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

Semi-Bluffing Strategy in PLO Illustrated in Hand Analysis


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.