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Give Them A Chance To Bluff

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Apr 17, 2024

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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.

During last summer in a $1,000 buy-in WSOP event, we were somewhat early on in day 1 playing 200-400 with a 400 big blind ante with 30,000 effective stacks.

A player who just got moved to my table raised to 1,000 from first position. I called in third position with ADiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit. A tight, aggressive kid called in the lojack and everyone else folded.

It is important to realize that most players who raise from first position tend to have an incredibly strong range (big pairs and strong big cards). However, at the WSOP, I tend to be a bit less cautious against early position raisers because many amateurs do not thoroughly understand preflop hand values.

The flop came AClub Suit JClub Suit 9Heart Suit, giving me top pair. The initial raiser bet 1,200 into the 4,000 pot.

This is a situation where many players raise with their top pair to “find out where they stand,” but that is a horrible play.

A much better play is to call, forcing the initial raiser to stay in the pot with all of the hands I beat, such as K-K, Q-Q, K-J, and a few draws. This will allow me to extract additional value on the later betting rounds. Also, if I raise the flop, I give my opponent the opportunity to bluff me off my hand, which would be a disaster.

I called and the lojack folded. The turn was the 4Heart Suit. My opponent checked.

When my opponent checks the turn, he will often have K-K, Q-Q, middle pair, or an unpaired hand. I assumed he would continue betting with an ace or a draw (although that may be incorrect). This means that he is probably drawing quite thin.

If I make any sort of substantial bet, he will fold most of his hands that are drawing thin, meaning that when I bet and get called, I will usually be in rough shape. When this situation occurs, the best play is to check behind, opting instead to make a value bet on the river if your opponent checks to you one last time. You will find many players are much more prone to call one reasonably-sized river bet compared to a turn bet plus a river bet.

I checked behind. The river was the AHeart Suit, giving me trips and completing the backdoor flush draw. My opponent bet 4,000 into the 6,400 pot.

Calling is the only play that makes sense even though trips are normally a strong hand. Notice that if I raise, my opponent will only call with trips or better. Since he initially raised from early position, if he has trips, it is definitely with a stronger kicker. Although I think I often have the best hand when my opponent bets the river, if I raise and get called, I will usually have the worst hand.

I made the easy call. Fortunately, my opponent turned up K-Q for a total bluff and I won a nice pot.

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Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT winner and the 2024 PokerGO Cup champion with nearly $9 million 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.