Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 72: Answering User-Submitted Poker Scenarios

Hold'em with Holloway

As many of you may know, my tenure with PokerNews is coming to an end after six long years. On April 8, I will finish my run with a final edition of The Online Railbird Report, which means I’ve just two Hold’em with Holloways remaining. This is the penultimate edition, and I’ll return next week to wrap things up.

That said, let’s not allow the end of an era damper our weekly lesson. For this week’s edition, I’ve decided to share some scenarios presented to my by “John,” who recently attended my webinar with Jonathan Little. He reached out to get my take on various situations, and with his permission I’ve decided to share them with you.

Scenario 1

John: It’s a $150 tourney in Shreveport, Louisiana. 25-minute levels. Usually 4-5 hour tournament. Blinds 300/600, 75 ante. I have a 5.5-6k stack, and it’s five-handed (two tables left). I’m on the button with {a-}{8-} offsuit, less than 10 big blinds, and shove. The big blind snap-calls with {a-}{k-}. I think it’s a standard shove but I felt that my opponent was going to call me even before I made the shove. I had a “bad feeling” about shoving, but then again I’m always a little paranoid when being short-stacked.

However, given the blinds/antes so high and five-handed play I think I had to go with it, right? The math dictates the shove right regardless of my “read” on the player (she seemed to grin a little bit after seeing her cards), but also keep in mind that I have never played with her before and she seemed to be a happy person in general so I don’t know how reliable my read was.

My Take: Assuming that action folded to you on the button, then yes, I would absolutely shove with {a-}{8-}. According to SnapShove, the app developed by Max Silver to determine shove ranges (I highly recommend investing the $9.99 to have it on your phone), you should mathematically be shoving with any ace (even {a-}{2-}-offsuit), any king, {q-}{5-}+, as well as suited {6-}{5-}+. Basically a huge range, so {a-}{8-} in that spot is great.

As for the lady, what can you do? Sometimes they just wake up with big hands. Unless you had a tested and reliable tell on her, then I’d go with {a-}{8-} every time. She could have just as easily had {k-}{q-} and called, in which case you would have been ahead.

You definitely did right by shoving, just bad luck to run into a bigger ace.

Scenario 2

John: It’s a $225 tourney, also in Shreveport, Louisiana. 25-minute levels. Usually 4-5 hour tournament. Final table tourney scenario: four-handed play, I’m a top three stack with 160,000, other two big stacks have about 180,000-200,000, while a short stack has five big blinds with the blinds at 5,000/10,000/2,000.

I’m on the button with pocket queens and I raise to 23,000, the big blind calls, and the flop is {10-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{6-Spades}. The big blind checks and I continuation bet 25,000. He shoves all in and seemed “strong,” but can you really fold queens here? Assume that this is a player who respects my image and maybe got in a hand with me once the entire tourney. I am 90% certain that he would not call a raise with a random six in his hand given his image.

When he went all in, I again had a “bad feeling” but at the same time was excited because I had pocket queens and there was no way that he would be able to put me on that. It turns out he had pocket kings. I think my play was fine at the time, but sometimes I get these vibes and after seeing the hands, I feel that my “vibes” were right and if I listened to it I would still have 10 bigs and could grind out the small stack.

My Take: I am never folding queens in that spot. To me, the likelihood that he’s doing it with either a {10-} or as a complete bluff — perhaps trying to leverage that he doesn’t think you’ll call and want to bust with a short stack still in play — is just too high.

Like you said, it’s too hard to put him on a six in this spot, plus if he really had one why would he want to blow you off the hand by moving all in? Why not just raise smaller or even call and give you rope with which to hang yourself on the turn?

Likewise, given he just called out of position it’s difficult to put him on a big hand — such as the pocket kings he had. Kudos to him for playing it that way, but you shouldn’t feel bad. In this instance folding pocket queens in this spot would have saved you, but doing that in the long run would be the wrong move.

I go bust in that spot every time — it’s just a cooler.

Scenario 3

John: Over the last two months, I feel that I have improved significantly in poker. I started watching some of Jonathan Little’s webinars and started playing online, so I feel that I have learned to be more aggressive and am playing position better. I would say that I do fairly well at $1/$2 and $2/$5 cash games, but I want to start playing $5/$10 more often. I’ve played the $5/$10 once or twice and realized that I was too passive and not aggressive enough.

I feel that I’ve become more “loose” and play more hands in position trying to use my “tight” image to take pots that aren’t mine. However, no one knows that I am bluffing given that I have a tight image and that I don’t play many hands and usually show up with overpairs and sets.

I try to three-bet preflop more often. I rarely three-bet and usually people just fold. I would like to take advantage of this play more, but it seems as though every time I three-bet bluff I run into big hands. How do I handle this? Do I still continue to do this and just realize that I will eventually be profitable?

My Take: First, when it comes to playing $1/$2, $2/$5, and looking to move up to $5/$10, I highly recommend Ed Miller’s book The Course. It’s basically focuses on those stakes and what it takes to move up to each level (and what you can expect to find). It did wonders for my cash game.

When you three-bet bluff you must remember that there is a chance an opponent will wake up with a big hand (especially since you don’t have one). I’d continue to do it, but just proceed with caution (or give up and move on) when you’re met with resistance, whether it’s someone four-betting or calling you down.

It seems you have a good grasp on table dynamics, how you’re perceived, and you try to take advantage of that accordingly, which is exactly what you should be doing.

Also, someone recently told me, “Try to win the pots nobody wants,” which I thought was wise advice. Be it cash games or tournaments, there are those smaller and uneventful pots where it seems the first person to bet will take it down. I try to be that person as those sort of pots add up quickly.

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  • In a new Hold'em w/ Holloway, @ChadAHolloway offers his take on various user-submitted poker scenarios.

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