Poker Strategy With Jonathan Little: Trusting A Read And Folding A Set

If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

I was recently told about a hand played by an amateur poker player in the middle levels of a $100 buy-in live event. With blinds at 400-800 with an 800 big blind ante, an aggressive player raised to 1,600 out of her 16,000 effective stack from second position. A tight player then called on the button.

Our Hero had 7Club Suit 7Spade Suit in the small blind and decided to three-bet to 5,000.

I really dislike this play with any hand in Hero’s range. By three-betting small, he is almost certain to get called by both of his opponents due to their excellent pot odds, which is not what he wants when out of position with a hand that will usually flop poorly.

Instead, he should either go all-in when he expects his opponents to fold most of the time or call when he expects his opponents to have strong ranges. Both plays are significantly better than three-betting to 5,000, which may actually be worse than folding. Facing a raise and a call, three-betting small with a 20-big blind stack is almost never a viable option.

As expected, the big blind folded and the other two players called. The flop came KClub Suit JHeart Suit 7Diamond Suit, giving Hero a set. That is lucky! The pot was 16,600 with 11,000 remaining stacks. Hero checked.

I like this check, although betting a tiny amount like 3,000 or going all-in are perfectly fine options depending on the opponents’ tendencies. The benefit of checking is it makes it much more difficult for the opponents to get away from any jack. Of course, if the opponents will check behind with their decent made hands like top or middle pair and never bluff with hands like AHeart Suit QHeart Suit or 9Club Suit 8Club Suit, Hero should probably go all-in.

The initial raiser thought for a minute before going all-in, and then the button quickly called.

Hero thought for a while and then folded.

Hero told me that he was certain the tight player on the button had exactly K-K or J-J. While anything is possible, those two holdings are extremely unlikely because almost everyone three-bets both of these premium hands before the flop when facing a raise, and if they happened to slow play them against the initial raiser, once three-bet by Hero and called by the initial raiser, most people would four-bet all-in due to the short stack depths remaining.

Hero was quite disappointed to see the initial raiser turn over KSpade Suit QClub Suit, which beat the button’s JDiamond Suit 8Diamond Suit. Hero folded a hand that was almost a lock to win in a gigantic pot because he was confident in his reads.

It is vitally important to realize that your reads will often be completely incorrect. This is one of the many reasons why you should work hard to develop a fundamentally strong strategy so you know what to do when lots of money is on the line in all the common situations you will frequently encounter. Even if Hero’s reads were correct and both players had hands they thought were strong, those hands could easily be K-J, K-Q, K-10, or A-J.

I cannot conceive of a world where I would fold bottom set in this situation. It is simply too likely that both players have a king, strong jack, or the obvious Q-10 straight draw. By folding, Hero is saying that his opponents both play so poorly that he knows without a doubt that at least one of them has specifically K-K or J-J, which makes no sense when you consider the preflop action.

Hero lost a huge amount of value by “trusting his reads,” or more likely, being afraid to commit all his chips when there is a small chance he is beaten. In this situation, letting go of a hand like K-Q would also be a substantial blunder, although again, that should have probably been pushed all-in preflop. When you have the top of your range and you play in a manner that induces bluffs (as was this case in this hand), folding is a significant mistake. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at




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