Hand of the day: Let them bluff

CardRunners pro Alvin ‘citizenwind’ Lau shows how to capitalise on opponents’ bluffs

I’m playing in a $0.50/$1 six-max game online when this interesting hand occurs. A player with stats of 32% VPIP and 12% PFR – whom I assume is weak – opens the pot to $3.50 from early position and a mediocre 23/18 regular calls in the cutoff. Both players have $100 effective stacks. I look down at 6-6 on the button and decide to call, feeling that the initial raiser is pretty tight and therefore set mining against him should be profitable, and especially in a bloated multi-way pot. If I miss my set, I’m just going to check/fold.

The flop comes 6-8-8, giving me a full house. The raiser and cutoff both check, and I’m faced with a decision whether to bet or to slow-play. Many low stakes players would bet here 100% of the time, thinking ‘Well, if I had air here I’d always bet, so to balance that I have to bet the nuts.’ This is an oversimplification and a -EV play.

While balance is important, I can’t let this abstract concept dominate my play and sway me from what is obviously the best play here: to check back. After both players have checked on this board it’s unlikely anyone is going to continue against a bet. Unless a player is getting tricky with A-A or an Eight (in which case I’ll likely stack them anyway) both players are going to fold.

In this situation I want my opponents to improve their hands. I would love to see a Queen, King, or Ace roll off on the turn and improve my opponents’ hands to top pair, good kicker. From there I can extract two or three bets from them. Or, if they have nothing, I want to give one of them the chance to bluff at the pot on the turn.

A simple plan

I check back the flop, and the turn is a K. The initial raiser and the regular both check. Now I should bet. While a bet will likely take down the pot immediately, the mediocre regular rarely has total air – if he had air he’d often fire at the turn himself. So when both players check to me it’s possible one of them has a King and is attempting to trap. Also, if my opponent has an Eight and has decided to get really tricky, I need to get money in on the turn to set up a river all-in. Admittedly, these are rare occurrences, but even the rare value I lose here will be significant in the long-term.

I bet $9 into a $12 pot. The raiser folds and the regular check-raises me to $36. This is a peculiar-sized raise. If the villain had a King, why would he check-raise rather than lead or just call? He can’t have A-K, which would have likely three-bet preflop, especially against the weaker player. And if the villain had an Eight, why would he bet such a scary amount, when he’d much rather try to make a smaller raise that would still comfortably set up a river shove?

I call with the effective nuts – raising is terrible as it reveals the strength of my hand and denies my opponent the ability to bluff the river. The river is an Ace and the regular shoves in the rest of his stack, which I happily call. This is a mandatory bluff card, so if I had a King here I would also always call, given my turn read that the villain is nearly always bluffing in this situation. Yes, sometimes (if I just have a King) I’ll run into A-T or A-J that got incredibly fancy on the turn, but usually those hands would bet the flop or the turn themselves.

It’s a spot in which I know my opponent will bet both his Aces and his bluffs 100% of the time, but it’s so hard for him to show up with an Ace. In this instance the regular shows down 4-4 for an extremely fancy turn check-raise and I scoop the $200 pot.

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