I'm playing heads-up in a cash game (only 2 players at the table).

I have 40xBB. The opponent has 60xBB.

I'm BB. I have A♥9♦

The villain min-raises. I raise 5xBB. He calls.

The flop: J♠Q♠K♠

I go all-in. He folds.

My reasoning is: If I were the villain, I would not have called unless I had A♠ (and probably another spade), because the message here is that it's totally reasonable to consider I have A♠ (recall that I raised preflop, etc.)

I thought it was a smart move for that reason (the probability of him having 2 spades including A♠ is < 50 % ).

However one of my friends disagrees with this and tells me it was stupid because I had nothing and the opponent could have called (which I totally doubt).

I admit I am no pro poker player... Your analyses are bound to help me. Many thanks

  • What better hands do you expect to fold here? PS: I think the correct way to ask this question is to state your thinking process THEN let us give our opinions about it. "For some reasons" is not a good reason, though. – Bogdan Doicin Apr 2 at 5:10
  • 1
    Just upgraded my questions. Thanks for helping me make my question better – StudentInFinance Apr 2 at 7:33
  • Much better. I answered your question. – Bogdan Doicin Apr 2 at 14:16

*Range charts made with https://premiumpokertools.com/equity-calculator

Here's my analysis! Assuming your opponent is min-raising about 80ish percent of hands preflop, a reasonable calling range against your small 3-bet size might be this:

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After the flop, removal effects make villain's range look like this:

enter image description here

When you shove 3.5 times the flop, the villain's minimum defense frequency is 22%. If the villain only calls 2-pairs (18 combos), straights (20 combos), and flushes (15 combos) they're already at that 22%. Generally bet sizing is about finding a size that puts your opponents range into the most awkward spot, and this 3.5 x pot size doesn't do it here since they can call pretty comfortably with the above 53 combos. Villain might also reasonably call with AsJx with good equity and the nut-flush blocker too. If they call wider than I estimated preflop and need to defend wider, then KxTs, QxTs, JxTs could make reasonable bluff catchers too.

For these reasons, I disagree with your statement "My reasoning is : If I were my opponent, I would not have called unless I had Ace of spades (and probably another spades)". If you play this way, you will almost certainly be over-folding in these spots. Villain could (and probably would) call wider than this. Even if you have a read that the villain plays too tight, a smaller bet size (50% - 75% pot) would probably get an overly tight opponent to over-fold here.

Another caution (though not necessarily a mistake!) I would make here, is with the particular hand that you chose to bluff with. When you shove 3.5 x the pot, we know that your opponent doesn't have to call you with anything worse than 2-pair. That means your value hands are most likely going to be sets, straights, and flushes (9 combos of sets (KK, QQ, JJ), 16 combos of straights (AT), and, say, about 25 combos of flushes (suited aces, low suited connectors and gappers). That's about 50 hands for value. Your value bet to bluff ratio should be 9:7 (close to 50:50) given your overbet size. I'm not entirely sure what your range might look like here, but before bluffing aces I might look to bluff hands with a spade and a good blocker (As, Ts, maybe 9s) since you make it less likely that your opponent has a flush or the AT/T9 straight, and in case you do get called by a lower flush or a straight, you have a redraw to beat them. If you agree with me here and do bluff with these spades, you'll just have to be careful not to bluff every ace you have too, since you'd probably be over-bluffing.

  • Thanks Adam. The links will be useful too ! I just figured out I still have many things to learn (thats so great ! ) – StudentInFinance Apr 2 at 22:39
  • Great answer. Do you think he'll be able to apply all these knowledge at a live poker table, between two amateurs? – Bogdan Doicin Apr 3 at 0:05
  • @BogdanDoicin Hmm great question... Probably not without lots of practice (I'm still trying to get better at it). I know when I play, I certainly can't visualize entire ranges exactly, but sort of intuit it instead. Thinking in terms of ranges is the most important strategic takeaway (i.e. to know how to play a specific hand, it's important to know how to play all hands you and villain could have, and understand where the particular hand falls into that). As you mentioned in your answer, once you think in terms of ranges, all the "basic" poker strategy about leveling follows as a result. – Adam Apr 3 at 3:19
  • With modesty, I have to admit that it will take some timr to build a good understanding of the elements you provided. I'll not only have to understand this theoreticaly but also empirically. I think that this second step will go faster if I reach a very strong understanding and practice of provided tools. So, yes I ll be able to apply this... It s just that it will take lot of time investing into it... – StudentInFinance Apr 3 at 9:23
  • @StudentInFinance That's a great attitude! We're all still learning. For me personally, only when I started thinking in terms of ranges and balance did poker start to make some sense. – Adam Apr 3 at 19:12

It wasn't the worst move you could of made, that would of been check raising all in.

You where right taking over the lead in the hand, I am assuming he was first in so the buttons range here is ATC, any two cards. I think your raise was slightly small, should of been at least three time his twenty and maybe slightly more. I really want someone motivated to give up the steal here.

The all in bet on the flop was reckless. You could of achieved 99% as much by making a half pot to full pot size bet, without the risk of going broke.

You did not say if it was cash or tournament, I am guessing cash. You also did not say if there were other players that had limped, I assuming none, but one or more I would of leaned toward just letting my blind go. A-9 does not play well in a multiway action pot.


I think you brilliantly misplayed the hand. Here are my arguments:

  • You say that:

I admit I am no pro poker player.

And I think your opponent isn't either, because you both are playing short stacked. Actually, it's a live, friendly cash game. You have 40 BB and he has 60. Why aren't you buying in for 100 BB, so you can win your opponent's stack?

  • There is no reason for thinking like:

If I were my opponent...

No need for leveling, because the opponent only cares about his cards and, sometimes, to see if you're bluffing. All you have to do is to think in ranges.

  • If you shove flop after a 3-bet preflop, what better hands do you expect to fold? Only small pocket pairs (22-88). A high ace won't fold because he either has a pair, flopped a straight and/or freerolling for a flush (or, even better, a straight flush). However, you flop a pair in 33% of the cases. Which means that in 66% you don't. Would a small pocket pair min-raise/call 3bet preflop? Perhaps. It's a pair, after all, in a heads-up cash game. Of course, flopped sets or better won't ever fold here.
  • If you shove flop, what worse hands can call? Only straight draws and I ain't sure about them either. Anything else will gladly fold. However, they'd fold to a smaller bet.
  • When you shove flop, you risk $350 to win $465. This means that you need to fold the villain 75% of the cases to break even (you'll have small frequent earnings but huge, rare losses). Can you make your villain fold more often than this?

I would either check/check and see a showdown to see if I win or make small bets to try to keep straight draws and other weird, worse hands in the pot. If turn and river are bad cards (complete a straight or flush), shot down and fold with the first occasion.

Later edit. You also say that:

I thought it was a smart move for that reason (the probability he had 2 spades including the Ace of spades is <50 % )

Beside the fact that I'd like to see how did you get to this number, he needs to have something way rarer than 50% to rob you of your stack, long term.

  • Many tanks for your arguments. This helps me take a step back. It s still a bit confusing for me... Could you tell me the mistake in the following reasoning ?: since it s preferable to fold after flop unless you have Ace of spades, and another spade ... And given that you only have this combination about 1 % of time ... Then you call only 1 % of time and fold otherwise. Thus making 25 % return 99 % of time and loosing 100 % 1 % of time is not that bad... – StudentInFinance Apr 2 at 17:07
  • If you shove flop after a 3-bet preflop, what better hands do you expect to fold? .... Any hand with no ace of spades + another spades in hand.... Cause as you said... The opponent is bound to think I have a color since You don t go all in unless you have something like that – StudentInFinance Apr 2 at 17:18

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