Your hand

Action to you: Players A, B, and C all fold.

Question: Do you raise, and if so, how much?

Answer: The standard raise with this hand is three to four times the big blind. You don't want drawing hands to come in cheaply, but unlike the case with jacks or tens, your hand is strong enough so that you don't want to discourage action entirely. Here $4,000 seems like a nice even number to raise.

Action: You raise to $4,000. Player E folds. Player F raises to $10,000. The blinds fold. The pot is now $18,000. It costs you $6,000 to call.

stion: What do you do?

Answer: Your first job is to figure out what this bet might mean. Your second job will be to decide if you want to put him all-in or not.

You can never tell, from a player's bet before the flop exactly what he has. The best you can do is put him on a set of possible hands, then decide how you like your chances against each hand in the set. From that analysis you should be able to get a sense of what the right play is. Be very skeptical of players who claim they can look into their opponent's soul and do better than that. They're just messing with your head.

So what hands might he hold here? The first possibility, obviously, is aces or kings. If he holds those hands, you're a 4.5-to-l underdog, and very unhappy.

The next possibility is ace-king. (Ace-queen is less likely since you hold two of the queens and he probably won't play ace-queen this way.) Here you're a slight favorite. On a strict probabilistic calculation, there are more ace-king combinations than pairs of aces or pairs of kings combined. (There are 16 ways to deal an ace-king from the deck, against just six possible ace-ace pairs and six possible king-king pairs. Ace-queen in this scenario has eight combinations but again is not something he would reraise with. Ace-queen suited has only two combinations here.)

The third possibility is a medium pair, say jacks though eights or even sevens. Here you have to consider both how likely these hands are, and how likely it is that he chose to raise with these hands. With aces or kings, he would almost certainly elect to raise. With pairs of jacks or tens, it's possible, but not at all certain, that he would have stuck in a raise. It's a little more likely than usual because you've been the aggressive player at the table. He might have decided that your initial raise was a bluff, and these were good hands for making a stand. (It's important to remember that in addition to noting how your opponents are playing at the table, you must also note how you appear to them. Sometimes that will provide a clue to interpreting their bets. If you've been giving action, lots of players will take any pair and come after you.)

The last possibility is that Player F holds some hand other than any of these. It's not likely, but it's by no means impossible. When stacks begin to get short in relation to the blinds, players will start making plays, and you have to factor this in. In your poker career, you'll end up many times agonizing over whether to call a tough-looking bet, only to find that your opponent had absolutely nothing! This case may not be very likely here, but you should give it some probability, perhaps about 10 percent.

Overall, it looks to me like you're a solid favorite here. You're a big dog against the two overpairs, and a big favorite against any underpair. There are many more possible underpairs than overpairs, so it's as much as 2.5- or 3-to-l that he's actually holding an underpair. You're a small favorite against ace-king, and a big favorite against any random bluff.

Having reasoned that out, you should next look at the money odds, which turn out to be excellent. Right now there's $18,000 in the pot, and your opponent has $27,000 left. If you put him all-in and he calls, you'd be risking $27,000 of your own money to try and win $45,000 (the $18,000 currently in the pot plus the $27,000 he will have to put in to call). Those are great odds in a situation where you think you're a solid favorite. You won't be in good shape if you lose, but these kinds of decisions are the kind that win tournaments.

Resolution: You put him all-in, and he calls and shows K4K4ยป. The flop comes 847434. Fourth and fifth street are the J4 and the 4^. His king-high flush beats your queen-high flush.

Note that you were destined to lose a lot of your money on this hand. Had you not put him all-in before the flop but just called, the flush draw would have forced you to put him all-in after the flop.

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