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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Bryan Devonshire

Devonshire Talks About Bluff Catching On The River

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Bryan DevonshireIt’s great to see pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth battling it out on poker’s biggest stages for millions of dollars, but the truth is that most of us will never get the same opportunity, nor will we really learn anything from their play that directly applies to our own games. The truth is that while we all aspire to be the next Phil Ivey, many of us will do so from the comfort of our friendly neighborhood home game or the low-stakes tables at a nearby cardroom.

In an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to unveil the brand new series Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.

ProBryan Devonshire

Concept — Bluff catching the river with scary board texture

Bryan Devonshire, affectionately referred to as “Devo” in the poker community, got his start as a prop player in Colorado. He played in a $2-$5 spread limit hold’em game when he wasn’t working as part of a local search and rescue team. Devonshire used that game to hone his skills and eventually moved up in stakes before deciding to play poker full time.

Devonshire is one of the more well-rounded players on the circuit today and is among the few players who can play all forms of poker very well. In the 2012 World Series of Poker alone, the Southern California native cashed in seven events and in five different forms of poker. For his career, Devonshire has amassed just over $2 million in career tournament earnings, including a 12th place finish in the 2011 WSOP main event.

Card Player caught up with Devonshire and asked him to break down a hand played by one of our readers in an online $0.25-$0.50 six-max no-limit hold’em game.

The Hand

Our hero is in the small blind with $69.59 in his stack and is dealt the AClub Suit AHeart Suit. A player in middle position starts the hand with $58.09 and raises to $1.50. It folds to our hero who three-bets to $5.00 and is called by the player in middle position.

The flop is 4Diamond Suit 3Spade Suit 3Club Suit and our hero bets $4.75 and is called by his opponent. The turn is the 6Heart Suit and our hero leads for $10.00 and is called again. The river is the 5Club Suit and now our hero moves all-in for his opponent’s remaining $38.09. His opponent folds and he scoops the pot.

The Interview

Steve Schult: First off, let’s start with his preflop three-bet. I’m assuming you’re almost always going to three-bet aces. Do you like his bet sizing preflop?

Bryan Devonshire: The sizing is pretty optimal with stacks for that deep for a cash game.

SS: With $10.50 in the middle, our hero actually bets less than what he did preflop. Is there any merit to betting bigger on such a dry board or do you like the smaller bet sizing?

BD: I am actually of the school of smaller bet sizing on the flops in c-bet spots where ranges are pretty merged. Since most of the time we are going to have nothing, I like betting smaller because it gets the same job done as betting bigger.

In this specific spot, since the opponent has $53, I would have bet a little bit more like $5.30 instead of $4.75 just because I only need to bet 10 percent of his effective stack to leverage his entire stack. There is no reason for me to bet like $8 because there isn’t a hand that I’m really trying to protect against. If I’m beat now, then I’m going to be beat for my whole pile. So I’d rather be able to bet $5.30 and fold when I have nothing instead of betting $7 or $8 and having to fold when I have nothing.

SS: So instead of aces, let’s say you had A-K in this spot. You’re saying that your flop bet sizing is still the same?

BD: Yeah, exactly. That way you can merge your range with a very small c-bet. Your c-bet only needs to work like a third of the time to show a profit immediately. So by betting smaller, you can c-bet more frequently because my rate of success needs to be much less than when I’m betting less. Since I’m betting $5.30 with aces, I can also bet $5.30 with ace high and I can be less exploitable and I can still leverage their entire stack.

SS: So when the player in middle position calls the flop bet, what are you starting to put him on?

BD: Pairs. The vast majority of somebody’s range to call a three-bet preflop and then be able to call a bet on this board is going to be all sorts of pocket pairs. Obviously, you have people do weird things, but they are supposed to have a pair here.

SS: Assuming we are trying to get stacks in the middle, what is the best line to take when the 6Heart Suit comes off on the turn?

BD: I would be willing to get stacks in here. I think the best way to do it is to bet a little bit bigger than $10. By betting $4.75 and then $10, it’s going to set us up for a river shove of like $38 which is a bit too heavy and is going to scare off worse hands like two tens or two jacks that we are trying to get value from right now. The best way to do it, which would also help balance our bluffs, would be to bet more like $5.30 and $12, which makes the pot a little bit bigger and I can make it tougher for him to fold the river since he will be getting such a good price.

SS: Since you are trying to balance your bluffing range and your value range, how often would you be barreling this turn card with air on this board?

BD: Never. (Laughing) Poker is a game of people and people have trust issues. To call that flop they almost always have a pair and they are just not going to give up on that turn. People usually don’t believe me and I have to have a really good reason to believe that they would actually fold before I start betting that turn card. That takes some history and dynamic that is very far from his standard line.

SS: Now when the river makes a one-liner to a straight, with any deuce or seven making a straight, since we are out of position with about a pot-sized bet left, what is our best line here?

BD: I’d sure like things better if our pot was a little bigger. That way we could just check-call and not really worry about it. That is a terrible card for our range and can certainly hit our opponent’s range. Against any sort of perceptive opponent, I am going to check-call since it is like the best card ever to bluff.

I think since we kind of kept the pot small in this spot, I would probably just check-fold to a shove. If he bets like $20, I would think about calling, but I would have just liked to make slightly bigger bets on previous streets. Bloating the pot out of position is kind of a good thing since it makes the stacks shorter and it gives us less opportunity for us to be exploited since the implied odds would be reduced. There’s no real reason to bet.

SS: So you are assuming that players are going to bluff this river? If we think he has a pair the whole way, would he really jam this river with pocket nines or something?

BD: Yeah, I think most players would. Their rationale is, ‘Well, if I already have the best hand, he is going to fold his ace-king and if I don’t have the best hand, then this way I can win if he folds.’

SS: Is there any merit to betting the river to get value from those pairs that you think might bluff the river?

BD: I think check-calling is more optimal on the river. If we are betting the river, it’s really hard for them to think that we have like A-K at this point and ever really call with worse.

SS: So then I guess you don’t like taking the line that he took by moving all in on the river?

BD: I think jamming that river is pretty bad. You are trying to get value from a hand like queens through eights and they are just going to give up a lot. Your line is so strong and now he will call with pocket deuces, fives, and sevens, and you are going to be tellling yourself, ‘Man that was stupid.’