Poker Strategy With Jonathan Little: Bad Beat? Think Again!

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Jonathan Little If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

I was recently told about a hand by a novice poker player that illustrates many different mistakes that some players make on a regular basis.

In a $2-$5 cash game with $1,000 effective stacks, a reasonably aggressive player who plays lots of pots raised to $15 from second position at a nine-handed table. The player in third position called and then our Hero called from the cutoff seat with K-J offsuit.

I generally prefer either folding or three-betting with K-J offsuit because it is often going to be dominated preflop if the initial raiser and the caller are competent. It will also play quite poorly after the flop when it improves to one pair, even from in position.

The button and the big blind called as well. The flop came QDiamond Suit JSpade Suit 4Heart Suit. Everyone checked to Hero, who bet $65 into the $77 pot.

While betting the flop for value and protection may seem reasonable, checking is preferred.

When you are not closing the action in a multi-way pot, you should almost always check with your strong, but non-premium hands. If the initial raiser is a strong player, they may check with many hands on this flop, looking to check-raise with their strong hands and draws.

It is worth noting that when K-J is the best hand, it is not too susceptible to being outdrawn, making a check even better. If instead, Hero had J-9 on 10-9-4, betting would be more reasonable because it is far more likely to be outdrawn by various overcards. In this situation, the only overcard hand is A-K, and a king usually isn’t too bad for K-J.

Only the big blind called Hero’s $65 bet. The turn was the KDiamond Suit. The big blind bet into Hero for $125 into the $207 pot, and Hero raised to $325.

When led into on the turn, I would certainly just call because when K-J raises and gets called or re-raised, it is usually in bad shape. When K-J is ahead, it is usually against a premium draw that has a large number of outs. If the opponent is only leading with hands that improved on the turn, K-J is behind A-10, 10-9, and K-Q, chopping with K-J, and losing to K-4, (and K-4 is unlikely because many players fold it to a preflop raise.)

I would call the turn with the intention of calling down on most safe rivers. If the big blind is the type of player who will lead with all sorts of marginal made hands, such as K-10, Q-10, and A-J, Hero should also just call because those hands are all drawing thin and will likely fold to a raise, meaning Hero will be unable to extract additional value because raising forces those hands to fold on the turn.

The big blind re-raised, pushing all-in for $1,000 total. Hero confidently called with two pair.

When jammed on, reluctantly folding is the only play that makes sense. Hero is only ahead of K-4 at this point, unless the big blind is a maniac who drastically overvalues hands like K-10, which I don’t see happening too often for 200 big blinds at $2-$5. 

When someone wants to put in a ton of money, unless you have an incredibly premium hand or your opponent is a blatant maniac, you should make a prudent fold.

This time, the big blind had 10-9 for a turned straight. Not too shocking! Hero did not improve and lost his 200-big blind stack.

While Hero was going to lose some money in this hand, he should not have lost anywhere near 200 big blinds. This player relayed this hand to me as if it was a bad beat, but in reality, he messed up numerous times without realizing it. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at





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