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Did I Leave a Bet on the Table?

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Nov 13, 2013

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Roy Cooke“I can’t believe you didn’t bet that,” stated my friend as the dealer pushed me the $1,000 plus pot. I’d just rolled over three tens in final position on the river. I’d also questioned my decision to check. But making river bets is not about betting when you think you have the best hand: it’s about betting when you’re favored to have the best hand if you are called.

And while I did read the hand wrong, I could justify my reasoning as being sound. And if I make sound judgments based on my best available information at the decision point, I’ve done all I can ask of myself.

It was a fast action afternoon $40-$80 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio. I’d gotten stuck about $1,500 in the first hour and was looking to win my first pot. Cy, a local regular, limped under-the-gun (UTG) and was called by Mr. Loose-Goose in the three seat. Sitting in the four, I peered down to the 10Heart Suit 9Heart Suit and limped along. A woman called behind me, then Card Player owner and hyper-aggressive poker player, Jeff Shulman, fired in a raise on the button. The small blind (SB) folded, the big blind (BB) and the rest of the field called. We took the flop off six-handed, $500 in the pot.

The dealer flopped the 10Club Suit 10Spade Suit 8Club Suit giving me three tens, nine kicker. It was checked to me, and looking to check-raise my boss, I knuckled. Jeff was an accommodating fellow and fired. The BB folded, Cy called and Mr. Loose-Goose raised. In a pot this size, with multiple draws out, I didn’t want to slow play, so I three-bet. Jeff mucked, Cy and Mr. Loose-Goose both called. The three of us took the turn, $900 in the pot.

The ASpade Suit came on the turn. They checked to me, I fired $80, and they called. The river came the 7Diamond Suit. It was checked to me. I contemplated my best play.

What hands in my opponents’ hand ranges would they call a bet with? What were their hand ranges? I knew both my opponents feared my flop three-bet, were prone to read me for a ten, and would check strong holdings on the river. Cy had called a flop bet, then called two additional flop bets and a turn bet on a paired board. He had to have a draw or a ten to make that play. Mr. Loose-Goose, while very loose, was generally passive. I’d seen him check-raise only once in the hour I had played with him, and that was when he’d flopped a set of fours. In all other situations he had led. Additionally, I’d not seen him bet any of his draws. Because of those observations, I reasoned there was a high probability of him holding a ten. That said, I’d seen him play the 10Heart Suit 4Heart Suit in an earlier hand, so my nine had a shot to be the best kicker.

I thought value-betting was a close decision. But I chose to check, thinking that if Cy had a ten, he almost certainly had me kickered and Mr. Loose-Goose could easily possess a better ten too! I considered the possibility of getting a call from a weaker ten or someone holding the nut-club draw who would call after pairing the ace on the turn. But I didn’t read my opponents’ hand ranges to contain enough holdings I could extract a bet from to justify the risks of a wager. I knuckled.

Cy turned over the AClub Suit 3Club Suit, having flopped the nut-flush draw, and made aces on the turn. That hand would have made him susceptible to paying off. Mr. Loose-Goose stated he had the QClub Suit JClub Suit and had flopped a gutshot straight-flush draw. Obviously, I wouldn’t have gotten a river call from him. But did I make the correct decision by checking the river? I think I did, in spite of the fact that betting may have paid off in this instance.

Many people think they should always value bet when they believe they have the best hand. And while it’s definitely a factor, in order for your bet to have value it has to be called by an inferior hand. Additionally, when analyzing whether to bet, you also need to incorporate the assumption of risk you bear when betting. You might be betting the worst hand, you might get check-raised by a better hand and pay off, or worse yet, fold the winner. So when you’re contemplating value betting a hand on the river, ask yourself whether you‘re a favorite when called. Then extend your price to reflect any assumption of risk you contemplate. Keep in mind the tendencies of your opponents and the texture of the board. Among other things, extend your price when facing opponents who liberally check-raise. Don’t value bet opponents liberally who automatically check when the flush hits. No one can compute an exact equation, but understanding the concepts and doing some educated “rough justice” in these types of situations will realize a close enough proximity on most decisions.

Typically, when you’re deciding whether a river value bet is correct, it’s a close decision. But the equity from making the accurate decision adds up over time. Put together a series of small-edge advantages over your opponents and they’ll add up to a significant edge.

And the best thing about it is your opponents are unlikely to notice that there is any difference between their decisions and yours! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke