I was playing at Harrah's AC last month with a friend of mine. We'll call him "Buddy." Buddy flopped a set of 9's on an A high board with two hearts. He bet and was called in one spot. The turn put up the 3rd heart. Buddy lead out again and was raised by his villian. Buddy tanked . . . and tanked . . . and finally re-raised. Villian folded. After the hand, Buddy commented, "I thought I was beat . . ."
Play continued, and a while later, I found myself staring at Big Slick (a/k/a AK) in position. It checks around and I raise to $10. We go three to the flop and the board runs K, Q, 7 with two hearts . . . A $12 bet . . . a call . . . I call. The turn blanks and first to act again leads out, this time for $20. Second to act min-raises. The action is on me. Is UTG leading with a flush draw and MP raising to protect his pair of K's? Did MP limp call with KQ off? Or pocket 77? I really think I'm behind . . . I think I'm beat . . .
"I raise . . ."
I three-bet to $120. Both players fold. UTG mucks, MP shows KQ for the best hand, and I rake the pot.
I acknowledge MP's hand and offer, "yeah, I thought you had me." This makes UTG semi irate. UTG asks if Buddy and I play together often. Although we're friends, we don't. UTG declares, "you both play the same -- you think you're beat, but you raise anyway . . . what the hell ???"
His comment got me thinking. It's true. Often, when I think I may be behind, and when folding just seems to passive, my instinct is to raise. Calling just seems like a horrible option. My thought process is this: if I call and I am indeed behind, I'm going to be facing an even larger bet on the next street and its going to be even harder to get away from my hand given the sizable pot. On the other hand, if I raise, I'll find out quickly if my instinct is correct and I am beat (e.g., villian 4-bets, or flats and leads out on the next street). But also, by raising, I'm putting max pressure on my villian. I may get him to make a mistake and fold even if my instincts are correct.
Maybe my play is simple, basic, poker -- execution of the semi-bluff. Perhaps aggression is the standard in these spots. But is there an argument to be made for flatting? Will raising cost more money than calling in the long run? Is just simply folding best?