Change Your Value Lines by David Yee

Editor’s Note: David contacted me awhile back asking for advice on how to break into the online poker industry. If you’ve got something open and David seems like a good fit, feel free to contact him using his details in the byline.

Everybody knows of the old passive 80 year old recreational player at the casino. He limps sporadically, checks every hand, will never make a move ever pre flop- unless he has Aces. You laugh to yourself and ask “who would ever pay this guy off? He only ever 3-bets Aces and no other hand.”

Oftentimes, players make the same play as the old nit without even knowing it. Take for instance this short example:

Example 1:

9 handed, 100bb stacks

Preflop: UTG (unknown) raises 4xbb with AA. All fold to the SB with 66, who calls.
Flop: 6d Td 4c

SB checks, UTG bets 2/3rds pot, SB raises 3x his bet.

Am I saying this is a bad line from the SB? No. Everything has a time and a place and for many, this is very standard. In most cases, we can assume SB is rarely bluffing. UTG realizes this and alarm bells are setting off- what value hands does he beat?

What should SB do instead? Let us first evaluate UTG’s range:

Range: It is 9 handed and he’s UTG. This alone should restrict his range to nut-heavy hands (AK, TT+). If he’s nittier, sometimes not even TT or JJ. This flop is wet and many players won’t fire here with AK (AKdd is an obvious exception). There are not many suited connector hands in his range either (78 type hands are probably not there, given he raised UTG). The only flush draw possibilities are KQdd/QJdd/AKdd/AQdd, and he doesn’t necessarily raise all of those preflop, either.

So, with that stated, we can conclude that villain is most likely raising preflop (and betting this flop) with a very strong range- Most likely an overpair. Smart players will recognize this. And alternately, if UTG is smart, he will recognize this as well. He will know that SB’s range is very strong; maybe even stronger than his own. And he will probably fold sometime before the river.

What is another way to play this hand from SB’s spot with the set?

Option 1: Check/call-

Why are we check/calling? We check/call because:

  • Despite the board being draw heavy, his range is more weighted towards strong 1-pair hands as opposed to draws.
  • It helps us balance our check/calling range a bit. If we sometimes check/call with something like 88 on this board (and other medium hands), having stronger hands will help with that.
  • It allows us to get more value against smarter opponents. If we are playing against weak players, then check/raising is a better option. But against smarter opponents, check/calling may be better. Think about UTG’s thinking if we check/call the flop:

“SB check/called the flop. He surely must have some draw or weak hand. My plan is to bet the flop, bet the turn, and probably bet the river. He might have some weak top pair hand that will call me down. He would surely check/raise the flop with a set on such a draw-heavy board.”

Problems with check/calling the flop in example 1:

  • Wet board could lead to some potential problems on the turn. If the flush or straight card hits, villain may check behind if we check to him. Those straight/flush cards can kill our action occasionally. With that said, there WILL be a chance that villain may semi bluff a flush card if he has the lone Ad/Kd/Qd, which obviously presents a nice opportunity for us as well.
  • Villain might be a very passive player who will not bet often when checked to. Obviously against some of these players, we should reconsider our flop decision.

Option 2: Leading (donking)-

Leading into UTG is a definite option as well.

  • It allows us to retake the initiative from UTG. We dictate the action now and can bet/bet/bet or do something else.
  • Though it looks stronger, it still does not look as strong as check/raising. Thus villain can still call us down and not be as afraid.
  • It might induce villain to raise our flop lead and give us more action than otherwise.

Conclusion: Generally, players are constantly picking up on tendencies of other players. This is especially true in a live setting. When playing against players who have an idea of what they are doing, consider changing the way in which you play your hand. Don’t necessarily look only at the board texture and assume you must ‘protect your hand’.


David Yee has been playing semi-professionally for the past five years. He is a coach on DeucesCracked and moderator on He can be reached at and blogs at