When You're Beat, You're Beat

Phil Hellmuth

Recognizing when you're beat and making that big fold can be a difficult skill to master. However, making those timely lay-downs can have a huge effect on your overall win rate.

Everyone loves making that sick call for all their chips and finding their opponent bluffing.

The thrill of catching someone running a bluff in a huge pot is one of the greatest feelings in poker. However, too often players go out of their way in an attempt to make that "hero" call.

These "hero" calls can dramatically affect your win rate, especially if you are wrong more often than you are right.

Think about how often you stack a player. It's not that often, so giving away your stack trying to make a hero call does not make a whole lot of sense.

Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together

When you're wrapped up in the middle of a big hand it is sometimes difficult to remove yourself from the situation in order to see the bigger picture.

Often you get caught in the moment and talk yourself into believing that your opponent is bluffing, when in reality he is betting purely for value.

Before making that large call, it's best to try and slow things down, take a deep breath and play back the action in your head.

What did he do before the flop? What did he do on the flop? What about the turn? His actions will paint a picture.

Look at that picture and use your knowledge of your opponent  before making any rash decisions.

Let's take a look at an example.

Kenny Tran
"Sick Call" Kenny Tran lives and dies by the hero call.

$1/2NL, effective stacks $200.

A tight player limps from early position and you raise to $8 with K K from the button.

Your opponent calls and you take a flop heads-up of 4 8 9.

Your opponent checks; you bet $12; your opponent check-raises to $38.

You call and the turn is the Q.

Your opponent bets $70.

Slow it down. Think about the information. It is easy to talk yourself into calling here. You do have an overpair to the board, after all. But let's really think about what your opponent is doing here.

He limped under the gun, then called a raise. Tight players are most likely to do this with mid pocket pairs and some A-Q, K-Qs type hands.

The flop came down three small cards and he check-raised you big. You peeled, and he fired another huge barrel on the turn.

Despite the fact that you have an overpair, it is worth about zero in this situation. You are basically never good.

His range is so tight - basically only sets and the occasional two pair- that a call would simply be throwing money away. In fact an argument can probably be made for folding on the flop!

This fold may seem extremely standard to some players, but time and time again players go broke in hands just like this.

Think about your opponent's value-betting range. If you aren't ahead of the bulk of it, then do not call.

Humberto Brenes
Who says I play ABC poker?

A Simple Rule

Your opponents are never bluffing as much as you think they are. Though you may talk yourself into believing they are, it is very rare for small-stakes opponents to run up large bluffs.

At the bulk of small- to medium-stakes games, players' bets mean exactly what they look like they mean. Unless you have amazing reads and/or have seen them bluff in similar spots before, it is best to take their bets at face value.

Keep in the mind the types of opponents you are playing against: if you have one pegged as an ABC TAG, until they show you otherwise, they are not going to be bluffing in big pots.

It's all too easy to get wrapped up in big pots with good but not great hands. This is a habit that needs to be broken!

Saving Bets Is As Good As Winning Bets

There is so much emphasis put on making solid value bets, and with good reason - that's how most of your money is made. But saving money is just as good as making money in the long term. So don't sleep on that part of your game.

The ability to make big folds when the action dictates it is one of the most difficult skills to master in this game. It is what separates the great players from the merely good ones.

"Hero" calls or pride calls are not good for your game or your win rate. It can be difficult when you are in the heat of the moment but take your time, run through the hand and really think about it. Take a deep breath and tell yourself the types of hands he could be doing this with.

If you think you're beat, you probably are. Save yourself your stack and the heartache; muck your hand and move on.

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