Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Inducing the Bluff -- Part II (Weak Board)

Yesterday I posted Part I to my theory on how I induce opponents to bet at me when I believe I am ahead. Part I focused on general principles and on how I induce the bluff when I am facing a strong board. Today I will show an example of how I try to achieve the same goal, but on a weak board that other opponents are not likely to have hit. The weakness on the board always makes it a bit trickier to induce a bet, because it usually takes quite a dose of finesse to get someone to make a sizeable bet at me when they are not likely to be holding anything that connects with the board in any meaningful way. So, in Part I we were dealing with inducing a strong player to bet what he believes to be the best hand -- i.e., it's not really a bluff we are inducing, but rather just a bet. In Part II, I will discuss inducing a bluff, where my opponent really has nothing but I want him to bet his nothing into me anyways.

Here is the setup: Second hour of the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament, and I am sitting on a just-below-average stack of around 5200 chips. Blinds are at 150-300, and I am in the small blind with 43o. What a hand. But, when four players limp around to me, I certainly completed the bet for another 150 chips, hoping to make a straight or two pairs on the flop. So after the BB checked his option as well, five limpers saw the following flop:

Just like that, I've flopped a straight. And it's not just any straight -- it's the nut straight. It's the best possible hand that could be out there right now. Now if you've played with me at all, you know that I will almost always bet out when I make a strong hand on the flop. But in this case, what is that likely to achieve for me? Obviously, I would like to get paid off as much as possible with this killer hand I've flopped. But the board is so weak, what is the best I can really hope for with this flop? Someone could have two pairs, but that seems pretty unlikely even with five limpers in the pot -- why would anyone but the blinds be limping in, even from late position, with 52 or something like that? I'm thinking the best thing I can reasonably hope for here is top pair of some kind, or maybe that heart flush draw. Obviously if another heart falls I will have a tough decision, but at the same time, the heart draw might be my best chance to get someone to stick around in this hand for a little bit.

As much as I'd love to bet, I think it's a fair assumption that any sizeable bet here is going to chase away most or all of the other players. This board is just so weak, so low, and so unlikely to have connected with what the other players are holding, I've got to check it. Remember, my goal here is to get someone else to commit to this pot. I'm not going to get there by betting out against a guy with just a draw or with top pair 6's with two cards yet to come. And since I am UTG after the flop in the small blind, there is plenty of opportunity for one of the other four players to make a move on this round. I just need to make them think this is a weak board, I did not hit it, so I'm checking. So I check, and it ends up being checked around.

The check-around is not great for me, but it's not terrible either. Now everyone thinks that everyone else clearly did not connect with this cripey board. Why would they have connected? This is good for me heading into the turn in that now someone may have more impetus to bluff at the pot since all five players showed weakness on the flop. So ironically, the checking all around can actually help me on a very weak board, as I need something to happen in this hand to give one player the urge to make a bet at the pot. The turn card comes a Queen of diamonds, for a board of 256Q with two hearts and two diamonds. Again, I like this turn card as now it may convince someone with a diamond draw to stay involved in this pot, at what will ultimately be only a 17% draw to the flush with one card to come. Still, though, this board is ultra-weak. Yes the turn card was a Queen, but it's not like people play Queens for their high-card value in most nlh tournaments. 256Q with no flush available on the board yet -- it is hard to imagine what kind of hand limped in preflop but now has hit the board hard by the turn.

So, with five players still in this hand, I still think the best thing for me to do here is to check it again. Remember, this is an exceptionally weak board through four cards. The other players should all believe I missed this board, and everyone showed weakness by checking on the flop, and this Queen cannot have helped anyone much. In this situation, I've played enough online poker to be able to say that, with five players left in this pot, somebody is likely to make some kind of a bet on this round rather than let this thing be double-checked around through to the river. Not with 1500 chips already sitting in the pot. But it's not going to be me, I want to let someone else make that mistake. There are just not many players out there who, an hour into a large online tournament like this, can allow a pot to be checked around twice without at least taking a stab at the 1500 chips out there already.

So I check it, and it is checked around again to last position:

The half-pot bet. Exactly what I would expect from someone who has nothing good, but wants to take this thing down now and steal those chips. He is in last position and has watched the flop and then again now the turn be checked around to him, and on such a weak board, there is almost no reason for me to think this player has anything at all in his hand. But I've gotten him to bluff at me with a worse hand that mine (I still have the stone nuts right now for this board), and now I'd like to see if I can get him to bluff me some more, or at least call some more bets from me.

What's the best way to do that? Well, I can either call here, or I can raise here. I have shown nothing but weakness so far, and given the nature of the board, this guy has every reason to believe I am weak, weak weak. So, I'd like to do something here that gets more chips into the pot, but also does not lose my opponent and his likely not-great hand. Sounds like a classic case for my patented slow-raise:

Here, I'm purposefully trying to give off the impression that I am weak, but maybe am just trying to steal the pot from a guy who bet in position after nine checks on the flop and the turn. Of course I am hoping my opponent has either top pair or two pair, or at least a flush draw. The overall point is, now that he bet half the pot at me on the turn, I am more than happy to take this thing down right now if he folds to my additional 725 chip raise. But more than that, the minraise is perceived by most players out there as a weak move -- a stealy move even. Here I was using that perception against my opponent, and hoping he had something worth sticking around for one more card.

He called my turn bet, bringing the pot up to a now very respectable 4400 chips, well more than half the current average stack right now. The only thing I had a mild worry about on the river was a heart or a diamond, but the river came the 8♣. Although this would now fill a 74 straight or even a 97 straight that would both beat me, I was not about to assume my opponent had the nuts. Sure that I was still ahead, I wanted to see if I could get this guy to put in any more chips here. After checking the flop and the turn, I could check again here and hope that he bet out one more time at me. But, if my read is correct and he has nothing much and was just trying for a steal with his bet on the turn, then he will not bet at me if I check. So, I should bet here.

With the decision made that I was going to bet for the first time in the hand, the next question is how much. I want to maximize what I believe to be a hidden and very strong hand, and since I thought he was stealing but then he called my minraise, I assume that this player in fact thinks my minraise was just what most people think it is -- a re-steal attempt -- and that's why he called (but didn't reraise) my minraise there. It seems to me that my best chance of this guy calling any more bets from me is to cultivate that idea that I've already placed in his head that I am weak and just trying to steal what has now become a large pot. So, very quickly without more than a moment's hesitation, I did this:

It's a reverse hoy, which would leave my opponent with only one chip if he called. And the lack of hesitation is key to this play for me. I want this guy to think I'm just pushing it in, almost out of desperation, and that I am intentionally trying to come off as strong by making the quick bet putting him (almost) allin.

He could not resist, and called:

If I knew what he had, I would love to show you, but he didn't show, and I never bothered to look. Anybody want to guess anyways what he might have had? I was thinking maybe two hearts, one of them the Queen of hearts, so he had top pair and a flush draw? Otherwise, two hearts with the 6 of hearts maybe. Who knows. Who cares.

The lesson here is that, against a very weak board, inducing an opponent to bluff at you often requires more finesse than against a strong board. When the board is likely to have connected with your opponents' hands, I can often lead more aggressively at a pot because there is a higher likelihood that someone will call or raise, having hit the board fairly hard themselves. But on a 6-high board, inducing an opponent to bluff is likely going to require a lot more convincing to get someone to bet at me. I can "convince" them by checking to them from early position, even twice (or thrice) if needed, and then use hidden-aggressive moves like the minraise or the weak lead to add more chips to the pot, but at the same time to give off an impression of weakness.

Part III of this post will describe what I call my "40% Rule" when it comes to inducing opponents to move in on me.


Blogger Matt said...

I don't think he has a Q. If he's the kind of person who's going to call off his chips with top pair when the river is an 8, then he's probably the same guy who will push on your reraise. I don't think he's got top pair I assume he'd want to at least stab at the pot on the flop. I put him on either A5 and calling your bet as a bluff, or maybe something like 78 (he bets and calls his OESD on the turn, calls what he think is top pair on the river). Either way, I don't put him on a Q, so I think he definitely calls thinking that you're bluffing.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Doog said...

I agree with Matt's analysis. I am also bothered that you wrote, "Who knows. Who cares."

I care. It's all about information - the more data you have, the better. And not just on particular players, but on situations. Most poker players are very predictable if you (a) observe and classify their habits of play, and (b) have experience with how a player of their classification reacts in a given situation.

When I play, I find myself spending a good part of the hands I'm not in reviewing recent hand histories - even hands I wasn't in - to gather data. To learn. This benefits me, not just in the game I'm playing in at the time, but in my overall ability (or lack thereof) in the future.

Granted, many times an opposing player mucks a losing hand, but many virtual cardrooms allow you to look at the hand history to see what was mucked at showdown. This is important imformation that I *always* dig up. Winning the hand is important, but understanding why you win is even more important.

When I review hand histories, I try to look at the situation from my opponent's perspective, to try to understand what he saw and why he acted accordingly. You did an excellent job of selling the weak vibe in this hand. But, after this hand I would have dug up his holdings in the hand history and replayed the hand from his perspective in order to understand exactly why my slowplay worked.

Just my $0.02.

2:32 AM  
Blogger mookie99 said...

So when can we expect you to take all your poker series you have posted on here and publish them in your book..." Theory of the Hoy Drop" ?

Thanks for playing in The Mookie last night.

3:20 AM  
Blogger slb159 said...

I thought he might have hit the flop in some way weakly, and the turn didn't help him at all. ie. He paired his 5. Matt's A5 sounds good. So when it was checked around and then the "halfway scary" Q came out, then he figured he'd "see where he was at."
Yeah, he put you on a bluff for sure.
Nice work.

5:31 AM  
Blogger AnguilA said...

I think you have to be really bad to call off all your chips with A5 there. Hoy here was SB, so he could have just about any hand that beats A5, and remember the guy is calling, so he must think he can beat say a weak J6 hand. I guess he had QT or QJ but not suited because he would have jammed the turn.

3:33 PM  

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