Strategy Snapshot: Marginal Hand Out of Position? Not Good

Published On: 20 December 2007 / Modified: 8 May 2018
Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Vanessa Rousso

In the ongoing Strategy Snapshot series, looks at a key hand from a major live tournament and breaks it down from a strategy standpoint.

Players: John Juanda and Vanessa Rousso

Tournament: APPT Macau

Situation: Day 1/Average Stack $21,000

Blinds: $150/$300 with a $50 ante

John Juanda is dealt 2-2 under the gun and bumps it up to $1,000 with $74,000 behind. It's folded around to Vanessa Rousso in the big blind who makes an aggressive call with A 9. With the call, Rousso has only $12,000 remaining in her stack. This play is a disaster waiting to happen.

Why? A9s is not a hand you want to play out of position against an UTG raiser, especially with such an awkward stack size. If Rousso hits either an ace or a 9 she will have to commit all of her chips.

How confident could she be if the board comes ace high and she has to get it in with an UTG raiser? Thus, she has put herself into a terrible spot right off the bat.

The flop comes down 8 5 2. Since Rousso misses the flop completely she checks over to Juanda. Juanda, with a set of deuces, opts for the slow play and checks through.

The turn brings the 9. With top pair, top kicker, Rousso makes a pot-sized bet of $1,900. Juanda weighs his options and decides to raise to $4,800. Much to his delight, Rousso three-bet hammers all-in. Juanda makes an easy insta-call and Rousso is drawing dead to the river.

Let's take a closer look at the play on all streets. Juanda raises from UTG to $1,000. Usually an UTG raise screams strength. Rousso, choosing to ignore this fact, calls and decides to see a flop out of position with a marginal hand.

She checks the flop when she misses and Juanda checks behind. Juanda is an aggressive player, likely to continuation-bet most flops. The fact he does not bet on a very dry board should set off alarm bells.

When the 9 comes off on the turn, Rousso bets into Juanda. This play is not terrible, considering she now has top pair, top kicker. If for some reason Juanda were to have checked the flop with a hand like A-K or overcards, he would most likely fold here.

However, Juanda doesn't fold and instead makes a raise to $4,800. This tells the world he has a great hand. He raised pre-flop from early position, he checked through rather than c-betting on a dry-as-Vegas board and now raises a turn bet.

This should clearly tell Rousso her pair of nines is nowhere near good.

However, she decides now is a good time to put the rest of her stack into play. GG. She effectively turns her hand into a bluff. No worse hand is going to pay her off here and no better hand will ever fold.

In fact, when Juanda puts 50% of her stack in the pot he is telling her that he wants to play for stacks.

Yet for some reason Rousso wants to play for stacks as well despite the mounting evidence her hand is no good. If she had folded she could have remained alive with a stack of $10,000 and an M of over 12.

The moral of the story: playing marginal hands out of position against UTG raisers is never a good plan. Further, if an aggressive player declines to continuation bet on a dry board, there's definitely a chance he could be slow-playing!

If ever you find yourself involved in a hand like this, you need to go back to the beginning and look at the action. The action should tell a story. If the story adds up, you should muck your hand.

If Rousso had taken the time to look at the previous action, it would have been obvious her hand was a huge dog to Juanda's range. Instead, she ignored the information at hand and ended up paying for it.

Juanda, on the other hand, made his way to the final table of the $15k High Rollers Event and a possible six-figure payout.

Final-table action has now wrapped up from Macau and to see how it all went down, visit the live tournaments section.


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