Monday, March 22, 2010

Raising as a Bluff

I'm going back to work tomorrow. Since I haven't thought about poker for six weeks, I thought I'd get my mind back in shape by describing a play I made a few months ago. In this hand, I was playing against another prop: a good player who is very observant and has a very clear idea of how I play. He looks for opportunities to exploit my tendencies whenever possible. Knowing this, I make sure to stay on my toes against this player, and sometimes I'm able to catch him bluffing me. I think he is a winning player, but he sometimes succumbs to "Fancy Play Syndrome" (FPS). I don't think he'd ever seen me make a play like the one I made on the river in the following hand, wherein I raise the river as a bluff after my opponent had shown strength. In fact, I'm not sure I'd ever made such a play before this.

I'm starting to worry that people at the casino may have discovered my blog, or will soon, so I am going to refrain from naming the other prop. Let's just call him "X".

This hand is from mid-November. I made some notes after the hand, and I'm going to try to reconstruct my thought process. I don't remember how many players there were, but my opponent was in the big blind, and I was two to his left.

I limp in with AhJd and $1260 behind. One other player and the small blind limp. X checks (he has me covered.

Flop ($35): Ac 5s 3s. X checks, and I value-bet $25. Everyone folds to X, who check-raises to $75. I call. X knows I continuation-bet a lot, but this is not a c-betting situation because I didn't raise preflop, and I had a player behind me. Still, X knows I will bet and fold with plenty of hands here, so he could have just about anything. I can't fold because even though I am now on the defensive, the chances are just too good that X is bluffing or semi-bluffing.

Turn ($185): Jh. X bets $150. I call. The Jack puts me ahead of any flopped two-pair, which are unlikely but plausible holdings. I like my call here (as opposed to a raise) for a few reasons:
1. If X has nothing, this play is best because he might try to bluff again on the river.
2. If I have X beat, he will probably fold to my raise, but I will be able to get another bet from him on the river if the river card isn't too scary.
3. It's becoming more likely that X has a real hand or a strong draw. If X has a draw or a strong hand, he might re-raise. If I then fold (which I might), I will have lost my raise plus the chance to see the river card (on which I could make a full house). I could call, but that might be even worse.
4. If the spade flush hits, I can probably win the hand with a raise on the river. My line to this point looks to X like I have either a moderate made hand (which I do) or a nut draw. Unless he has the nut draw himself, he will probably have to fold to such a raise.

River ($485): Qs. X bets $225. I raise all-in for $1025 total. X folds. As you can see, #4 above came into play, but it still took some nerve to pull it off, if I do say so myself. I would've felt better if I had the As rather than Ah, because then I could be sure I wasn't up against the nut flush. Also, I could have just called to catch X's bluffs, but this is a marginal play at best. In retrospect, I still this raise-bluff was the best play. I think X would even fold a straight or a baby flush in this situation, because he felt he had such a good read on me. That is, he felt he knew I had a nut flush or a made hand, and he has to figure I would never try to bluff with a made hand. After all, consider Concept No. 47: "If it's clear your opponent has a hand at least worth a call, but he raises instead, it's almost never a bluff." This may have been the thought that went through his head after I raised. However, my hand was right at the bottom edge of my calling range on the river here, which means it is close to the optimal type of hand to raise-bluff with.


Craig Berger said...

You should give anonymous players names that don't look like playing cards, i.e. J for Jack and "J" for the player gets a little confusing. Maybe stick to X Y and Z.

Keith said...

Good point. I edited this post to call my opponent "X".