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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Feb 01, 2017


November 10 — Sometimes there are opportunities to check raise bluff the river especially if your opponent is not a thin value bettor

Last week I was playing in my typical $5-$10 no-limit hold’em game at the Commerce Casino. It was a Friday night and it was obvious that my opponent in the hand we are going to examine was a recreational player. Even though I had never seen him before I did notice that he limped in with very speculative hands from up front and he did not make value bets on the river when they were warranted. Similar to a lot of other recreational players it seemed like this opponent was very happy to check back even strong hands in position to take a showdown.

We were playing seven handed and a player opened from the hijack with an $800 stack to $40. I was in the small blind and decided to call with JSpade Suit 10Spade Suit. The villain in the hand also called from the big blind with $1,000 and we saw the flop three ways.

The board came out KClub Suit 8Spade Suit 6Club Suit totally missing me. I was entirely ready to check-fold to a bet but the flop got checked through. The turn brought the QDiamond Suit giving me an open-ended straight draw. I figured that the preflop raiser would not slow play such a wet flop and as long as I could get through the big blind that this was a good opportunity for me to semi-bluff so I bet $75. Unfortunately, my plan did not work and the big blind called. The preflop raiser folded and we went on the river, which came out the 8Spade Suit.

Now even though I had absolutely no showdown value, I did not think that this was a good spot to bluff. Because all of the draws bricked out I figured that the player in the big blind would call me with any pair thinking that I had missed a draw. So I decided to check, conceding the pot and fully expecting it to go check, check. However, after I checked my opponent now bet $125.

I was particularly surprised by his action because I fully expected him to check back any medium strength hand like a queen or a weak king. I also thought that he would have raised the turn with two pair or better protecting against the draws so it was very difficult for him to have a strong hand unless he had trip eights. But the only way that he would have arrived at the river with trips rights is if he had had a flush draw. So versus a player that did not make thin value bets his bet on the river was inherently polarized.

If you are familiar with my training material over at you might have heard me use the phrase “Fifth Street Chicken.” Fifth Street Chicken basically describes a situation where we call a raise on the turn with a strong, but non-nut hand, fully prepared to check-fold on the river if our opponent bets again, even if nothing changes. Many times the fact that our opponent bets again gives us the information we need in a large pot that we no longer have the best hand. However, sometimes we still win in these situations if our opponent was raising with a weaker hand on the turn and then checks back on the river.

This particular hand however, was the exact opposite. I was expecting to lose if the action went check-check but if my opponent bet I could actually raise and take it away. So instead of checking with the intention of check-folding I was checking with the intention of check-raising. And I did not have to size my raise that large if all I was trying to do was to fold out ace highs. In fact, I chose a sizing of $270 and my opponent quickly folded.

November 21 — Sometimes a semi-bluff raise on the turn adds much more fold equity than a raise on the flop

About 10 years ago, prolific online poker pro Andrew “BalugaWhale” Seidman put forth a poker theorem that stated, “You should strongly re-evaluate the strength of one-pair hands in the face of a raise on the turn.”

If you have played any considerable time at the mid and low stakes of live no-limit hold’em you understand how accurate this theorem reflects the game today. Usually, if someone raises your bet on the turn especially if they just called the flop, they have stronger than a one pair hand. I can count the number of times on one hand that I have seen a player check-raise the turn as a bluff in the last year at $5-$10 and usually if they are bluffing they are doing so as a huge semi-bluff where they have decent equity (like a 15-out draw) with one card to come.

Players usually fall into two different types when playing draws. Some players play big draws very aggressively on the flop putting their opponents to the test right away, and then barreling off. Others will play their hands more passively, not putting money into the pot until they make their hand. But very rarely will you run into someone that waits until the turn to make their semi-bluff, sort of as a delayed action, especially if they do not pick up additional equity in their draw. But, players at the mid stakes to low levels of live poker have not adjusted to the fact that pulling a delayed semi-bluff on the turn with a front door draw would add maximum fold equity.

For example a player with either KClub Suit QClub Suit or AClub Suit 6Club Suit calls a preflop raiser in or out of position. The flop comes 10Club Suit 6Spade Suit 3Club Suit and the player with a draw calls a bet. The turn comes the 7Diamond Suit and the preflop raiser bets again. It is so rare now for you ever to see the drawing player raise the turn to represent 9-8 or 5-4. In fact, in real time, I would most likely range the turn raising player with a huge made hand that was slow-playing the flop, a made hand that the turn filled like 7-7, 9-8 or 10-7, or on the rare case a draw that has now picked up additional equity like JClub Suit 9Club Suit.

Last week I wanted to test out delayed semibluffing and got into a good situation. An unknown, loose recreational player limped into the pot from the cutoff with about a $700 stack, I covered him and raised to $40 with 4Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit from the button. All others folded and we saw a flop heads-up of QDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit 2Club Suit. Surprisingly, my opponent lead into me for $65. As a gut reaction, I wanted to raise this “donk” lead but quickly realized that with the awkward stack sizes, if he did call my raise, I would be left with very little barreling ability on later streets to the point where my opponent might check raise me all-in on the turn if he decided to go with his hand. So I decided to just call.

The turn brought a 6Spade Suit giving me additional equity in my draw. My opponent now bet $105 and I quickly moved him all-in making it look like I was slow-playing the flop and or waiting for a safe card to go with a hand like A-Q. My opponent tanked for several minutes and then finally folded a queen face up. The fact that I waited until the turn definitely added fold equity to my semibluff and I was able to properly leverage the short effective stack sizes by waiting to make my aggressive action. ♠

Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on Twitter @CrushLivePoker and @BartHanson. Check out his poker training site exclusively made for live cash game play at where he produces weekly podcasts and live training videos.