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Bluffing The River In A Multi-Way Pot

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Sep 23, 2020

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Jonathan LittleOne of my students recently played a hand in a $110 buy-in live poker tournament that illustrates a key mistake many recreational players make on a regular basis. With blinds at 600-1,200 with a 1,200 big blind ante with 140,000 effective stacks, three passive players limped around to our Hero in the cutoff who had ADiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit.

Many players make the mistake of automatically raising the limpers with any hand they plan to play, but small suited aces should be more than happy to call and see a flop in position with deep stacks. Raising will result in many junky hands folding, meaning our Hero will mostly get called by hands that fare well enough against ADiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit. Limping ensures their ranges stay full of junk.

Hero limped, as did the button, small blind, and big blind. The flop came QSpade Suit 10Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit, giving Hero the nut flush draw. The initial limper bet 5,000 into the 9,600 pot and one other player called.

You should always consider raising with your draws, but for the most part, you should be happy to call with draws that have a lot of showdown value or potential to improve to the nuts, as is the case with the nut flush draw. Notice that if Hero raises and someone else re-raises, he will be forced to play a gigantic pot as an underdog. If he instead calls, he keeps the pot manageable and ensures he will not have to play for all his money on the flop.

Hero called and everyone else folded. The turn was the KSpade Suit. The flop bettor bet 7,000 into the 24,600 pot and the other player called.

As on the flop, raising does not make sense. Hero is getting excellent pot odds to draw to the nuts and he does not want to do anything to mess that up. Raising opens the door for someone to jam all-in, which would force Hero to fold. Bluffing in this spot would be particularly terrible because it is highly likely that at least one of his opponents has a decently strong made hand that will not fold.

Hero called. The river was the 5Spade Suit. Both opponents checked to Hero.

While ace-high normally has a little bit of showdown value, that is not the case this time because one of the two opponents almost certainly has at least top pair. However, if they had a strong top pair or a better made hand, they would have bet. So, the opponents likely have a marginal top pair or worse. If the opponents are capable of folding their marginal made hands to a river bet, bluffing with A-4 is by far the best option. Notice Hero’s ADiamond Suit makes it more difficult for him to be against A-J, A-A, or A-K, making it even more likely his opponents have marginal made hands or worse.

Hero bet 35,000 into the 45,600 pot.

This is a great bet size, although larger may be better. When trying to make the opponents fold marginal made hands, be sure to bet an amount that will get the job done.

The first opponent immediately folded and then the other player thought for a while before folding K-9 face-up while grumbling about how he knew Hero backdoored the flush.

This opponent made a significant mistake for two reasons. First, the backdoored flush is generally unlikely because there should be few combinations of it in Hero’s range. Second, top pair is a great bluff catcher. When you check with a decently strong marginal made hand, it should not be with the intention of folding, otherwise your entire checking range gets folded to a bet. If you find that you rarely check/call the river with your marginal made hands, you are making it easy for your opponents to run you over. Fortunately, my student took the aggressive line on the river and picked up a hefty pot with the worst hand. ♠

Jonathan Little Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and best-selling poker author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. If you want to learn how to play fundamentally sound poker and increase your win rate, check out PokerCoaching.com. Click here to try PokerCoaching.com for free.