Turning your pair into a bluff

Cash Game: Blinds (50/100)

  • UTG (10000 - 100BB ) 
  • HJ (10000 - 100BB)
  • CO (10000 - 100BB)
  • BU (10000 - 100BB)
  • SB (10000 - 100BB) - HERO
  • BB (10000 - 100BB) - VILLAIN

Preflop: Everybody folds to the HERO in SB who looks down at AcJh. Hero raises to 150. Villain is in the BB and she calls.

Flop (Pot size 300): QdTs2c

Hero checks. Villain checks.

Turn (Pot size 300): 4s

Hero checks, Villain bets 200. Hero calls.

River (Pot size 1100): Jc

Hero checks, Villain bets 750. Hero raises to 3000, Villain folds. 

ANALYSIS:

When everybody folds to the SB, he has two options - call or raise. Blind vs blind AJo is a very strong hand and you want to put in more money in the pot. So raising is never bad. But as a strategy, you should consider what you are going to do with weaker hands. If you always raise with your strong hands and call with weaker hands, a good player in the BB can apply tons of pressure since she can be sure that you don't have strong hands when you call. It is not a big part of the analysis, but just some food for thought.

As played, raising is fine, but just be aware of the strategy you pick. Let's see a flop.

On the flop, hero can choose between betting and checking. When the villain calls pre flop, she has tons of broadways in her range (KQ, KJ, QJ, QT, JT, AT...). All of those hands have either made a pair or have a draw or both. So if hero bets, he doesn't accomplish much since it is unlikely villain is going to fold a lot. Hero can check and call a bet with his one overcard and gutshot and keep the pot small. As it happens, villain checks back.

On the turn, by the same logic as above, there is no reason to bet. When villain bets, hero decides to call. If hero is behind, he has some outs to improve. A jack or an ace might be good. A king will give him the nuts. And Ace high might be good if villain is bluffing.

On the river, hero makes a pair and is now good against any 8 the villain was betting for protection. Here, we often expect the action to go check-check and lose the pot against a Q some % of the time and win against an 8 or a worse J some %. But here, villain decides to bet. And now all three options: call, raise, fold are available. What do we do?

When villain bets on this board, it is very unlikely that she is value-betting a worse hand. So calling becomes unattractive. Folding is fine but we will be getting bluffed here by a lot of hands like turned flush draws. Or hands like 35s or 63s or a bunch of other gutshots. 

The third option - raising. The nuts on this board would be AK. And the only person who can have AK in this spot would be the hero. And hero would play it like this most of the time. Villain is unlikely to have AK since she can be expected to 3-bet this often pre-flop. Hero could also play JJ in this way. And by check-raising the river, hero is representing tremendous strength. Villain will have to fold most of her medium strength hands and even some strong ones like weak two pairs.

A word of caution: Turning pairs into bluffs is an advanced play that you should not go overboard with. Usually, taking your showdown value is a good idea. In this particular hand, this move worked out. But some players might get stubborn and call you down anyway. Choose your customer wisely. Just remember that you have this weapon in your arsenal, and used sparingly, it is mighty effective.