Poker: Way Ahead/Way Behind

In various situations, you can be so far ahead in your hand that your opponent will be drawing slim (or dead) or the opposite, you’re so far behind that you’ll be the player facing a slim draw. You’ll know that you’re facing a way ahead/way behind situation when your hand is strong, but the cards on the board show extremely slim chances of improvement. Let’s look at an example to help you better understand the situation.

You’re in middle position and holding Ac9c and bet four times the big blind. Everyone else folds but the button calls your bet. The flop hits and it’s Ad10s10d, meaning you’ve got two pair (including the top pair) but you only have 9 as a kicker. You’re either way ahead or way behind at this point. You may be way ahead of your opponent if they’re holding an Ace or 10 and they have hole cards more along the lines of KQ, KJ, QJ or a mid or low pocket pair like 44 or 88. However, there is also the possibility that they can beat you with a higher kicker (AK, AQ, AJ or maybe they’re holding a Ten for a set.)

Either way, neither you nor your opponent is likely to win this hand if way behind. In way ahead/way behind situations, there is 1) little chance of winning the hand or 2) very little chance of losing. As you can imagine, this means that play gets a little tricky. If you go aggro, you’re likely to scare away an opponent who’s way behind, but if you’re the one that’s actually behind, being aggressive is essentially throwing away money.

I recommend taking a passive approach in this situation, giving your opponent the opportunity to bet or make a play. If they’ve got the hand that’s way behind, they’re putting bad money into a good pot and if you passively check while you’re holding the worst hand, you’re minimizing your losses. Way ahead/way behind situations are among the very few times I recommend slowplaying a strong hand.

It’s obvious that it’s difficult to determine who’s ahead and who’s behind in a situation like the one described and instead of looking to maximize your winnings, you instead want to prevent massive losses. If you’re unsure of whether you’re way ahead or way behind, then you can’t make a value bet, so instead you want to force your opponent to bluff or make a bad bet.

Again: passive play is only really suitable for this exact situation so you want to take the time to consider how the remainder of the hand may play out and what sort of cards your opponent is likely to be calling or betting with. Use logic and reason and you’ll find that you’re making the correct decision more often than not. It’s that long-term decision making that can help you become a profitable poker player.