|A bluff on the river|
I’ve been going through a somewhat rough patch over the past 3-4 months. Coupled with being card dead, I’m missing many of my draws, running my big hands into bigger hands, and when I do get it in good, I’m getting sucked out on. All of that is not to say that I’m dissatisfied with my results; I’m still a winning player over that time span, but I know my historical average hourly is much, much better than the recent past.
Regardless, boredom leads to playing around – experimentation with different lines – or taking new approaches to similar hands. I’ve been particularly interested in the river lately. I know I’ve never bluffed the river with enough frequency to make a difference – in fact the only times I usually bluff a river is after I’ve bet 2 streets as a bluff and am shipping the river to complete the 3 street bluff. The 3 street bluff is usually so transparent; a player’s tendency to bet all 3 streets (if doing it frequently enough) is weighted more heavily on the side of bluffing / overvaluing his or her hand vs. value bets, with the thought that it is much less likely that the player has a monster than a “bluff” (i.e. it’s harder to flop a made hand than it is to miss a draw).
I’ve been looking for spots to river bluff, but find (as most do) the pot to be so bloated by the river, it’s hard to “safely” bluff… that is, bluff without putting the majority of your stack on the line. Obviously, the river is always going to be the point at which the pot is at its largest, therefore any bet should be sized relative to the pot size (making the river bet usually the largest bet of the hand). To date, I’ve shied away from making those large river bluffs with the logic that my opposing player already has so much money in, he feels compelled to call (sunk cost / pot odds) even though it may not be correct for him to do so. For instance, I’m on a flush draw, but a straight draw gets there - $150 in the pot & the opposing player leads for $75. Can I really push him off the hand for less than $200, which effectively puts me all in? If I can move him off the hand for a $75 raise, great, but the majority of players are making an awwfuckit call (at least in my experience at 1/3 1/2).
I had an opportunity to plan a successful river bluff last night – and that may be the key to the situation; planning ahead:
At a 1/3 game, I limp T9hh from MP with $500; villain 1 to my right (called villain 1) has me covered, and villain 3 to my right in the big blind (called villain 3) has $200 and change.
Flop is 8 6 3, 2 hearts.
Checks to me and I lead for $12 into ~$15 pot. Villain 1 & 3 call pretty quickly.
Pretty sure I’m behind; not too worried about villain 3, as he’s in the BB, just calling, and in all likelihood has a bottom pair looking to hit 2 pair or trips. Villain 1 is a capable player, and his call has me somewhat concerned. My thought here is to pot control from here on out unless I hit my heart or 7 gutter. I also have 2 overs that I would feel confident about value betting. However, with 2 players, I don’t want to bloat a limped pot without making my hand…
Turn is an off suit 4.
Villains 3 & 1 check to me and I therefore check behind - ~$50 in the pot. At this point, I’m thinking villain 1 is going to bet any river with or without a hand. I will have to raise him off his hand, but I want to keep a raise on the smaller side in real money terms, because I’m unwilling to risk a large amount on a nothing / limped pot.
River is an off suit 5 making any 7 into a straight. Villain 1 checks. Villain 3, as per schedule, leads for $35 and I go into the tank.
What can I raise that will push him off his hand, but not risk a stupidly large dollar amount? Obviously I have to raise to at least $70, but I think he snap calls a $35 raise, as per above’s awwfuckit train of thought. Eventually, I push out $85. Villain 1 surprisingly hesitates for a bit before finally folding. Villain 3 starts talking a bunch – about giving me tons of respect in this spot, etc. before finally folding. I pull off my first successful river bluff in a long while. I did not feel that this hand was a traditionally played hand. Usually checking the turn is a sign of weakness… which it was… I can easily represent 2 hearts with a 7 by my flop lead / turn check. I can also represent 78, 67, etc. that backed into the straight. If I bet turn, I represent a made hand, and it’s pretty hard to bet river when a backdoor on such a coordinated board got there.
Planning was key; if I bet turn, I may very well get my opponents to fold, but I’m not so certain Villain 3 is going anywhere. Plus, it sets up a river bluff bet that threatens at least half stacks.