value from the button, as well as the big blind the times they both have an ace or one has an ace and the other has a draw.  

Based on the information we have, I think this player is likely value betting A2-A10 a lot. As a player who often has a very aggressive image at the table, I choose to value bet thinly in spots where most players might opt not to because I think I will get called down wider than most. Putting myself in the button's shoes if everyone recently saw me show up with 42o, I would think I'm likely to get action from both player's kings and queens, most jacks, and a wider range of draws than normal. Therefore, I should be betting the vast majority of my A2-A10 3bet bluffing combos for value here, giving Leo a clear check on the flop.

What do you think? Based on what we know will the button likely bet a lot of their Ax hands?

As played, Leo checked and and the button checked. 

The turn brought a 5 of spades, giving Leo the backdoor nut flush draw to go along with his top and bottom pair. Now when the BB leads out for 260, combinatorially, they are most likely to have a pair of aces here, even though they have AJ, sets of jacks, fives, and the very unlikely 3s and aces occasionally here.

Here are the updated ranges on the turn that reflect the button checking back and the big blind leading out.

Button Range (turn)

Given the check back by the aggressive player on the button, we can take out all of his stronger value hands, so we're doing very well against his 3bet pre check back this flop range.

On the other hand, the big blind's range is still uncapped, and when they lead turn here, there range becomes stronger than their check OOP on the flop range. 

Big Blind Range (turn)

I put in that the big blind would lead with all of his draws, but given we have the ace of spades and the jack and ace of hearts are on board, combinatorially it's quite difficult for him to have many semibluffs. He's primarily leading out with pairs of aces we have significant equity against, and sets and AJ that have us crushed.

It's easy to be afraid of the monsters under the bed, especially from the straightforward player who cold called a 3bet. But looking at how we do against their whole range, we're ahead most of the time. Looking at the equity calculation below can be a bit deceptive because the times he has Leo crushed he's 'crushing' A3s more than A3s is ahead of AK and AQ.

That is why Jack and I both agreed that making a small raise for value on the turn is best, especially from an exploitative approach where the player as described is unlikely to fold top pair given the action and we don't have to worry about getting 3bet bluffed by a balanced range.

But in game Leo just called. What do you think here - should Leo have checked or maybe gone for the thin value raise like Jack and I recommended?

On the safe river, 9d, when the big blind leads here for about half pot, I think Leo has an easy call. He is likely beating most hands betting for value and given the pot odds he's getting he only needs to win 25% of the time to have a profitable call. It's hard to imagine AK and AQ, the main value targets, will call here without any history so on this street everyone agreed a flat was best.

We always appreciate your feedback and would love to know your thoughts on this hand and this new component on the podcast - thanks for reading!