Folding a Big Hand on the Flop


Covering live poker tournaments for a living affords me the opportunity to see countless thousands of hands played out, many of which offer interesting and potentially valuable insights into how players — both amateurs and professionals — play the game. In this ongoing series, I’ll highlight hands I’ve seen at the tournaments I’ve covered as well as occasionally looking at ones I’ve played myself, and together we’ll try to glean something useful from them.

The Scene

It’s back to the Potawatomi Casino & Hotel for another hand I played during my weekend excursion for the World Series of Poker Circuit.

This one came from the $580 event, a freezeout. During the early going I was able to spin the 12,000-chip starting stack up to about 21,000 at a great, mostly passive table, when a huge hand went down.

I had been at the same table for about three hours already, so I had solid reads on my opponents. The player in middle position this hand was quite loose and on the aggressive side, showing down some nonsensical hands in a couple of spots. The big blind was definitely tight and passive — he had already flatted hands like {J-}{J-} and {a-Spades}{q-Spades} and shown little aggression.

The Action

I was dealt {8-Hearts}{7-Hearts} under the gun and raised to 925 at 200/400/50. The loose-aggro player in middle position called, as did both blinds. The flop came {10-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}, and both blinds checked. I bet 2,200. The middle player called, the small blind folded and the big blind shoved all in for 22,000.

I thought long and hard before releasing, and after the middle player folded as well the big blind took down the pot.

Concept and Analysis

Any time you flop a big hand and end up folding, it’s a tough spot.

Here, I made a loose open under the gun that I wouldn’t make at a tough table. However, this table was very soft and I was confident I could play the hand profitably postflop against mostly passive opponents.

The only player who was really showing much aggression was the middle-position guy who called my raise here, so I was thrilled to flop two pair with him in the pot in a spot where I was pretty certain he’d give me action.

The {10-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds} flop wasn’t without its dangers. However, two pair and a backdoor flush draw is still a great hand, and I bet it for value into the crowded field. As I hoped, the middle player called, but the tight-passive player in the big blind’s shove put me in quite a predicament.

What sorts of hands can I expect him to be shoving here? One hand that immediately sprang to mind was jacks. I figured there was a decent chance he might jam jacks here figuring he usually had the best hand, lots of turn cards would be bad for him and there was a decent-sized pot to take down. I already knew jacks were in his preflop flatting range.

Certainly he could also have {j-}{9-}. Sets made sense, too, but only a set of tens is a likely possibility since there’s only one combo left each of sevens and eights.

What about {9-}{6-} or combo draws like {q-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}? I wasn’t sure {9-}{6-} was even in the range of a player playing this tight. Other combo draws are possible, but again, someone playing this tight seems more likely to just call with a big draw rather than risk his whole stack. It just doesn’t really fit to ram and jam draws postflop but also play passively by flat-calling jacks and {a-Spades}{q-Spades} preflop.

Doing the math on the size of the pot, he shoved all in for effectively 18,000 from my point of view. Counting his shove, there was almost 30,000 in the pot, so I needed around 40 percent equity to make the call.

Given what I knew about this player, I wasn’t sure I had quite that much against his shoving range. It seems like he should be more weighted toward made hands, and most of those have me pretty crushed. The only hands I really want to see are jacks and maybe queens, but even jacks have nine outs against me.

Taking all of that into account, I decided to fold my two pair. There are plenty of players against whom I’d happily snap-call here, but this big of a shove from a tight player convinced me to dump the big hand I’d flopped. (Source: