Playing Tight

It was a weekend consisting of a long road trip and 15 hours of low-limit poker. I ended up playing in both limit and no-limit hold’em games. I was exhausted and not at all in any sort of shape to play. Yet, I found myself playing in the smallest games available, playing extremely tight, and fairly conservatively.

I folded many top pair hands on the flop for a small bet. I had hands like QJ suited in the big blind and when the flop came, Q T 6 with one card of my suit, I would check the hand and fold to a bet. This is both conservative and tight. I was willing to give away some value to lower my risk or variance.

The hand I remember the most from that weekend was in $1-3 No-limit. I was on the button and a very good middle aged female that plays full time raised from early position making it $12 to go. She is a very tight player and her raising range from this position would include pairs down to nines, AK, and AQ. I am not convinced she raises with AJ or KQ from early position. Two players call her and I look down to AK of hearts. I make the call, inviting the blinds into the pot. Both blinds fold and we go to the flop four handed. The flop is K 6 4 with two diamonds. She bet $12 on the flop which seemed pretty small considering the size of the pot. The two other players fold away and I raise the bet to $40. She spent quite a bit of time before making the call.

At this point I was struggling to put her on a hand. She could have had AK and we would have been tied. I could not put her on the final two kings. I thought she would have made a larger bet on the flop with pocket aces. Pocket tens or queens and I would have been in great shape. I think she would have folded jacks to my raise on the flop.

The turn card was the queen of hearts. If she had KQ I could no longer beat that hand. I could no longer beat pocket queens. She checked and I made the same bet of $40. She folded her hand. She said she had AQ of diamonds and the flush draw kept her in on the flop.

The pot had a little over $120 and my opponent was facing a $40 bet. I thought she should have called with AQ of diamonds. She had second pair and the nut flush draw. If she could see my hand, she would have eleven outs. The question is where did she put me?

I did not re-raise pre-flop which eliminates AA and KK from my potential holdings. I would probably re-raise with QQ on the button in this scenario. However, I would not raise on the flop with QQ.

The next thought is how would I have played 66 or 44 and the hands are virtually the same here. I would call with these small pairs from the button and hope to invite the blinds to come along. The question becomes how I would play a set on the flop.

The other players have already folded by the time action gets to me. Would I raise with the set giving away the strength of my hand? There are two diamonds on the flop making a possible flush draw but no real straight potential. I see my hand as clearly AK and not anything else. She may have been evenly split between a set or AK. Is there any chance I am playing KQ in this hand? Absolutely not.

She was getting really close to the right pot odds to draw against my hand range. The fact that we each had another $200 behind would have made the hand tend toward a call. The downside to her hand is she had no disguise to her hand and when a diamond came I would be totally on alert making the size of the river bet critical.

I could have made a larger bet on the turn and given her more motivation to fold. The problem is that my hand range was much clearer than hers. I was not in a position to make a large pot with just one pair.

This was the one memorable hand of poker I played all weekend. I do not think I did anything truly exceptional in how I played the hand. I played the tight conservative approach I set out to play and it worked. The point is that you can approach poker with a strategy and play according to the game plan.

Exhausted and road weary I knew my best game was not available and I was not going to outplay many people on this trip. I sat down at the poker table with a solid game plan and executed the strategy of playing tight.

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