Check or Bet the River With Top Two and an Aggressive Image?


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 and see if we can glean anything useful from them.

The Scene
The week after the RunGood Poker Series event in my backyard, it was time for me to hit the road again, but this time with the plan of playing a tournament rather than covering it. I made it to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour Grand Falls event.

After bricking Day 1a of the event, I was back in action on Day 1b when this hand occurred with blinds of 500/1,000 with a 100 ante.


I had a very loose and aggressive image and none of the players at my table were inclined to give me much credit at this point. But I had managed to build up to about a 50,000 stack and had most of my table covered, including Brett Reichard, who had about 40,000 to start this hand.

The Action
From under the gun, I opened to 2,300 holding {a-}{j-}. Action folded to Reichard, who called on the button, and both blinds came along as well.

The flop came {a-Diamonds}{j-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}. When folded to I bet 3,800, Reichard called, and the other two players folded. The turn was a {9-}. I checked, and Reichard bet 4,500. I raised to 12,500, and Reichard thought a short while and called.

The river then brought a {10-}, and I pushed all in. Reichard immediately folded and I took the pot without a showdown.

Concept and Analysis
The thing that made me wonder about this hand when I reflected on it later was my decision to go all in on the river.

It was a decision I made pretty quickly in the moment. After all, doing so was the logical conclusion to the line I took.

I bet the flop and checked the turn with a monster, knowing my opponent wasn’t likely to give brett-reichard me any credit and would value bet worse hands and probably semi-bluff draws. I sprang the trap and built up a big pot with my big hand at a time when my opponent was likely to pay me off because of my image.

Then, on the river, I still had essentially the nuts and less than a pot-sized bet left. Easy jam, I figured.

At the time, my immediate thought was, “Okay, hopefully he has ace-ten, ace-nine, or maybe even ace-queen.” But, that’s kind of a small subset of hands. I particularly hoped to be against ace-ten as it most fit his action. I figured he would probably reraise me preflop with ace-king and maybe even ace-queen, but with lesser aces he would certainly be calling.

But when I check-raised the turn and he just called, my initial thought was his most likely hand was a flush draw. He was getting a good price to call, having to put in 8,000 more into a pot of well over 30,000, and I figured he would have called a little more quickly with an ace as well. Slow playing hands that beat me wouldn’t make much sense because of the strength I had shown, so an ace or a flush draw seemed to be about all he could have.

Given that, there isn’t that much with which he’s really calling my shove. However, if my opponent does have a flush draw here, it’s possible he might bet if I check. A shove would certainly have a good amount of fold equity, as I’d have to think hard about even a hand like ace-queen or ace-king since it would be believable for him to have two pair. So I might get more value trying to induce a bluff on the river after making my big value play on the turn.

In the moment, this seemed like an automatic shove. But looking back checking to induce a bluff seems like a viable play as well. What do you think?