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Use Caution or Exert Pressure? Flopping Middle Pair in a Three-Bet Pot

Jonathan Little
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  • Aggression is often a profitable approach, but you don’t *have* to bet every time you are checked to.

  • @JonathanLittle flops middle pair in a three-bet pot and chooses a cautious route postflop.

Today we have a fun hand from the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic Main Event at the Commerce Casino.

The tournament was not a re-entry — that is to say, it was a standard "freezeout" which has actually become less common these days. That's relevant to point out, as this hand comes early and in freezeouts I tend to be a little more aggressive during the first levels if I think my opponents are leaning toward not wanting to go broke.

The blinds were 50/100, and it folded to a loose-aggressive player in the cutoff who had about 28,000 to start and raised to 300. I had 30,000 and was dealt {A-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds} on the button, and I chose three-bet to 900. My opponent called, the flop came {10-Spades}{7-Spades}{5-Diamonds} (giving me middle pair) and my opponent checked.

As I explain in the video below, a few years ago everyone would automatically continuation bet in this situation, and usually for about two-thirds of the pot. But I talk about how either betting smaller (i.e., one-third pot) or checking are good options here, too.

I ended up checking behind, then the turn brought the {K-Spades} — not a great card for me — and my opponent checked once more. I decided to remain cautious and check again. That might seem weak to some, but with marginal hands like this you want to play small pots.

The river was the {6-Hearts} and my opponent checked a third time. Is there any merit in value betting here? Take a look to see what I did and what happened, as well as to hear my explanation of my thought process postflop.

In the end, this is an example of a hand in which I flopped middle pair in a three-bet pot and played it more or less as you might expect a middle-pair hand to be played. When you have a hand with a marginal amount of showdown value, you should usually try to get to the showdown. Nothing fancy here!

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,400,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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