Posted on April 14, 2014

Good instincts can overcome bad cards

I played an interesting cash-game hand recently, and in the end, I listened to my gut and won the hand.

We were playing nine-handed, $2-$5 no-limit Texas hold 'em. I had 7s 2c in the big blind. I had been playing tighter than normal, and I had an average stack of $500.

After the Player in Seat 3 limped in, the guy on the button raised to $30. My read on this gentleman was that he was a player with some experience, and I thought he would raise with a wide range of hands. I called, and the player in Seat 3 also called, making it nearly $100 in the pot.

The flop came Kc Qs 10h. I checked, as did Seat 3. The player on the button then made a $60 bet.

It was quite possible that the button either had A-J (the nuts), a king or possibly two pair. More likely, he was making a continuation bet and bluffing, figuring that we hadn't hit enough of that flop to call. But I called to see the next card, setting up either an automatic fold or a great opportunity to bluff. I felt that I had enough chips to warrant that type of a play at this juncture. The player in Seat 3 folded.

The turn card was the 4c. I checked to the bettor, and he put out $100. I think he put me on a draw. I considered that if he did flop the nuts, he would have bet more. There was a straight and a flush draw on the board, and I gave him credit for being at least an average player who wouldn't be slow-playing his hand.

I raised him the minimum, believing that I could get him to fold. I knew that if he reraised me, I would have to fold. My gut told me that in this situation I would be right about three out of four times, and that the math made it a profitable play. The raise was to $300, and my bet was meant to convey that I had two pair, or that I had at least hit the king on the flop.

My opponent quickly folded. He asked to see my hand, which I showed him, and in return he showed me his hand, which was Qc 8h.

The lessons here are as follows:

When you are in a cash game for three hours or more with a player who has at least as much money on the table as you do, it's smart to test him to learn about his play, maybe winning at the same time.

Your table image is most important when playing with experienced players. Be more aware of what they think of you -- whether you're tight or loose -- and use that to your benefit.

Never risk more than needed on a bluff or semi-bluff. Learn what the minimum is to make your move.

Here's wishing you the best of luck at the tables.

(Jamie Gold is the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. He recently opened the "Jamie Gold Poker Room" on the Island Breeze Casino ship docked at the Port of Palm Beach and plays in the room on a regular basis. Follow Jamie on Twitter @RealJamieGold.)

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