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Poker Strategy -- Brian Rast Talks About Semi-Bluffing in PLO

Semi-Bluffing Strategy in PLO Illustrated in Hand Analysis

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Brian RastVictory Poker Pro Brian “tsarrast” Rast is most well known for his killer cash game skills and especially his highly analytical approach to pot-limit Omaha. When he’s not grinding online, he’s competing in the highest staked cash games in Las Vegas. Rast sat down with Card Player to discuss a pot-limit Omaha hand he recently played.

The Game

Stakes: $500-$1,000
Game: Pot-limit Omaha
Location: Bellagio

The Lineup (Stack sizes approximate)

Brian Rast — $85,000 — Under the gun/Cutoff
Kido Pham — $90,000 — Button
Sammy Farha — Unknown — Small blind
David Benyamine — $100,000 — Big blind

Preflop Action: Rast raises to $3,000 with AClub Suit JClub Suit QDiamond Suit 8Heart Suit. Pham calls, Farha folds, and Benyamine calls in the big blind. The pot is now $9,500.

Flop Action: The flop comes 7Club Suit 6Heart Suit 4Club Suit. Benyamine checks, as does Rast. Pham bets $9,500. Benyamine and Rast call. The pot is now $38,000.

Kristy Arnett: Why did you decide to check here?

Brian Rast: I did not want to bet here because if I get raised by either of them, I either have to ship [go all in] or fold, and with just a club draw and no straight draw, I get it in bad almost always. And with these stacks, it’s pretty unlikely someone raises to $36,000, then folds for another $50,000. So if I bet, then I kind of have to fold [to a raise], and with the nut club draw, bet-folding is super gross here. So when Kido pots on the button to $9,500 and David calls, I’m getting 3-to-1, so I call.

Turn Action: The turn is the 9Diamond Suit. The board now reads 7Club Suit 6Heart Suit 4Club Suit 9Diamond Suit. Benyamine checks and Rast bets $38,000.

KA: How does this turn change your situation?

BR: It gives me a gutshot with my J-8, so I pick up more outs to the nuts. Also, the 9 looks like a card that hits my range some. I could be checking the flop, then calling, with some hands that have straight draws with no flush draw because to bet and then get-it-in on the flop with those hands is bad. If I had something like A-T-9-8, I might check the flop, because if I bet $9,000, and get raised, I’m behind most hands that get it in with me for sure. It’s almost the same as my actual hand, so I felt I could easily represent 10-8 for the turned straight, so I potted to $38,000. I think I had a little less then $40,000 left after that, but I’m not sure exactly.

KA: So you were comfortable semi-bluffing because even if you got called, you have outs to the definite nuts?

BR: Yes, and if someone gets it in with me, I have enough equity with my semi-bluff because this type of situation is like a two-pronged one. The first is how much fold equity do you have? I felt that I could represent 10-8, and it would be a decent enough part of my actual range, that the two players would have to give me credit for making that hand a decent portion of the time here. So that I felt my fold equity was pretty high, high enough that I probably could have made this play in this spot with just the nut club draw like if I had A-K-Q-J with a high club. The second prong of the situation is, when I don’t fold them out, how much equity do I have when I have to get in the $75,000 or so I have and with the nut-club draw plus a gutshot? I felt like my equity when called was more then enough given my fold equity to bluff here.

KA: What types of hands were you putting Pham and Benyamine on after calling the flop?

BR: I am unsure. I think Kido can bet the flop pretty wide when checked too because it looks like I didn’t hit it hard, so he is probably thinking that as long as Benyamine folds, he can barrel me out of the hand often which is true. If Benyamine folds, I have a tough flop decision with only the nut club draw, so I think this means Benyamine can call somewhat light. He could have as little as two pair without much of a draw, and obviously can have a much better hand too that he is slowplaying. Benyamine could have had 5-3. Their ranges are very wide, which makes it easier for me to bluff the turn because most two-pair hands will fold, and 5-3 will likely fold.

Outcome: Pham and Benyamine folded. Rast wins the $38,000 pot without showdown.

BR: I scooped a nice pot with ace high and mucked my cards.

KA: Do you think players often make the mistake of trying to semi-bluff with not enough fold equity or a made hand they can represent?

BR: Well in PLO, people oftentimes have enough equity with their semi-bluffs to warrant semi-bluffing in situations where their fold equity is quite low. This is a spot where I had decent equity when called. In fact, I felt that my hand had enough fold equity so that my hand was more than good enough in this spot to warrant a bluff. I felt like the way the hand played out, my sell of 10-8 in this spot is gold considering my image at the time. I had not been getting out of line postflop. Also the fact that the way I played the hand on the flop makes it likely that I have a straight draw. I would say that sometimes people will bluff in a spot where they are repping a made hand in a way that is not believable.

It’s really important to understand what hands you can rep and what hands you can’t based on many factors — how you normally play those hands, how your opponent reacts, and very importantly, to what depth your opponent will analyze what you’re doing

KA: So in this case, you knew that Pham and Benyamine were capable of putting you on 10-8?

BR: Well, both players are thinking players for sure and both of them would see my flop check-call as a sign of a hand that I wanted to continue with, but did not want to bet and get raised with. That is very consistent with many straight draw hands which a 9 hits, so they correctly put 10-8 in my range a good percentage of the time. And if I had 10-9, I would pot and get-it-in on the turn. So given the way I played the flop and turn, I painted a consistent picture, and they would only continue in that spot with something that figured to have decent equity against 10-8. There aren’t that many hands there that they can have that have decent equity against 10-8, which is another reason why it’s a good spot to semi-bluff as long as they think I have 10-8 a decent percentage of the time and only have a hand with good equity versus 10-8 a small part of the time.