My general mentality about poker is "keep betting" when I get involved in a hand. That's an oversimplification, but my generation of poker players generally shares that mentality, and we've separated ourselves from the older generation of players by taking aggression to the next level. But there are also moments when you have to dial back the aggression, even when you have a strong hand.
The Playground Poker Club in Montreal hosted last month's PartyPoker WPT Canadian Spring Championship, a $3,300 tournament with three starting days. The event allowed for re-entry if you were eliminated before play finished on Day One. I had intended to play the first day, Day 1A, but I went to an NHL playoff game with locals the night before, and after enjoying too many Molsons, I thought it best to wait an extra day. So I played Day 1B instead, and for the first few hours of play I mostly folded, losing the few pots I entered.
During the fourth level, the blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante, and I had around 21,000 chips left from the 30,000 we started with. My opponent in this hand was on my immediate right with 45,000 chips: a Canadian player in his early 30s who had been fairly aggressive and active but by no means crazy. I had three-bet him once before, about 30 minutes earlier, but he had folded preflop.
In our major hand, he raised two off the button to $500. On the cutoff with Ac 10s, I reraised to $1,300. It folded back to my opponent, and he made the call.
The flop came Ad Jd 6c, and when my opponent checked, I bet $1,500. He thought for a moment, then raised to $3,900.
Here's the problem with this hand: by betting, I allowed my opponent to create a situation that was difficult to assess and could cost me all of my chips. He could be raising with two pair or a set, but he could also be raising with a strong draw. And if he was making the raise with a strong draw, he'd likely keep betting on future streets. So if I call his check-raise, I have to be willing to call the bets he makes on future streets if blank cards fall.
Which was exactly what happened. I called his check-raise, and when the turn brought the 7s, my opponent bet $5,500 and I called.
The river was the 3h, and my opponent shoved for the remainder of my stack. I called and lost to his top two pair. I could have avoided the entire situation by checking back on the flop and calling smaller bets on future streets. Sure, I still would have lost some money on this hand, but I would have lost less, and in some instances I might have induced bluffs from hands with poor equity that I could easily call.
Instead, I was busted and had to pass up a night on the town with my Canadian friends so that I could re-enter and play again in the morning. Such are the consequences of relentless aggression.
Tony Dunst is a poker pro and host of Raw Deal on World Poker Tour telecasts. Catch him every Sunday night on FSN. Poker Pros will appear every week.