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Nice Bluff! - Part III

Using my solid image

by Rolf Slotboom |  Published: Apr 09, 2008


As readers of my columns know, my favorite poker game is not no-limit hold'em, the game that is always shown on TV. My favorite game is pot-limit Omaha (PLO). It being a four-card game in which, on average, one needs a much stronger hand to win than in no-limit hold'em, some people claim that there is no bluffing, that it is just a nut-peddling game. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It is correct that at showdown, one will usually need a straight, flush, or even full house to win; only rarely will a hand like two pair or even a single pair be enough. However, there are many common bluffing situations in PLO that are well-known to the better players, and that I have written about on many occasions. A few examples are betting someone off a better draw once the board pairs, playing the blockers, and executing the bare-ace bluff; every decent PLO player has knowledge of these concepts, and perhaps more importantly, knows how to put them to use at the tables.

As valuable and interesting as these bluff concepts are, the hand that I will share with you is – at least to me – a much rarer bluff. It involves a check-raise bluff on the turn with a hand that has absolutely no chance of winning in a showdown; yes, a hand that has absolutely no chance of even improving to be the best hand on the river. In other words, it's a pure bluff with one card to come. This is one of the most dangerous types of bluffs you can make in PLO, because of the possibility of someone giving you action with either a very strong holding or the combination of a decent made hand and a good draw. And it should be clear that when making a pure bluff, you don't want to get either one of those calls – as you will be drawing dead, or close to it.

PLO offers an almost perfect combination of luck and skill, and is usually action-packed – meaning that some of the biggest cash games in the world are pot-limit Omaha. As much as I love PLO as a cash game, as a tournament game, I don't like it that much. Yet, it was in a rare (for me) PLO tournament that I was involved in a remarkable hand recently. The structure of this event was very slow, and I had succeeded in building a very tight and solid image. That was the good news; the bad news was that with about 40 out of 240 players left, I had a below-average stack. That's when this hand came up.

In the big blind, I woke up with K-5-2-2, nothing suited, one of the worst possible starting hands in Omaha high. As there had been no raise, I got to see the flop for free: Q-10-9 rainbow. I checked, obviously planning to fold to whatever bet someone would make; after all, all I had was a mere pair of deuces. It got checked around, and then an offsuit 7 came on the turn. Of course, I checked again, the limpers also checked, and then it was up to the button, the strong and solid Mickey Wernick. He bet 4,000 into the 8,000 total pot.

Knowing that Mickey would never have checked this flop with a straight or even two pair, this could only mean that he had just made the understraight with the J-8 or 8-6, or perhaps a set of sevens, or was simply trying to pick up the pot with nothing much. Being close to 100 percent certain that neither Mickey nor any of the other players was in there with the nuts, I chose to make a move that I make only on very rare occasions: I check-raised on the turn with absolutely nothing, as a total bluff.

It was without a doubt a highly dangerous play, even more so because my stack was not very large in relation to the others, and calling me down would be relatively cheap for them. But I was saved by the power of my image. All of the other players folded, and Mickey also quickly threw away the 8-6 that I feared he might have, and with which he probably would have paid off against most other players. So, I won this pot on a total bluff – on a very rare move for PLO – and gained valuable immunition to get further in this event. The reasons for the success of this play were a good read of the hands that were out there, a proper analysis of the psychology of the situation, and of course, the correct exploitation of my tight and solid image.

Rolf has been a professional cash-game player since 1998. He is the author of the successful Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha, and the co-author of Hold'em on the Come. He is the creator and presenter of the hold'em four-DVD set Rolf Slotboom's Winning Plays. He is the first-ever Dutch Champion, and maintains his own site at