It is one of the most common hands you will ever play. You raise. The big blind is calling you. The flop comes out.
What’s interesting is not how common this situation is, but how people don’t realize the potential of this situation.
If you isolate this situation to a database, you’ll notice that your graph is going up. Your opponent can’t make any money once he calls you from the big blind. They are simply trying to save small shreds of their big blind.
Your job, as the player in position, is to make sure they don’t save any part of their big blind. Your job is to make him lose as much money as possible.
By the way, this is one of those situations that GTO extension software can help you substantially. If you really want to invest in your game, I would exercise this situation non-stop. It’s almost breathtaking what bets you can theoretically get away with when the big blind calls you.
Since we’re pressed for time in this article, however, we’ll focus on a few quick tips that will get you results fast.
The first thing to realize when someone calls you from the big blind is that they’re probably calling you with too many hands.
If someone limps with J-2 suitable from the hijack, calls a raise, and then calls more barrels on a KJ-5 rainbow table, they’ll be seen as the table fish. However, when someone calls from the big blind with the same hand and then calls multiple barrels on that board, no one bats an eye.
People go to the card room to play poker. If they had wanted to watch others play poker, they would have stayed at home and watched YouTube clips. The big blind gives them an excuse to play as loose as they really want to play. They can justify everything by saying that they have been run over.
Because of this, your recreational opponents will likely call you from the big blind with up to half the deck, even if you’re using a slightly bigger raise. This is great news for you. This means you create a situation where you have a superior hand, in position, in a bigger pot. Any poker player can make this advantage profitable.
But here’s how you’ll get more profit out of the situation. Your opponent has called you with half the hands. Realize that means that on any board the vast majority of what they flop will be high cards and middling pairs. What kind of couples? It will probably be the pairs that connected with that board.
If you want to know more about this, I recommend you pick up any hand range calculator. The one I always use is Flopzilla.
Let’s say someone called you from the big blind with 51% of the hands, a common occurrence in most live cardrooms at the lower stakes. The board came Q-9-5 rainbow.
On this particular board, the opponent would never make a hand 35% of the time. They would ace high 24% of the time. They would have some kind of couple 36% of the time. They flopped a set or two pair only 3% of the time.
There would be 72 combinations of pairs of nines. For example, an offsuit A-9 would create nine melds in our opponent’s range. K-9 offsuit would be another nine. J-9 offsuit would be another nine. You get the idea, there are tons of combinations. However there are only six total melds of any pocket pair your opponent can have.
The point of this exercise is not the exact numbers. You can play around with a preflop flatting range and get many different responses. Instead, this exercise is an illustration.
Hands-wise, it’s hard for your opponent to make a big hand when he calls with that much deck preflop. They are much more likely to flop nothing or a weak pair that matches one of the cards on the board. There are not many pocket pair combinations. It’s also difficult to make a flush draw as far as melds are concerned, because every flush draw hand you come up with is exactly a meld.
When your opponent calls from the big blind, you know the odds are in your favor. When they call you, their most likely hand is a mediocre pair that matches the board. There’s a good chance they would have raised with their best hands for value.
This is when things get fun. Now that we know that our opponent is likely to have mediocre pair, this makes them much easier to read.
Now the art form of poker comes into play. You know who is solid at your table and who is loose. You will exploit your opponents based on these readings.
If you’re playing Terry, who never has a big stack and always goes in the money or on the bubble, then you’ll start bombarding him with overbets. He might be baffled by the big bet. He will fold his mediocre pairs, especially if a scary card comes on the turn.
But not if you play Jacob. Jacob has never met a hand he didn’t like. Jacob never stops talking. Jacob showed up to gamble. Against him you want to look at your hand after the flop and ask yourself if your hand beats most of the mediocre pairs that have called you.
If your hand beats most pairs that match the board, then you need to start thinking about three ways. You need to start thinking about overbets.
If you miss a flush draw, don’t be afraid to overbet. Many loose players will use that missed flush draw as an excuse to call you. “I put you on a missed draw.”
There is a physical clue that you can pick up with some players. I don’t know why some loose aggressive players do this, but they do. When you bet on the turn, they will hesitate with their third or second pair. However, they don’t have much to think about with their weak top pair, so they call quickly when the action is upon them.
If you have a second pair top kicker and your loose opponent balked on the turn, you should seriously think about making a bet on the river, especially if you’ve confirmed this tell in a previous hand that you’ve observed.
Sure, this is one of those reads that is particular to certain people. Be sure to pay attention even when you’re not in the hand to confirm that your opponent does.
And remember, you don’t rate enough if you never accidentally rate the second-best hand. ♠
Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He’s a WPT AND EPT final tablist and has WCOP extension AND NEWS IN ADVANCE win online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom. Currently he enjoys blasting bums in Ignition tournaments while listening to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at PokerHeadRush.com