When you’re dealt a weak hand in Texas Hold’em, your decision is relatively straightforward: fold, unless you see an opportunity to bluff or make another play. Similarly, when you have a monster hand, your choices are clear: bet, raise, or occasionally slow play. However, the real challenge comes when you’re dealt good, but not great, hands. In these situations, your decisions can be quite tricky. Let’s analyze two scenarios with strong yet not extremely strong hands.
Scenario 1: Two Pairs of Hands on a Super Wet Board
In this hand, you’re on the button with A♦J♦, and the big blind is $1. In a loose and challenging game like this, you opt to raise to $2.25. The big blind is an aggressive regular player who 3-bets to $10. In this situation, you’re unlikely to fold a hand like A♦J♦, considering your hand’s strength.
The pot is now $20.5, and the flop is A♠K♥J♠. Your opponent checks. With this kind of flop, it’s quite likely that your opponent checks since both of your ranges include many two-pair and straight possibilities. Betting recklessly here isn’t advisable. You decide to make a value bet of $13.64, and your opponent calls.
The pot is $47.78, and the turn is 6♥. Your opponent checks again. While you didn’t consistently make value bets on all streets, making a second value bet on the turn is better than waiting for the river. If you had checked, the river might bring a card that “kills the action.” You decide to bet again, this time $22.7, and your opponent calls.
The pot is now $93.18, and the river brings 8♠. With $54.16 left in your stack, you face a dilemma. Do you make a third-value bet? Betting here would target cards like KJ, A8s, or A6s that might call your bet. However, it could also cost you more if your opponent holds a stronger hand, like a flush AK or even an AA/KK. You decide to check, and your opponent shows A♥2♥. Your opponent had a top pair on the flop and a top pair with a flush draw on the turn. If you had bet on the river, he might have folded.
Scenario 2: Flopping Trips with a Flush Draw
In this hand, you’re on the button with A♦7♥ and open-raise to $2.7. The small blind calls, and you suspect they are a recreational player who plays a wide range of bets. The big blindfolds. You raised a larger amount because, even though there are still two players to act behind you, your raise is more likely to discourage them from 3-betting compared to a raise from the cutoff.
The pot is now $6.4, and the flop is K♠J♣5♠. Your opponent checks. You didn’t connect with this flop, but you noticed your opponent tends to fold two out of three times when facing c-bets. You decide to make a continuation bet of $4.26 for two reasons: (A) Your opponent’s calling range from the small blind often includes medium pocket pairs, so a larger bet might force them to fold these hands. B) If your opponent has a hand like T9 with a flush draw or QT, you can build the pot for later streets. You see the small blind call, and the pot is now $14.92.
The turn is 7♦, giving you trips. Your opponent checks again. Your hand has some showdown value, but you don’t think you can get your opponent to fold better hands by betting. You opt to check.
The river is another 7♠, and your opponent leads with a $7.09 bet. Now, you face the decision to call or raise. Your opponent could have hands like Jx or Kx. Betting here could make your hand seem like a bluff, which isn’t typical in this situation, so your opponent might fold. You decide to raise it to $23. Your opponent calls with K♥10♠, and you win a nice pot with your trips.
These scenarios demonstrate the complexities of playing strong but not extremely strong hands in Texas Hold’em, where your decisions must balance value and potential risks.