Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Betting On The River

What is the goal of a bet or raise made after the river? The goal is to make a better hand fold and a weaker hand call.

I came across a hand a few days ago that I thought would be a good topic to post about here. I see this mistake all the time at the 100NL and lower limits, and I want to make sure that you don't do this.

The game is 100NL 6 max. I play a pretty aggressive 6 max game. If it is folded to me in the CO or on the button, I am betting at least top 40% hands. If it is folded to me in the SB, I am betting even more hands.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $ BB (5 handed)

saw flop|saw showdown

HERO ($86.05)
BB ($77.95)
UTG ($101.39)
MP ($98)
Button ($101.50)

Preflop: HERO is SB with Td, 8h. HERO posts a blind of $0.50.
3 folds, HERO (poster) raises to $3, BB calls $2.50.

T8o is a good enough hand to try and steal the blinds. And even if he does call, I'm not hating that either.

Flop: ($7) 9c, 7c, Jc (2 players)
HERO bets $5, BB calls $5.

Cool, I flop a straight. But the flop is all clubs. Yuck. I don't worry about monsters under the bed, so I don't put him on a flopped flush. I lead out with a 3/4 pot bet.

Turn: ($17) 3d (2 players)
HERO bets $15, BB calls $15.

The turn is a blank, so I am liking that. I figure him for a draw with either the Ace of King of clubs. I fire an almost pot sized bet, and again he just calls. I'm pretty sure I'm ahead here.

River: ($47) 7h (2 players)
HERO bets $32, BB calls $54.45 (All-In), HERO calls $22.45.

The board pairs. I'm not liking that as he could definitely have a set that just turned into a full house. Villain has $54 left. I've led at this pot the whole way. I can't slow down now because I don't want to have to make a tough decision if he pushes all-in after I check. So I put out a nice size bet committing myself to the pot and putting the pressure on him. Now if he did actually flop a flush (unlikely) he has to be really worried about me now having a full house. He raises all-in, and it is just $22 for me to call into a pot that already has $123 in it. No way I am folding to that. I call.

Final Pot: $155.90

HERO has Td 8h (straight, jack high).
BB has 8c 8d (two pair, eights and sevens).
Outcome: HERO wins $155.90.

I win a nice pot when he shows pocket 8's (with the 8 of clubs).

So lets take a look at this hand from his perspective. Most importantly his play on the river. What was his goal when he raised all-in on the river? It could not have been to make a better hand fold, that is for sure. The only hand that he can beat is a bluff. There are a hundred hands that beat him. So if he really thought that I was bluffing, why not just call? He just cost himself an extra $22 (22 Big blinds or 11 PTBBs!!). A solid player can make 5 PTBB/100. So it will take him another 220 hands to make up for that mistake. (assuming he is a solid player)

Maybe if our stacks were deeper, and I was re-raised all-in and would have had to call a pot sized bet, I might have folded.

So what's my point? If you really think that your opponent is bluffing, and you can't make your re-raise get a better hand to fold (because there already is a lot of money in the pot), it is definitely better to just call instead of raise. If you can only beat a bluff, don't raise, because you could be wrong, and you'll lose a lot of money.

Look at it like this. You can only beat a bluff.. There is amount X in the pot after the river card is dealt. That amount belongs to the pot. Your opponent bets amount Y. You can do one of three things:
  • You fold: You don't lose any more money
  • You call:
    • He was bluffing! You Win amount X+Y
    • He had a hand. You lose amount Y
  • You raise amount Z:
    • He was bluffing! He folded so you only win amount X+Y
    • He had a hand. You lose amount Y+Z
So, the best you can do is win amount X+Y. You only need to call in order to do this. If you raise, you're not getting any more money, you just might lose a lot more.

I hope this helps


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