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Tough Spot With Top Pair, Bad Kicker

Tough Spot With Top Pair, Bad Kicker
  • .@JonathanLittle figures out how to play top pair, bad kicker from OOP vs. an aggressive opponent.

  • Hand analysis: @JonathanLittle on how to play top pair, bad kicker against an aggressive opponent.

Here's another interesting hand from a $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament I played at the World Series of Poker. In this one I flop top pair with a poor kicker, and then find myself being put to some difficult decisions when my opponent who has position on me applies multiple streets of aggression.

In this hand I'm in the big blind with about 32 BBs to begin — not short-stacked yet, but starting to get a little bit shallow. Indeed, I'm the shortest at the table when the hand begins.

With the blinds 600/1,200 with a 200 ante, a tight-aggressive player in the cutoff raised to 2,600, and when it folded to me in the BB with {k-Clubs}{8-Clubs} I made what is really a mandatory call. Sometimes players get too cautious and fold hands like this one in these spots, but that's too tight.

The flop came {k-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{3-Hearts} and with top pair I checked. As I talk about in the video below, I'm usually checking here unless the flop hits the big blind's range especially well (e.g., with middle cards).

My opponent bet 2,500 (small, about one-third of the pot) — something he could probably do with just about all of his hands — and I chose to call. Below I discuss the merits of possibly check-raising here, but in this case I just called.

The turn was the {10-Clubs}, I checked, and my opponent bet 5,500 into the 12,400 pot.

I had just under 35,000 behind. What would you do in this spot? Take a look at how I played it, and also consider another interesting decision I had to make on the river as well.

With two pair on the river, I again had to be careful not to overvalue my hand and jam all in when my opponent is probably only calling with hands that beat me.

Would you have led with a bet on the river?

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,800,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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