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Playing Cautiously in Position With Top Pair

Playing Cautiously in Position With Top Pair
  • Hand analysis: @JonathanLittle flops top pair and a straight draw, but chooses the cautious route.

  • Consider how you'd play @JonathanLittle's hand after flopping top pair & open-ended straight draw.

Here's a fun hand from a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament, one in which I raise preflop and then flop well, but decide to play cautiously rather than fire away from the start.

With the blinds 50/100 and effective stacks about 25,000, I opened to 300 from the cutoff with {K-Hearts}{J-Hearts} and was called by both the small and big blinds. The flop then came {K-Diamonds}{Q-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}, giving me top pair and an open-ended straight draw, and both of my opponents checked.

As I discuss in the video below, this is a spot where checking actually has a lot of merit. Part of my thinking here is to consider how strong my hand is and whether I'd be comfortable checking the flop and then calling bets on the turn and river — in this case, I would.

I did check behind, and the {7-Hearts} fell on the turn. Both blinds checked again.

At this point I definitely need to start value betting. Watch below as I talk about bet sizing here as well as other hands I would bet after getting checked to on both the flop and turn. Also see how I play the river after the board pairs and I am checked to one more time.

As this hand shows, you don't have to bet every time just because you have top pair.

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,700,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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