Gut Shot Pick-up – By: John Anhalt

This is going to be part of the: Missed Opportunities at micro/small stakes no-limit Series

How do you increase your poker winrate from good to great? It’s all about picking up the small pots, and of course, playing the big pots well. It’s the small pots that a lot of players over look far too often though. All of these pots (and we’ll define small as 10 big blinds or less), add up over the course of a session, and turn already winning players, into players that crush their stakes.

I can’t over emphasize how important it is to think of creative ways to scoop more than your share of the small pots. I’m going to focus on one specific hand situation that occurs quite often. Something that I see students miss over and over again in my 6 years as a poker coach.

Someone raises the minimum in middle position in a 6-max cash game. Player on the button calls, and you call in the big blind with Ah2h. The flop comes: 3c 5s Qh. I’ll often watch a student check/fold here. Some of the more aggressive students will go ahead and lead at this pot, at least figuring no one hit it often enough, which of course they’d be correct. There’s an even better play though.

Check the flop, with the intention of making a smallish check-raise. With a gut-shot, back door nut flush and an over card that is likely good, we have a lot of nice semi-bluff outs, and the gut shot and nut flush carry nice implied odds if we hit. The most ideal situation being that the middle position open raiser checks, and the person last to act is somewhat aggressive, and bets the flop. You’re going to have a lot of players at micro/small stakes that have “bet when passed to disease”, so take advantage of it.

Check raising is going to net more on average in this spot, even though you risk more, simply because you’re going to get a lot of air to bet, and a lot of mid pairs as well that will very likely fold a good percentage of the time. It’s quite reasonable that if someone has 66-JJ, 3x or 5x on this board that they’re going to bet the flop. Most of those same hands are going to fold to a check raise, and a lot of them are going to call a lead on the flop. So we make the most money on average by adhering to the basic theorem of poker, which is allow your opponent to make the biggest mistake possible.

There are some of your better opponents who will understand that this is a pretty dry board, and there’s not much of a reason to check-raise, but they will be in the minority at these stake levels. Most opponents will fold and move on to the next hand. If you are called, then give up unless you hit a card to improve your hand, such as another heart, an Ace, or a King as an additional scare card.

Now, let’s take almost the exact same situation as above, but look at a slightly different flop texture that’s not suitable to execute this play. Flop comes: 4c 5h 8c. We still have a gut shot and back door nut flush, but we don’t want to look to check-raise this board multi-way. Heads up, we might look to lead. Against some more passive opponents, we might also lead 3 handed. On average though, it’s better to check/fold. Why? Out of position multi-way on a board that is more coordinated towards the middle, which will hit more small sized open raises, you’re going to get a lot more calls, and a lot less folds. Especially in micro stake games where you’re going to have a lot of opponents call with all sorts of gut shots, Ax and even Kx hands.

So board texture is key in making plays when you have gutshots. The most ideal situation is always that you have a really strong back door flush, and at least one high over card that is likely good. In spots like these, because they happen quite often, make sure you’re attacking and looking to scoop these small pots.