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Profiting From My Opponent’s Blunder

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Feb 23, 2022

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Jonathan LittleWhile playing in a $1,500 buy-in World Series of Poker event, I came to an interesting hand. Up until this point, I was extremely card dead. I actually played only three pots that went to the flop in the first three hours of play.

When you happen to get relatively few playable hands, it is usually a good idea to attempt an intelligent, well-timed bluff, especially if your opponents realize that you have been tight and will give you more “respect” than usual, which will result in them over-folding on all betting rounds.

At 100-200 with 10,000 chip stacks, I raised to 500 from the lojack with JSpade Suit 10Club Suit.

This is a situation where I would almost certainly fold under normal circumstances, but since I appeared so tight, I decided to get a bit out of line.

A tight, aggressive player called on the button and everyone else folded. The flop came QSpade Suit 9Diamond Suit 8Club Suit, giving me the nuts. That is lucky!

While checking to slowplay is an option, betting is a much better play. If you check looking to check-raise if your opponent bets, your opponent will frequently fold, winning you only one small flop bet. If you check-call, hoping your opponent continues betting on the turn, you will often be disappointed when the turn checks through because most players realize you must have a decent hand with showdown value to check-call the flop.

In general, checking leads to small pots and betting leads to large pots. When you have the nuts and you do not block your opponent from connecting with pairs, you want to bet and build the pot. If instead you had a hand like Q-Q, checking may make sense because then, it is much more difficult for your opponent to have top pair.

I made a continuation bet for 700 into the 1,300 pot. (I probably should have bet a bit larger, perhaps 1,000). My opponent confidently called.

The turn was the 6Diamond Suit.

As on the flop, I do not like checking because if I check-raise, my opponent will usually fold to my obviously strong action and if I check-call, there is no guarantee he will bet the river.

I bet 1,500 into the 2,700 pot. Much to my surprise, my opponent raised to 3,800.

At this point, I was quite confident that he had a hand he thought was strong, most likely 10-7, Q-Q, 9-9, 8-8, Q-9 or 9-8. Since a jack or ten could appear on the river, allowing my opponent to get off the hook with most of that range, combined with the fact that I would only have relatively few chips remaining in my stack if I called, I went all-in.

Even if I had more chips, perhaps up to 10,000 on top, I would have gone all-in. Clearly my all-in is very strong, but I did not think my opponent would care. He instantly called and proudly turned over his KDiamond Suit QClub Suit, which was drawing dead.

While my play was fairly standard, my opponent played his hand horribly. More importantly, I allowed him to play his hand horribly.

I like his preflop and flop calls, but once I bet the turn, I either have a made hand that has K-Q crushed, a draw that has relatively few outs, or a total bluff. While my opponent is destined to lose a big pot when I happen to have him beat (unless he calls the turn and makes a big river fold), when I have a weak draw or bluff, he really wants to keep me in the pot. By raising the turn, he forced me to play well.

Interestingly enough, once I pushed all-in over my opponent’s turn bet, even though he had to call only a little more, I think he should have folded. Given the action, I simply must have a premium hand. When you are drawing dead or nearly dead against your opponent’s entire range, you must make a disciplined fold, even if you made an error to get in the current situation. My opponent should have called my turn bet, keeping me in the pot with my entire range, which would include some hands he could beat.

Especially in small- and medium-stakes tournaments, a huge portion of your potential profit will come from your opponents’ errors. If you make relatively few mistakes and your opponents constantly make gigantic blunders, you will make a significant profit in the long run. No fancy plays are required!

That said, in order to entice your opponents to make egregious errors, you have to be somewhat involved in pots and give the impression that you are willing to gamble. If they know you have the nuts every time you put a chip in the pot, they will stay out of your way, making it difficult for the chips to flow your direction.

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.