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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Nov 08, 2017


Sometimes you can bluff because of relative position

A few weeks ago I played an interesting hand in the $5-$10 no-limit hold’em $1,500 cap game at the Commerce Casino. It was late on a Friday night and the game was generally loose and good, and I had just moved to the table. The villain in this hand was in the big blind, but was totally unknown to me. During my first orbit at the table I decided to raise from under-the gun (UTG) with 6Heart Suit 5Heart Suit, albeit a pretty light open to $35. Much to my dismay the hijack, button, and big blind all called, usually forcing me to make a hand in order to win the pot.

I got one of the best flops for my hand, KHeart Suit 4Club Suit 3Spade Suit giving me an open-ended straight draw plus a backdoor flush draw. Unexpectedly the unknown villain in the big blind led out at the pot for $60. Because I had raised from UTG my range was pretty strong and I was a bit torn between raising to put pressure on the big blind or just calling. The problem was that the two players in position were decent and aware and I thought that they could put me in a tough spot if they realized that my flop raise was a bit unbalanced. I did not think that the blind was super strong, as players do not usually lead out with sets on such a dry board, but I decided to just call. Both the players behind me folded and we saw a 4Spade Suit turn heads-up.

At this point I expect the big blind to check a lot with his kings, as I showed a lot of strength calling next to act on the flop. With two players behind me usually I am forced to fold pairs between fours and queens leaving me with big kings, sets and A-A, for example. If the big blind lead out on the flop with a hand like K-10 or K-J he is behind often when I call. But, my opponent continued to lead, this time for $130.

It is also important to note that with the four pairing the combinations of flopped sets goes down from six combinations to four now, and most players might check the turn with a full house or quads. So I still thought that the big blind was sort of blindly betting with a king. Given the pot odds I was getting ($130 for $390) plus the hidden implied odds of hitting my straight, I concluded that this was a clear-cut call. Against a king I had eight outs out of forty-four unseen cards. That meant that I had 8/44 chance of hitting or 1/5.5. I would need to win at least 4.5 times his turn bet from the total pot to make the call profitable, or in this case $595. Facing the bet the pot was already $390, so I would only need to make an extra $205 to reach this goal. After my turn call this only represents 40 percent of the pot on the river, which is why I decided to continue on.

Unfortunately for me, the river rolled off an off suit ten, leaving me with just six high. Now my opponent checked. Normally at this level, I am not in the business of trying to move players off of top pair, but I thought that this spot was just too good. You see, once I raised preflop from UTG, and called the flop and turn bets my range was very strong. Usually I have a hand that is at least K-10 suited and I thought that if I bet large it would be extremely difficult for the big blind to call with just a king. If I had held K-Q or better and got to this river I would have had a clear value bet as I would not expect the big blind to check K-10, which now runs into top two pair. So I used all of this information and decided to fire large, $550, almost the entire size of the pot. However, my opponent took about three seconds with his decision and called with K-8 offsuit.

The funny thing here, is, especially with the rainbow board, the only draw that I have that has missed is 6-5 suited specifically or four combinations. I have six combos of A-A, 6 combos of A-K, and six combos of K-Q in my range. Occasionally I might also have one combo of a full house or quads that I may have played this way. My “range advantage” given my opponent’s line and this board run out was too favorable for me to not bluff here at the end especially with no showdown value. When I got called by K-8, I temporarily felt a bit sheepish, but realized that my bet was highly profitable.

You can choose large sizing if you don’t think your opponent will fold top pair.

Unlike the previous hand, the next day at the Commerce I got into a beautiful spot where I did not think that my opponent was going to fold top pair given the action— but this time I had pure value. In this spot, with about $2,000 effective, I raised from UTG+1 with 9Heart Suit 9Diamond Suit to $35. The small blind, another unknown player sitting with a large amount of chips called, as did the big blind. We saw a KDiamond Suit 7Diamond Suit 3Club Suit flop three handed. It got checked over to me and I decided to make a small protection/value bet of $50. A lot of players would check here as they think that a pair of nines on this flop is a way ahead way behind spot, but I find that the thinnest value can be obtained through flop betting, as players will peel wide. Also I could be up against as many as four overcards to my nines between the two players, and there is value in getting hands such as Q-J or K-J to fold.

The small blind called my flop bet pretty quickly and the big blind folded so we saw the turn headsup. Fortunately for me fourth street fell a beautiful 9Club Suit giving me second set and almost definitely the best hand. My opponent once again checked and this time I decided to go for larger sizing, $165, thinking that the small blind would continue to call down with a king. Again, he called rather quickly.

The river brought out a total blank, the 2Club Suit and my opponent checked to me a final time. With the pot being about $530, I thought about the small blind’s range. Obviously it did not make a difference if he had missed a flush draw as he would not call my final bet (with the exception of betting small to induce a check raise). It is also important to note that the card on the flop that was not a diamond was a three and the turn card was a nine, two type of pairs that most likely would not call a river bet. But of his made hand range he has a ton of kings. It was also good for me that the front door draw bricked out as it makes it more likely that my opponent would call down with a king thinking that I may have missed a draw.

A lot of players approach this spot in the wrong way in my position. When they have a missed flush draw that has bet flop and turn, they barrel river. Say for example, instead of us having pocket nines we had QHeart Suit JHeart Suit. We bet the flop with a flush draw and continued to barrel the turn when we picked up straight draw equity. We whiff the river and realize we have no showdown value. We should go for three barrels here right? Wrong! Actually the fact that we block the heart flush draw means that our opponent is less likely to have it and this supersedes the fact that we have no showdown value. Or to put it simply it means that the small blind is going to have more Kx hands. But you see this type of three-barrel all the time in live poker, and you see the bluffer get called down.

However, for me this river was the best of both worlds holding pocket nines. We did not block any of the kings that our opponent could have and we are not concerned with getting value from some of the flush draws that contain pairs. So I thought a large bet sizing had to be the best play here and overbet the pot $575. My opponent took some time with it and finally called with K-Q.

Many players would have left money on the table here, not recognizing how often their opponent would have a king and call to a larger sizing. But, they may have ran a three-barrel bluff with a missed flush draw themselves. The moral of this story is you have to recognize when your opponent is going to fold or call given the action and if you have value you should go big if you think that they are going to call down. ♠

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.