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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Mar 01, 2017


December 10 — There is a fundamental flaw in logic that many players have when bluff catching.

A few weeks ago, I played a very interesting hand at the $5-$10 no-limit game at the Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles. The table was very good, loose and filled with recreational players that were all sitting deep. It was only my second round in the must-move game and I called a $35 raise from an under-the-gun (UTG) player, immediately to his left with ASpade Suit 4Spade Suit.

One other player called in the cutoff and another in the big blind and we took the flop four ways. The board came out 10Club Suit 3Spade Suit 2Heart Suit giving me a gutshot straight draw, with a backdoor flush draw. The big blind checked and the UTG preflop raiser quickly bet $50 into the $140 pot.

I interpreted this bet as weak for a number of reasons. While this type of sizing with an overpair on such a dry board would not be bad, usually recreational players choose their sizing based about the strength of their own hand and not the texture of the flop. Also, the preflop raiser’s pacing was very quick, something that usually indicates a hand that is not super strong.

I thought that there was a good chance he was making a continuation bet bluff like with a hand like A-K or A-Q, or he had a pocket pair below tens. I figured that my hand was strong enough to raise as a semibluff given these factors and that a raise would drive out almost everything behind me, with the exception of sets. So I decided to put the pressure on and raised to $180.

As expected, both of the players behind me quickly folded, but unexpectedly the preflop raiser called. This call concerned me a bit because I was expecting all pocket pairs to fold out as well as non-paired overcards. I was now not exactly sure if I was going to fire again on the turn, especially if a low card came out.

Fourth street brought another ten, pairing the top card on the board and my opponent quickly checked. I thought that there was a possibility that he could have had a hand like A-10 or K-10, but the fact that another ten appeared made this less likely. I also thought that there was some chance that he might fold a hand like J-J to continued pressure putting me now on trips so I finally decided to bet $300, continuing my strong line.

My opponent hemmed and hawed for about a minute and then finally folded two black nines face up. Even though I was very happy at the time to take the pot down I was really struck by the fact that it made absolutely no sense for the UTG player to fold his hand if he was bluff catching me on the flop.

Even though there was no way for this particular player to know that I would almost never raise the flop with just a ten, in order to call the flop raise with just 9-9 he should have put me on a reasonable range of hands.

That range could have been sets, a slowplayed big pair (as I was UTG+1 next to act preflop) 5-4 suited, A-4 suited, A-5 suited, in some cases a ten, or air entirely, attacking his weak sizing. Pocket nines only beats the bluffing parts of my range so in order to make the call he should think I am more skewed towards bluffs. Since an overpair or a ten is not part of my bluffing range how can he fold when another ten appears?

The ten pairing in fact actually strengthens his hand as I now have less tens in my range combination wise and many players might slow down, even with a slowplayed overpair in my position when the ten pairs. And the hands that may continue bluffing with a high frequency are the draws. So it really is illogical for him to call the flop and then fold the turn if he thought that he was ahead on the flop. He certainly cannot justify peeling for two outs (approximately 1/22 chance) to hit one of the remaining nines.

Even though this concept is rather simple you would be shocked how often recreational players take this type of illogical bluff catching line. In fact, if I never raised just a ten on the flop then his 9-9 is now no different than him holding J-J, yet you will see players call down with overpairs on the turn but fold hands like 8-8 or 9-9 not recognizing that both hands have the same relative hand strength versus my range.

This is of course if I never raise a bare ten on the flop. A case could be made that some players in my position might raise a ten which would mean that a call from an overpair to the flop raise may be warranted followed by a check fold on the turn. But what about 9-9 specifically? Pocket nines do not beat a ten on the flop so how can a player call the raise (thinking his hand is good) to fold the turn? The inconsistency in that thought process is really glaring in this situation.

We also see this type of error when players call continuation bets from out of position on the flop to fold the turn when the top card pairs versus preflop raisers. This usually happens when the out of position player has limp called or called from the blind.

Let us take a look at another example. Say in a $5-$5 game with effective stacks of $1,000 the big blind calls a raise from a middle position player of $20 with 6Club Suit 6Diamond Suit. The flop comes out JDiamond Suit 5Club Suit 2Spade Suit. The player in the blind checks and the preflop raiser makes a bet of $25, heads up. The big blind calls and the turn brings the JHeart Suit. The big blind checks again and this time the preflop raiser fires $70 into the $90 pot.

One of the things that we can notice if we are paying attention at the table is how often middle position players check behind on the turn with overpairs when the top card pairs.
If the preflop raiser had a hand like A-A or K-K he very well might check back the turn for pot control scared that the player in the blind had trip jacks. If you are up against this type of opponent (which most at the $5-$5 fall into) then what is the preflop raiser representing with this second barrel? He really only has a very narrow value range of trip jacks and full houses. And the fact that another jack has appeared makes it less likely for him to have a jack.

Most recreational players do not go through this thought process with regards to their opponents’ range and now would fold the 6-6 to a second barrel. However, if we do the proper analysis the flop call followed by turn check-fold line is illogical.
Now there are times that we can fold in these situations if we do not think that our opponent has a high enough double barrel bluffing frequency. And many players do not—that is they fire one and they are done. But against a good player who can rightly read the situation folding on the turn to a top card pairing in many cases is terrible as nothing has changed from the flop except the fact that the good player has a narrower value range and more bluffs. ♠

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.