In my spate of recent sessions, I've been running into a few odd backraises and I'm wondering how to interpret the actions. First, let me start by detailing how the play went down the other night, and then I'll move into the hows and whys:
I hold JJ in late position (perhaps CO / BTN?). It is limped to me - and a player who had
been limping *EVERYTHING* (but not anything; he most likely has some semblance
of a hand, be it suited connectors, small pairs, etc. on up to AJ+ and I'd
assume AA - limped) all night had limped in on the hand as well. He also had the habit of overcalling with his
limped hand, regardless position, implied odds or players in the pot. Sitting there, counting the limpers, I popped
it to $15 + $3x limper = [I think] $25 (this is a Southern California 2/3 game,
mind you, unlike playing at an Iphone Casino, where the action is AWESOME). The raise served to fold out
the original limpers, and, true to form, Mr. decent player / too wide of a
range started carving out chips. Good; I
will be HU into the pot with a decent hand against a weakish range. To my surprise, he opted to backraise; he
limp / raised it to $120. Quite the
predicament, no? Perhaps, but not
In prior hands, I had seen this guy show down some really
light calls based on the action for the board (and be correct), showing that
he's either an uber donk (which I tended to not believe) or he knows / has some
semblance of knowing what he's doing (I erred on that side of belief). Here is an instance of a player knowing how to
play, backraising - and backraising big.
Granted, I had been, to that point, a "very" active player -
usually raising when I entered a pot, limping rarely. (Reality is that my raising range is heavily
slanted towards late position raises / steals, mixed in with value early
position raises; my standard fare.)
Given the table texture, this was met with immediate consternation; I
was the active "rebel" in a table full of rocks and loose passives (3
uber fish, 4 rocks, and the limp/raiser); they liked to see flops, and they
liked to see 'em cheap. Back to the
story, though, this player knew what he was doing and had just put me to a
decision for what amounts to my stack.
Here's my thought, and I'm hoping others weigh in, because
this seems to be endemic to the more skilled players who are trying to
"outplay" other skilled players (code for I'm in the "skilled
player" grouping): The backraise is a terrible idea. It's almost always a bluff. It has to be.
Here's the thing: if you have AA against another skilled player, you
have a made hand that doesn't need improvement; you're effectively letting your
opponent bluff his hand for the entirety of the hand and/or perceive that he's
"value betting" his perceived better hand. Yes, anything can happen on the flop (72o can
outflop AA a small percentage of the time), but is the intent with AA to win a
small open raise, or to win stacks against an open late position raiser who is
perceived to have a wide range? Stacks
are obviously preferred. The intent of
slow playing AA is to let your opponent hang himself.
By back raising, you know just as well as the other skilled
player that you'll be folding out his bluffs, which severely limits your value
from the best hand, AND you'll likely be folding out smaller and a few mid
pocket pairs - all hands which you know full well that you're dominating. If the opponent has a cooler hand such as KK,
the money is going in regardless.
Knowing this, and your opponent knowing this, if you're slow playing AA,
you're gonna slow play 'em, not backraise BIG and push people off the pot to
take down a small pot.
Back to the original story; I'm facing my $120 fold / shove
decision (i.e. either I feel comfortable with this hand and should just get it
in PF with the better hand for $160 additional or fold believing he's got the
AA/KK goods). For those that opt to
"call and see the flop," I'm not looking to reduce variance by
calling and seeing if the flop holds an Ace or a King and allowing myself to be
potentially bluffed off the hand.
Getting JJ in against an AK still shows JJ to be a ~53/47 favorite,
FWIW. Therefore, I shoved over for my
remaining $~280. He more-or-less
[incorrectly IMO] snapped the call with TT; he's at best 50/50 against my
perceived shove range of AK and maybe AQ, and he's 4-1 against my shove range
of JJ+ (remember: my table image is that of a skilled player and therefore, I'm
not a total LAGbot). Is he getting calls
/ shoves from worse out of me? No.
To address the "incorrectly IMO" comment and put
the cherry on top, after my shove, he's calling $160 to make $425, ~3-1 pot
odds - which I think is a marginal fold.
Poor call notwithstanding, his "fancy trap play" against me
got him into this mess that he should have never been in in the first place!
Here's the crux with his given hand of TT: he's either winning $25 + limps outright and
getting a fold out of a hand that was 50/50 with him (good) or hands that he's
an 80/20 (pocket pairs) or 70/30 (Ax hands) favorite over. Since he's snap calling a shove, he's also
allowing himself to get stacked by heavily slanted dominating hands (i.e.
overpairs to his TT) where he's the 80/20 dog.
Bad bad bad poker!
It should serve to note that this hand plays *ENTIRELY*
differently if my opponent is an unskilled donk who just plays his 2 cards but
has a similar limping history. If my
opponent is a donk / noob, his range is now very slanted towards premium
overpairs (and mostly AA at that). It
becomes more of a fold to the backraise and less of a shove at this point
(whether correct or incorrect) because donks / noobs, though they love to
[incorrectly] bluff, aren't considering a backraise... like... ever... without
the goods. Noobs want to win pots now
and don't give a consideration to value.
They look at a win as a win despite the amount they collect for that
FWIW, this story harks back to a Charles Town story where I called a similar (but lesser skilled) player's backraise with my holdings of KQo: a smaller backraise where instead of me 4bet shoving PF, I opt to call in
position with a lesser hand (but better hand than my opponent), with a similar
result. I got lucky on that particular
hand, flopping trip Queens, but it still involved a backraise against a
semi-skilled opponent holding a less-than-stellar hand where I nearly get
effective stacks in by allowing my opponent to value bluff his way into nearly
In summary, I believe backraising has a time and a place
(two players that have a ton of history between them, for example, could opt
for this play). However, a standard 1/2,
2/3 or 2/5 game at a local casino against random players should steer clear of
this kind of play. Slow play AA if you
will, or fast play 'em and come running & gunning outta the gate, but don't
Tricky Dicky limp / raise, repping AA - it just doesn't make sense...
writing this, it's funny, I've been thinking about my own move of 4bet shoving
over PF. I'm giving the same grief to my
opponent by criticizing his play of folding out worse hands and only getting
called by better... yada yada yada.
However, I neglect to address the fact that I'm doing the same thing for
his remaining $160. By shipping the last
$160, I'm folding out the bluffs and "only getting called by better"
or coin flip hands. I partially address
that in the statements above about the not wanting to "call and see what
happens" A or K on the flop scenario, but I also believe that my opponent
has shown overtures to being committed with his hand, and I have a strong read
that his hand is either weaker than mine or at worst chopping with mine. Therefore, I opt to shove over for those
reasons. That's my excuse, and I'm
sticking to it :-).
19 hours ago