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Bluff Catching On The River

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Sep 07, 2022


Jonathan Little If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

I recently witnessed this hand in a $1,000 buy-in event that clearly illustrates a flaw in many poker players’ strategies.

With blinds of 200-400 with a 400 big blind ante and with 23,000 effective stacks, everyone folded around to the button, a reasonably tight player, who raised to 900.
The player in the small blind (we will call him Hero) called with 3Club Suit 3Spade Suit, and the big blind, an unknown player, called as well.

The flop came ASpade Suit 5Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit, giving Hero bottom set. Hero led out for 1,500 into the 3,050 pot.

Hero’s lead is the first big error that takes place in this hand. By leading, he puts his opponents on the defense because most players only lead into the aggressor with their best hands and premium draws.

Of course, some players lead with marginal made hands, such as A-7 or 6-6 in this situation, but when that is the case, hands like A-J should only call to keep those vastly inferior hands in the pot. Leading is also not a good play because it allows the draws to call and cheaply see the turn.

Hero should have checked, giving both the big blind and the button the opportunity to bet. Once someone bets, Hero can then check-raise, extracting maximum value from strong made hands and pricing out the draws.

If the flop checks through, that isn’t the end of the world because most turns will be somewhat safe and Hero can then bet the turn and river for value against two likely weak ranges, which would have been unable to pay off either a flop lead or check-raise anyway.

While there is a time and a place for leading, leading is almost always a bad play on an ace-high board because the ace heavily favors the preflop raiser’s range.

Only the big blind called Hero’s flop bet. The turn was the 4Diamond Suit.

While there is now a straight possible, it is not too likely the big blind has it because most people do not call preflop raises with too many hands containing a deuce. Despite this, if Hero bets, the big blind is somewhat unlikely to call unless he has top pair or a better made hand, or a draw.

However, if you look at the big blind’s range, it will be difficult to extract much value from middle pair and worse made hands. This should lead Hero to continue betting for value. I would have bet 4,000 into the 6,050 pot unless I got the vibe that the big blind either loved the turn card or was prone to raise in spots where he should have more nuts than me.

Hero instead checked and the big blind bet 3,000 into the 6,050 pot.

Once Hero checks, he simply has to call the 3,000 bet. Even if Hero doesn’t have the best hand with his set, he has the draw to a full house. Notice Hero does not want to check-raise because his opponent will usually fold when he is drawing dead and when he does not fold, Hero is usually crushed.

Hero called, and the river was the 8Spade Suit. Hero checked and the big blind bet 10,000 into the 12,050 pot.

When the river completes the flush and the opponent bets large, Hero simply has to fold. If the river did not complete the flush, this would be a closer spot, but now that Hero loses to many more combinations of hands, he has to be disciplined and let his set go. Just because a set is normally quite premium does not mean it is premium every time, and given the action, it is quite likely a set is crushed.

Hero ultimately couldn’t find a fold, and lost to the big blind’s 5Club Suit 2Club Suit.

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