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by Bart Hanson |  Published: May 24, 2017


March 2 ­— In a multiway pot the player that calls next to act usually has a draw or a strong hand, especially from out of position. Use this to your advantage.

A few weeks ago I played a very interesting hand at the Bicycle Casino where I got absolutely “owned.” The situation brings up a unique spot in multiway pots where a player in the blind calls “next to act” on the flop.

The game was $5-$10-$20 and the table was very good. I had a decent image and sat with about $4,000. The villain in the hand was a recreational player that rarely slow plays and sat with a similar stack on the button.

A player in middle position raised preflop to $80, the cutoff and button called and I completed for $60 more out of the big blind with 7Club Suit 5Club Suit. The flop came out QClub Suit 9Spade Suit 3Club Suit giving me a naked flush draw. I checked, the preflop raiser and cutoff checked and the button bet $200. In some cases I will attack the field bettor in this spot with a semi bluff but in this situation my draw was not strong so I elected to just call. Both the other players folded and we saw the QDiamond Suit turn. At this point I checked intending to check-fold. If you have any experience in no-limit hold’em you realize that this is almost never going to be a profitable spot to call and if our opponent bets again he most likely has trips or a higher flush draw. We are also out of position and our hand is somewhat obvious if the front door draw completes making it less likely that we will get paid off.

However, after I checked my opponent did not bet. I interpreted his check to mean that he had a draw or a pair and I never expected him to have trip queens that were not full. I ranged him on higher clubs, a nine or a hand like J-10 or K-J. If I blank came at the end I was going to bluff the river. But, the river brought a five, pairing my hand so I checked. My opponent then bombed $500. I thought that this was quite a polarizing bet, never expected this sizing with just a nine and figured he would show up with a missed draw or a full house—so I called. My opponent turned over QHeart Suit 6Heart Suit and raked in a good-sized pot.

This hand got me thinking of similar situations when we bet last to act in a multiway pot and someone calls in the blind next to act. Usually in these hands the blind will have either top pair or a draw because he has to worry about the players behind him. So, if we have a hand like a weak top pair that turns trips what is our best play?

Conventional thinking is to bet again to charge the draws. Trips in hold’em is a pretty strong hand and this bet almost is intuitively automatic. But when we examine the situation more in depth can we sometimes win more money or lose less by checking back the turn? Especially against an opponent that will interpret our turn check as weakness and will bluff the river (me in this case) checking makes a lot of sense. If the player in the blind has Q-J+ or a draw, and will bet his missed draws when the board bricks out but will fold draws to a turn bet you can see how checking behind here is clearly the more profitable play. Now I would not check back strong hands like K-Q+ in this situation all that often because I would want to get value from lesser queens but with a hand like Q-10 and below we actually lose less money to a stronger hand by checking the turn and gain money from our opponent bluffing us. The downside to this play is that we give a free card to a draw, but the draws in this case are pretty transparent. We may even need to call the river when some of the draws complete if the opponent is capable of bluffing to represent the made draw.

March 10 — Sometime players will not continue with the betting lead on the river, so you should consider min raising the turn in position with a hand that you think is best.

A lot of players, as the preflop raiser, like to slow play a hand that they think is best on the turn if they are facing an opponent that has taken the betting lead. They figure that they will win more money by playing a hand this way waiting to get an extra bet on the river through a raise. The problem is that last bet in many cases does not come.

Let us take a look at a few examples. Say we raise in position to $35 in a $5-$10 game with AHeart Suit KHeart Suit and we get it heads-up versus the big blind. The flop comes out JClub Suit 7Heart Suit 5Heart Suit giving us the nut flush draw. Unexpectedly the player in the big blind now leads out for $50. Let us say that most of the time this bet represents a jack that the player will not fold, so we decide to just call.

The turn is the 2Heart Suit giving us the nut flush. The blind now bets $100. Many, many times players will just call in this spot with the nuts figuring that they do not want their opponent to fold so that they can raise the river. The problem is the bet rarely comes on the river. Say the player in the big blind has a hand like a weak jack and is protecting against what he thinks is A-K. He will bet the flop and turn and check the river. You may get a single call on fifth street but what if we were to min-raise the turn?

If we play the hand in the way it is described above we arrive at the river with a pot of $375. If it gets checked to us maybe we can bet $225 and win an $825 pot. However, if we raise the turn, even to just $225, then we arrive at a $625 river. Then maybe we can bet $350 and win a pot of $1,325. The key here is to realize that a player who takes the betting lead from out of position into the preflop raiser in headsup pots often times will not continue with the lead on the river so just calling the turn accomplishes very little, especially if the opponent will call a small raise on the turn.

Let us take a look at another hand where we don’t have the nuts but we think we have the best hand. In this spot we raise to $35 with A-Q in position. Again we get it heads-up vs the big blind and we see a flop of Q-5-2 rainbow. The blind leads out for $50 and we just call. The turn is an 8, completing the rainbow. The blind now bets $75. We think we almost always have the best hand and don’t want to lose him so we call again. The river pairs the 8 and the blind checks. With $325 in the pot we decide to bet $175 and we get called by Q-J.

Can we make more money in this hand? Let us say as an alternative line instead of calling the turn he now raise it small to $160. The blind begrudgingly calls due to pot odds. Now, with the pot being $495, we bet $250 after being checked to in position. Instead of winning a pot of $675 we now win a pot of $995.

This concept may seem simple but we can add a lot of extra value to our hands in this manner, so long as we keep our raise size small. The ultimate point is that we cannot always depend on our opponents to continue the lead throughout the hand if they are betting us and we were the preflop raiser. A lot of your opponents are betting to protect and intend to shut it down at the end. ♠

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.