I was recently playing a large-field tournament when a simple but instructive bluffing spot arose.
This was a multi-day, re-entry tournament of the sort that has recently become popular. The tournament was similar to others of its type in that it drew a large field of players who were prepared to re-enter but not eager to do so, and who played straightforwardly (if a bit too loose) in the first levels.
One of these players open-limped the cutoff and I raised the button to 350. The blinds were 50/100 and we were playing with stacks of roughly 15,000. He had shown a willingness to open-raise some standard raising hands and also a desire to see the flop with what he considered promising hands.
I held . While this is a weak hand, it has a bit of high-card strength and some connectivity. Against a rather weak limping range, and with a player who is inclined to play straightforwardly, I figured to win more than my share of pots (some immediately, some on future streets) even when I didn’t make a hand.
It folded back around and he called the extra 250, which I thought he would do with many but not all of his hands, and the flop came . He checked quickly. I bet 400 and he called very quickly.
Against a medium-strength to weak limp-calling range, and on a board that I could easily represent a piece of, I preferred betting to checking the flop, both because I could often win immediately and because I could gauge his reaction and occasionally set up a multiple-street bluff.
The turn was a small offsuit card. He checked and stared at me. A standard meaning of this staring behavior is that the person is trying to intimidate his opponent into giving a free card, and this was a case in which the standard meaning made perfect sense. He could easily have had either a draw or a marginal made hand. With a marginal made hand, he wouldn’t want the pot to get bloated, and with a draw, this kind of player would likely want to see the river for free.
I was happy to disappoint him by betting, this time 1,100. He thought for a little while and called.
The river was another small offsuit card. He said “Okay, you can bet now” and checked. I bet 2,500 and he folded quickly. The all-street bluff worked and I picked up a significant pot.
Bluffs like this one can be particularly good ones to add to your repertoire, because they actually don’t require you to have complete faith in a laser read. Rather, I was guided by two simple features of the situation.
First, there was the physical information. At several stages, he had suggested that he didn’t want to commit too much money to the pot.
Second, the board texture gave me an invitation to bluff. I could plausibly represent , , , , and , all of which would merit value bets on every street in this situation. Meanwhile he would have raised all or almost all those hands before the flop (though perhaps not with ).
Even if he were skeptical of me and was worried I’d bluff — and this opponent certainly was — he would have to weigh this skepticism against the very credible threat that I really did have a value hand, and the list above includes 33 combinations of hands.
Moreover, the same board texture made it likely he had either a weak made hand or a busted draw. He would have limp-called many hands, pocket pairs, and hands that made a flush or straight draw on that board. While occasionally he will have made two pair with a hand like -suited, far more often he is hoping for a cheap showdown with a hand like or has a busted draw. (Note that my ten-high can’t even beat a busted gutshot, so I need to bet against that hand.)
Some players have a brilliant eye for multi-street bluffing spots. I am not a savant in this respect. But you don’t have to be a savant to find spots like this, where the board texture and physical information tell the same story about your opponent, and where it’s easy for you to craft a story of your own.
As in every other facet of the game, multi-street bluffs are an area where basic board-reading and range analysis are useful, where interpreting physical information is useful, and where combining these kinds of evidence amplifies their value.
Thinking Tournament Poker by Nate Meyvis is now available both at Amazon and at nitcast.com. Be sure also to check out Nate and Andrew Brokos on the Thinking Poker podcast, and for more from Nate visit his blog at natemeyvis.com.