Should have folded top set

This isn’t related to poker tells or behavior in any way. Just a hand I played yesterday that I spent a lot of time thinking about so I thought I’d share it.

It was a $2-5 game. I only have $400 in front of me. I usually am significantly deeper and my shorter stack plays a role in this hand. This game can vary from super loose to mostly tight and it was in the mostly tight range yesterday. In this hand, UTG and UTG+1 both limp, as does a middle position player and the SB. I’m in the BB w/ TT and I check. So it’s 5-way to the flop of 67T rainbow. 

SB, a tight middle-aged guy, bets $20. I call. UTG raises to $50. UTG is a guy who calls a lot but has been pretty snug for last few hours when it comes to betting and raising significant amounts. But after his raise he only has about $100 behind.

UTG+1 folds. Middle position guy, who we’ll call Jimmy, quickly shoves his entire $500 stack in the middle. SB thinks for a few seconds, seemingly finding it a little tough to fold his hand, but he does.

A little about the mid-position player, Jimmy; I’ve played with him maybe 10 times. He’s known for being very reckless, calling big bets without much, making weird raises that don’t make sense. Just generally strange. (An example: earlier, I’d rivered a flush w/ Qd 4d on a Qc Qs 9d Jd 5d river. He bets a very small $10 on the river, a player calls, I raise to $35, and Jimmy min-raises to $60, I call and he shows TJ.) So because Jimmy’s pretty reckless in general, and I was shorter than usual, and because I figured the UTG raiser was going to put in his last $100, I figured all of this added up to a call, even if Jimmy had the 89 a good portion of the time.

As it turned out, both Jimmy and UTG had the 89. And it turned out the SB folded 6T. And looking back at the hand a little more closely I could see that this was one spot I could have folded top set and felt pretty good about it.

For one, while Jimmy is kind of reckless when calling and when making smaller bets, he’s not a total lunatic. In a limped pot on a 67T flop, he’s not going to just shove his stack in with anything. He’s not going to do it w/ an overpair, he’s not going to do it w/ two pair, he’s not going to do it with a set of 6s or 7s. I could see him doing it w/ my hand; a set of tens, but that and 89 are the only hands in hindsight he’d be doing it with. He’s especially not going to do that when there’s been a bet from a tight guy, a call from me, and a raise to $50 in front of him. Sure, it was a little strange for him to just overbet/shove the pot, which made me think in the moment that this decreased his chances of having 89. But weirder players are capable of seeing action in front of them, seeing a decent pot, and just thinking “I got to protect my hand, let them call if they want to” and shoving. (And I saw Jimmy do this later when he flopped a flush; just overbet-shoved. So it’s a pattern I’ve got some history for now.)

So if you assume he’s only doing that w/ 89, and if you assume the UTG guy is putting in his last $100, that’s $615 in the pot for me to call for $375. Heads-up versus 89, my odds are 35%, so I’m not getting the right price.

On top of it being highly unlikely Jimmy’s shoving with anything less than 89, you also have to think about what the other two players in the hand have. The SB who bet $20 on the flop and who seemed like he didn’t like having to fold to the shove; what could he have had? The way it went down, it was very likely he’d flopped two pair w/ some random small blind hand, which is exactly what happened. I should have also been able to deduce that, too. He would probably have raised overpairs preflop, and with any one pair hand he would have tossed his hand immediately when Jimmy shoved; instead he kind of hemmed and hawed and seemed upset, which should have made it pretty clear to me that there were probably 2 of my outs to full houses gone right there. Also, the UTG guy who raised to $50; if he didn’t have the straight, then he had some of my full house outs, too.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t often make a habit of folding sets, especially not top sets. But I think this was a clear case where I could have easily gotten away from it and felt good about it. In the moment, my only two thoughts were, “I’m shorter than usual and Jimmy’s pretty crazy” and I called pretty quickly. But it goes to show there’s always value in thinking a little bit more about a decision and not deciding so quickly. Making quick decisions is admittedly one of my major weaknesses.

Oh, there’s also the old Doyle Brunson adage: “Don’t go broke in an unraised pot.” That’s always in the back of my mind. While I’m sometimes of course willing to break that rule if the stars align and I think I’ve got an edge, that would also have been worth thinking about, too.

  • JD

    My instinct here is this is a call. And heads up I don’t think you should fold. I mean you have to be really confident he’s not doing that with 66 or 77. Even if he’s only doing with 77 or 89 you still have %44 equity. But it’s a marginal spot no matter what you do.

    In this situation however it’s a fold, and it’s not even that close. I had to use PokerStove to get it. I gave the SB a range of 2P+, UTG range of 76 or set+, and Jimmy 66,77, or 89. Your equity is only %20. I then add to the SB random Tx and pair plus gut shots, and you’re equity didn’t change. It also didn’t change if he bet folded 66 or 77. What I found really interesting is it doesn’t matter if Jimmy’s range is a set+ or the nuts, your equity is still 20% (in the main pot, PokerStove is not capable of doing a side pot calculation). I guess what’s happening is all 3 villians’ ranges are blocking each other from having lower sets while simultaneously blocking your outs to a boat.

    It is an interesting hand, but this is one situation that might be a typical fold regardless of reads.

  • Dan VanDyke

    Zach, Why didn’t you raise preflop? I know you had bad position but I’m raising with 10 10 , esp with a number of limpers in there. I’d probably bump it to 25 or 30 and 67o would most likely fold (although I lost a pot last night with some idiot who called a $35 preflop raise oop heads up with 67o who ended up flopped 2 pr :)) . Also you are getting close to the right price and if there’s a percentage of the time the crazy guy is doing something like overvaluing 2pr I dont think its a terrible call. The main thing is raising preflop. I personally think 10 10 is too good of a hand to limp with with a few others in. I’d want to thin the field a bit or maybe just take the pot down right there. If everyone is call happy thats ok too. If its a bad board you can just chk fold but if its ragged you’re most likely in the lead.

  • Rob

    Interesting hand, but I’m curious as to why you were so sure Jimmy didn’t have bottom or middle set. You say he wouldn’t have shoved with those hands? What would expect him to do there with those hands? Slow play? Or play scared fearing top set or the flopped straight? Would really like to know your thinking.

    Also wondered, as did Dan, why you didn’t raise with 10/10. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have, but then, I’m a nit. :)

  • Zachary Elwood

    Raising pre was definitely an option. I would do it a good amount of the time. The UTG limp and the UTG+1 limp made me not want to. I think either decision in this spot is fine, though, IMO.

    I think Jimmy would just call the $50 w/ a set. The raiser on the flop only has $100 behind. It would be pretty bad to just shove in $500 and hope the SB (who covered that) and me didn’t have the 89. Or I could see him raising $100 “to find out where he was at” too. But the shove I just feel now he would only do w/ that hand. I could be wrong, though. Just my read on this particular player and my history w/ him.

  • Thomas Foster

    Seems a little results-oriented, to me. You sound more confident Jimmy can’t have a set than I would be he doesn’t have t9/87 + bdf or 2 pair and a dream.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Considering the action in front of him, and the # of players, I think it makes it very unlikely that he, or anyone else would play a low set like that. If it was just him raise-shoving in a raised pot on the flop then I’d say his range would be wider, but as it went down I think it was a super-narrow range.

  • YH

    This is definitely a tough spot, especially with topset out of position. An argument can be made for raising and folding preflop. But do consider, with 80bb, you want to see a flop and get your money in with good equity. Or shove preflop over a single raise with AK, JJ+. Of course this depends on preflop action as well. E.g. Shoving JJ over a super tight player that 3bets the first time the whole night isn’t a good idea.

    So back to the hand. I think given 80bb, and 35% dog to a flopped straight (worse case scenario), getting it in isn’t entirely wrong. I’m assuming a rainbow board. If there is a flush draw there would be more reason to play fast and go with it as there would be flush draws in opponents ranges).

    If the opponent read the SB for weak, and your call as well, they could shove with top 2, middle or bottom set, etc… It depends on the first person betting out. If he’s known to do that with the nuts a lot, they might not shove. Think about it, if you flopped the joint on a rainbow board, most players would go for a check/r.

    Going back to Jimmy’s 500 shove, it’s a tough tough spot, maybe he might do that with a pair and a flush draw (if there was one). But there would be hands you might beat. Don’t forget you have a redraw (35%) to a full house. And at 80bb I don’t think you are getting away.

    One thing though. Tell specific, if the guy shoved the 500 without looking or considering other people’s stack sizes, that could be a tell. People usually don’t think or pay so much attention to these things when they have the nuts… Question is how do they look when they play these spots without the nuts? E.g. Top pair and a flush draw etc.