Miss Flopping Set with Pocket Pair: How to Play vs. a Continuation Bet
DECISION POINT: In a cash game, a player raises from under the gun and it folds to you in the cutoff with . You call and the button calls. Both blinds fold and the flop comes . The UTG player continuation bets two-thirds of the pot. Action is on you...
PRO ANSWER: One of the most critical mistakes poker players make is thinking street by street. They ask themselves on every street "Am I ahead?" and then act accordingly. This is a losing strategy in the long term.
There are only two ways to win pots in poker — either everyone but you folds, or you show down the best hand on the river. With that in mind, you should never be asking yourself "Am I ahead?" Instead, you should be asking yourself "Can I make my opponent(s) fold here?" or "Can I profitably take my hand to showdown?"
In this case we called with pocket fives preflop with the effective stacks nearly 150 big blinds deep. Pocket pairs are very powerful speculative hands, and this is a great spot to call and look to flop a set against an early position raiser with a narrow hand range.
Once we miss our set on the flop, we should immediately be done with the hand. Is a pair of fives the best hand here? Some of the time it absolutely will be the best hand given that our opponent's range includes hands like and that missed this flop.
Whether we are ahead or not isn't the point. What matters is if we can get to showdown profitably.
What's our plan with pocket fives in this spot if our opponent continues to fire on a variety of turn and river cards, most of which are likely to make our hand seem weaker? Are we calling three streets just hoping our opponent has ?
Some percentage of the time when we fold pocket fives here we'll be folding the best hand, and that's okay. We chose to play this hand preflop with a specific plan and we should stick to that plan postflop.
One of the biggest differences between break-even players and winning players is that break-even players need to be "convinced" they are beaten here. They call a flop bet to see one more card, wasting valuable chips in the process.
Winning players know it doesn't matter whether they happen to have the best hand this one time, but instead understand that in the long term this is an unprofitable spot to continue.
Folding is the best play.
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