A recent session in Ventura was a profitable one even though I won only two pots. It was the 2/3 and I bought in for the max, $300. It had taken awhile to get into a game and they finally had enough players to open a new table.
Fairly early on I was dealt two red 7's in the small blind. A player in early position opened to $20. That was a pretty big opening raise, but a few hands earlier, he had opened to $25. I later found out that he didn't have a player's card, so perhaps he was new to this room. Anyway, two players in front of me called the $20. I still had nearly all of my $300 buy-in and the three players already in had either more than I did or were pretty close to my stack. So it made sense to call and set-mine. Then the big blind shrugged and said, "Well, with so many callers, how can I not?" So he called too.
The flop came Queen-9-7, two spades (the Q & 7). I was first to act, and decided not to lead out. I was assuming the preflop raiser—or someone, at least—would bet and then I'd check-raise. But the preflop raiser checked. Fortunately, the next player, who we'll call The Beard, bet $40. Then the guy on my right called the $40.
So I could proceed with my plan to check-raise. My default there is 3X. But with a call, I figured 3X + the call. Honestly though, the bet of $40 was kind of small for the size of the pot, I briefly considered betting more. But I did settle on the 3X + the call, so I bet $160. The big blind and the preflop raiser folded instantly. The Beard took a bit of time, He talked a bit, "Guess you have something, huh?" That sort of thing. He finally folded, the guy on my right folded instantly and I took in a pretty decent pot.
That was fine with me. But afterwards, I wondered if I did the right thing. No, I'm not questioning the size of my bet (though you are welcome to), but I wondered if I took too big a risk not betting out first.
In a five-way pot, there's certainly no guarantee the preflop raiser is gonna c-bet, right? I mean, Ace-King isn't likely to c-bet. A pocket pair lower than Queens would likely check. Not even sure Queen-Jack or Queen-10 would bet with so many in the pot.
Or were the percentages on my side? As I initially suspected, someone would bet, right? I just needed one of four players to bet to be able to check-raise. Being the first to check meant that I had four chances for someone to bet.
The thing is, with a board like that, so many draws, I sure didn't want to give a free card to four opponents. Do I have to lead out to play it safe?
I should point out that the table was still new and I didn't have a lot of information about the players. No obvious maniacs or aggros had revealed themselves to that point.
It worked out but did I do the right thing?
A bit later, with Ace-Queen of diamonds in early position, I opened to $15. There were two players, including The Beard who was in the small blind. The flop was pretty nice, all diamonds. Always nice to flop the nuts. Even better, The Beard did what I didn't do in the previous hand. He donked out. In fact, he bet all his chips, $51. Sweet. I just called in case the other player wanted to come along. But no dice, he folded.
The Beard said, "I think I need some help." I showed my hand, saying, "I guess you do." He didn't show his hand. After the board bricked out, he just mucked, and left to get some more money.
Damn. He never came back, and they opened his seat up 20-minutes later. And I never won another pot. That guy was my personal ATM.
I did get pocket Kings about an hour later. But I was in the big blind, it folded to the small blind and we chopped. With Kings, I consider that a major victory.
Eventually the table got short-handed and very boring. So I called it a day and booked a $140 win. It was a pleasant ride home, but I kept thinking about whether I should have made the donk bet on the first hand.