Poker Hand Scenarios: The Must Fold

Hoyt Corkins
Hoyt Corkins making the fold.

Being able to fold when behind is what sets apart the great poker players from everyone else.

It's really easy to play the best hand. The difference between how much the best and worst players in the world make with the nuts is almost negligible.

The real difference between the best players and everyone else is their ability to lose the least - by knowing when to fold losing hands.

Regardless of how long waited for a decent starting hand, you have to muck it as soon as you know you're beat.

Those Pesky Jacks

You're playing a six-max 50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em game online. The players on the table are aggressive and somewhat loose, but there are no real aggro donkeys to be found.

You've been absolutely card dead for the last 30 minutes without being dealt a single hand worth playing until:

50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em - 6 players (Hero is always you)

UTG: $75
MP: $40
Hero(CO): $122
BTN: $198
SB: $132
BB: $40

Pre Flop: (Pot: $1.50) Hero is CO with J J

UTG raises to $5, MP folds, Hero re-raises to $20, BTN re-raises all in $198, 2 folds, UTG calls $70, Hero???

Unless you skipped the title and introduction to this article, you know the correct answer to this question is fold. In fact, it's a very easy fold to make. But it's a common scenario for beginners to lose their stack in.

The easiest way to understand this hand is to break it down, one action at a time:

UTG raises to $5. This is a slightly big raise for a $1 big blind (online) game, but that alone doesn't really tell you much.

Raising under the gun at a six-max table implies that he actually has a decent hand. At this point, without any more information, we can put him on a range that includes all pocket pairs, all suited aces, all suited connectors and face cards.

You're ahead of a lot of that range with jacks, so you re-raise. You bump it to $20 (4x the previous bet. Again, some would say it's slightly large, but it's totally reasonable).

Barry Greenstein
When you wait one hour for a hand, folding can be tough.

Now the button moves all in. This move should scare you, as he's pushing after a raise and a re-raise.

He's saying he has a huge hand, and "by the book" play would dictate this player has AA or KK here. But we have to take into account that we're playing six-max and he might be making a squeeze play.

Although it's very possible he has AA or KK, it's also possible he's on a pure bluff, trying to squeeze for the pot.

That's when UTG calls the all in. At this point there are only two options:

UTG has AA or KK, or UTG believes the button is making a play. Either way, for you to call and be ahead, the button has to be making a play and UTG has to be assuming that and calling with a hand less than JJ.

Although it's technically possible, it's highly unlikely you're ahead here. Chances are you're behind AA or KK, maybe even both of them.

If you're lucky you're up against TT and AK, but even with those hands you're still only 43% against the field. This is a must fold.

(For more advice on playing pocket jacks specifically, head to this article.)

What Can You Beat?

Next scenario: You've managed to make the previous fold, and over the last hour you've gone on a really good run and built up your stack.

A new player to the table also sat down and went on a sick run, leaving you both very deep stacked. This new player seems very tight, only showing down very strong hands.

50¢/$1 No Limit Hold'em - 6 players (Hero is always you)

UTG: $545
Hero(MP): $525
CO: $122
BTN: $198
SB: $132
BB: $40

Pre Flop: (Pot: $1.50) Hero is MP with A A

UTG raises to $5, Hero re-raises to $20, 4 folds, UTG re-raises to $75, Hero calls

Flop: (Pot: $151.50) 9 Q K

UTG checks, Hero bets $140, UTG raises all-in to $350, Hero???

Let's look at what just happened here.

UTG raised, which typically translates into him having a legitimate premium hand. We three-bet 4x his original raise right behind him. After the rest of the table folds, UTG four-bets to $75.

Phil Hellmuth
No one folds aces as often, or as jubilantly, as Phil Hellmuth.

At this point, you can be almost certain your opponent has a premium hand - probably KK or QQ - although it's not impossible he's running a huge, dumb bluff.

Either way, just calling here is your best option.

Moving all in now will only cause a bluff to fold, while just calling might induce your opponent to continue his bluff on the flop.

If he does have KK or QQ, chances are the money's going all-in on the flop anyways. Shipping it here doesn't really help you against a good hand, but it hurts you against a bluff.

Regardless of whether you agree with just calling here, in this scenario that's what you do and you head to the flop, which comes 9 Q K.

This is possibly the worst flop we could have seen. Let's look at the range of our opponent:

  • KK
  • QQ
  • AK
  • JJ
  • Bluff
  • TJ
  • TT
  • 99
  • AA

These are the only reasonable options, listed in descending order from the most probable to the least.

After this flop, you're drawing to two outs against the two most probable, two outs against pocket nines and you're drawing nearly dead to TJ.

With only six outs against you, you're in decent shape against JJ and TT.

You chop with AA, and you're only a huge favorite against a bluff or AK.

This is a horrible flop for you. Your opponent checks, probably meaning he has the set and is check-raising or he was bluffing and has given up.

You bet close to the pot, and he raises all in.

At this point, there's really nothing you can beat. You're most likely crushed.

There's a slim chance he's running a huge bluff, but it's very unlikely since almost all of the range he can put you on will call here. The only other option you can beat is if he's greatly overplaying a six outer or AK.

Odds are you're screwed. Not many players will try to run a bluff this in-depth against the only other player deep enough to (nearly) felt them.

Cut your losses, dump the aces and move on.

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