Tricky Set

Tricky Set

Monday, 8 March 2010

I’m playing $5/$10 online cash, full-ring, with around $1,000 in front of me. I’m covered by everyone and things are pretty passive pre-flop. I’ve got ducks on the big blind. Two middle-position players limp as does the cut-off and button, and the small blind completes. I check and see rainbow 8-5-2. SB leads out the pot, I call, and the second limper raises to a total of $180. Everyone folds. Now what?


Dear Ashley,

With a set I am looking to play for all my chips. I am obviously going to at least call so we can mentally fast-forward the pot and my stack to respectively about 400 and 800 as a minimum. The question is should I spice the pot now or later?

The second limper’s play is a bit mysterious. Down here in the blinds we have shown a load of strength on the flop; it’s pretty optimistic to think we’ve got A-8 and K-8 between us. I’d say my call looks like either an eight or a set, and more likely the latter. My calling with an eight would be lame: a decent player would fold or raise it. At a pinch, I might be straightening up and down.

So I am certain that second limper is not bluffing which is good news – generally. A set is a grim possibility but I categorically refuse to be scared of set over set in hold’em, unless I’m deep and the betting has gone bananas. Even though he might well bet a set, scared that one of the blinds has 6-7 or 3-4, with the pot already half the size of my stack, I can’t afford to worry about this.

That leaves just pocket pairs, 9-9 to J-J being the most likely given his passivity pre-flop, but with this table, maybe even A-A. He won’t put me on a big pair for the same reason, so if I can persuade him I don’t have a set or two pair I’ll get his chips in the middle. Doing that is hard from early position where your bets look like a hand not a bluff

If I raise now I think he’ll fold, certain I’m not defending a lowly eight. So I will call. By now I look so strong I’m only going to make money if he gets carried away with his own hand, so I’ll check the turn hoping he either bets his pair because he likes pairs or because he’s scared I’ll connect with an A or a K. I can’t say what I’d do on the river other than play my hand for value, leading out or looking for the check-raise.

It’s tricky to get his chips because the pesky SB bet the flop so you’re coming into the pot always made you look strong and it’s difficult to hide that. But you can’t have it all your own way.


Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy,