I wanted to give a quick report on a hand that I played at the Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club $200K guarantee event last weekend. The event featured six starting flights and a $365 buy in. Over 1,300 people showed up and they totally smashed the guarantee; the prize pool was nearly $400,000. I want to go over a key hand I played because it involves a play that everyone gets wrong when playing against amateur competition, and one that I have been recommending for many years.

A long time ago, I first suggested my “5x the pot All-In Rule”. The rule is simple, but nobody believes me. When you’re playing against typical players who call too much, and you have the nuts, and you have less than five times the size of the pot left in your stack, all-in is usually the correct play on the river. In fact in recent years I’ve even indicated that I believe it’s still the right play even when you have more than five times the size of the pot.

The reason for this should be obvious. Most players just can’t fold big second-best hands (trips or better) for any price. So if you bet half the size of the pot, suppose you get called 50% of the time. If you bet 5 times the size of the pot, maybe you’ll only get called 10 or 20% of the time, but that’s still more profitable in the long run.

The reason why people don’t want to execute this play is because it’s not always fun. When you have a big hand, it’s always more fun to get your opponent to call, show your big hand, and feel superior to him. It’s not as fun if he folds. But as I say over and over again, poker isn’t about the most fun play. Or maybe it is for you, but it isn’t for me. All I care about is maximizing my winnings. 

So here’s the hand that came up.  I was dealt J-9 in the big blind. The blinds were 200/300 and there was a limp, followed by a raise to 800. The small blind (a loose player) called and so did I, and the original limper. There was 3,200 in the pot when we went to the flop, which was Q-T-T♣.  The hand was checked to the original raiser who bet about 800 again, and the small blind called. I generally don’t like calling here with a non-nut straight draw on a paired board, but the odds were really tempting, so I called. The last player folded and three of us went to the turn.

The turn was the 7 and now I picked up a flush draw as well. We checked to the original raiser, who checked it through, probably afraid of getting check-raised by one of us holding a ten. When the river was the 8 I did a double take, realizing I had just backdoored into a straight flush. So there’s 5,600 in the pot at this point, the small blind checked to me, and I had about 35,000 behind.  What’s the right play?

I went all-in. The original pre-flop raiser folded, and the small blind stared me down for about 5 minutes, making comments about my outrageous bet size, and then called me with the Queen high flush.  I think it was Q-4 (which shouldn’t have been played for a raise pre-flop to begin with).  A ridiculous all-in call; even the ace high flush is an easy fold here.

So I scooped a giant pot and doubled up early on. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of cards from that point on and only min-cashed for $575. But an early double up like that can really set you up for a deep run in a tournament.

A quick side note and additional lesson from this hand:  When I showed my hand, the dealer thought I only had a Jack high flush. He tried to turn my cards over and muck them.  No one else realized I had the straight flush either. I said it once and I’ll say it again, you have to pay attention in this game!  Of course, as most of you know, even if the dealer had mucked my cards I still would have been awarded the pot if I spoke up. At least in theory!  By rule, a dealer cannot erroneously muck a properly tabled winning hand. I would imagine that virtually all Floor persons are aware of this rule, but you never know.  All the better that I yelled “STRAIGHT-FLUSH!” as he began to flip my cards over, so it never came to that.

The end of the story:  My opponent still had a few chips left, so he hung around for a bit.  When he finally got eliminated, the last words he said to me were, “that was a dirty play”. That makes me even more sure it was the correct one!

Trust me, I’m right about the 5x the Pot All-In Rule . When you’ve got the nuts on the river, consider going all in, even if the sizing seems to be excessive. Especially in a multi-flight reentry event like this one. And cash games. Lots of players have the money for multiple buy-ins, and didn’t come ready to fold Queen-high flushes for any price. You’ll thank me later when you’re raking in that mountain of chips.

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