Maximizing the payout

Most poker players remember unique hands that they’ve played in. Be it a bad-beat or a huge mistake or a huge win. Ultimately, this game boils down to two things: 1) How little you lose when behind and 2) How much you make when ahead.

The following hand has been bothering me since I turned over my cards and won the pot. Yes, I said “won the pot”. A good poker player always has to improve, he/she has no choice. The minute you stop learning, analyzing the hands you play, how you play them, how you could have played them better…. you might not be so successful.

I had a stack of about $200 at the Horseshoe casino in Hammond, IN. I was playing $1/$2 no-limit hold-em. I had been at the table for about 5 hours already with my chip stack going through the regular roller-coaster. The player to my immediate right had about $230 in front of him at the start of the hand.

I was dealt Ks Js in the small-blind position. The action was raised by a player in middle position to $7. The guy to my right had the button and called and so did I. Everyone else folded. 3-players to the flop.

Flop comes down Kh Kd Jc.

Absolute monster flop for my hand. I flopped the nuts. I checked. I pretty much couldn’t bet here, as I didn’t think either of them would call me if I donk-bet it. To my surprise, the original pre-flop raiser didn’t continuation-bet. He checked, so did the player to my right.

The turn was a 10d.

I checked again, hoping someone would bet. The original raiser bet $15. The pot had around $24 in it, so it was a decent bet. I expected this guy to fire out on the turn anyway.

Now this is where the turning point occurred. The guy to my right raised it up to $45. Perfect scenario for me, I know. Whatever I do here will look very strong. Calling would probably invite the third guy to call too, raising will look super-strong. I began to ask myself what the turn card did for this guy. I was hoping he had made tens-full. He could also have Ace-Queen or a King of some sort which he slow-played (AK, KQ, K9, etc). Outside chance that he had K10 and had Kings Full, but not very likely.

I just called the $45. The other guy folded. The pot was now up to around $110.

The river card was a complete blank. 6s.

I bet about half the pot, $55. This is where I think I got it wrong. The guy obviously called me and I turned over the nuts. He kept muttering to himself before he called, “I don’t think I have this fold in me”, “I’ve gotta call you”.

Considering the range of hands I put him on, I SHOULD HAVE CHECKED in that spot. That gives me a much better chance of  maximizing it. If I would have checked, any hand in his range would bet about $50-$70. At this point I could have raised all-in ($150 approximately) and he would have muttered the same words and called me. I would have doubled my stack.

It’s plays like these that haunt me sometimes rather than the AA vs KK hands or bad beats. I want to be in a position where I analyze these situations better in the future. The first step to that is identifying them.