Most of the advice in the training material I produce relates to games with deeper stacks. My favorite level to play is $5-$10 uncapped no limit where you still get a fair amount of weak, recreational players and the game gets very juice when deep. However, I acknowledge that most of you wanting to improve your game normally play at capped games at or below the $5 big blind level. Usually, especially in southern California, where I am from, these games are heavily capped. In fact, the most common blind structure in $200 max buy in games in southern California is $2-$5. This commonly creates situations where, if the pot has been reraised preflop, players have effective stacks of less than one pot size bet.
These spots create some difficult situations. They also create awkward hands where we become so pot committed after one bet that it is difficult for us to get away from a medium strength holding. Even though I am very rarely an advocate of slowplaying making trappy plays are sometimes best in these spots even with hands that are not monsters.
Let us take a look at a hand I recently played at the Bike a few weeks ago. The game was $5-$5 and the effective stacks were $280. After one limper a recreational, loose, player raised to $35 and I looked down at A♥ K♥ immediately to his right from the cutoff. I three bet him to $80, everyone folded and he called. The flop came out K♦ 7♣ 2♥ and he checked. The pot had $170 in it and he had $200 left in his stack. At this point there was absolutely no chance I was ever getting away from my hand and figured that I would gain more value from him bluffing a later street or catch something that made him continue on so I checked the flop back. The turn was the 8♥. He now bet $90. Obviously I could have put him all in right there. However, even though a backdoor flush draw appeared I still thought I was way ahead in the hand and wanted to give him a little bit more rope to hang himself if he was bluffing. I also thought that if he had a hand like say TT or JJ and the river bricked out he might call me thinking that I missed the heart draw. If I moved all-in now he may fold. I called once again. The river was the 5♠ and he now moved in for the last of his money. I called and he said, “Do you have a set?” I indicated that I did not and he tapped the table and showed A♠ Q♠.
Why did he think I had a set? It is because most other people in the player pool would not check a single paired hand, even on a board as dry as this, because they would not want a free card to come giving them a bad beat. Most, in this situation after checking the flop and just calling the turn would have three kings. I, however, realized that the optimal line in this hand was to check one street. I do not recommend this play to beginners but in reality when you have a top pair hand that is not very vulnerable with less than two pot size bets left that is a monster.
One of the other common situations that arise is when you three or four bet a hand like AA from out of the blinds. Say player A raises to $20 at $5-$5, player B makes it $65 and you make it $145 out of the blinds with $500 effective stacks. Player B calls in position. The board comes out J♦ 2♣ 2♠. You think that player B either has a pocket pair or a hand like AK or AQ. What is the best play here? Because it is so rare for others to check one pair hands after making an aggressive action preflop we can check and induce our opponent to commit his stack with a hand that he might fold to our continuation bet like, say TT. We also may induce him to bluff away his money with AK tricking him into thinking that we have the same hand. I have made truckloads of money noticing short, effective stack sizes in relation to the pot size and taking a tricky line.
Another useful tip is to sometimes check back the turn in position when you know you can get all of the money in on the river. Say for example a player with $300 opens to $20, two people call, and you make it $85 with KK. All fold but the initial raiser. The board comes out Q♠ 4♣ 5♦. He checks and you bet $75. He thinks about for a long time before finally calling. You think he squarely has a hand like 66-JJ. The turn is a 4♥. The pot is $350 and he has $140 left in his stack. You decide to check back. The river is an 8♥ and he check once again. You now move all-in and he calls with 99. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that he would not have committed his money on the turn if you had bet but against tighter players you can actually play a bit tricky in order to maximize you value. Of course this play could backfire on you if an overcard comes to his pair on the river.