Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Semi-Aborted Bluff Pays Off

Often I find myself in a "weak-tight" type game at Hollywood Park that I can exploit by playing a bit loose pre-flop and then attacking weakness on the flop and turn. I was in such a game yesterday. There was one player that didn't fit the mold of "weak-tight," but as it happened, he was the easiest to extract chips from anyway. He's a regular player, an Israeli guy about 50 years old. Often he plays quite well but he is very quick to go on tilt and start playing very, very loose. He was in such a phase yesterday for most of the day, and often he was the only one calling my semi-bluff pre-flop raises of $35-60. When this was the case, I would invariably bet the flop. Every time but once he folded at this point (the other time he raised me all-in and I folded). This strategy was working so well for me that I expanded my semi-bluffing range to the extent that any observant player would become very suspicious of me.

I won one such hand in a very unorthodox manner. Pre-flop, someone had limped in early position, and I raised to $50 with 75s from middle position. A middle-aged Asian guy who I had played with quite a bit called me from the button. Everyone else folded.

With the pot at $120, the flop came something like AhQs7d. Having called my raise preflop, my opponent likely had a small pair, but there were plenty of other possibilities. I completely missed the flop, but I thought there was a good enough chance he'd fold that I decided to bet $80. In order to save time, this guy had the fairly common habit of folding his hand as soon as it became apparent that his heads-up opponent planned to bet. As I brought the chips out and started to cut it into four stacks of $20, I noticed that my opponent was just watching me. More significantly, he was not immediately folding his cards. In the absence of a premature fold on his part, the likelihood that he would fold to my bluff decreased; he was probably planning to call or raise. I decided in that split second that I would cut my losses. I had already laid out two $20 stacks, but I brought back the other $40 I had planned to bet.

This very small bet seemed to throw my opponent off. He decided to fold, presumably thinking I was trying to suck him in with a big hand like a set of Aces or Queens. This line of thinking seems rather pervasive: large bets mean bluffs, small bets mean big hands. I've been taking advantage of this realization for quite a while by blatantly betting big with good hands and small when I'm bluffing. People don't pick up on the pattern nearly as easily as you might think. In any case, the hand I just described made me realize I can probably go to even greater lengths to exploit this backward idea of respecting small bets more than larger ones. At least against certain players, it seems I can bet nearly nothing on my bluffs and I think I might get them to fold just as often.

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