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A Common Bluffing Spot

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Mar 27, 2019

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It is well known that most small-stakes live games tend to feature loose and passive play. While many players are aware of this, they do not adjust to maximally exploit their opponents, resulting in being stuck in the small-stakes forever.

I was recently told about a hand from a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em cash came that illustrates a common, potential bluffing opportunity that many recreational players never take.

A generally straightforward player limped for $5 from first position at a nine-handed table, as did the player in third position. Everyone folded around to our Hero with $600 on the button with JHeart Suit 9Heart Suit.

While raising straightforward limpers with a decently wide range is a perfectly viable strategy, I tend to be a bit cautious against first position limpers because they are the limpers most likely to limp with a tricky range containing premium hands like A-A and K-K. Especially with hands that flop amazingly well, like middle pairs and decent suited connectors, I usually call and see a flop in position with very deep stacks.

If Hero is confident that both limpers are abnormally weak, he should raise to about the size of the pot, which is $27. If he raises smaller, to $15 or $20, he will get called by both limpers almost every time, which isn’t a terrible result, but having the potential to pick up the pot preflop while building a larger pot to win from in position post-flop is preferable.

Hero raised to $20 and only the second limper called. The flop came QHeart Suit 6Club Suit 3Spade Suit. The opponent checked.

As the preflop raiser, you should continuation bet on most uncoordinated boards due to having the range advantage, especially with your premium made hands that want to extract maximum value by betting on all three streets, as well as hands that have essentially no showdown value but a bit of equity (such as Hero’s JHeart Suit 9Heart Suit).

In general, when you are betting with a large portion of your range, you should use a small bet size of perhaps $20 into the $52 pot. By betting small, Hero keeps the opponent in with numerous marginal made hands, such as 5-5 and A-J that he will be able to bluff on various turns and rivers. If Hero bets larger, he will force the opponent to fold many of the marginal hands he would be able to bluff later, meaning he should only continue bluffing on the turn if he picks up a strong draw or perhaps if an ace or king comes.

Hero bet $35 into the $52 pot and the opponent called. The turn was the ASpade Suit. The opponent checked.

Although I preferred a smaller bet on the flop, betting the turn using a large sizing makes sense. By betting large, Hero puts the opponent in a nasty spot with most of his range, given he should have mostly queens and worse. If the opponent decides to stick around on the turn, Hero may be able to go all-in on the river $445 into the $322 pot. If this river all-in will make the opponent fold all hands worse than two-pair, Hero will win this pot almost every time, especially since many recreational players check-raise the flop or turn with two-pair and all better made hands.

The only time three-barreling does not work out is when the opponent is a calling station and happened to turn a king, or when the opponent gets lucky to river two-pair. Given this line will make the opponent fold way more than the minimum defense frequency, it will almost always print money against players who typically play in a straightforward, honest manner.

Hero bet $100 into the $122 pot. The opponent grumbled a bit before folding, giving Hero a decent pot with a well-timed bluff with jack-high. Nice hand! ♠

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 by clicking here.