Under the gun with Dan O’Callaghan

Dan O’Callaghan plays a hand where he can’t check, value bet or bluff… Can he find a fourth option?

Most people can see the benefits of having a solid reason for doing something. You endure a bad beat story so you can tell your own, you stay awake until 2am to watch Game of Thrones to be first, and you put your car roof down because, well, because you’re probably a douchebag.

As The Merovingian so elegantly explained in The Matrix Reloaded, it’s simple causality. To bluff we have be able to make better hands fold, to value bet we must be able to get called by worse, and to slowroll we need the nuts. It’s that basic, but there are times at the poker tables when this rationale can be pretty difficult to identify.

Take a look at the following hand from the PartyPoker High Roller last month. We’re sitting nine-handed with blinds of 600/1,200/a200. We are in the small blind with 37k and A♠-K♣. Villain has us covered and raises from EP to 2,525 playing 70k. It’s folded to us and we three-bet to 6,244. Villain calls. The flop is T♣-2♥-3♥ and we…

I’ve stopped it here because it’s the flop spot I want to focus on. Of course we can c-bet here, but it doesn’t really achieve much. Ignoring concepts such as game theory and balance, which I’d argue are more cash game concepts, betting to move our opponent off equity might be the most obvious reason to do so, since Villain probably has around 14%+ equity with the range they fold. Even with this in mind, betting feels a bit flawed.

We can’t really bet for value because, aside from the odd float and flush draws, we are very unlikely to get called by worse. Sure A-Q might peel but generally we want a call less than a parent whose son has drawn male genitalia in bean juice all over the school cafeteria walls does.


So, can we bluff? Well we can’t really bet with that justification either because it’s unlikely that any better hands fold – this is pretty important when bluffing! If we bet and he folds I’d probably bet my right chestnut (I bet my left one in a previous article) that we had the best hand. I guess we could argue that our two overcards mean we’d be betting A-K as a semi-bluff here, but I’m not in love with this argument either, partly because we’re out of position, but mainly because it’s pretty difficult to get there!

So, if we can’t bluff and we can’t value bet, how does checking sound? Well again, not great. Our opponent is going to bet a lot… and if not, we give him a free shot at catching up with hands such as 8-9, Q-J or K-Q. Additionally, as we will have the best hand a lot here we’ll probably talk ourselves into check-calling or check-raising which will often turn our hand face up, or lead to a lot of guess work later down the line.

So if we can’t value bet and we can’t bluff or check, is there another way? Hero bets 4,221. I’ve alluded to it before, most poker players hate folding. It mirrors losing and this makes people stubborn. A small bet like this is a great way of poking their inner cantankerous, ego-driven brawler in the eye, and it’s a great way of bringing their emotions to the table. Emotion clouds logic and this leads to mistakes.

Since raising wouldn’t make too much sense here (with sets and big overpairs being pretty nutted, and small overpairs unable to be called by worse), a small bet like this encourages him to float way wider than he might have otherwise. This is partly because of the 4-1 price tag, but also because poker egos don’t like to be pushed around. Folding suddenly becomes less attractive than Su-Bo pre-stylist, which leads to an increased calling frequency and, in turn, a weaker calling range. This is fantastic for us in a spot like this where we stand to have the best hand a lot of the time, especially if we feel we dominate lots of Villain’s preflop calling range.

Our plan works perfectly. Villain calls 4,221 and the 7♦ turn goes check/check, before Villain bets 9,125 on the 9♥ river. Hero calls, Villain shows J♣-A♦ and Hero wins 43,380.

In this kind of situation, where we cant really bet for value or as a bluff, the best course of action istodowhatwecanto manipulate our opponent, doing whatever we can to both keep him as wide as possible, and maximise the chance he makes a mistake. In today’s games, where everyone seems to be stressing about GTO and unexploitability, I think a small flop bet here is a great way of achieving this.

Watch the hand below and follow Dan at Twitch.tv/ danshreddies. He streams Mondays, Wednesdays, and other random times – follow him for notifications!

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