How to Play Poker Lesson 5: Charging Opponents


One of the more unique attributes of low limit hold ’em is that the pots often get so enormous before the flop that anyone who got even a sliver of help from the flop is frequently justified in continuing on with their hand. For the player holding pocket aces, this can be incredibly frustrating, since it can seem like the river brings one miracle card after another—all of which help our opponent without helping you.

Alas, there is nothing you can do about this. If you have pocket kings, and our opponent has pocket fives, and your opponent has decided that he’s going to go to the river with his hand no matter what, then there’s nothing on God’s green Earth that you can do when he catches a five on the river. But, there are plenty of occasions where your opponents will take a look at the turn with a long shot draw, but will not look at the river IF you’re able to charge them two big bets on the turn to continue with their hands. Thus, it often makes sense to just call (or even check) on the flop with a fairly big yet vulnerable hand, with the intention of slapping your opponents with a raise on the turn. While this play lets them see the turn cheaply, it goes a long way towards keeping them from looking at the river. And when the pots get big, taking a few calculated risks early in the hand is often a good idea if it improves your chances of winning the pot.

Let’s look at an example. You have pocket 9’s on the button, and call after four other players have called. Now the small blind raises, and all call to the man on your right who three bets. You call, and all call. Seven players to the flop for three bets each. The flop comes Jh 9h 6d. All check the the man on your right who bets.

You should just call here. Although most players will raise, in an attempt to protect their equity in the pot, it’s important to note that anyone who has a draw to a hand that would beat you will call two bets here just as easily as they would call one. A hand like Kh Ts, for example, is probably going to see the turn no matter what. So is a hand like Td 7d. However, while these hands are going to see the turn no matter what the price, they may not go to the river if they’re faced with the prospect of paying two big bets. If you just call the flop here, the player to your right will probably bet the turn as well. Now you can raise and charge the field two bets. If, however, you raised here, there’s a good chance that the man on your right would check the turn, which means you’d only have the opportunity to charge the field one bet. If a player goes on to beat you on the river you have lost a lot if he would have folded for two bets on the turn.

In order for this play to work, you need a couple things going for you. First, you want to be fairly sure that the turn bet is going to come from your right. Second, be confident that there are plenty of possible hands your opponents could be holding that will call two flop bets as easily as they’d call just one. Also, check and make sure the pot is big enough (say, larger than 13 small bets or so) to justify taking this kind of risk. If the pot is small, you’re better of raising the flop, which will make any of your opponents’ calls on the flop a horrible mathematical mistake.

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