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Middle Limit Hold'em Poker
by Bob Ciaffone
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This book is written for the player who knows how to play hold'em and wants to improve his or her proficiency and move from low limit to middle limit, specifically when playing in public cardrooms or on the Internet.
The authors explain the theory behind middle-limit hold'em and illustrate it with hundreds of examples (five hundred hands). Every phase in a hand's development is explained in detail with key ideas and a set of problems. A thorough analysis is given on how an expert player would approach each problem. The book is broken into seven topics: Holdem Concepts, Preflop Play, Play On The Flop, Play On The Turn, Play At The River, Special Topics (bluffing, checking and calling, check-raising, etc) and Non-Standard Games. Also a page on Flop Odds Against Improving On Next Card.
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Popped on the Turn

I recently received an interesting phone call from one of my poker students. He said there are three problem hands in my book Middle Limit Holdem Poker (co-authored with Jim Brier) in which youBob CiaffoneBob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play.  Bob's website is www.pokercoach.us  have a decent hand and get raised on the turn. (These are problems No. 4, No. 10, and No. 11 in Chapter 22, "Getting Raised.") In one of them, No. 4, we suggested a call, and in the other two, a fold. He asked me if we were being inconsistent with our advice. My answer was, we could not give the same answer to each problem because there were significant differences between the problems, requiring varied answers.

Getting raised on the turn is uncomfortable when all you have is one pair, even though that may be in the form of top pair or an overpair. The opponent "says" you are beat. If he speaks the truth, your outs are likely to be in the zero to five range. But poker is poker, and we do not fold every time the opponent represents a better hand than ours, especially in limit poker, where we are receiving pot odds. Note that your decision to call the turn raise is normally a two-bet decision; I am a firm believer that you are committed to calling on the river if a blank comes, once you have decided to tough it out on the turn.

Let's take a look at some of the factors that affect our decision whether to call a turn raise after we bet.

1. Was I raised or check-raised? If a player has position on you and raises, it is a strong play - but not as powerful as a check-raise. It is possible that the player, having position, intends to just show his hand down if you muster a call and check the river. A player who check-raises was prepared to give a free card if you checked it back, meaning he may well think if you help your hand, he will still have you beat.

2. How many players were in for the flop? If only one player stayed for the flop with you, my advice would be to pay him off if you have the kind of solid hand we have been talking about. He is not that likely to have flopped a good hand (if he had the best hand among a whole group that saw the flop, he would be much more likely to be strong). Also, a player is more likely to put a play on you if the pot was heads up all the way. You are the only person guarding the goal line. Furthermore, you are not that likely to have a hand that can take the heat, being the only one who saw the flop with him (the same reasoning you just used to deduce that he was not so likely to have a good hand). Lastly, there is a macho element in this type of duel, bringing out the bluff in players, that is not present in a multihanded pot.

3. How sophisticated are your opponents? In low-stakes games, you have to watch out for the clueless cannon, a player who recently learned the game and understands little about it, but enjoys betting and bluffing. Aside from that, few opponents will put the kind of play on you that we are talking about, because in their game, they get called. As the stakes go up, the chances of someone putting a play on you increase. A $20-$40 game is considerably more rough and tumble than a $10-$20 game. By the time you reach the $40-$80 level, the players are highly aggressive, and usually highly skilled, as well. Big laydowns are liable to get exploited.

4. Does the opponent know how you play? When you are willing to lay down a solid hand when raised on the turn, it is not a play that you want opponents to be aware is in your arsenal. Many poker players would hardly ever make this kind of laydown, so the turn raise as a bluff or semibluff is not going to be used against you very often - unless the opponent knows your game. One might say you are departing from game theory (by folding too often) because your opponents are departing from game theory (by bluffing too seldom). Your strategy is exploitable, so if possible, do not let opponents know what you are doing. If an opponent knows your game and is sharp enough to exploit this potential hole in your armor, you must call more often.

Now that we have talked some theory, let's look at practice. Here are the three hands from Middle Limit Holdem Poker that my student questioned:

No. 4: A $20-$40 game. You are in the cutoff seat and holding the A Q. An early-position player limps in and you raise. Only the early-position player calls. There is $110 in the pot and two players. The flop is the 9 8 5, leaving you with only overcards. Your opponent checks, you bet, and he calls. There is $150 in the pot. The turn is the Q, giving you top pair, top kicker. Your opponent checks, you bet, and your opponent now raises. What should you do?

Answer: Call. You may well be beat by two pair and have only three to eight outs. But, in a heads-up situation like this, you have to pay your opponent off. He could be raising with top pair, and you have the top kicker with your top pair. He could even be semibluffing a flush draw.

No. 10: A $15-$30 game. An early-position player opens with a raise and you call with the A Q. The early-position player is a decent-playing local who plays several times a week at this level. His opening standards can be a little loose at times, but once the flop comes, his play is good. The big blind calls. There is $100 in the pot and three players. The flop comes down A J 7, giving you top pair, good kicker. The big blind checks and the preflop raiser bets. Rather than raise, you decide to call. The big blind folds. There is $130 in the pot and two players. The turn is the 7, giving you aces and sevens with a queen kicker. Your opponent checks, you bet, and he raises. What should you do?

Answer: Fold. The board is now paired, you have no flush or straight draw, and you have gotten check-raised by the preflop raiser. If you call now, you will most likely be calling on the river, as well. You should fold, since you don't have enough outs when you are beat to continue. In the actual hand, the player called the raise. The river was a blank and the player called the river bet, as well. The player was shown the K 7 by the preflop raiser for trip sevens. He was playing two outs. Afterward, he argued that any guy crazy enough to open with a raise from early position with king-little suited has to be stayed with. But this is an expensive way to view these kinds of players. Many players have horrid preflop playing standards, including the tendency to play any two suited cards, and sometimes even raising with them. But that does not mean that once the flop comes, they continue to play poorly. On the turn, when these players raise or check-raise, they almost always can beat one pair.

No. 11: A $10-$20 game. You raise from middle position with the A K after an early-position player limps in. Two middle-position players call as well, as does the early-position limper. There is $95 in the pot and four players. The flop is 9 7 3, leaving you with two big overcards. The early-position limper checks, you bet, and one of the middle-position players calls. There is $115 in the pot and two players. The turn is the A, giving you top pair, top kicker. You bet and get raised. What should you do?

Answer: Fold. Similar to many problems in this chapter, when you get raised on the turn, you are almost always beat when having one pair. (On occasion, you are up against a tricky player who likes to semibluff draws on the expensive street.) There is $175 in the pot and it costs you $20 to call. These are pot odds of 9-to-1. If your opponent is raising with aces up, the number of outs you have depends upon his second pair. With him having aces and nines, you have three outs (any king). With aces and sevens, you have six outs (any king or 9). With aces and treys, you have nine outs (any king, 9, or 7). So, one might conclude that on average, you have about six outs, which is a 7-to-1 shot, and therefore you have a call. However, if your opponent does have two pair, you do not know which two they are, and thus you may lose additional money on the river. Furthermore, your opponent may have a set, in which case you are drawing dead. Since he cold-called your preflop raise, he is more likely to have done this with 9-9, 7-7, 3-3, or A-9 than some other holding.

The decision of what to do when popped on the turn is neither easy nor mechanical, and all of the factors must be carefully weighed. I hope this discussion helps your decisions.

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