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Bluffing In Multiway Pots

by Ed Miller |  Published: Nov 13, 2013


Ed MillerA lot of people don’t bluff in multiway pots. I do it all the time. And it works. Here’s a hand I played recently.

It’s a daytime $2-$5 game in Las Vegas. I’m playing a relatively shallow $420 stack. The game was playing very typically for this time of day — most players were too loose preflop and too willing to fold on the turn and river.

I open to $15 from under the gun (UTG) with 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit. This hand is the weakest one that I, as a general rule, will open UTG. Six players (including both blinds) call. Seven players see the flop in a $105 pot, and I have $405 behind.

The flop comes QHeart Suit 10Spade Suit 3Heart Suit, giving me a small flush draw with weak backdoor-straight possibilities. The blind checks, and I bet $55. Two players call behind me, and the blinds fold. The pot is $270, and I have $350 left.

The turn is the 5Club Suit. I bet $110, and only one player calls. There is $490 in the pot, and I have $240 remaining.

The river is the ASpade Suit. I shove, and my opponent thinks for 15 seconds and folds.

I triple-barreled with a shallow starting stack into a field that started with seven players. It worked. I wasn’t particularly surprised about it either.

In fact, I play hands like this one with regular frequency. I think they add a lot to my $2-$5 win rate. I’ll break down the thought process.

Preflop, as I wrote above, 8-7 suited is the exact worst hand that I almost never fold UTG. Therefore I played it, not because I believe it has a big edge, but because some hand has to be my worst one, and for me this one is it.

If you’ve read my columns for a while now, you know that I view suited connectors as primarily bluffing hands. It’s difficult to hit a board hard and stack someone with a suited connector. This is doubly so when you are playing against opponents whose tendency is to get stacks in only with near-lock hands. Furthermore, my stack was so shallow to start that even if I did stack someone, it would be no particular thing.

I’m playing the hand primarily for its bluffing potential. It’s in my range so that you can’t just fold every ace-high or king-high flop against me after I raise UTG.

I’ll grant that bluffing into six players can seem a little crazy at first. But against the nitty folks who clog up $2-$5 games these days, it’s not so nuts.

Sure, I’m not going to bet that all six of my opponents missed a Q-10-3 flop. Those top two cards are right in the range of what many of my opponents are likely playing. Out of my six opponents, at least one likely has a pair of tens or queens. There’s probably another draw out there also.

But hitting the flop is something very different from stacking off. Sure, there could be a Q-J or a J-10 out there. But many of my opponents will fold such a hand by the river if I keep firing. After all, I raised preflop UTG. I bet the flop into six people. Then I bet the turn into whoever called, and I shoved the river. I have to have at least pocket aces, right?

Players at $2-$5 in Las Vegas routinely fold lesser pairs with lesser kickers to three streets of pressure in hands like this one.

So while I fully expect to get called on the flop (often in two or three places), I like the situation just fine. Of course I hold a flush draw, so I could make a big hand. But beyond that, I can effortlessly represent pocket aces and, depending on the turn and river cards, force folds from a wide range of hands.

This particular turn card, an offsuit rag, is great for me. If my opponents feel as though they are likely drawing to beat me, this card is of no help to them. They will still have just the weak pair or draw that they flopped.

I bet the turn with the hope that one of three good things happens:

My opponents both fold immediately.

I get called, and then I make my hand on the river.

I get called, and another card unlikely to improve my opponent hits the river.

In my experience, while it was unlikely for my flop bet to take it down, this turn bet has a better chance. If I’m up against a ten and a gutshot, for instance, I could easily win it now. Or a queen with a weak kicker. Or possibly even an open-ender (some players are loathe to “chase” hands on the turn, even with juicy pot odds like I’ve offered here).

The offsuit ace on the river is not ideal, but it’s a good enough card for me to take a shot. It makes hands like K-J, A-10, A-K, A-J, and A-x of hearts, but it might also be the final straw (along with my shove) that scares away K-Q and Q-J. (It’s also not a lock that my opponent calls the river with a hand like AHeart Suit 6Heart Suit.)

The key point is that there’s $490 in the pot, and my shove is only for $240. I’m getting slightly better than 2-to-1 on my bluff, so it needs to work only one-third of the time to be preferable to giving up. In my experience, bets like these get folds in $2-$5 games far more frequently than just a third of the time. I think it’s clearly profitable.

Indeed, I think this hand demonstrates exactly the sort of errors many $2-$5 players are prone to make. First, they play way too many hands preflop. It’s ridiculous that six people could find hands preflop they felt worthy of calling my UTG raise. With this many calls, we’re looking at hands like K-8 offsuit, A-5 offsuit, 8-5 suited, and the like. These calls are all terrible.

Because they play too many hands, they are too often caught with weak hands on the turn and river. There are three things you can do with weak hands: fold them, bluff with them, or call down with them. My opponents in Las Vegas overwhelmingly choose to fold them. This tendency makes my turn and river bluffs highly profitable.

You may think my bet sizes seem small. I know many players would be tempted with a flush draw to bet slightly bigger on the flop and then shove the turn. But in my experience, I want to leave at least $200 behind for the river. I prefer to bet three streets to two, as it gives my opponents one extra chance to make a weak fold.

I often say my strategy is to build pots preflop and then steal them on the turn. In this hand I had to plough through six opponents, and it took me until the river, but ultimately the plan worked. It usually does. ♠

Ed’s newest book, Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents, is on sale at Find Ed on Facebook at and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.