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The Poker Hand Critic: Analyzing An Opponent's Snap Decision On The River

High-Volume Online Grinder 'Gutter23' Breaks Down Interesting Poker Hands


The Poker Hand Critic is a brand new series by online pro “gutter23,” one of the top mid-stakes players in the game today, who is featured in an upcoming issue of Card Player Magazine. The Poker Hand Critic will break down a hand, street by street, offering up his analysis on all of the action.

The following hand comes from an uncapped $5-$10 game at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The game was fairly loose with lots of chips flying around.

The Players

Hero (under-the-gun +1, $8,000): Tight aggressive winning image, currently up $3000

Villain no. 1 (under-the-gun, $6,000): Middle-aged recreational player who had previously lost a large pot to on a bad beat and was noticeably agitated and tilting.

Villain no. 2 (button, $4,000): Loose and aggressive, losing recreational player.

The Action

Preflop: $15
Villain no. 1 opens to $30.
Hero (3Club Suit 3Heart Suit) calls.
Middle position calls.
Middle position +1 calls.
Villain no. 2 calls.
Big blind calls.

Flop ($185): 7Diamond Suit 5Heart Suit 3Spade Suit

Villain bets $140. Hero calls

This is a great flop for my hand. I would usually raise this flop about 95 percent of the time given that the stacks are so deep and I need to start building a pot. The reason that I called is because of villain no. 2 on the button. He was an aggressive and loose player who had a history of raising flops. I was expecting him to raise, villain no. 1 to call and then I could put in a raise for value. My plan for if the pot didn’t get raised behind me was to be raising the vast majority of turn cards.

Middle position folds. Middle position +1 folds. Villain no. 2 folds. Big blind folds.

Turn ($465): 4Club Suit

Villain checks. Hero bets $330. Villain raises to $900. Hero calls.

The 4Club Suit is a very interesting card as it puts a one-liner to a straight. When he checks, I bet $330 for pure value. His range includes all over-pairs that will check/call two streets and I need to get value from those hands. He doesn’t have many sixes in his range and if he does have a hand like pocket sixes or 7-6 suited, I am getting good implied odds to call and hope that the board pairs as the villain has about $5,000 behind.

To my surprise, he check-raises. At this point his range is heavily skewed towards straights and some bluffs. Had he flopped or turned a set, there is a very low chance he would take this line. Most recreational players are very hesitant to check-raise sets when one-liners to straights are on the board as they open themselves up to be raised off their hand.

River ($2,265): 5Diamond Suit

Villain goes all in for about $5,000. Hero calls.

As soon as the 5Diamond Suit hits the felt, the villain immediately announces all in which was odd considering that the board had just paired. I didn’t put the villain on a set since he check-raised the turn and now he decides to shove all in on what is a terrible card if he has a straight. The villain didn’t even take a second to consider the ramifications of the board pairing and it was as if he had his mind made up that he was shoving all rivers. After some thought, I couldn’t put the villain on a full house and I called. He sheepishly turned over K-7 suited for a flopped top pair turned into a bluff and I won a $12,000 pot.

The key concept that I want everyone to take away from this hand is how quickly the villain acted on the river. The fact that he went all in immediately, without taking the time to consider that the board paired, led me to believe he was bluffing. The board pairing is what I consider to be a “game changer”. When a game changing card comes on the turn or river and your opponent doesn’t react, flinch or consider the implications, there is a good chance he is bluffing.

There are many situations in poker where an opponent continues betting when the board texture changes. Always keep in mind that when the nuts keep changing on each street and your opponent keeps trying to represent the nuts, they can easily be bluffing.

Another factor which helped me make the correct call was his river bet sizing. It is unusual to see an opponent betting 2.5 times the pot on the river. Usually when an opponent makes an oddly sized bet, I try to figure out what they’re thinking and what they’re trying to accomplish. His huge over-bet screamed of “please fold” and that’s another reason why I called. A more reasonable bet for value would be about $1,600.

Gutter23 plays mid-stakes full ring cash games and has had a great deal of success over the past five years. He was named the low-stakes online player of the year by PokerTableRatings in 2011 and is one of the few cash game grinders who truly understands the nuances of both live and online poker.

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almost 8 years ago

It also works the other way around, I was playing a omaha 2/5 game with a semi-pro and got a 3-pair flop w/ str draw. I bet half pot and he called, turn gave him a str so I checked and he raised close to pot, he had about 3½x the pot behind him. The river gave me a full house and I "snapp betted" pot, he went all in and I got it all. The next time something similar happened where I flopped a set against the same guy and got a house on the river. Same move where I snapp betted pot and he re-raised to get in in terrible shape.

I've done the same move against people NLTH but decided to post the omaha hands since the guy didn't stop to think and went for timing instead of asking himself why someone is up a few buy ins at a table. You are really looking for these guys who think you play hands a certain way to get it in, they focus to much on how someone acts and not why they could have a reason to do so. Deception is the key here, snapping and slowing down randomly is not bad to practice at the table.

I don't give to much for trying to time opponents at the table, some may have tells when they bluff but it also work the other way around.


almost 8 years ago

Hi ThaDonk. In certain situations, especially against regulars who have the ability to be deceptive with their timing tells, the snap decision concept does not fully apply.

This hand was against a weak recreational player who did not show the competence to vary his timing tells. He was pretty much all-in before the card hit the felt. This was definitely not a player conscious of his tells so it was highly unlikely that he was being tricky.

Thanks for the comment