It is one of the most common hands you will ever play. You raise. The big blind calls you. The flop comes out.
What is interesting is not how common this situation is, but how people don’t realize the potential of this situation.
If you isolate this situation in a database, you will notice that your graph is going straight up. Your opponent cannot make money once they call you out of the big blind. They are simply trying to save small shreds of their big blind.
Your job, as the player in position, is to make sure they do not save any portion of their big blind. Your job is to make them lose as much money as possible.
By the way, this is one of those situations that GTO software can help you with substantially. If you truly want to invest in your game, I would drill this situation non-stop. It is almost breathtaking what bets you can get away with theoretically when the big blind calls you.
Since we have limited time in this article, however, we will focus on some quick tips that get you results fast.
The first thing to realize when someone calls you out of the big blind is that they are likely doing it with too many hands.
If someone limped in with J-2 suited from the hijack, called a raise, and then called multiple barrels on a K-J-5 rainbow board, they would be seen as the table fish. However, when someone calls out of the big blind with that same hand and then calls multiple barrels on that board no one blinks an eye.
People go to the cardroom to play poker. If they wanted to watch other people play poker they would have stayed at home and watched YouTube clips. The big blind gives them an excuse to play as loose as they truly want to play. They can justify everything by saying they were invested.
For this reason, your recreational opponents will likely call you out of the big blind with up to half the deck, even if you’re using a slightly larger raise size. This is great news for you. This means you set up a situation where you have a superior hand, in position, in a larger pot. Any poker player can make that advantage profitable.
But here’s how you’re going to get more profit out of the situation. Your opponent has called you with half the hands. Realize that means on any board the overwhelming majority of what they flop is going to be high cards and mediocre pairs. What kind of pairs? It will likely be pairs that have connected with that board.
If you want to learn more about this, I would recommend picking up any hand range calculator. The one I use all the time is Flopzilla.
Let’s say somebody called you out of the big blind with 51% of the hands, a common occurrence in most live cardrooms at the lower stakes. The board came out Q-9-5 rainbow.
On this particular board, the opponent would have no made hand 35% of the time. They would have ace high 24% of the time. They would have some kind of pair 36% of the time. They only flopped a set or two pair 3% of the time.
There would be 72 combinations of pairs of nines. An A-9 offsuit would make up nine combinations in our opponent’s range, for example. K-9 offsuit would be another nine. J-9 offsuit would be another nine. You get it, there are tons of combinations. However there are only six total combinations of every pocket pair your opponent can have.
The point of this exercise is not the exact numbers. You can fiddle with a preflop flatting range and get many different answers. Instead, this exercise is an illustration.
Combination-wise, it is difficult for your opponent to make a large hand when they call with so much of the deck preflop. They are far more likely to flop nothing, or some weak pair which matches one of the cards on the board. There are not many combinations of pocket pairs. It’s also difficult combination wise to make a flush draw because every flush draw hand you can think of is exactly one combination.
When your opponent calls you out of the big blind you know the odds are in your favor. When they call you, their most likely combination is a mediocre pair that matches the board. There’s a good chance they would have raised with their best hands to get value.
This is when things get fun. Now that we know our opponent is likely to have a mediocre pair, that makes them much easier to read.
Now the art form of poker comes in. You know who is a solid player at your table, and who is loose. You are going to exploit your opponents based on these reads.
If you are playing Terry, who never has a big stack and always barely cashes or bubbles, then you’re going to start shelling him with overbets. He’s likely to be weirded out by the large bet. He will fold his mediocre pairs, especially if a scare card came on the turn.
But not if you’re playing Jacob. Jacob never met a hand he didn’t like. Jacob never stops running his mouth. Jacob showed up to gamble. Against him you want to look down at your hand after the flop and ask yourself if your hand beats most of the mediocre pairs that called you.
If your hand beats most of the pairs that match the board then you need to start thinking three streets. You need to start thinking overbets.
If a flush draw misses, do not be afraid to go for the overbet. Many loose players will use that missed flush draw as an excuse to call you. “I put you on a missed draw.”
There is a physical tell you can pick up on with some players. I don’t know why some loose aggressive players do this, but they do. When you bet on the turn, they will hesitate with their third or second pairs. However, they don’t have much to think about with their weak top pairs, so they quickly call when the action is on them.
If you have second pair top kicker and your loose opponent hesitated on the turn, you should think heavily about firing a river bet, especially if you have confirmed this tell in a previous hand you observed.
Of course, this is one of those reads that is particular to certain people. Make sure you are paying attention even when you’re not in the hand to confirm your opponent does this.
And remember, you’re not value betting enough if you never accidentally value bet the second-best hand. ♠
Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at PokerHeadRush.com