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Top Pair and a Flush Draw: Play for Stacks or Take the Cautious Route?

Jonathan Little
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  • @JonathanLittle analyzes a tournament hand in which he's short-stacked but flops (and turns) well.

  • You have top pair and a flush draw, but face pressure from a player seemingly showing true strength.

Here's another early tournament hand to consider, one in which I find myself flopping top pair in a multi-way pot but eventually face some pressure from another player whose position and image suggest strength.

The hand began with a player under the gun raising 3x to 300. It folded around to me in the cutoff with {K-Hearts}{Q-Hearts} — an easy call for me, as such big suited connectors often flop very well. As I note in the video below, three-betting versus a UTG raiser here isn't necessarily a good idea.

The button and big blind called as well, meaning there were four of us still in the hand to see the flop come {Q-Spades}{7-Hearts}{2-Spades}.

The big blind — an older player — led into the field with a bet of 800, a little over the half the pot. The original raiser folded, I called, and the button folded to make it heads up.

The turn was the {3-Hearts}, a great card for me, and my opponent checked. I have top pair and a flush draw now, there's a little over 3,000 in the pot. Meanwhile I have only close to 7,000 behind and my opponent almost 9,000.

The question here is whether or not to play for all the chips here or be a little more cautious. I decided to make a small bet of 1,000, but then my opponent check-raised to 2,500 to put me in a difficult spot.

Take a look and see how I responded to the check-raise and hear my thinking as well:

While your pairs with draws should often be primarily played for their pair value, when facing an extremely strong line, the pair is rarely good, so the draw's equity is where most of the value will come from.

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,500,000 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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