How to play overcards? (FLHE)

Boltneck

Boltneck

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Limit Holdem 10 seater 50c / $1

Playing overcards well is tricky at the best of time (in my opinion, and at level of expertise). Whether I bet, check / call, call or raise pretty much depends on the board, whether I have any draws other than the overcards and the bandits against me. However, what I find particularly difficult is when I’m against one aggressive bandit, and one passive bandit.

Let’s assume I’m first to act. I’ve raised preflop and get 2 callers (one aggressive, one passive) and a rainbow board with no draws other then my overcards. If I opt for the check / call approach, typically I can be pretty sure that the aggressive bandit will bet, and the passive will call – so I’ve learnt nothing. If I bet I may get rid of aggressive, but passive will almost certainly call (possibly sitting with medium or low pair, but equally likely with a weak draw or nothing at all) but I’ve probably still learnt nothing. I really do not like to take the passive option myself, but betting into a player (or players) who are unlikely to fold with medium / low pairs is starting to prove costly.

To bet or not to bet, that is the question!
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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In most poker situations if you are going to call a certain amount of money it is generally better to simply bet it yourself (you didn't mention a possibility of a raise by the aggressive player, so I discounted it).

Also, in limit you can often use the aggressive player to your advantage, depending on your relative position. If he bet (first to act) and you raise, even a passive player may hesitate to call two bets cold with a marginal hand like bottom/middle pair. I know in your example you are first to act, but how about considering a seat change to get him on your right so you can isolate him when appropriate? If he is truly maniacal it doesn't matter (and you may want him on your left), as betting into him will cause him to raise making it two bets to everyone else, AND when you have a monster (nut flush, boat, etc.) you can check to him, get everyone to call the one bet (that he will make), then raise yourself, trapping everyone for two bets.

Well, I know your question was regarding overcards (just treat them as a six out draw, assuming the board is safe enough that your pair will be good?), but maybe the hijack will help too :p.
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

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First, shameless plug: Limit Hold 'em Heads-Up Poker Guide

There's a chapter there on playing overcards.

Having said that: Unless the board is very coordinated, you want to bet out. It's true that they won't always fold, but given the size of the pot (at least seven bets before you bet, meaning they're being offered 8:1 to call) it's enough that they fold sometimes. What you're doing is essentially a semibluff with what might be the best hand. But you're hoping that they'll fold a bunch of outs.

On the turn, if both have called and you didn't improve, check. If the passive player called and you have ace-high (and the board didn't turn sour one way or the other) bet again. If he's loose/passive, he'll often call with many worse hands. Check the river. If he's passive and bets, you fold ace-high.

You say that you don't like knowing where you stand, but this is actually a mirage; you do know where you stand, or you should have some idea. If you know his preflop hand range, and you know that he'll call any flop, you should be able to figure out if you're ahead versus his range or not.

Edit: And I agree with AG in general, re: using the aggressive player as bait/tricking him into doing your dirty work for you. I'm aiming for how to play versus specifically the passive opponent.
 
Boltneck

Boltneck

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(you didn't mention a possibility of a raise by the aggressive player, so I discounted it).

This is a possible outcome, but I didn't specifically mention it because it gives me information (possibly mis-information) and a steer what to do next. My inclination (depending on whether the aggressive bandit was tight / loose pre-flop, and therefore his likely range) would be to re-raise. That would hopefully give me the opportunity to evaluate if it's a bluff, or whether he's hit trips - with the bonus of almost certainly getting rid of passive if he's on a low pair / weak draw.

You say that you don't like knowing where you stand, but this is actually a mirage; you do know where you stand, or you should have some idea. If you know his preflop hand range, and you know that he'll call any flop, you should be able to figure out if you're ahead versus his range or not.

It's the passive (and loose) player that worries me here. If he's seeing 60% of the flops, his range could be pretty much anything. Most worrying, if he's playing ace / rag and has hit a small / medium pair I'm likely to end up pretty horribly reverse dominated if my ace comes on the turn or river (something that's happened a couple of times recently).

Thanks for the opinions, it gives me food for thought, and something to factor into future play.
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

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It's the passive (and loose) player that worries me here. If he's seeing 60% of the flops, his range could be pretty much anything. Most worrying, if he's playing ace / rag and has hit a small / medium pair I'm likely to end up pretty horribly reverse dominated if my ace comes on the turn or river (something that's happened a couple of times recently).
No, I understand that this is the player you're worried about - but your worry is from the gut, not from the head, so to speak. If he sees 60% of flops and always peels then you know that his range on the turn is exactly what it was on the flop. And you should be able to discern whether or not you're ahead of 60% of the hands. In fact, you can usually discount quite some portion of those 60% too, because he's bound to raise at least some of his better hands either preflop or on the flop, at least in my experience. So you're actually up against the worst of those 60%.

And the information you have isn't as slim as you might think. Since he's passive, he'll only raise the really good hands. So when you're raised, you know much better where you stand than you would have versus the aggressive player, if you see what I mean.
 
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