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Facing An Odd Lead At A Short-Handed Table

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Oct 18, 2023

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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 PokerCoaching.com/CardPlayer.

In a $10,000 buy-in six-handed WSOP event, I arrived at the start of the tournament to find only three other players at my table.

Most of my opponents seemed to be playing somewhat tight and straightforwardly, apparently not wanting to get too out of line early in the tournament. One player though, was clearly looking to push everyone around, trying to win lots of small pots with no contest. Before the following hand, we only played a few pots together, with him winning a few small ones from me.  

I raised to 600 out of my 60,000 stack with 9Club Suit 9Heart Suit from the cutoff. My loose, aggressive opponent called from the small blind. The flop came KHeart Suit 6Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit, and my opponent bet into me for 1,000 into the 1,400 pot.

I was unsure what his range looked like because at least from a GTO point of view, he should basically never lead from out of position when deep stacked, especially on a board that is decent enough for my range.

Given his tendencies so far, I presumed that he was likely using some sort of mixed strategy that included a mixture of made hands, draws, and total bluffs. That said, there is a chance he may only be leading with one specific type of hand, but I have no way of knowing which. 

I called because my hand fares well enough against a mixture of hands. When you think your opponent could simply be trying to push you around, do not be afraid to call and see what develops, even when you could easily be crushed. 

I called and the turn was the 8Spade Suit. My opponent bet 2,600 into the 3,400 pot. 

At this point, I was convinced that he was trying to make me fold what he perceived to be a marginal made hand. While I did not have much to base my read on except our brief history, I thought that he would likely make a smaller bet (perhaps 1,600 or so) if he wanted me to call.

I decided to trust my read and called. Before calling, I decided that I did not plan to fold if my opponent continued betting on most rivers. If you pay close attention to your opponent, you will occasionally find spots where you are as confident as reasonably possible that he is bluffing. This felt like one of those situations. 

I called and the river was the 4Club Suit. My opponent bet 5,500 into the 8,600 pot. 

While his river bet was not quite as large in proportion to the size of the pot as his turn bet, I decided to stick with my read that he was bluffing far too often.

It is worth noting that if he made a larger bet, I would be even more inclined to call. If he made a small bet, perhaps 4,000, I would have been much more concerned that he was trying to get me to call with most of my range, which would likely mean that he was betting for value. That said, I still probably would have called.

I called fairly quickly and was pleasantly surprised to see my opponent’s cards quickly hit the muck, awarding me a sizable pot early in the tournament. 

It is important to realize that early in a tournament, win or lose, my stack’s rough value will not be too impacted because even if I lose, I will still have a gigantic 250-big blind stack. Whether I won or lost this pot, my opponent would get the message that I am not someone he can push around. Ideally, this will result in him playing a somewhat straightforward strategy against me for at least the near future.

Sure enough, in this event, my opponent stayed completely in line against me for the remainder of the day, allowing me to get away with whatever I wanted. Especially when the chips you have to risk will not negatively impact your stack’s playability if you lose, do not be afraid to get a bit out of line if you think the result will be that your opponents allow you to make easier decisions later in the day once the blinds get larger.

I created a simple flowchart to help you bluff catch like a pro. This flowchart has five questions you should always ask yourself when deciding if you should call on the river with a bluff catcher. I also recorded a short video that shows you how to use this flowchart by going through two hand examples!

Get this free bluff catching flowchart and video here.

When you join the Card Player Poker School (it’s free to join), you’ll also get:

• Free Downloadable Preflop Charts
GTO Preflop Charts
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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.