Make Your Opponent Think You Are Bluffing

In this article James reviews a hand  played with QQ’s in a $1/$2 game home game. In this hand we need to decide on how to represent a bluff based on an A-typical button incentive created in this home game. However we quickly discover how important it is for us to hand read other player’s/player types to accomplish a good strategy.

Simon said this in the write-up, “the table is playing with a very bizarre variant on the game where the button is going to ante $10. Only the button can win that money, and if the button doesn’t win this hand, then they money is going to push to the next player who gets the button.” In this situation, this has actually happened a bunch of times, and at this point, there’s actually an $80 rock on the button that only Hero can fight for because he has the button right here. So this is a very, very important information even though you won’t see this kind of variant when playing online poker.

The table, of course, rightfully so, is fighting super-hard for this dead money whenever they’re on the button. So this is definitely something that’s going to influence the hands, so I thought it was important to mention. But also I’m going to say this. This is kind of a dumb game. It’s fun. I like any variant that does something different and provides action and gets people out of their comfort zone.

But all you’re doing here is you’re actually making the most profitable position at the table, even more profitable by offering something that only they can fight for. If you want to make this really interesting, do this for the person who is under the gun and have it ship around that way or for middle position or any position other than the most profitable one at the table.

So that would be my only major suggestion for actually creating a better dynamic and a better game structure here. Keep it in mind that, again, there is an $80 rock on the button that only Hero, because he’s on the button, can fight for. Here we go.

There’s a raise of $6. There’s a call, a call, a call, a call, another call, and Hero decides to squeeze. Of course, love the fact that we’re squeezing. But, again, remember the dynamic at this table and given this bizarre button game you’re playing is that the button is going to fight very, very hard to win this pot. Because of that, choose a number that looks like you’re fighting really, really hard for.

This is like an ideal situation where you should be fighting for it a lot, and you actually have a hand you can fight for it very, very hard with. I don’t want this to only be $40. Honestly, I’m going $60 at a minimum here and I’m probably going something like $75. I know that probably seems absurd, but it’s a live game. You should be going quite large in this situation. You want to choose a number that you would use if you were fighting with air, and I think something like $75 is going to get the job done a lot of the time.

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(There’s a very common mistake that I see beginner NL players make all the time, in my conversations with them, on the forums, and at the table.  When asked why they made a bet or raise, their reasoning is along the lines of “I knew I had the best hand”.)

I also think you’re probably only going to pick up maybe one or two callers, as oppose to if you only go $40. Now everyone’s getting a pretty decent price. I wouldn’t be shocked if this goes 4 or 5 way a large chunk of the time.

Again, larger number, especially given the exact dynamic and the exact number in the rock right this moment. We end up getting a call, another call, another call. And we end up going 4-way to it, flop top set, which makes things nice and fun. Check, check, check, and Hero decides to bet for $110.

So as played, very, very happy with this. Definitely want to be continuation betting. Definitely want to make it look like I’m still fighting for this pot, forcing someone to get sticky with any pair or any sort of draw, that sort of thing. I love the fact that we’re continuing to bet here. Size is totally fine as well. End up getting called by the aggro pro and go heads up to it.

And in the write-up, Simon says this: “The aggro pro called my bet and he’s very aggressive and he has a very wide range. So I assume he could basically have any two cards or any sort of equity in the hope that I’m just trying to steal the button money.”

I’m going to disagree with that slightly. Now, maybe it’s just semantics here, but if someone is deemed as a pro, I’m not assuming that they’re ever going to show up here with any two cards. And I’m also thinking that preflop doesn’t make any sense that he’s going to have any two cards, right? There was a preflop raise. Then he decided to call after a couple of callers. I don’t think he’s doing that with just anything. Nor do I think he’s calling your squeeze with just anything. I think when he calls here, yes, he can have draws, he can he have those kind of equity things. And he’s probably going to have things like single pairs a pretty large chunk of the time as well.

Could it be 56? Could it be 77’s? Yes, I think all those kind of things are reasonable. Could it be the case queen? Maybe. QTs, QJs, something like that. I don’t know, maybe. But, ultimately, at the end of the day, I think you’re looking at someone who is not going to show up with any two cards, and I definitely would not make that range assumption.

So as played, the turn is a three. Aggro pro decides to donk and does for $250. Remember, a donk bet is just a lead into the previous street aggressor, so he’s betting into us. We were the aggressor on the flop, so this is considered a donk bet.

And now we have to decide what we want to do. And, really, Simon’s major question was should we jam over the turn and donk or should we call? And if we do call, can we really ever fold to the river?

So all of those questions are awesome and they’re so on the right track, right? Because if we just call here, can we really fold on rivers? I mean, yes, there’s going to be some uncomfortable ones: the A, the 2, the 7. But shy of that, we’re not talking about the majority of the stretch by any stretch.

And the thing that you really have to keep in mind here is the dynamic. It looks like Hero has to fight hard for this pot. And if Hero just calls, like Hero did, does this look like he’s fighting to win the pot and bluff at it? Or is his call pretty indicative that it’s probably a single pair or maybe a draw or essentially something that’s not going to go away very, very easily.

This looks like scared 8’s if Hero just calls here. This looks like maybe an over pair or a single pair that he’s trying to induce more bluffs with. And, obviously, top set is great and all, but this is not a situation where we’re super-scared of a straight. If he has a straight, good for him. I don’t think he’s going to have A2 very often and it would be 67. If it’s 67, it’s probably 67s. So we’re talking about a whopping four combos of that. Who cares compared to everything else? I mean, there’s actually more combos of worse sets in this hand than there are of 67s. So it sounds to me that I’m definitely going to panic about any stretch in this spot.

So, again, when you just call, you don’t represent a hand that is weak, that is bluffy, that’s going anywhere. And I think that he can expect that you’re going to get sticky on a decent amount of rivers. Whereas if you just shove here, I think you can induce some lightness from him. If he has 77’s or 88’s or 66’s or 56 or any of those kind of things, or even a diamond draw, is he really going to always fold when you drill here? Ah, I don’t think so.

Because it looks like you’re bluffy, because it looks like you should be fighting really, really hard for this spot, I don’t think you’re going to be getting a ton of folds from him. And I think you represent bluffs a lot better than just by calling $250. So in this situation, I would much prefer to see the shove in a normal situation. Again, if you think that he’s super aggro, he’s going to have a lot more air here.

Sure, you could go for the call-call approach, but I think given the exact dynamic, I’m a little bit more inclined just to shove here, try to rep air, hope that I get called by the second-best. And, yeah, it kind of sucks that I have top set, so there’s fewer top hair hands that can get sticky. But I think given the exact dynamic, we can expect him to get sticky with things like, again, 7’s, 8’s, single pairs, all that kind of fun stuff.

So as played, river is an 8. He decides to drill. Of course, we call. Awesome. And, unfortunately, he does have 67 and there we go.

Now, the fact that he shows up a 67o, of course adds a lot more combos in that preflop range. And I definitely wouldn’t have assumed that he would have 67 off, given the description of pro. Again, maybe it’s semantics, but I think you might be giving a little too much credit.


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Again, I think pro is a strong, winning player, going to show up with good ranges. Showing up with 67o here is not really great in terms of the preflop play. And because of that, I really don’t think this is someone who we should be classifying as a pro in the future.

And just one other range consideration to keep in mind here. I made the assumption that 67s was probably the only 67 that really made a lot of sense, which of course put a lot more combinations of sets, single pairs, pair and draws, all those kinds of things that could have been in their range when they decided to take this line.

If you find out later that 67o could actually be in here, that also puts a lot of combos of things like 54o, maybe 43o, maybe things like 56o that would take this same line.

There’s tons of combinations of, again, other second-best hands that can and would take this line from time to time. Don’t think that just because he showed up with 67o, that that’s like his whole range by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, that actually just puts further credence on the fact that stacking off here is totally, totally good.

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