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The Debate: Flopping the flush

The beauty of poker is that 10 players could play the same hand 10 different ways. Granted, most of us would raise with aces preflop, but the amounts might be different. Or maybe the way we'd play them against different opponents would change our strategy.

In this week's debate, our hero has flopped a king-high flush, but is wondering how he can extract the most value out of the hand without losing to a bigger flush on the turn or river. Peter Feldman, one of only two players who has won two WSOP Circuit events, joins me to discuss this week's debate.

As always, read below this week's debate for some of your feedback on last week's column. Submit your response, and you could be featured next week. If you've missed any previous debates, just click on any Monday in the calendar to the left and weigh in with your opinions.

Let the debate begin ...

Situation: The blinds are $1,000/$2,000 and our hero sits in the cutoff seat with $85,000. As the action folds down to hero, he looks down to see Kc-8c and raises it to $8,000. The big blind, a hyper-aggressive player and chip leader, calls.

The flop is 9c-10c-3c and the big blind checks. With $17,000 currently in the pot, what should our hero do?

Let the debate begin ...

Andrew: Talk about raising in position and getting lucky. So, do we bet here or do we check, hoping that the big blind catches up somehow, and doesn't hold the ace of clubs in his hand? I'm thinking we have to protect our hand, but judging by this board, it might be tough to extract value at this point.

Peter: First of all, I don't like the open raise in this position against an aggressive opponent. I would tighten up against a hyper-aggressive big blind and I would probably play only good hands in that spot, but open raising with K-8s there can't be that bad.

Getting back to the situation, I would definitely bet. Probably around $11,000.

Andrew Will $11,000 do the trick? Obviously we want to get him off the draw here, and knowing that he's hyper-aggressive, he may even come in for a raise thinking that hero is just making a continuation bet. If our opponent does call, what kind of hand would he be holding? Can we immediately just put him on the nut flush draw? What's the bet that can dissuade hero's opponent into calling on a draw?

Peter: Since the opponent is hyper-aggressive, if he just calls I wouldn't put him on any type of draw. I would expect that he would raise with a draw, or a hand such as a pair and the nut flush draw. I want my bet to look like a continuation bet because I want an aggressive player to play back at me with a lot of hands. I've flopped a huge hand, protecting it against the ace of clubs is not really my top concern at this point, getting action from his wide range of hands is.

I also have a hard time putting him on a set because an aggressive player would probably reraise preflop with all pairs in that spot.

Andrew: What we're basically saying is that we cannot put our opponent on a hand until we make a decision on how to act on this pot. If we check here, can we induce a bet from our opponent on the turn knowing his style of play? I couldn't see him passing up a second opportunity to bet on a board like this.

Peter: He might bluff the turn if I check behind on the flop, but I don't see getting any more than one bet from him. I think in the long run I make more by playing the hand fast and having him put a raise in on the flop with a wide range of hands, allowing me to possibly get all-in with him being in terrible shape. I could slow play the hand and hope he keeps firing on the turn and the river, but hyper aggressive players aren't always habitual bluffers ...

Action: Out hero does in fact lead out with $15,000. Our opponent calls and the turn reveals an ace of spaces. Once again, our opponent checks to hero.

Andrew: The pot is now $47,000, our hero only has $62,000 left. If hero pushes here, I don't think we get a call. What can we do to induce our opponent to go over the top? A bet like $15,000 that screams weakness?

Peter: I would probably bet something very small or even check behind. I learned a lot by my aggressive opponent just calling on the flop. I don't think he can have the Ac because I don't think he just calls on the flop with the nut flush draw. I don't think he has two pair or a set, because I think he would raise the flop with both of those hands, and the As on the turn could not have made him aces up. He will probably reraise preflop with A-10 and he might raise the flop with A-10.

His most likely hands on the turn are a 10 with a bad kicker, open-ended straight draws, or a hand like K-J with the jack of clubs. He might have flopped the nut flush, in which case I'm conceding going broke against him anyway, so I'm not going to worry about that possibility. Against his range of hands, and against his tendencies, I do not want to make a large bet. I would bet something like $15,000 or $20,000, but I also think checking behind on the turn is not bad. Since I believe I have him drawing dead I don't want to give him any reason to release his hand. And by betting small we might just induce a maniacal bluff at the pot.

Andrew: I don't like checking behind here, but at this point, as you said, our hero probably has his opponent drawing almost dead. I'm leaning toward betting again, if for the sole reason of just building the pot. Our hero is still ahead here, and I'd rather not allow our opponent to see a river card that can help him for free.

Action: The river is the 2c and our opponent immediately moves all-in.

Peter: I think any card that helps him on the river will still make him a second-best hand and not a best hand. I don't think the 2c is a bad card for me. He might have missed his straight draw, or he might think it's a good bluff card for him. I would call because he is aggressive and I really didn't ever put him on the Ac after he just called on the flop.

So what happened? Our hero called the all-in and his opponent showed Ks-Jc.

What would you do if you were in this situation? Send us your feedback, and we'll take a look at your thoughts next time.


Feedback from the last debate:

Chris (Pittsburgh) This is a tough one, but I think I would have to fold here. After a check on the flop, our hero was raised, and reraised ... so look at it as if we were last to act ... there is a bet and a raise in front of us. I really don't see how I can call here. The fact that I am likely to put one of these guys on 6-7 suited or A-6 is enough for me to get away from the queens and live to fight another day. There is even the possibility that the original limper was hoping to trap with a big hand like aces or kings, and now that he sees this board is trying to get everyone out. Without really knowing the players, I smell at least one monster and I'm laying this one down.

Ben (Los Angeles) Given the all-in reraise after the flop, I would put the limper on three possible hands: 6-6, A-6, and 8-9 suited. These are the kinds of hands which seem reasonable to limp with in early position and be last to call a multi-way preflop raise. The limper's all-in decision was a horrible semi-bluff because there were two players remaining who bet and raised. Chances are that one of them would call. If hero didn't call, button likely would have called with and shown pocket 8's to J's. I don't like hero's all-in unless hero had a solid read on the limper because hero had to give him credit (not to mention the button just might've had something). There isn't enough information to know this is a good decision until the cards are flipped, but erring on the side of caution, I would let this hand go.

Joe (Wallington) I'm a little surprised at the way this hand turned out and I'd love to know what the original raiser/eventual folder had. He felt confident enough to raise from $500 to $1000 (A-7 at absolute worst?) but didn't call the all-in. As it turned out this was a very good read that could probably only be made at the table while seeing your opponents play for a bit. More often than not when the board pairs and there is a bet, raise and reraise it's likely that one of the three players flopped a set but in this case knowing your opponents style becomes very beneficial. Online I would never make that play, live tournament ... you never know.

Jeff (Bridgewater) Going by the action my initial thought was that the limper had a suited 8-9. I was never worried about the button. There is a 3 percent chance that the button has a better pocket pair than hero does. So probably A-K there and the reraise was to see if indeed hero has a pair or something like K-J. The all-in play just says one thing to me. The thinking of the limper was like this. "There's a lot of chips in there and I have an open ended straight draw. If I get called my odds are still good." I've actually heard those exact words many times just adjusted a bit after being called. Now in this case I was off by one card but still I make this call cause it's either the open ended straight or top pair and no matter what hero is ahead. There is no way that with a 6 your going to move here cause if you just call and then that Ace falls on the turn one of your opponents is bound to be holding it and they will gladly call your all-in then with aces up!

Corey (Herkimer, NY) It's a good read by our hero to move all-in with the queens. While I was reading the article, putting the limper on A-6 suited is just giving him way too much credit and seemingly just done so because of the 6-6 on the board. My first immediate thought about the limper was that he had to have limped in with suited connectors. You mentioned all three players had decent stacks, and the blinds had to be 25-50. I would think that the player that called from the button has to have had a pocket pair here. There is no way he raises a three-way pot with A-K. A-Q is out since you already have two queens, I'm putting the button here on two nines and he has to like this flop if he had pocket nines, but after the limper's all-in, and your all-in, he has no other option but to fold. My first thought was that the limper came in with an 8-9. Moving all-in with 7-8 after all the action in this pot is incredibly loose and impatient, but a good read by hero, I would have done the same thing.