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What’s Your Play? Straight on Three-Flush River Results

by Andrew Brokos |  Published: Nov 25, '12


Thanks for all the comments on this week’s What’s Your Play? from the Borgata Poker Open. Sorry I was late in posting this, I ended up making a last-minute trip to see my family for Thanksgiving. I also played the $1000 Pittsburgh Poker Open all day yesterday and will hopefully be at it all day again today.

As I expected, a lot of you had questions about my flop and turn checks, so I’ll start by addressing those. I just didn’t think first that I’d have much fold equity on such a coordinated flop or secondly that with my image that I was going to get paid off on both the turn and river by anything less than a 5. Furthermore, MP is rather unlikely to have a 5, so while I may have been missing a bet from BB if he held a 5, I thought that was the only cost for a play that could induce a lot of bluffs and/or light river calls.

Some people mentioned a lot of draws, but really I wasn’t too concerned about those. Any J has a three-outer to a chop, two-pairs have four outs though MP probably bets the flop if he has that, and likewise I don’t think sets are likely to have checked this far, so I wasn’t too concerned about those despite their ten outs. The turn is a good spot for flush draws to bet, so I didn’t think BB had one nor that I’d be missing a bet from MP if he had one.

My plan was to call if MP bet flop and call most rivers, possibly folding if he bombed a third diamond.


I’ve already hinted above that I thought MP would bet his flush draws on the turn, so I wasn’t inclined to believe the river raise despite the size of it. The rest of the information I provided about his tendencies, the table dynamics, etc. was just corroboration for the central bit of data, which was the turn check. Basically I said, “Checking a flush draw on the turn seems unlikely – do I know anything about this player to suggest that he would be more passive than average?” then answered that question in the negative.

Pepito asks a very important question, “although villain may have the heart and propensity to bluff, why would he wait until the river when he had two earlier opportunities on the flop and turn?” This is an extremely important observation and something you should always ask yourself before bluff catching. If your opponent passed up the opportunity to make a cheap bluff, it’s unlikely that he’ll run an elaborate, expensive one later. This is why river check-raises from non-elite players are rarely bluffs: a guy is unlikely to go to the trouble and expense when he could just bet the river himself with his bluffs.

In this case, I thought a bluff was still possible because Villain may not have realized until now that he needed to bluff. He could easily have had a pair that he was hoping to check down, then realized with a bet and call on the river that it was no good but that neither BB nor I was likely to have a flush.

Calling vs Shoving

A surprising number of commenters suggested shoving as an option for Hero. Please take my bluntness not as impoliteness but as an impetus to plug a large leak in your play: shoving here would be awful. We’re dealing with a polarized range, as is often the case when facing a big bet on a card that significantly changes the texture of the board. We may think, as I did here, that that range contains far more bluffs than value hands, but regardless what it does not contain are value hands worse than our bluff-catcher or better hands that would fold to a shove. Villain is not doing this with any straight, not even JT, because of the possible flush. Nor is he folding any flush to a river shove.

So even though we might expect to be good extremely often, we still can’t shove because we won’t cause better hands to fold or worse hands to call. David Sklansky provides an extreme example of this in Theory of Poker. The game is Seven Card Stud, and Hero is showing quads on seventh street. Villain is showing something like 8h 5s Th 2d. Despite the fact Hero almost certainly has the best hand, he can’t bet or raise because Villain won’t continue with less than a straight flush.

The fact that Villain’s raise represents a large percentage of Hero’s stack is not a reason to throw the rest in. There’s no such thing as pot commitment on the river, because there are no draws. When you’re beat, you have 0% equity, so it’s not like on the flop where you might say, “Well, all the money will go in eventually, so I’ll put it in now.” You need to be ahead of Villain’s calling range, not his raising range, to put any more money in the pot.


I called, and Villain showed Kd Qd for the flush. This was really a shock to me. I can’t remember the last time I was so sure someone was bluffing and I turned out to be wrong.


Andrew Brokos is a professional poker player, writer, and teacher. He is also an avid hiker and traveler and a passionate advocate for urban public education. You can find dozens of his poker strategy articles at and more information about group seminars and one-on-one coaching at

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


5 years ago

very interesting, i guess he didnt bet turn as semibluff outta fear of getting check raised off his 2nd nut draw...if the board on the turn wasnt 4 to a str8 he prob would have semi bluffed diamonds. he was happy to get to see river staring at such a scary board. it turns out the fear of getting raised outweighed his desire to take advantage of a good spot to semibluff. in hindsight it makes sense. it sucks stabbing at a pot, and then getting blown off the draw you coulda saw for free! though which action to take had to be close in his u remember if he thought for a min or insta checked behind? the main reason i thought he was bluffing was the raise size, i personally, with the villains hand, woulda bet turn as semi bluff. if i did check out of same fear that villain apparantly had, i would have raised river to 7700, almost guaranteeing me a cry call from your ten high straight.his line turned out to be perfect,i woulda called too..why 15k? is it possible he put you on baby diamonds and were trying to induce overcall from him? (just an out of the box thought) its obv he read you for strength with that big of a value raise. any way good luck in pitt today!


5 years ago

Good question I don't remember his timing on the turn check. I actually think a check-raise is quite unlikely here, as only a T is going to do it and even that not necessarily (eg I was planning just to call). That's what makes it such a good spot to bet diamonds: in all likelihood no one has a straight and you'll take it down, if you don't you have outs and aren't likely to get raised.

Busted the 1K in the first hour of Day 2, but thanks for the well wishes!


5 years ago

yea check flatting is your best turn action,i agree...ive only started reading/participating in your blogs recently, i feel like its helping me think about the game a lil deeper and thats always healthy..i look forward to reading/opining about future hands, tx and take care


5 years ago

Thanks for your patient, thoughtful, and clear explanation re: the inadvisability of shoving!