Playing the Nuts
Most players love to discuss hands when the value of a hand is not very clear. They love discussing middle pairs, or A-K when they miss the flop, or whether or not a bluff is justified in a hand. You don’t too frequently hear players discussing hands when they have flopped the nuts (or close to it). The difficult decision of whether to play or fold is eliminated and the betting thereafter seems rather straightforward. However, it is important to make sure that you maximize the value of your hand when you flop the nuts. The decision often details whether you should slow-play on the flop or not.

The following 10 hold’em hands are taken from my book, Internet Texas Hold’em. Be sure to cover the answers and see if you agree with my recommended strategies.

1. $20-$40: You hold the 4 4 in middle position. Two early-position players call, and you call. The small blind calls and five players see the flop of 5 5 4. The small blind bets and an early-position player calls. There is $140 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: I like raising in this situation, for two reasons. First, some opponents expect you to slow-play trips to the turn, so your raise may give you good action if they put you on a weak pair or a draw. Second, if one of your opponents actually holds trips, you should get great action on both the flop and turn. Raise.

2. $20-$40: You hold the 5 5 on the button. An early-position player and a middle-position player call. You call, and the small blind calls. Five players see the flop of K K 5. The middle-position player bets. There is $120 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: Only one player has entered the pot and there still are three players left to act. One of them might be slow-playing trip kings, and you will be able to surprise him later if he raises or comes out betting the turn. Call.

3. $15-$30:
 You hold the Q J in the big blind. A middle-position player raises and the cutoff and small blind call. You call, and four players see the flop of 8 6 4. The small blind checks. There is $120 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: Slow-playing this hand is risky, since your opponents may not bet this type of flop. Also, check-raising tends to give away your hand more than betting out with this type of flop. If you bet out, your opponents might suspect a pair or a flush draw, and you could get some good action later on. Any player with an overpair or the A or K will most likely raise, enabling you to reraise and charge him a lot to draw. Bet.

4. $20-$40: You hold the A 6 on the button. An early-position and middle-position player call, and you call. The small blind calls, and five players see the flop of J 9 8. The early-position player bets and the middle-position player folds. There is $120 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer:
 You still have both blinds waiting to act, and you do not want to drive them out of the pot. With this type of flop, your opponents could have pairs and straight draws, so wait until the turn to show your strength. If you are lucky, one of the blinds will raise here. Call.

5. 50ยข-$1: You are in the small blind with the Q J. Six players see the flop of 10 9 8. There is $3 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: With so many opponents in the hand, there should be a lot of action with this flop. Players will have flush draws, straight draws, and possibly full-house draws. There is no need to slow-play, since you should get great action. Also, by betting out, your opponents will have a difficult time knowing whether you are on a draw, a pair, or a big hand. Bet out and reraise if given the opportunity. Bet.

6. $1-$2: You hold the Q J in the big blind. An early-position player raises, a middle-position player calls, and the small blind calls. You call, and four players see the flop of K 10 9. You check. The early-position player bets and the middle-position player raises. There is $11 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: You rarely should slow-play a straight on the flop. Another queen or jack could be trouble for your hand. Even if it doesn’t give an opponent a straight, the betting will usually dry up, so get in your raises on the flop. Reraise.

7. $1-$2: You hold the K Q in middle position. A middle-position player calls, and you call. The button raises, and the small blind calls. Four players see the flop of J 10 9. The small blind bets and the middle-position player folds. There is $10 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: Again, rarely slow-play a straight on the flop. If a king, queen, 8, or 7 comes on the turn, the betting action will usually dry up. Raise.

8. $15-$30: You hold the Q J in the small blind. The button raises, and you just call (I would recommend reraising). Two players see the flop of A K 10. There is $75 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer:
 Give your opponent a chance to bet a weak hand, since he almost always will bet out in this situation. If you
check-raise and your opponent has a strong hand, like two pair, he might reraise or wait to raise the turn, enabling you to reraise and win a very large pot. Check-raise.

9. $20-$40: You hold the K Q in the cutoff. A middle-position player calls, and you raise. Two players see the flop of A J 10. The middle-position player checks. There is $110 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: You raised preflop, so go ahead and bet. If you are lucky, your opponent may have flopped two pair and will give you good action. Many players will draw to a gutshot straight draw if they have a pair, so be sure not to give any free cards. Bet.

10. $20-$40: You post in the cutoff and are dealt the 8 7. A weak player one seat before you raises, and you call. Two players see the flop of 6 5 4. The weak player bets, you raise, and the weak player reraises. There is $210 in the pot. What should you do?

Answer: Capping in this situation does not give away your hand. Your opponent may not expect you to play such a strong hand so aggressively, and might suspect that you are trying for a free card. If so, he still might bet out on the turn, giving you a chance to raise while also gaining the maximum number of bets on the flop. Reraise.

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