Examples of adjusting your play based on the opponent

Knowing your opponent's style is most useful in situations when there are fewer players. Here are some examples when you will play the same hand differently depending on your opponent when it is heads-up on the River.

Example 1

You have AK. You open raise pre-Flop on the button and the big blind calls. You have been betting all along and getting called. By the River, the board is T-4-2-7-7 with no flush possibilities. It is checked to you on the River. Should you check or bet?

If your opponent is a calling station, you should consider betting. Although he will call with any pair, he may also call with a worse A-high hand, such as AJ, A8, A3. Against a calling station, you do not mind betting since you will get called down by a worse hand. However, if your opponent will fold then you should just check. This can occur if he was on a draw with a hand like A3 (gutshot straight draw with one high card) and called on the Flop and Turn. You should not bet against this player because he you cannot count on him calling without a pair. If he will not call unless he has a pair, then you cannot gain any value by betting. Knowing how the players play is crucial in deciding whether to bet or check.

Example 2

You have QJ in the big blind. An aggressive player has raised in middle position. You call along with a couple of other players.

Your hand: QJo Flop: K-T-9 rainbow

You flopped a straight and there are no flush draws, you are happy! You decide to play your hand strong on the Flop with a check-raise because you think there is a good chance you will get paid off since there are some high cards on the board.

Turn: 3

The Turn cannot improve another player's hand over yours, and you bet. Your lone opponent, the middle position player who raised pre-Flop calls.

River: A

Now you should consider check-raising. Your opponent is an aggressive player, a check by you in this spot may make him think you are afraid of the A. This means you may have a hand like KQ or KJ. An aggressive player will bet if he has an A in this spot with a hand like AQ or AJ (he would have been on a straight draw, and may have been thinking an A was an out for him as well). Even if he had a worse hand, such as QQ or JJ, he may consider betting in the hopes that you fold a split pair of K's. Calling stations do not press their edge like the aggressive players do. So a check-raise against a calling station will work less often because he will often check even if he has an A. The calling station fears you may have a better hand and will check even though he has improved. Against calling stations and passive players, betting out on the River is the best option.

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