Quiz: 5-5 in MP Facing Unknown Villain UTG Open Raise

Donkey Test Question #14

Question: You’re in a $5/$10 NL cash game. Full ring 10 handed. Everyone has $1000 stacks. An unknown player raises to $40 UTG. It is folded to you in MP. You hold 5d-5c. What should you do?

  1. Raise
  2. Fold
  3. Call
  4. All-in 10% of time, call 90% of time
  5. Raise to $130 about 30% of time, call 70%
  6. Raise to $175 about 30% of time, call 70%

Answer: (c) Call

Analysis and Explanation: This is a classic implied odds (IO) situation with a minor positional element that is worth discussing.

REDi Analysis:

  • R is for Reads
    • Game Situation: Nothing too spectacular to note here. We’re all 100bb deep. We’re in middle position, which means there are still ~5 players still to act after us.
    • Villain Type and Tendencies: Again, not much to say, as the question description says the villain is unknown. If I don’t have anything to go on, and can’t even pin a gross initial stereotype on the bad guy, my default is to assume the villain plays competently and correctly until they prove themselves otherwise.
    • Action: A forty dollar raise is 4xbb, which feels like a normal/reasonable size UTG in a full-ring 10-handed game. 
    • Villain’s Hand Range: UTG at a full-ring table for this size open, I am usually going to assume villain has something pretty strong for an opening range. For sake of argument, let’s call it: 88+, ATs+, KJs+, AQo+.
  • E is for Evaluating, Estimating, and Equities:
      • Pot Equity: Against villains range, our under-pair has fairly poor pot equity. Call it 2:1 against:

    • Fold Equity: Raising will, at best cause the villain to fold out the bottom end of his range, keeping the middle to top portion. Further, we have to get past ~5 more players, anyone of which can wake up with a hand that they won’t fold with. I’d estimate our fold equity at around 20-25% max.
    • Pot Odds: With $55 in the pot and it costing us $40 to call, we’re getting $40/($55+$40) = 42%. 
    • Implied Odds:  The quantitative IOs we’re being offered here are $1000/$40 = 25:1, which is well in excess of the 15:1 rule I prefer when set-mining with small and medium pocket pairs. More importantly, the qualitative IOs are very high, too, as the type of cards the villain has are those that players often get married to; e.g., big overpairs. 
    • Pot Commitment: Assuming no one else calls if we do, the flop SPR will be $1000/($40+$40+$10+$5) = 10.5. This means we will not be pot committed with our weak pair if we whiff the flop.
  • D is for Deciding:
    • Pot odds of 42% are bigger than our 37% pot equity, so on the face of it, this is nominally a bad call…
    • But, we’re getting excellent quantitive and qualitative Implied Odds to set-mine.
    • The obvious line here is therefore to call. The goal is to hit a set and stack our opponent. If we miss the flop, we can easily fold. If someone downstream of us reraises preflop, we can also comfortably fold pre unless we feel we’re still getting enough IOs to call when the action gets back around to us.
  • I is for Implementing:
    • Call the $40 and watch closely how the villain responds to the flop, as this will help you determine how best to extract value when you hit a set. Fold if you miss the flop and the villain bets into us.

Discussion/Takeaway: This is a standard set-mining situation. The only real tricky part is our position, which is not ideal. With ~5 players left to act after us, there is a reasonable chance that one of them will wake up with a strong hand and 3bet preflop. At that point, we’ll have to decide if the quantitative and qualitative IOs of calling (assuming V#1 just calls) are still sufficient to set-mine. If V#1 comes back over the top and 4bets, we almost certainly will need to fold preflop. That said, calling at this point in the hand, and then folding preflop to a re-raise, is still +EV and is better than folding outright.

Another thing worth noting are the silly answers of (d), (e), and (f). I know that some so-called experts are in favor of these types of “do X a percentage of the time” plays to mix your play up, but I am not. In fact, I think we’re giving up expectation whenever we do this kind of play. Unless you’re up against a very good, thinking opponent with whom you have a ton of history and you want to keep him off balance, just keep things simple and fold, call, or raise based on the REDi analysis. Fancy Play Syndrome (FPS) is a malady that affects too many over-thinking players. Don’t be one of them!

Other Related Posts: Collection of other Donkey Test Questions & Analyses

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2 thoughts on “Quiz: 5-5 in MP Facing Unknown Villain UTG Open Raise

  1. I’m in complete agreement with you. Call 100% of the time and prolly fold to any re-raise after me. Sure, we run this risk by just calling, but it’s only 4bb’s we’re risking for a huge potential reward. Easy hand to get away from unless we hit an oesd, but even then, vs heavy betting, pretty easy to fold w/out great odds to hit our 8 outs.