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No-Limit Hold'em - Another Deep Hand

by Daragh Thomas |  Published: May 01, 2010


Last month we took a look at a hand a student of mine played that was 300 big blinds (bbs) deep. This month we are taking a look at another interesting hand, this time 250bbs deep. The big difference is in the stakes. Last month’s was $0.50/$1, this month’s is a live $100/$200. Any of you who used to play on Tribeca network may know the hero of the hand, Eskaborr.

I picked this hand, firstly because it’s fascinating, but secondly because it deals with a concept I wanted to talk about up to this point but haven’t had a chance. All poker players are aware that you sometimes need to bluff rivers, but a recent fad has been for players to realise that even though they have a made hand (something that ordinarily would seem good enough for showdown), sometimes the best play is to turn it into a bluff. Typically this is when your opponent’s range is reasonably weak and cannot withstand a lot of pressure. For a while it was very effective as most players were not aware of it, but as with all of these fads, its effectiveness fades as more players become aware of it.

So on to the hand itself. The villain of the piece, who is a tough-thinking pro, opens in mid-position. He plays very tight in early position, along with most good players he is not a fan of playing out of position. An amateur calls in late position. Eskaborr, finding himself with K-K in the blinds makes it $3,000 to go. Both of the other players call. So far, so standard.

There is $9,300 in the pot. The flop comes 5Heart Suit 4Club Suit 3Club Suit. Eskaborr bets $7,000. Unfortunately for him, the amateur in late position makes it clear through his body language that he has lost interest in the pot, and is going to fold. This is bad for Eskaborr, because until that point the villain would have to play relatively honestly. He is much more likely to bluff if he knows he doesn’t have to worry about the third player in the hand, who has position on him and is quite loose. Similar situations occur when a player mucks to no bet.

The villain calls and there is $23,300 in the pot. The turn is an offsuit 2. The board now reads 5-4-3-2. They both check.

The river is an offsuit 8. Eskaborr checks, and the villain pushes all in. It’s $35,000 to call.

Under normal circumstances this would be a pretty easy fold, but there are good reasons as to why you might call here. The villain’s range is quite strong preflop, and contains a lot of medium and high pairs. He is a good enough player that he might decide to turn his pair into a bluff on the river, realising that Eskaborr almost certainly does not have an ace and cannot call, having checked twice. Eskaborr gives away his range with his two checks, a smaller pair would be likely to bet one of the two streets as a bluff; when he checks twice it means he either has absolutely nothing (which is very unlikely, because of every street, and he would be likely to use the obvious turn bluffing spot), or he has a strong overpair, that has no reason to bluff.

So since the villain must realise that, the overbet shove looks designed to get Eskaborr off exactly what he has, K-K or Q-Q. Also, would he really overbet shove with just an ace here? The loose player giving his intentions away on the flop means the villain is much more likely to be making a move here, he might not even have a good made hand.

Unfortunately, because the opponent is a good player, you can never be sure he isn’t thinking one step ahead here, and is shoving because he knows it looks like he can be bluffing. To paraphrase one of the posters on the forum where the hand originally appeared, he is either playing a big hand strangely (don’t forget 8-8 beats us, as well as the other sets and straights), or is turning a medium-strength hand into a bluff.

I think on the balance of things I would fold. I think that since the amateur signaled his intention to fold, the good player could easily flat-call the flop with a lot of A-x hands, figuring the gutshot plus potential fold-equity would make it a profitable call, but I understand why Eskaborr did call. Unfortunately, he ran into a brilliantly played A-A. Spade Suit

Daragh Thomas has made a living from poker over the last three years. He also coaches other players and writes extensively on the poker forum, under the name hectorjelly.