What’s Your Play? Four Flush on the River Results
by Andrew Brokos | Published: May 06, '12
Thanks to everyone who commented on last week’s “What’s Your Play? Four Flush on the River” post.
I want to begin my analysis by quickly ruling out calling as an option. Virtually every hand Villain would have called to the river now beats us: middle pair made trips on the turn, clubs got there, and top pair has a better kicker. Even the few straight draws that missed will sometimes have made some small flushes.
Moreover, Villain can have a relatively wide value range. I’d expect even a somewhat weak player to throw out a small value bet with the Tc when checked to. His value bets outweigh his bluffs with worse hands by so much that we can’t call with the bottom of our range.
Though several commenters discussed bluffing, only Jeff put it in the context of game theory. Game theoretically optimal play entails bluffing with the bottom of your range. For the same reasons that Villain is unlikely to hold a weak hand, so is Hero. I would rarely bet the flop and turn with a hand that would be weaker than K5 on this river. That is in itself an argument for bluffing.
Zaxpoppa articulates a common concern when he says, “to raise I think I would need more of a line on the specific player.” The underlying belief here is that folding weak hands ought to be the default play, such that you need a player-specific read to justify doing anything else.
I would argue just the opposite: bluffing with the bottom of your range ought to be your default play in the absence of a read. If you have a read that a particular Villain just won’t fold, then you can exploit that by shrinking your bluffing range. Without a read, you should bet your strongest and some of your weakest hands, fold the rest of your weakest hands, and call with whatever’s left in the middle.
How to Bluff a Calling Station
Granted, there’s some reason to think Villain may be very loose. He did, after all, open-limp in a 6-handed game and then call two bets. Everything he’s done so far has been loose and passive.
Still, that’s a small sample size, and importantly, none of those actions were for large sums. Quite often, players who are loose when facing small bets are tight, even excessively so, when facing large bets. For me, this is sufficient reason to put Villain to the test.
What exactly are we testing? I agree with WPS22 that, “Since the Ac is a pretty big part of his VB range and right in the middle of the fold/call spectrum it comes down to that.” In other words, if we can make him fold the Ac, then the bluff will be profitable. Otherwise it will not.
Perhaps it will turn out that Villain is a loose, gambley player who calls with the Ac. That happens. Your bluffs don’t have to succeed 100% of the time. In fact, if they do, then you aren’t bluffing enough.
I tend to size my bluffs in accordance with the hands I’m targeting for a fold. If I want my opponent to fold weak hands, I bet small. When I’m trying to get him to fold a strong hand – in this case the nut flush – I drop the hammer. Here, that means check-raising all-in, even though that’s a larger than pot-sized raise. That seems the best way to get my opponent to sit up and think rather than just click call because he has the Ac.
Answer20 suggests that we could “put him to a test rather cheaply” simply by firing a third barrel at the first opportunity rather than going for a check-raise. Unfortunately, the fact that it’s cheap is precisely the problem. Villain is much more likely to interpret such a bet as weak because it requires both less risk and less thought (it’s a lot simpler to click “bet” a third time than to plan a check-raise) than check-shoving.
I shoved, and Villain folded. Of course I’ll never know whether he had the Ac, so that doesn’t tell us much.
I don’t think this is a hugely profitable bluff, and a few commenters made reasonable cases for folding, but I do think there’s something to be said for trying different lines and showing your opponents something they rarely see. It’s so easy these days to watch a few videos, read a few books, and develop a strategy for dealing with common situations (pre-flop raises, continuation bets, etc.) that is at least not losing terribly much. Your opponents are much more likely to make mistakes when you put them in situations they haven’t studied or been in before.