Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Crushing Live Poker With Twitter

by Bart Hanson |  Published: Nov 13, 2013


September 10 – It is difficult to bluff catch against a depolarized river betting range

If you want to become an expert no-limit hold’em player, you should really work on depolarizing your river betting range. What does this mean? Most players have a polarized range on the river, especially when the pot is large — that is they only bet bluffs or their very strong hands. Part of the reason they do this is because they do not want to open themselves up to being raised — most are incapable of folding. They have subconsciously countered this flaw in their game (not being able to bet/fold for value) by simply not betting.

I call this type of player a “showdown monkey.” He loses tons of value at the end of the hand by checking behind so that he can get to showdown for free. The funny thing that he does not know is that when you get raised on the river, whether in or out of position, your opponent is bluffing so infrequently that you are almost never getting the correct pot odds to call. So he is scared of a bluff that basically never happens.

As good players, we know how important it is to make thin value bets in order to achieve a top win rate. When we bet hands that are not strong or weak on the river, we are depolarizing our range. If we can effectively make this adjustment, we become very difficult to play against and it is hard to catch us when we are bluffing.

Let us take a look at an example. Say in a $5-$5 game with effective stacks of $800, an under-the-gun (UTG) player raises to $25 and there are three callers including us, in position on the button. We hold KClub Suit JClub Suit. The flop comes out QClub Suit 2Heart Suit 3Club Suit. The UTG player bets out $80. The two players fold in between and we call. The chances are the UTG is pretty strong as he has bet close to pot on a somewhat wet board into three other players. His hand is most likely at least a queen or an overpair. The turn falls the 9Spade Suit, and he bets large again, this time $200. We have picked up additional outs to a queen or an overpair, as a ten now completes our gutshot straight. We call again. The river falls the KHeart Suit, and now our opponent checks. The pot is $660 and he has $500 left. Should we bet?

To answer this question we have to do some simple hand reading. It is obvious that our opponent has shown a good amount of strength by raising UTG and betting close to pot on the flop and turn. He could have A-A, K-K, A-Q, K-Q or maybe Q-J. Which of these hands though, check the river when a king falls? It is very unlikely that he checks K-Q or K-K. A-A is close, because again our opponents are showdown monkeys and do not want to be raised off of the best hand. So it is possible that he has A-A, but I think that A-Q or Q-J is more likely. If we bet will he call? In this situation our hand looks so much like a flush draw I think he will definitely try and catch our bluff. Now what happens if we check the river behind? We lose the value bet amount that he would call with A-Q and Q-J, and we also start to have a polarized river betting range, something that we want to move away from. If we only have K-Q or a busted flush draw, he can profitably check/call a decent bet, especially since he has a queen blocker to K-Q. If we are good enough to bet any single paired king here, (rivering a pair with our flush draw) then he cannot profitably bluff catch against us because we have other, medium-strength hands in our range that he loses to — we are not only very strong or weak.

Not only do we make extra money making these thin value bets, but we make it much much harder for our opponents to play against us and it opens the door for us to bluff more against people who are paying attention.

September 9 – The most important street in a live 100BB cap game is undoubtedly preflop.

Many times I have talked about the importance of playing the correct hands preflop. Hand selection is often times overlooked by both good and bad players. The bad because they want to gamble and the good because they think that they have a large advantage postflop.

The fact of the matter is, however, the shorter the effective stacks, the more important hand selection becomes. In games that spread a 100 big blind maximum buy-in, the average stack is usually only about 70-to-80 big blinds. Unfortunately, with these stack sizes, it becomes extremely difficult to profitably flat-call with implied-odds types of hands when facing preflop raise sizes of more than 5 times the big blind, something that is common at the lower levels.

I have talked about the rule of fifteen times, twenty-five times, thirty-five times as it relates to pocket pairs, suited connectors, and gapped suited-connectors in a previous coloumn. You can visit my training website,, to click on articles for a refresher. Every time you break these rules, that is call with a hand like 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit when the stacks are not deep enough, you are losing money. And every time your opponent breaks those rules you are gaining money.

Now there are times that you can call with speculative hands with the intention of taking away the pot later on, but in general, bluffing people off of strong holdings at these levels is not recommended. The next time you are on a downswing or you think you are playing bad, analyze the hands that you are playing when someone else has raised the pot. Also, if you are playing gapped and suited-connector hands from out of position, solely based on the future value of hitting your hand, you are making a big mistake. Position is everything in big bet poker and playing draws when first to act puts you at a big disadvantage throughout the rest of the hand.

September 14th – Donk leads into ragged boards from bad players should be interpreted as weak holdings.

If you have been playing no-limit hold’em for at least a few years by now, you should have noticed that bad players often play backwards. When they have strong hands they often will feign weakeness, and when they are weak or have medium-strength holdings, they will sometimes bet to “protect” against overcards. We can really use this knowledge to our advantage especially if we are the preflop raiser.

Let us review a hand that I played at the Commerce Casino a few weeks ago. One bad, recreational player limped in middle position, I raised KHeart Suit QHeart Suit on the button to $45, and the big blind and the limper called. The flop came out 9Heart Suit 4Club Suit 2Spade Suit. The big blind checked and now the limper lead out for $50. If we know that this bad player very rarely would ever have a set, what is his most likely holding? It seemed to me that at most he could have a nine and he easily could be betting with a hand like A-4 to “find out where he was at.” Well, I let him know where he was at and raised it to $200. Both my opponents folded.

This hand is a very good example of a spot where bluff-raising the flop against a lead out that probably is not strong is extremely profitable. Against good opponents that can put pressure on you, leading out to evaluate the strength of your hand is rarely a good play. In fact, you can even get blown off of a hand as good as K-J on a jack-high board if you are not willing to hold on.

The beauty of making this bluff-raise play on ragged boards, however, is that top pair will often change by the river and the relative strength of your opponent’s hand in comparison to the board will go way down. ♠

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