This is a situation that comes up frequently enough to warrant some consideration. You find yourself barely committed to a hand, then a flop comes that changes everything. Like you’d been laying low, trying to figure out where the buffet line begins, when all of sudden you’ve been asked to deliver a toast to the happy couple. Now you’re the center of attention. You are expected to speak. But what are you going to say?
Do you bet? For as long as I can remember this was an automatic bet for me. I know that flopping a flush is a statistical rarity. For the guy holding two suited cards, he’s flopping a flush something like 1 out of 118 times. In fact, if three diamonds come out like this, it is more likely than not neither of my two opponents holds a single diamond. Of course, if one does have a diamond, he’s probably going to be sticking around for the turn (especially if that diamond isn’t especially low).
So it’s very likely -- almost a certainty, really -- that I’m ahead. And there are big draws out there, flush and straight. So I gotta protect, right?
Like I said, in the past, I would always bet. If the fourth diamond came on the turn, I’d often weakly remain in the hand (by check-calling) in the hopes of filling up on the river (even if pot odds weren’t quite enough to warrant sticking around). In other words, I hated letting go of my flopped two pair, and so often ended up paying off my drawing opponent when they didn’t hold up.
The other day, though, I was in this very situation and decided to do something different. I checked. And when the cutoff bet and the small blind folded, I just called. I figured if anyone was on a draw, he wasn’t folding to my open bet on the flop, nor would a check-raise likely scare him away. Pessimistic, I know . . . but I’d made up my mind that I didn’t want to lose a lot on this hand. I thought I’d try to keep the pot small and see what the turn brought.
The turn was the . No straight. No flush. My top two pair was still the best hand, I was sure. I checked and as I’d hoped the cutoff bet. I check-raised, and he called me. The river was the . I bet, he folded, and I took the pot of $6.20 (giving up thirty cents to the rake).
I don’t know what my opponent had, but clearly he didn’t have a queen. He likely had a diamond. And he may even have let go of bottom or middle pair. Of course, if he had flopped the flush (or made a set), I was doomed. But he didn’t, and I wasn’t. As it happened, I’d probably extracted the most I possibly could have from this particular hand.
I looked back in Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth’s Small Stakes Hold ’em to see if there were any sort of justification for how I’d played the hand. It had felt right to me, and (of course) the result made me think I’d done well here.
Speaking of “Slowplaying,” the trio point out that it is never a good idea to risk large pots by slowplaying. (I hadn’t done that.) But they don’t recommend giving free cards with draws on the board, either. (I had done that.)
However, in the section about “Protecting Your Hand,” they describe situations where a post-flop raise will not protect your hand. One example involves being in the big blind and flopping two pair with straight and flush draws on the board (e.g., you have T8 and the flop comes QT8 with two hearts). “If you raise now,” they explain, your opponents “will often call anyway,” particularly when there are multiple players still involved. “The best plan is to call now, hoping for a safe card. If fourth street is a blank, plan to check-raise then.” This was precisely the plan I had followed in the hand (although I wasn’t necessarily conscious of any theoretical basis for playing it this way).
Does the math support the play? Doesn’t seem to, really. When I check-raised the turn, my opponent faced 4.5-to-1 pot odds to call; thus, he was certainly justified to call if indeed he was hoping to complete his flush (around 4-to-1 to hit). However, a bet on the flop wouldn’t have been much better, odds-wise. If I had bet, the cutoff would’ve had 4-to-1 to call (and surely would’ve, if he’s chasing that flush). If I had check-raised the flop, the cutoff would’ve had 6-to-1 to call . . . even better.
So it seems like waiting until the turn indeed maximized my profit, although it also maximized my potential loss had my opponent made his draw. Still, I’m over 80% to win after that turn card -- a good place to be with one card to come, no matter how you look at it.
Did I stumble my way into a viable strategy for this kind of situation? What do you say? Here . . . take this microphone . . . I’m gonna go see if there are any of those little shrimp thingys left . . . .