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I talked about taking on lunatics in the early stages of Texas Hold'em poker tournaments. Here’s an example. You have TT. You raise, the lunatic reraises. Everybody folds, so you call.
The flop is only very slightly worrying:
Not a terrible flop for your hand, with only one overcard. Unless your lunatic opponent has 99 or 22, you’re probably ahead. In a cash game, you would probably check-raise from first position, or raise from last position.
On the flop, there’s no reason to behave any differently. Note though, that in Texas Hold'em poker tournament, you cannot risk your entire stack in such an uncertain position.
Your pair of tens is probably good, but you don’t want to talk yourself into losing a lot of chips here, especially against such a loose player.
So you check, the lunatic bets the pot, and you call. He calls. The turn should not worry you:
I would suggest checking again. Note that this is exactly the wrong way to play in a cash game! You don’t normally give your opponent potential free cards to beat you. But you know that this lunatic won’t resist betting at you again, and in the very particular circumstances of a Texas Hold'em poker tournament, you have to behave differently.
Sure enough, our lunatic bets the pot again. Note that by flat-calling, you put much less of your precious stack at risk. The pot is already getting nice and big and you have not had to raise since before the flop!
The river is once more quite encouraging:
Now there are very few hands that can be beating you. If the lunatic has a deuce, good luck to him. If he has a genuine hand like an overpair, JJ, AQ or KQ (and in his mind, QJ is probably genuine too), you’re beaten and have been behind since preflop.
Otherwise, you’re ahead. I would expect him to show down a hand like AK, KJ or 88. The question is, what’s your action now?
Betting first is going to hurt if he raises you all-in. You’ll feel compelled to call and if he has a hand that’s beating you, you’re done.
Checking and calling is probably better. You risk him checking behind you, but with second-best pair, this pot is probably big enough for your pair of tens. Losing one more chance to get his money in this early stage of the Texas Hold'em poker tournament is probably worth the gamble.
What if he moves all-in once you’ve checked? This is the most difficult decision. It could be a bluff, it could be indication that he has you beaten. However, remember the original plan was to check and call. His all-in move should not deter you from this course of action, even if it turns out you were wrong all along.
Lunatics often think that their only chance of winning is to continue with their bluff. If you fold now, it will have succeeded despite your bravery on the flop and turn.
I’d grit my teeth and call. There are many more hands that will lose to your pair than beat it. Be brave. Remember that this kind of situation can set you up for the entire Texas Hold'em poker tournament. An early chance to double up against a weak opponent should be gambled on.
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Next time, I’ll look at the middle stages of Texas Hold'em poker tournaments.