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OTB #034: Why Questions Are Everything When It Comes to Solving Tough Poker Spots

A couple of weeks ago I posted this hand on X (formerly Twitter):

You open QQ on the Button on this final table and the massive chip leader in the Big Blind calls.

You c-bet 1.38bb into 5.5bb and the Big Blind check raises to 5.9bb.

  • What do you do, and why?

  • Would you have checked back flop?

It's a tough spot for a couple of reasons:

  1. Hero has QQ on a King high board and faces a check raise

  2. The check raise comes from the huge chip leader when you're 2nd in chips (at the start of the hand)

I received some great replies and they were so polarising so today I want to go through some of them and help you answer these questions:

  • Should we ever just jam preflop?

  • Is checking back better than c-betting?

  • Should we continue versus the check raise?

And show you why coming up with questions like this will help you solve tough poker spots, with a little help from Holdem Resources Calculator and PIOSolver.

Let's dive in...

Should we ever just jam preflop?

QQ is a really nice hand and it's normally strong enough to induce in this spot.

However, Hero is 2nd in chips and therefore has the highest risk premium (21.3%) out of anyone against the chip leader.

If you open too many hands here, you're going to have to fold a lot when the Big Blind 3-bets or 3-bet jams because you need to be able to realise an extra 21.3% equity.

That means you have to open a tight range to begin with and also your induce range becomes much stronger.

Even though Hero has 21bb at the start of the hand, the huge risk premium means that you are better off jamming a lot of hands (purple) in this spot and then raising a polarised range (pink).

QQ mixes between raise/calling and just jamming in the first place. JJ and AKo are pure jams.

Is checking back better than c-betting?

According to the solver, you should only raise preflop with 5.9% of hands in this spot.

On the KJ6r board you have an equity advantage (67.4% vs 32.6%) and a nut advantage (9.5% vs 3.3%), which usually leads to lots of c-betting. And that's exactly what would happen if you were playing in a Chip EV world rather than a $EV world.

For chips, it's a straight forward c-bet with your entire range for a mix of sizes. The solver likes to use the 25% pot bet ~36% of the time and the 1/2 pot bet ~64% of the time. QQ, and our specific combo, mixes both sizes.

In the $EV world, the high risk premium against the Big Blind is forcing us to check back sometimes.

Having said that QQ is still mainly betting.

Also, the solver only uses the smaller 25% pot sizing in the $EV sim, and this is something you'll see a lot on final tables - a lot more smaller c-betting.

Should we continue versus the check raise?

The general argument from the post for calling is that the Big Blind can be really aggressive in this spot and has a lot of bluffs.

That's actually not the case.

Remember that you only start off with 5.9% of hands. This is a great board for you as you have all the advantages (equity, nuts and position).

This means that when you choose to cbet 25% pot, the Big Blind can't go too crazy.

They actually only get to check raise ~14% of their range here, and while that includes some bluffs like Qs3s, Th8h or 5c4c and some worse hands for value like A6o, they can still have sets, two pair and top pair that beat you.

Notice that there is very little raising with any straights draws (AT/QT/Q9/T9). All of these hands make more $EV by calling rather than check/raising and getting it in.

QQ is not a good continue against the Big Blind's check raise range. It blocks some bluffs like Q4/Q3/Q2 of spades and the only reason you see Hero's exact combo call at all is because the Qd doesn't block any of those bluffs.

Instead, Hero should continue with:

  • Sets (KK and 66)

  • Two pair (KJo)

  • Overpair (AA)

  • Top pair (AKs, KQo, KTo, K9s, K8s, K7s)

  • J9s with a backdoor flush draw

  • A6 with a backdoor flush draw

  • Straight draws (AQs/ATs)

The following hands are indifferent:

  • QQ with a diamond

  • 2nd pair (QJo/JTs)

  • Gutshots with a backdoor flush draw (Q9s/T9s)

And these hands should fold 100% of the time:

  • 3rd pair (77)

  • Low pair (55)

  • Ace highs

  • Gutshots in diamonds

  • Nothing (Q8s/T8s)

Great questions

Almost all of the poker players I've worked with are good at coming up with the answers. What they sometimes struggle with is coming up with great questions.

Next time you're trying to solve a spot like this one, try to come up with some great questions to help.

That's all for this week.

See you next time.


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