Win A $1,000 Tournament Ticket To The Event Of Your Choice!

Hand 2 Hand Combat -- Jon 'apestyles' Van Fleet

Jon ‘apestyles’ Van Fleet Overbets the River as a Fake-Out ‘Bluff’

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Aug 20, 2010


Event: PokerStars no-limit hold’em rebuy tournament
Buy-in: $50
Players in the Event: 609
First Place: $21,423

Hand No. 1
Blinds: 200-400
Antes: 50
Players at the Table: 9
Stacks: “apestyles” – 20,460; “jdsmith9” – 11,225

Jon 'apestyles' Van FleetCraig Tapscott: Accumulating chips in blind-versus-blind situations can be crucial in tournaments. Can you discuss a recent hand that you played in just that scenario?

Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet: Yes. I would say that this hand is a bit more complicated and advanced in its approach. Blind-versus-blind situations almost always involve weaker and wider hand ranges preflop. Thus, hand reading and the psychological aspects of the game become more important. Whether or not you attempt to bluff or get thin value depends upon your opponent’s view of you and what you are capable of doing. Weaker players tend to get run over in “blinds wars,” but tough players tend to call down lightly or play back at a high frequency.

“Jdsmith9” raises to 1,000 from the small blind.

JVF: The villain in this hand, Jdsmith9, is a strong professional player with tight-aggressive tendencies. Almost all strong players raise a minimum of 25 percent of hands when first in from the small blind with effective stacks of 28 big blinds. Getting slightly more than 3-1 odds, I think the clear best play preflop is to …

Apestyles calls with the ADiamond Suit 2Spade Suit.
Flop: ASpade Suit JHeart Suit 5Heart Suit (pot: 2,450)
Jdsmith9 checks.

JVF: After checking this ace-high, coordinated flop, I expect the villain to almost always have a medium-strength hand, like J-10 to K-10, Q-Q or K-K, 6-6 to 10-10, and weak aces that he plans on calling one or more barrels with.

CT: Can you go into a bit more depth about the villain’s check?

JVF: My reasoning here is that he would bet this flop with all of his air hands, since I
don’t have many aces in my range and he can win when we both miss the flop. I also expect that he would bet all of his strong hands. People don’t give much credit when it’s blind vs. blind, and he can expect to get called down by all of my aces, some jacks, and floated gutshots. He also can get value against my flush draws, which he can assume I will raise the flop with.

Apestyles bets 1,575. The villain calls.
Turn: 10Club Suit (pot: 5,600)
The villain checks.

JVF: The 10Club Suit isn’t a good turn for my hand, as most of my opponent’s hands have improved or gotten more outs. I don’t see much value in betting, since he will continue to call with all of his better aces, check-raise with all of his two pairs and straights, and often fold his weaker holdings (that is, J-9, 6-6 to 9-9, and so on). I will have to fold to a check-raise, and I don’t expect him to call three streets with a worse hand than mine, so waiting until the river to get value is best.

Apestyles checks.
River: 10Heart Suit (pot: 5,600)
The villain checks.

JVF: Once the villain checks, I’m confident that I’m beating or chopping with almost his entire range, which consists of weak aces, K-J, Q-J, medium pairs, and Q-Q or K-K. I can eliminate flushes from his range, due to the fact that a flush draw either bets or check-raises the flop with these stack sizes. A flush also probably bets the river. He may have a sneakily played J-10, K-10, or Q-10, but those hands bet the river at least half the time, and constitute a negligible part of his range. My first thought was to bet 3,100, but then I had a flash of inspiration, and …

Apestyles moves all in and has the villain covered.

CT: Can you explain your thoughts behind the huge overbet?

JVF: I realized that a value-bet usually makes most of the hands I beat fold and all of the hands I’m chopping with call. Since I don’t expect the villain to call with a worse hand if I make a regular bet, I decide to “fake polarize” by overbetting. When a range is polarized, it means that it is either a very strong hand or a bluff (aka the nuts or nothing).

CT: Why would the villain see your range as being polarized?

JVF: For a couple of reasons: (a) Scary board – The 10Club Suit and the 10Heart Suit river make many strong hands possible, and many players bluff scare cards. (b) Overbetting – Overbets are generally representative of near-nut hands, but are occasionally a great tool for bluffing. People almost never overbet with medium-strength hands. Even though the board is scary, the villain is smart enough to know that I can’t have many very strong hands other than low flushes, because of my turn check. I would have bet all two pairs and straights on the turn. In the villain’s mind, the only strong hands I can have are flushes and random tens, and I wouldn’t necessarily overbet them.

CT: What would be your value range here?

JVF: In the villain’s mind, my value range is tiny. He knows that I’m very capable of bluffing this sort of board. Also, he is aware that his range looks very medium-strength and is almost faceup. In his mind, I think he can’t ever call this bet with his range, making a bluff much more likely. Also, since we’re blind vs. blind, my hand range is really wide and doesn’t include that many Broadway combinations that have hit this board. Therefore, a bluff looks a lot more probable than a value-bet.

CT: What else is he thinking?

JVF: In the villain’s mind, A-X and all of his one-pair hands become bluff catchers. Looking at it from the villain’s vantage point, when I bet two-thirds of the pot on the river, I can, and often do, have A-X in my range. But when I overbet on this sort of scary board, a weak ace just doesn’t seem likely. Therefore, when I overbet, to him, Q-J equals A-9 here, since I can have only a bluff or a monster. I wasn’t sure if the villain would fold his bluff catchers or call with them. But, I thought there was a decent chance he would fold the hands I chopped with. Therefore, the result of this overbet is to occasionally make A-X hands fold, as well as the hands I beat. However, the overbet also increases the likelihood of him deciding to catch bluffs with worse hands than if I made a regular bet (the villain later said that he would have folded to a normal-size bet). So, the overbet actually functions as a “freeroll bluff” sometimes, and maximizes value when he does decide to call with bluff catchers.

The villain calls all in the remainder of his stack and reveals the KHeart Suit KDiamond Suit. Apestyles wins the pot of 22,800.

CT: Is there anything else that is key about this river bluff?

JVF: This analysis is heavily dependent upon the villain being a player I know and who reads hands well enough to realize that both he and I know that his hand by the river is almost always a single pair (two pair with the tens), including a pocket pair, increasing in regularity from 6-6 to K-K, and many J-X hands and some A-X hands. I’ve made many similar calls against opponents when their lines didn’t seem to make sense, and I don’t fault jdsmith9’s play in this hand. I’d also like to thank him for allowing me to use his name and comments in this column. Spade Suit

Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet started playing professionally in 2004 after graduating from college, and quickly moved up the ranks of the online-poker world. He has won more than $3 million, has 90 wins, and has made more than 500 final tables in online tournaments. He is also the co-author of the acclaimed poker books Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time — Vol. I and Vol. II.