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Splashing Around

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Sep 12, 2018

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I am currently sitting in my hotel room in Hollywood, Florida after busting twice from the $5,250 buy-in Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. I posted one of my hands on ShareMyPair where I ran a sizable bluff in a dicey spot and a few of my twitter followers suggested I stop running these bluffs, because doing so will conserve chips and help me make deeper runs. While it is definitely true that playing premium ranges will ensure you are a favorite in most pots you play, it also ensures you will blind off unless you get hit by the deck. It is mandatory that you embrace the fact that most of the money in tournaments goes to the top few finishers, and when you are playing an 800-person tournament, you have to attempt to get ahold of some chips. Sitting around and “waiting for a better spot” may make you feel comfortable, but it will also result in your bankroll slowly bleeding away.

The hand in question had me raising to 800 at 200-300 with a 300 big blind ante from the cutoff out of my 40,000-effective stack with 9Diamond Suit 7Diamond Suit. The small blind called and the big blind three-bet to 2,100. I just got moved to this table and had no reads on my opponents besides they seemed to both be middle-aged recreational players.

At this point, calling is the only viable option. Some of my twitter followers suggested folding because I am “behind.” It should be clear that you are always behind when you have any sort of drawing hand. It is as if they forgot that pot odds, implied odds, and position are all relevant concepts. Had my opponent three-bet to a more optimal size of perhaps 3,800, I would have definitely folded, but when it is only 1,300 more to call into a pot that will be at least 5,200, I am calling with all of my hands that have the possibility to flop well.

The small blind folded, which was probably not a good play due to his amazing pot odds, which indicates his initial call from the small blind was quite poor. The flop came AClub Suit 5Club Suit 2Diamond Suit, giving me two weak backdoor draws. My opponent checked.

At this point, I can either check or attempt a multi-street bluff when I turn some additional equity. My opponent looked quite annoyed that the ace flopped, so that made me think his range was tilted towards under pairs. Since most people will not call bets on all three streets with under pairs, I decided to bluff.

I bet 2,000 into the 5,200 pot.

I did not want to bet too large because I would have no idea if I should continue firing on the turn and river, given the opponent could easily still have an ace. Betting small ensures his continuing range will be quite wide, allowing me to profitably fire additional bluffs on the turn and river.

The opponent called. The turn was the 10Diamond Suit, giving me a flush draw. My opponent checked.

When I turn any sort of draw, I have a mandatory bluff with the intention of betting the river most of the time. If my opponent folds, that is great, and if he calls, I can improve to a premium hand on the river, and when I don’t, he may fold to my third barrel. Notice I would play my premium made hand in exactly the same manner, making it impossible for my opponent to know if I am value betting or bluffing. As on the flop, if I bet too large, I will not know if I should continue bluffing on the river because I will not know how wide the opponent’s range is. By betting somewhat small, he may still call with under pairs and weak aces that I can likely bluff with a river bet.
My opponent thought for a while before calling. The river was the 2Club Suit.

Sticking with the plan, I have a mandatory bluff, especially since the obvious front door flush draw came in.

I bet 10,000 into the 17,200 pot.

This is where you want to use a sizable bet to “ensure” the opponent folds all hands worse than a strong ace, which ideally will not be in his range because he would bet them on the flop. If the opponent’s range is capped at weak aces, he will likely fold his entire range, making the river bluff extremely profitable. Notice that this situation would be much rougher if I knew the opponent’s range was stronger, which would have been the case if I used larger bets on the flop and turn.

My opponent thought for one second before throwing his K-K into the muck face-up. It is nice when a plan comes together! That said, I continued to make draws and eventually one of my semi-bluffs failed. I found KHeart Suit 10Heart Suit against 9-9 on 9Heart Suit 7Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit QHeart Suit but could not catch one of my many outs. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose, but as long as you give yourself the opportunity to get a large pile of chips, you will be live to win. If you constantly piddle around with a short stack, you will min-cash a lot, but you will find that you have a nearly impossible time claiming a championship. ♠

Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at HoldemBook.com/signup.