Friday, September 3, 2010

Struggling with demons - betting a checked river

Phil Laak
I'm half-way through reading the September 2010 issue of Bluff magazine and came across a great excerpt from Phil Laak's article "Random Truths."

"Random Truth 6: If you know they are going to call but need to bluff to win the pot, you will do a lot better by just losing what is already in there.  Don't bluff in this spot.  It is a leak."

Wow.  Not that he's the innovator of this concept; I had been figuring this out and thinking about it myself over the last 2 months, but I've never seen it in writing.  I suppose it's common sense, but I've been chasing down this demon WITH A VENGEANCE, to get rid of my own leak.

I think I've had 2 types of leaks stemming from this branch of action:
  • When the pot is large and I know I don't have a showdown-worthy hand (i.e. missed all of my draws, etc.), I will not get anywhere by shoving the remaining half of my stack in - of course I'm getting called!  If my opponent calls the turn bet committing half of his stack, he's going to call the river for the other half.  I am working hard to get rid of this leak, and I've been very successful as of late.
  • When the pot is small and I have nothing, don't bet pot to try to take my opponent off of his hand.  The risk / reward is too great.  I am learning to manage my bet size in this type of situation.  For example, if I am looking at a 10BB pot, will a 10BB bet take my opponent off his hand any more than a 4 or 5BB bet?  I've taken many opponent who were drawing off of their hand - but I've misread plenty of opponents who have a marginal hand that can call a river bet due to real size of the bet; i.e. it's worth it to my opponent to call a 10BB bet with a top pair-type hand.  He's not raising, just catching bluffs.  He's going to call a 4BB just the same.

    One last thing about small pot river bets: Why should I be risking dollars to win pennies?  If it's going to take a big bet to win a small pot, why is it worth it?  I need to overcome my desire to win every single pot.


  1. I've seen that in tournaments, too. At the final table, a guy had a huge stack and bet half of it on the river. The other guy called.

    "I had to bet," he said. "It was the only way I could win the pot"

    He lost sight of his goal. His goal was to win the tournament, not win that particular pot.

  2. I almost never bet full pot in no-limit holdem, because you can just about always get the guy to fold for 2/3 pot or so if he was gonna fold to the full pot bet. Basically if I throw a full-pot bet out there, I am about to F someone up hard.

  3. Letting go of that desire to win the pot is sometimes difficult.


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