Stuck failing at NL5

    • phathustler
      phathustler
      Bronze
      Joined: 03.01.2011 Posts: 23
      Hi there,

      Long background story. Skip to the bottom for short summary. Sorry, I can't avoid writing essay length posts.

      I started learning how to play no limit nearly a year ago messing around with play money, and probably about 8 months ago I made my first deposit (about $50) and started playing 1c/2c games. At first I was way overthinking and making tons of mistakes trying to play fancy, but eventually I settled into a pretty straightforward style and I started multi-tabling those stakes successfully. I cleared my bonus and had made some money from playing as well. So, at about $125, I moved up to NL5.

      The first run was unsuccessful (I lost around $30 in the first session), so I went back down to NL2 and got back up to $125 again. Since then, I've made deposits elsewhere, moving the cash around to get other deposit bonuses on other sites. As things are now, I've cleared about $60 in deposit bonuses, but my account is at $122. Adding up all those losses, that means I've somehow managed to lose nearly $100 at the tables in NL5, and this has happened over something like 40,000 hands at NL5, so I'm posting a pretty solid losing rate of around -5 bb/100 hands over a significant period of time. Because of bonuses, I'm magically still at +$72 dollars from my initial deposit, but I'm clearly not playing successfully.


      Current thoughts:

      I'm beginning to find this pretty frustrating, because I've read nearly everything there is to read, I've spent a significant amount of time thinking about and playing the game, and my background and personality would suggest that I'd be very well suited to playing poker (I'm an emotionally unresponsive mathematician and the amount of money here is irrelevant). The worst part for me is that I can't identify what the problem is, and I'm not sure how to identify it. I don't want a quick fix or instruction manual, I want to understand why what I'm doing is failing. I want the skills to be able to identify and correct problems.

      But, like I said, I've read everything, and I feel like I have a good background and understanding of the game (I guess this isn't true if I'm consistently losing and don't know why though!). If you give me an example hand and time to think about it, I think I can give you a good breakdown of how to play it against various kinds of players, what hand ranges to expect, and how the hand will likely play out. Every couple days I do hypothetical hand situations with a housemate who plays SnG's pretty well, and things seem to make sense. I think my preflop and flop play are okay. I play something like 20/15 (tighter recently, like 15/12) unless there's people folding the blinds all the time, in which case I raise nearly everything from the button. I cbet flops that are good for my range, and don't cbet flops that are bad for my range / good for opponents range (if I can even assign one) or against people who call any flop (unless I think they fold on the turn too much), etc.

      But, looking at my tracking software, I have something like a 12bb/100h winrate on showdowns, and I'm winning about 57% of showdowns (wtsd around 22%), and I have around a -17bb/100h result on non-showdowns (winning around 40% without showdown). From what I've seen, that's a completely horrendous nonshowdown result, and I guess the options are that I'm either bluffing too much, or folding too much. Even getting that to -10bb, which would still probably be terrible, would give me much better results (even if it meant some tradeoff in showdown winnings). Maybe I cbet and give up too much against calling stations who missed and would fold turns? So maybe I should two-barrel more, or cbet less? I also often find myself betting and getting called two streets with made hands, and then getting raised big on the river when a draw completes. I don't see how I can justify calling (it seems like that just gives them the right implied odds to make their bad calls earlier in the hand). In my experience, calling has been a bad idea, because I don't think that many people are bluffraising the river with missed draws here. But, I can't just fold every time someone raises me on the river, can I?

      I guess I'm looking for anyone else who found themselves in this situation to see if they had some revelation they can share. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the game than many of my opponents, and I feel like I have a big potential to be better and learn more. But there's some glaring disconnect between that and my results, and I want to correct it.


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      Anyway, short summary of the above:

      I grinded out of NL2 successfully, but have posted losses at NL5 consistently over 50k hands. My tracker suggests that I'm folding all of my winnings away. I don't understand why what I'm doing is failing, and I don't know how to try to identify the problem despite what I believe to be a decent understanding of poker basics. My suspicion is that I'm kind of stuck in a conundrum, where I want to bet for value/protection against people chasing draws, but I'm afraid of paying them off when a draw completes, so I just fold my stack away 9 to 15 bb at a time. I'm sure there are other problems as well.

      Has anyone found themselves in this situation? (I guess the answer is an obvious yes) Do you have any particular suggestions on how to try to identify my problem apart from reading articles? Is there anything I'm not thinking about that could be worth looking into?


      P.S.: ;( ;( ;( ;(
  • 28 replies
    • gadget51
      gadget51
      Bronze
      Joined: 23.06.2008 Posts: 5,622
      Well I'm certainly not any type of expert and I have my own particular way of winning that is hard to explain for me.
      However, I would suggest you ignore the non-showdown winnings - my graph looks like my stairs looking from the top :) - why, because it would appear to me that these winnings rely on some sort of fold equity, which, as we both know, is not happening at nl5 that's for sure!
      I would also suggest playing less tables and more value hands in position, even though that may sound a bit newbie-ish to you. Don't get tricky and rarely bluff without a very very good reason. Don't call min raises! Lol.
      Anyway, my current win rate varies between 17.5 and 20bb/100 over 100, 000 or so, so I suppose my thoughts have a little merit if not entirely correct.
      Oh, nearly forgot, know your table; I sometimes play agro on one and mistake my success as the way to go on the others. Each table reads differently, so know your enemy.

      Not much I know, but gl anyway. And Post Hands! :)
    • Shakalis
      Shakalis
      Bronze
      Joined: 03.05.2010 Posts: 45
      I got the same thing... i will be 2 interest about suggestions how to stop loose at NL5 i am very succesful at NL2 like grind about ~100k hands and profit at month 95$... but when i try shoots at NL5 i always end my session with -20 or -30$ i tried like 7 times... and still every time loosing... mostly from bad beats . And its seems i cant understand the problem... i play solid abc poker.
    • phathustler
      phathustler
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      Joined: 03.01.2011 Posts: 23
      Thanks for the responses. Gadget, your thoughts definitely do have merit. I'd consider comments from anyone whose been playing for any decent amount of time/hands; if you're doing it and winning by a good margin, then I'm certain you've got some insight :P .

      It sounds like you're suggesting to just default to straightforward, tight poker and don't make mistakes trying to push marginal situations. I guess that's the standard correct thing against people who are playing poorly or wildly. It's possible I'm just having trouble convincing myself that there might not be as much value as I think there is in some situations, or some mixture of boredom and greed. I've probably convinced myself too many times that I can open 9Ts in early position thinking I've got good implied odds and can cbet them off a decent amount of flops. That's probably flawed if loose guys are going to end up calling most of the flops I'd cbet, or call behind with JT, QT, KT, AT a lot.

      I feel like I can't overlook the nonshowdown winnings though. It's so large. Lack of fold equity and playing tight are definitely going to affect it and probably often keep it negative. But, I'm a bit worried that I might be also losing out by folding when I'm ahead. It's hard to imagine someone playing call/call/bet out of position with a weak king, or call/call/call with a middle pair. I guess I'd remove a lot of problems by playing less out of position myself, so I don't have these situations where I check the river thinking they can never call with worse, and then they bet and it doesn't make sense.
    • weedo25
      weedo25
      Bronze
      Joined: 29.09.2010 Posts: 128
      maybe you should record your session on Nl5 with you thought proces and let people to review here on forum or try pay coach for few sessions.
    • Wurble
      Wurble
      Silver
      Joined: 04.04.2009 Posts: 456
      Is this playing SH or FR? I've beaten FR over a decent sample for a decent win rate at NL5 but Loooool I'm such a fish short handed I've blown two rolls but the players there are just awful and I noticed I'm showing down too light in the wrong spots which is causing me some major grief.

      If your showdown winnings are good but non-showdown bad how much are you c-betting? And how often are you firing a second barrel? A lot of multi-tablers will have a steady downward slope for non-showdown winnings but they should not be cancelling out your showdown winnings so there is something wrong definitely. Do you have a tracker? It's worth checking which positions you're losing the most from and then consider tightening up your pre flop ranges from those positions and also tightening the range with which you'll continue your aggression post flop.
    • phathustler
      phathustler
      Bronze
      Joined: 03.01.2011 Posts: 23
      It's SH, sorry I didn't mention that earlier.

      I pulled these stats from the past 23.3k hands I've played.

      My winrates in bb/100h in each position are:
      Button: 21
      Cutoff: 7.5
      Mid: 10.5
      UTG: -6
      BB: -43
      SB: -24


      The losses in the BB are mostly from folding preflop. If I folded every hand in the BB, I'd be at -100bb/100h, so I'm recovering around 57bb/100h worth of value when I do choose to play there. I'm -13bb/100h in those cases when I see the flop, which is around 32% of the time. I'm positive when I raise, 3bet, 4bet from the bb. I don't know if I can make this much better, since I don't know whether I can expect to make more in those cases where I do see the flop. Maybe it should be positive whenever I play postflop?

      Similar story for the small blind. If I folded every SB, I'd be at -40bb/100h there. I'm positive when I choose to play there, recovering some of the money that would be folded.

      UTG, looks like I'm losing money at showdowns, but it may have been a bad downswing at the start. I lost a 2buy-in stack in one all in, and two more stacks, then it starts climbing back up, s the graph of showdowns here looks like a checkmark. I'll have to manually check out these hands to see if I made stupid calls.

      The cutoff and button are similar to each other. Nonshowdown values hovering around 0, showdown values up. Showdowns in the cutoff and button have been kind of rough though, I've broke even over the last 130 showdowns in the button. Cutoff has kind of oscillated down and up. Maybe I'm making light calls or not extracting value well. I might be hesitating to make river bets when I could out of fear of draws completing. Again, I guess I need to manually check these hands out.



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      How I'm doing showdown vs nonshowdown is:
      My results at showdown are 2981 big blinds over 846 showdowns, totaling about $150.
      My results without showdown are around -$220 in the remaining 22,500 hands.
      I've made $320 in my nonshowdown winnings. So that means I've folded around $500 ($210 of this in the BB, $135 in the SB, leaving $155 elsewhere)

      How I'm cbetting is:
      I'm cbetting around 73% of the time (too high?), which only makes up about 964 total hands of the 23.3k. My winrate in hands where I cbet is 17.63bb/100h, totaling to $8.50. Around half of my nonshowdown winnings ($170) are in hands I cbet. My showdowns when I cbet are negative (202 showdowns after cbetting, -$3.92). I have cbet and then gone on to fold before the end of the hand 245 times, losing $162 in this way. My tracker doesn't have a good way to pull 2 barrel counts :/


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      Having looked at this, I'm guessing I'm not doing very well postflop as the aggressor. Either I'm calling too light / staying in hands I shouldn't only to fold later or make a bad call, and/or I'm not getting enough value when I'm ahead. I'm only making 3.5 bb per showdown. I might be cbetting too wide. I know I should be aiming more for flops that are scary for them / help my range / miss their range, but I'm probably not keeping this going in practice. I probably cbet way too much on boards like Ac 7s 9s and then end up check-folding.

      I don't know if it's reasonable to think I can improve my winrate on the blinds much, or if I should worry about that later (apart from changes which would improve general play). Oddly, I might actually be doing better in the blinds than anywhere else if I'm thinking about this correctly (losing less than I would if I folded every time by more than 20bb/100h). This might just be a result of playing more straightforwardly here.

      Should my nonshowdown winnings should be better than breakeven in late position? I guess this depends on the looseness of who I'm playing, but it seems like just cbetting and generally being in position as the aggressor should accomplish this if I choose spots well enough and am playing with a reasonable range preflop.

      Could the showdown problem just that I'm not playing tight enough from later positions? I seem to make a lot of money from opponents folding preflop, but maybe this is getting offset by making my showdowns worse when I do get called? I suspect I'm also calling too lightly on the river with top pair hands too :/
    • Depor07
      Depor07
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      Joined: 15.06.2010 Posts: 28
      Get into 'Your worst poker enemy' Schonomaker. Im finding it confronting but after you read all the strategy et al its time to look at other factors.
    • Ectoz
      Ectoz
      Bronze
      Joined: 07.04.2010 Posts: 135
      Originally posted by Shakalis
      And its seems i cant understand the problem... i play solid abc poker.
      Maybe thats your problem.And if you score 100$ a month,try and skip nl5.Build enought for the next.7 times you tried with -30 dollaz,is 210 dollaz.Thas a ludda dollaz.Even a dolla is alot o'dollaz :f_biggrin:
    • gadget51
      gadget51
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      Joined: 23.06.2008 Posts: 5,622
      2 things...1. I'll get back to you on those stats. I'm no expert and it's late. :)
      2. 'I play solid ABC poker'....lol no such thing. Again ...:) ask why not and you'll get loadsa grief off the experts lol. But ask just the same.
    • AlCaTrAzzALZ
      AlCaTrAzzALZ
      Bronze
      Joined: 06.05.2008 Posts: 726
      stop defending the BB so light, ur spewing money there... i'm guessing the fact that ur redline sucks and ur losing so much from the BB, your flat calling a raise from the BB and playing fit/fold from there

      either start folding ur BB more, or 3bet instead of flat from the BB
    • fembot26
      fembot26
      Bronze
      Joined: 25.08.2010 Posts: 72
      Have you tried, over a few thousand hands or whatever a decent sample-size would be for cash-games, switching to full-ring games and playing a very tight strategy such as recommended in beginners' poker manuals of a few years ago? I'm thinking of the kind of pre- and postflop strategy that beats low-level single-table SNG tournaments, viz, open-raising and isolation-raising only with premium hands, selectively making continuation-bets (which many opponents now seem to regard as transparent auto-bluffs), stealing the blinds from tight players, and re-stealing from the blinds occasionally. I suppose that for cash-games you could add bluff-raising maniacs on the turn.

      I must confess that I play SNGs exclusively, and I'd be interested in your results as I too was unsuccessful in micro-stakes cash-games, despite a background in mathematics and a naturally aggressive style that I fondly imagined would establish me as a big winner; I tried short-handed ring-games only because Harrington recommended them in his most recent book, and found them even less profitable than full-ring games. Perhaps the SNG strategy works only with shallow stacks and the threat of increasing blinds, or against the kind of opposition found in those tournaments, and would fail against observant cash-game players, although in my limited experience there are many opponents at NL5 who don't seem to adapt their play even to a very tight player's opening range.

      An expensive lesson I did take from the cash-games is that play on the river is crucial to one's bottom line. That didn't really help me optimise my play, however.

      I can understand your frustration, as it seems impossible that NL5 can't be beaten pretty easily by a thinking person who has spent time trying to improve - although NL2 was enough to send me packing and off to the SNGs.
    • fembot26
      fembot26
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      Joined: 25.08.2010 Posts: 72
      Also, this might have been discussed elsewhere, but has anyone had success employing the strategy that Harrington recommends in 'Harrington on Cash-Games', volume 2, for full-ring micro-stakes NL? I don't think that properly applied it is as easy to play as it sounds, at least not as profitably as Harrington doubtless plays, but it essentially consists of value-betting against loose-passive opponents and calling down maniacs with medium-strength hands. Does this strategy really work at NL5, either short-handed or full-ring?
    • AlCaTrAzzALZ
      AlCaTrAzzALZ
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      Joined: 06.05.2008 Posts: 726
      really? you need harrington to help you beat NL5?

      step 1 - read the strategy articles
      step 2 - watch videos
      step 3 - play more

      if your struggling with BSS, try SSS or SNG's, there generally simpler, or try FR instead of SH, it's generally considered easier as well
    • fembot26
      fembot26
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      Joined: 25.08.2010 Posts: 72
      If you read our posts, AlCaTrAzzALZ, it should become apparent that players like phathustler and I have already read the articles, watched the videos, and tried obvious strategy-adjustments like defending the big blind less often and three-betting more frequently. (And phathustler specifically requested advice other than "read the articles.") I have also already mentioned the difference between full-ring and short-handed games, and made it clear that I do play SNGs - my point was to provoke discussion of the effectiveness of seemingly simple strategies, perhaps imported from a different context such as ST-SNGs, in NL5. (The original poster was concerned with a more statistical approach, but I think my post was salient to his and other players' lasting frustration at being unable to beat NL5.)

      So my question remains: has anyone experimented over a few thousand hands of NL5 either with a tight-aggressive SNG strategy or with the 'Harrington on Cash-Games, Volume 2' strategy for full-ring micro-stakes? If so, how successful were the experiments? Do players like TwiceT or pzhon have anything to contribute, or existing posts to cite?
    • Wurble
      Wurble
      Silver
      Joined: 04.04.2009 Posts: 456
      Originally posted by fembot26


      So my question remains: has anyone experimented over a few thousand hands of NL5 either with a tight-aggressive SNG strategy
      I mass multi-tabled nl5 fr over about 30k hands at 5bb\100 playing like this. Well, not exactly sng strat but not far off... Set mining small pp's, fit and fold the flop when drawy, fire c-bet and often second barrell on a dry board with basically anything. Pretty wide stealing range first in from the button folding to any aggression. Quite often went broke with TPTK & overpairs if no obvious draws.. Worked ok I guess but not fun - I had a shit load of leaks too but that is how I played so meh, could probably achieve a much higher win rate with more value betting and better thought out c-bets which is what I'm working on now playing SH.
    • phathustler
      phathustler
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      Joined: 03.01.2011 Posts: 23
      I played about 100 hands of FR when I first started and never went back. I guess I find SH more interesting. I could go play a few thousand hands of FR and see how it goes, but I'm not sure that I'd learn anything doing so that I wouldn't learn at SH. My interest is more in improving than posting a positive winrate. So if I happen to default into a winning strategy in FR that isn't really what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a better understanding and ability to determine the winning strategy and why it works.


      stop defending the BB so light, ur spewing money there... i'm guessing the fact that ur redline sucks and ur losing so much from the BB, your flat calling a raise from the BB and playing fit/fold from there
      Am I? Are you saying this because you have / know that winning players have better winrates from the blinds, or what's justifying this claim? In a position where always folding is -100bb/100h, is -40bb/100h spewing? If it is, is it clearly because I'm defending too light; how do you decide that? Isn't is possible (though unlikely) that I'm playing perfectly preflop, and making horrible mistakes postflop? Wouldn't defending less in that case be potentially worse (by definition of perfect preflop play... though if i'm so horrible postflop, playing imperfectly preflop could rule out some terrible postflop situations)? I'm not claiming you're wrong, I don't know if you are. I'm interested in how you're justifying these claims so I could potentially learn to do so myself.


      if your struggling with BSS, try SSS or SNG's, there generally simpler, or try FR instead of SH, it's generally considered easier as well
      Looking for a easier/simpler game to play would be avoiding the problem, not correcting it. It's possible that SSS is more effective than BSS at a particular table. If that's the case, then I want to be able to recognize that it is, not just randomly switch, notice it works, and continue. It definitely simplifies things and might be immediately better for me by trivializing some situations I play poorly in (e.g.: doesn't matter as much how I play on the river when a flush completes if I'm already all in). But that's relative to me, not an actual feature of the game. Moving to SNG's would kind of be like claiming cash games are unbeatable for me. Again, my primary interest is not in getting to a positive bankroll trend with minimal effort.


      I could go keep reading articles and watching videos, and it definitely wouldn't hurt. I'm just looking for other things to do since I've already done a lot of those, and most of the material now is redundant. I suspect my remaining mistakes are either common but non-obvious, or rare but costly. Sorry I'm kind of mixing "what am I doing wrong" with "how do I figure out what I'm doing wrong" a lot in this thread. The latter is more important to me, since then I could figure out the first myself in the future. I'm not really sure what I'm trying to accomplish here any more because I don't know what kind of answer I'd even like to hear. It might just be a matter of experience and thinking over my hands before some things click or I stumble across my faults.
    • Wurble
      Wurble
      Silver
      Joined: 04.04.2009 Posts: 456
      I would suggest reading the COTW posts over on 2+2 if you haven't already - They are massively +EV.
    • fusionpk
      fusionpk
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      Joined: 21.01.2010 Posts: 1,683
      i cant sweat u bc im not at home but if u record a video i might be able to watch it on my phone in which case i will defo try to help you out, im not some sick baller or anything but i think im good enough to atleast help u a little

      nl5: few things, don't bluff, not even regs they just arn't good enough and call so much, if someone is like bet flop c/c turn they c/c river so fucking often its just not worth bluffing.

      value bet: when value betting just take some time to think wat worse hands can actually call, really try to get to know your player types (duno if u have stats, if not try to get a trial hud for a bit its real useful if u multitable micros), just know whos passive, whos stationy and whos aggro, just by knowing plr type value betting becomes so much easier. if theyre a station calling like bottom pair or wateva we can value bet much thinner, if there rly passive then we can think abt not valuebetting so thin because we start to own ourselves bc say for example they will only call with top pair or better and only raise like near nuts, then we start to get called down by pretty strong range and value betting our top pair is obv not so good. (ofc in some spots its great etc, just giving u general idea).

      one diff i notice between nl5 and nl2 is that u get many less fish that will randomly like shove some absolute air balls shit on the river, (like get to the river with J5o on 4469A or smth), like these plrs are much less abundant and thus we shud make less hero calls. (i found hero calling or atleast making 'thin calls' at nl2 made me quite alot of money (again vs correct op type)).

      if u arent comfortable playing in tough spots, keep your preflop range tighter, these limits are so bad that u can play complete nit and turn profit, then gradually introduce more hands. dont bother 3b'ing light and dont worry about non-sd, regs at these limits are barely better than the fish.

      just give it a couple seconds thought when you are value betting AJ on A64 rainbow blank turn/river. etc. like just realise 'what can this player call me with?' 'omg he raised turn he cant have anything much here - o wait he has set'. also v valid point if someone raises turn they are like almost never bluffing at this limit. i mean someone raises turn on me on A649 or smth i am snap folding turn with AJ vs most opponents, only w/ reads am i ever seeing a showdown.

      anyways like i say record a vid if poss and i & others will try to help u

      post might be quite long idk i dont proof read but currently i am super bored and i have nothing to do xD
    • phathustler
      phathustler
      Bronze
      Joined: 03.01.2011 Posts: 23
      Wurble: thanks for the COTW suggestion.

      fusionpk: I'll record a session sometime tomorrow maybe. I haven't done that before, but I'm guessing I should comment along about why I'm doing what I'm doing?


      In the meanwhile, here's some hand histories from some pots exceeding 20bb if you're bored

      http://www.pokerstrategy.com/poker-hand-converter/596081/

      Here I was really suspicious about the opponent's flop check, the board smacks his range. I figured he's only doing that with AQ, AA, QQ, KJ. All of these except AQ are beating me, so I'm pretty much crushed despite having trips. When he overbets the turn, I'm pretty convinced that's his range. I manage to raise anyway though, which is a huge mistake, given even my thinking at the time. -$5.

      http://www.pokerstrategy.com/poker-hand-converter/596087/

      This one, the guy was doing silly stuff like open shoving A4o preflop and being super aggressive the past few hands. So when I flop the overpair, I figure I'll just let him bluff at me. I'm not totally convinced this is a mistake given his recent behavior, but I definitely could have waited for a more clearly advantageous spot.


      http://www.pokerstrategy.com/poker-hand-converter/596091/

      He's pretty tight, and bet/calls preflop, calls the low flop and leads out all in on the turn. He'd probably have 4bet KK or AA preflop, and of the remaining pocket pairs, only JJ, TT, 99, 33, 22 (half) are behind me and I doubt they'd have been played this way. He could possibly be bluffing with AK or some KJ, but it seems unlikely he'd call with many of these preflop, or take this line postflop. If he made an out of character bet/call preflop with suited connectors he's probably ahead as well. I get around 2 to 1 on his shove, but I still think I need to fold. I don't know what I could have done differently earlier in the hand.


      http://www.pokerstrategy.com/poker-hand-converter/596097

      Here, the opponent is tight, but completes the sb. I try to steal it, and cbet when I flop midpair + flush draw. He calls, and then leads the turn when the flush draw completes. I don't think he tried slowplaying a pair of queens or trips, so I figure he's probably got the flush as well. But, since he's tight, I figure he's only got the flush with suited connectors and suited aces (lower than AT since I think he'd raise that+ preflop, and minus A7, A8 since the 7 and 8 are already on the board). Still, that leaves more ways to have a flush that beats me than loses to me. He could have a couple other hands like two pair 78 but there's only a few.
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