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Crushing Live Poker With Twitter

by Bart Hanson |  Published: May 01, 2013


March 17th — If your opponent is a thinking player and knows you are capable of bet/folding sometimes you have to bet/call.

If you have read some of my previous articles or have checked out my training material at you will know that I think that the bread and butter play of any great live player is bet/folding.

When I first started playing poker seriously, I remember reading somewhere that you should not bet if your hand could not stand a raise. This article was from 2003 or 2004 and I am pretty sure it was from a big name pro. Since I knew little about poker strategy back then I took this advice and checked down hands that now I would value bet in my sleep. What a bunch of rubbish that advice was. We all know that we can easily bet with what we think is the best hand versus straightforward players because they will call us with worse and raise us only with better. This is why bet/folding is such an important concept.

But, what if we are playing against opponents who know that we are capable of bet/folding? Most of the time we still should do nothing. Even if these players know what we are doing and could easily exploit our thin value bets they still are not capable of raising as a bluff. The tricky spots are when you get involved with good, thinking players which are definitely a rarity at the low and mid-stakes levels. In these situations, sometimes you actually have to bet and be willing to call a raise. Let us take a look at an example. Say in a $5-$5 no-limit game with $1,000 effective stacks, we raise over one limper to $25 with ASpade Suit AClub Suit. The cutoff, a good, thinking player, calls us and the limper calls. The board comes out QSpade Suit 5Heart Suit 2Spade Suit. It gets checked to us and we bet $55. The cutoff calls and the limper folds. We surmise that the thinking player could have a queen, a flush draw or some sort of straight draw. It is unlikely that he is totally floating us with air. The turn is the 9Club Suit. We bet $120 and the cutoff calls again. Now the pot is $440. The river is the 10Spade Suit. We feel like we can get some value from a hand like K-Q and decide to bet $200. The cutoff now pushes all-in for $800 total.

Against straightforward opposition this would be an easy fold, as our opponent has a flush here almost always. But, it is intriguing that we do have the nut spade blocker in the ASpade Suit in our hand. The pot is $1440, $600 for us to call. We are getting a little under 2.5-to-1, which means we need to be good just more than once out of 3.5 times. If we have ever seen this guy make a raise bluff before, this might be a time where you want to bet and call, as he could be turning a queen into a bluff.

The situation would be a little different if we had say ADiamond Suit QClub Suit in our hand because of card removal. In that case, our opponent actually is less likely to have a queen and more likely to have a flush. He also could have the nut flush, as we no longer hold the stiff blocker. You really have to proceed with caution when heeding this tweet’s advice. Most players just are not capable of adapting to different situations, and usually when you face a river raise, people have it.

March 20th – If you aren’t asking yourself “what does this guy have” during a hand you’re doing something wrong.

First level poker players are only thinking about their own hand. If they hold four to a flush they are thinking about the chances of making their draw, not evaluating what their opponents might be holding.

The key to successfully value betting and bluffing is to play off the range of your opponents’ hand, not your own. You should get into a habit of constantly thinking to yourself “what does he have?” during a hand. In reality, your actual hand is less relevant than your opponents’ hand, especially when most people miss boards in hold’em. Here is a hand that I played at $5-$10 no-limit at the Bicycle Casino. A few people limped in front of me and I raised from middle position to $50 with 10Club Suit 10Diamond Suit. Everyone else folded, and it got back to the initial limpers, who called. The flop came out 8Diamond Suit 6Diamond Suit 8Club Suit. Surprisingly, one of the limpers, an older, tighter player, led out at the pot for $150 and the guy to my right, who was awful, called. Everyone was $2,500 deep. Instead of considering my own hand, my mind started evaluating the other players’ ranges. I was almost positive that the older man did not have an eight, and would not lead with a flopped monster like 6-6. I was concerned however, that he could have a hand like J-J or Q-Q that he had just limp/called preflop. The guy in the middle was definitely more of a wild card. He could have had a six, a straight draw, flush draw or be slow playing an eight. For these reasons, I decided to just call with position to see what developed on the turn. Fourth street brought a beautiful 10Spade Suit and the old man fired $500. The guy in the middle was about to fold, but painstakingly looked at the pot and called once again. Now, the pot was $1,600 and my opponents both had about $1,800 each remaining. Usually in this spot I would make a small raise, but the pot had been bloated up so much and the player in the middle was so bad I did not want either player to fold.

At this point I was sure the guy in the middle had a flush or straight draw, not an eight. I was also fairly certain now that the older man had a hand he was trying to protect (although not an eight) and it would put him in an impossible spot if I raised. The river came out the 2Spade Suit, and with $2,100 in the pot and $1,800 left in his stack, the upfront player checked. The middle guy also checked, and the action was on me.

A lot of people in this spot make the mistake of bombing the river all-in because they essentially have a nut hand. In fact, our hand here is irrelevant. We know that we have the best holding, but we have to extract the maximum amount of value from everyone else. I thought that the old man squarely had J-J or Q-Q and wanted to try to get paid. The guy in the middle had become irrelevant because it was obvious to me that he had missed his draw. I decided to bet $675. The old man went into the tank for about a minute and finally called. The other player quickly folded and I scooped a nice pot.

In the above example what comes on the river is very important. Let us say, for example, a diamond comes completing the front-door flush. If it was checked to me here, I would most likely move all-in or make a big bet, as I would think that I would not get a call from the old man with J-J or Q-Q anyway, but would want to maximize from the guy in the middle if he had caught his flush. Wouldn’t he bet though, you ask? Not always, because when the pot gets bigger and bigger, people want to go to showdown more and more cheaply when they do not have the actual nuts. Let’s say the river was a queen, king or ace. These cards are more difficult to evaluate, as I expect the player in the middle to call a big bet if his flush draw ran into top pair, but it is tough to extract value from the older man with J-J.

The thing to notice from the above example is that I am constantly thinking about my opponents’ ranges, not my own. The more that you can do this, the better player that you will become. ♠

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Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on twitter @barthanson. Check out his podcast “The Seat Open Podcast” on and his video training site specifically for live No Limit players ­— He also hosts Live at the Bike every Tuesday and Friday at 10:30 pm ET at