The Pitfalls of TPTK-Top Pair/Top Kicker in NLH


Here is another hand example from the NLH Knockout tournament I played a week ago at Talking Stick Resort here in Scottsdale. It’s a great example of a mistake that many novice players will make and great way to get yourself into big trouble in tournament poker.

A younger guy across the table from me in the #2 seat min-raised from early position. He got a call from a player in middle position and a call from an older dude in the SB. (I made an easy fold as I continued my extraordinary run of starting hands like 9-2, T-4, 7-3, etc)

The flop came up A-7-2 rainbow. The old dude checked from the SB which seems pretty normal in his position. Most of the time when an SB calls a min-raise like he did in this case, he is going to end up missing the flop and check/folding. Of course the young guy made a continuation bet, although it was pretty good size, more than 2/3 the pot, if I remember correctly. The player in the middle got out of the way and the old dude in the SB called.

The call from an old dude in the SB is odd and it should have been a warning sign for the kid. It was a warning sign to me and I wasn’t even in the hand and barely paying attention as I had a nice club sandwich to occupy my time between hands. The thing is, old dudes for the most part play pretty tight, conservative poker. 7 times out of 10, the old dude is folding in this kind of scenario. But, the other thing old dudes like to do as well as play tight, is to trap. Sure, it’s a generic stereotype, but check it out the next time you are sitting at a live table playing NLH; old guys have 2 moves. Playing tight and trapping.

In any case, the Turn was fairly harmless, an 8, and the old guy checked again. Another warning sign. The kid over-bet again. The old dude called again. WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Since there is no real feasible draw on the board that the old dude would be chasing, there are two possibilities here: the old dude has A-x and is unsure of his kicker or the old dude hit a monster. I don’t really buy the A-x scenario because that just didn’t fit this guy’s profile. He didn’t seem like the type of guy to invest a lot of money in the pot by being a call station with something like A-3. Two pair is a possibility, but I wonder if he might have raised on the flop if he flopped two pair with something like A-2. I like the ‘monster hand’ scenario myself.

The River is a 9 for a board of A-7-2-8-9. The old dude checks again and the young guy pushes all in. The old dude snap calls and as the young guy turns over A-K for TPTK (top pair/top kicker) the old dude flips over his pockets 7’s showing his flopped set.


I will say that there is pretty much nothing tougher to read than a flopped set. It is a VERY hard hand to put your opponent on and I am not saying the young guy should have. What I am saying is that he should have taken a look at the profile of his opponent (we had been playing for over an hour at that table, the old dude was easy to profile) and wondered why the old dude kept calling. Instead, he fell in love with TPTK and it cost him his stack and nearly his tournament life. He started the hand with around $12k in chips and ended it with about $1500. He was knocked out the following hand by another player.

In this case if you don’t get any kind of a bad feeling after the call by the old dude on the Flop, which you might not as it is fairly normal to see a call here, although not so much from old dude in the SB, you should be really suspicious when he only called the Turn. This was the give away sign that something was amiss. The old dude kept checking out and the young guy kept taking the bait. He had a nice hand, but you cannot fall in love with TPTK in tournament play or it might cost you your entire chip stack as it did in this case.  I can understand him not checking it down on the Turn, but he certainly should have checked it down on the River rather than shoving. Instead of looking at his own A-K, he should have stopped for a minute and thought about why the old dude would have been calling. If he had done that, he might have gotten out of the hand relatively unscathed.


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