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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Galen Cranston

Bluff Catching With Strong Hands In Pot-Limit Omaha

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Galen CranstonIt’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.

Pro – Galen Cranston

Concept – Strong Hands Becoming Bluff Catchers in PLO

Galen Cranston is a 27-year-old poker pro who specializes in pot-limit Omaha. Cranston, known as “Gakn29” to his opponents on PokerStars, plays mid-stakes six-max cash games and is one of the best pot-limit Omaha players on the web.

While the Ottawa resident plays mostly cash games, he does have a second-place finish in a $320 PokerStars WCOOP event for $61,093. Cranston is an instructor for CardRunners, where he produces instructional videos and blogs for the site.

The Hand

In a three-handed $1-$2 pot-limit Omaha game online, our hero ($416.71) is in the big blind with AHeart Suit 10Heart Suit QHeart Suit QDiamond Suit. The player on the button ($205.37) raised to $5 and was called by the small blind ($561.45). Our hero three-bet to $20 and was called by both players.

The flop was 8Spade Suit 6Club Suit 6Heart Suit and all three players checked. The turn was the 6Spade Suit and the player in the small blind leads out for $40. Our hero called and the button folded. The QClub Suit fell on the river and the small blind checks. Our hero bets $118 and is met with a check-raise to $494. Our hero folds and the player in the small blind scooped the pot.

Relevant Reads From our Hero – The small blind was a regular playing 39 percent VPIP (voluntarily put chips into pot) and a 31 percent preflop raise percentage with a 16 percent three-bet percentage over a 1,300 hand sample. Our hero described himself as playing very tight this particular session.

The Interview

Steve Schult: Talk a little bit about the preflop action. Is this a standard three-bet for value against a button raise and a call out of the small blind?

Galen Cranston: It’s absolutely standard to do this, especially since he is sitting with $400 at a $1-$2 game. I would assume he is ahead of both of their ranges and the only way the small blind could have him beat is if he has garbage aces that he is just flatting or medium to weak kings that he could flat. It’s a very easy value three-bet.

SS: If this is a very easy value three-bet, what other types of hands would we be three-betting here?

GC: All of your medium or better aces because you don’t want to be three-betting your garbage aces sitting this deep out of position against a guy who he has already marked as a regular. I would be three-betting my stronger kings, all of your Broadway hands, ten-high rundown (four cards in a row) hands or better, double-suited aces with three straight cards close together. Basically, just a lot of hands that you are easily able to continue postflop with sitting this deep out of position.

SS: With the hand that we have, let’s say that the button, opted to four-bet. Is this a flat call, fold, or five-bet?

GC: I personally would never get it in unless I knew the guy was on massive tilt or playing really badly. As he said, the guy is a regular, so I don’t like ever getting this hand in. We three-bet to $20, so a four-bet would be to like $70 and we are starting the hand with just over $400, so I can absolutely see this being a flat and playing the hand postflop. You would be playing from behind just a little bit, but you would be getting 2 to 1 on a call and that is assuming the small blind folds. You absolutely play this hand easily postflop since you are either going to smash the board or you’re not and you will have around $350 behind if he pots it.

SS: As we move to flop, it gets checked around. This would be an easy continuation bet in a hold’em game. Is there any merit to checking this flop as the initial preflop three-bettor?

GC: I personally don’t like checking because it makes your hand a lot harder to play in the middle of two players. I think you absolutely can be getting check-raised by the small blind and the button could have something, but you don’t actually establish your hand at all by checking. If the small blind was going to check-raise you, you don’t know and now you are playing the next two streets blind.

If you put in a bet of half to two-thirds pot, you definitely figure out pretty quickly if somebody has a drawing hand or a hand that is bigger than yours. The guy on the button can’t really raise with air here with the small blind behind him after he checked so you kind of force the button to play more honestly against you and not to mention that there are a lot of cards that you don’t want to see on the turn. If someone has a 10-9-8-x hand, you don’t necessarily want to give them a free card.

When you check it through, you open yourself up to get bluffed more. People are less likely to go nuts on a 8-6-6 board if you bet the flop. The small blind would have to put in a big check raise and then if he gets called, he bloated the pot and would have to put in a big bet on the turn. You could have easily have three-bet a rundown hand and have hit this board, so it would be pretty suicidal for the small blind to be check-raising light here.

SS: How would you proceed on the flop if you got raised by the button or check-raised by the small blind?

GC: With no history against either opponent I would just fold. Part of the problem is that other than a queen on the turn, there is no real good turn card for our hand. The other problem is that regardless of whether our opponent has air or a strong hand, he is going to continue betting big on the turn. So if we don’t really have too many good turn cards and we are going to be facing another big barrel without being sure if we have the best hand, a fold is the best option.

SS: So what types of hands would you be checking this board with?

GC: You can’t ever really check here since you are in between two people. If I was dealt four cards that fell on the floor I would bet here.

SS: The turn seems like a pretty good card for our hand since we make a full house. What kind of range do you start to put our villain on when he leads from the small blind?

GC: A lot of the hands that we beat that he will bet here depends a lot of what the small blind thinks about the way the button plays. If he thinks the button is bad, I can see a regular value betting jacks or tens hoping to get called by some garbage pair or even ace-king by the button and if he gets called by us, he can just shut down on the river. Since our hero said he has been playing tight so if you flat the small blind, he should always be checking the river with all of the full houses that you are ahead of.

He can’t really have aces too much here. You have an ace in your hand and he didn’t three-bet preflop. I do think he would value bet kings on the turn though and if he gets called, I think he would still be checking the river because you can have aces here. I think everything on the turn is pretty standard.

SS: Is there any merit to raising the turn for value?

GC: No, because you never get any action that you want. If you raise and get called here, you’re deep in it. The only hands that he can bet and call your raise with is like pocket kings that doesn’t believe you. All of the other hands that beat you should put it back in your face on the turn. He isn’t going to call and then check the river to you because you will almost always check back.

SS: The river seems like a really good card for our hand since we made the second nuts, but is there any reason you wouldn’t bet here?

GC: You have to bet for value because he can check/call this river with kings sometimes. I don’t think he is going to call here with like sixes full of jacks or anything like that, but I think bet/folding the river is pretty spot on most of the time against somebody without any real history.

SS: So what do you think about the river check-raise?

GC: This is where it gets real interesting because our hero is viewed as tight and the regular is a good, aggressive player. So what this comes down to for me is if I have a high three-bet percentage preflop, then I can never call this river check-raise because I can have some sixes in my range. If I can specifically have 8-6 in my three-bet range preflop where I can flop a boat and check it, then I can never make this call.

I know we have been playing tight though and can never really have a six, so it can really open the door for a really good player to take advantage of this and put in a big river check-raise as a bluff. I hope that makes sense, but this is a weird spot where the tighter your three-bet range is, the more likely you are to get bluffed on this river by a good player and the wider your three-bet range is, the less likely you are able to call this raise.

SS: Our hero’s three-bet percentage is 7 percent. How does that affect our hero’s decision?

GC: That’s pretty average for a TAG (tight aggressive) type regular, but with stats like that, it’s way less likely that you are going to show up with a rundown hand that has 6-8 in it. If you have a bare six on this flop, you are not likely to slow play it three-ways.

If you have A-6 here, you aren’t going to check and let a free card fall, you are going to bet and hope that a weaker six, smashes it back in your face. The only time you can ever really check this flop with the lead is if we flopped eights full or have 8-6 with some overcards and think somebody might spazz out on later streets. But when you can only have like aces on this river, it makes me really want to call this river against one of the top players.

SS: Do you like his river bet sizing then since it was almost a full pot-sized bet?

GC: I would have bet more like half of the pot. We have the second nuts, but we are really only trying to get value from pocket kings and pocket eights so you want to make it easier for him to call. He kind of did it to himself when he gets check-raised.

 
 
 
 

Comments

ginjuice
over 4 years ago

I'm a bit confused. You're not saying you like the fold of the second nuts, $236 to win $892? I don't understand why hero folds in a small cash game,I would put him n 8's full and cringe when he showed the 8-6. Guess I'm a fish.

 
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