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Playing 8 handed 1/2 nlhe at a table with a couple LAG fish, 3 tight passive, myself playing TAG but I get a bit loose from cutoff to button. Lots of limpers every hand. I never limp, I raise or I don’t play.

In the cutoff I get A10s (hearts). Good enough, but barely. I raise to 12 with 2 limpers and the blinds in front of me. Button folds, I get 2 calls (as usual), and a usually weak player in mid position surprises me with a raise to 40. Suspecting that 1-2 of the remaining players will call, I call, and one player calls.

She called big blind and re-raised my raise. Either she was tired of me pushing her around (I'd played four or five hands with her in the last hour and pushed her off without a showdown), maybe she was feeling lucky, or I was way behind. I decided to call knowing her post flop play was kind of weak. Pot is now 132 minus rake, call it 130.

Flop comes AcKs6d, so I’m not going to see a flush, got top pair with a mediocre kicker.

Everyone checks to me and I make it $80, suspecting (hoping) they’ll fold and I’ll take the flop.

First to act folds and mid position re-raises all in to $123. My spider sense is tingling. I can’t put her on a hand, but pocket sixes are the only thing that makes sense to me. I don't think trying to set a trap with AK-AJ is in her playbook, AA-JJ and she would have raised the big blind, pocket 10's - 7's and she would have folded to my post-flop raise. QJ or J10... maybe but seems pretty unlikely. She's talked about things like pot odds and fold equity briefly, so she'd know that if shes playing a draw she is too far behind to be shoving.

That, or maybe a somewhat strong ace, maybe AJ, A9, pocket nines thru sevens. I absolutely cannot put her on a hand, but given there is now over $330 in the pot, and it’s $40 to me, and I can’t put her on a MONSTER hand thanks to her big blind call, check, and previous play, I have no idea what to do. So what would you do?

Spoiler alert, I decided to call, and rivered a straight to her A6o (two pair). I got next to nothing from table talk while deciding, other than she seemed worried. Minimal room to improve and I knew I needed to. Told her I had A10 and could swear I saw her sweating.

I don't feel good about how this hand ended, but I think I may have a glaring weakness - I can't put people on a hand if it's one I would never play. I was holding QQ against a flop of 4 6 10 earlier, raised 4x BB and got a caller from the blinds, raised 3/4 of the pot and was eventually surprised by 2 pair, 4 6 - once again, a hand I would never play from early position (only in very special situations while on the button).

I guess my real question is - how in the world do you put people on hands when they'll play just about anything, from any position? I don't think any amount of chart reading or combinatorics would help in situations like these. Seems to be just a matter of intuition.

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Against players that play anything from any position, the easy answer is that you can not put them on a hand. If they are taking lines that are unusual and they play any hand in any position, putting them on a hand would be challenging if not impossible.

I think you did the right thing by trying to get a live read, that will certainly give you some valuable information.

Combinatorics could be helpful here just to show that some holdings are more likely than others, but if you don't know your opponents range it is much less helpful.

One important thing that I learned in small stakes games like 1/2 is that it is extremely important to have relentless aggression preflop, even with marginal hands like ATs. It depends a bit on the table, but your raises really need to prevent the other players from even considering playing (or raising) a hand like A6o. If your preflop raise was closer to 10x, your opponents would have a much harder time 3-betting you, and if they do it is a more clear-cut decision. Just a thought, that strategy certainly would not work all the time but it may help relieve you of tough spots like this.

At the end of the day, your opponents will flop 2 pair or better with random hands sometimes. Hopefully you are able to get as much information as possible in order to find the fold when they do. You only need to make the right decision more than 50% of the time.

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Ok ok, this is literally a secret I learned form a whole year of surviving on poker before I got a job. This makes the difference between breaking even and winning and it's such a delicate change too...

Identify the play BEFORE you have to make it. If you saw her reraising you preflop, you need to gather data and think about what % she might be bluffing you and how will she act on flop (obviously, you have to develop a skill in predicting their pattern). You WILL BE WRONG a number of time, the key is to be correct more often than not.

So honestly, she played this hand against you correctly. She noticed your pattern or raising light in position (cut-off is good position) so she reraised you light, perfectly disguising her hand. Now she can win with a lucky flop or push you off if you missed. What you need to do in that situation, is identify what you want out of that hand. If I was you and it's the first time she limp-reraised, I will play safe and observe.

If you bet into her hoping she would fold a drawing or slightly weaker hand OR calling with a weaker hand, then you must also tell yourself to FOLD if she reraises. Don't fall in love with your hand. You rather fold wrong a few times if you know you are most likely folding correctly. That's the most important part of poker. I would be super happy folding wrong in one spot, knowing it's the correct play against the player's range. You want to play a mathematical game against a weak table. Low limit live games are notoriously easy to make a living from if you play properly.

  • Thanks for your input Ying. That’s more or less where I already was, but having been in similar situations with her before, I figured if she checked the flop to me, I had a better than 80% chance of pushing her out with a bet for 2/3rds of her stack. She was incredibly timid and had folded at least a half dozen hands to me, and more to others throughout the course of the night. Of course, when she reraised, I was way behind, but was still getting almost almost 9:1 odds with two streets left. – Carl Elder Aug 31 '18 at 20:52
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Not agreeing with your analysis of cannot put her on a monster because she only called the big blind pre-flop. She 3 bet your raise. That is a sign of strength.

Check raise the flop is a sign of strength.

Getting 8:1 you have to call with top pair in that spot.

When a table is loose play tight.

  • In this instance I am calling a monster AA, KK, or AK preflop. As she had two limp before her, and based on some hours of playing with her, I’d have expected her to raise the blinds long before it got to me. The reraise was worrying, but it reeked of her standing up to me for reasons I can’t recall anymore. Then she checked the flop. Once again, it reeked of a bluff/semi-bluff. – Carl Elder Aug 31 '18 at 20:20
  • @CarlElder You asked for input and you got it. – paparazzo Aug 31 '18 at 20:27

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