Thursday, July 24, 2008

Check or Bet the River -- Part II

Wow. Those were some solid comments to yesterday's post about whether to check or bet the river in my heads-up 2-4 no-limit holdem cash game. I can actually say that a good half of the comments are things I never even really thought of as I faced the decision myself, which is exciting and will always be one of the great things about blogging as a medium for hand analysis.

When we left off, I had limped preflop with 74o, and pokerstarsingly flopped the nut straight. I bet out the full pot and got called on the flop, and then I checked the turn, where my opponent took the lead and bet about 75% of the pot, which I just called. This left roughly $60 in the pot, and both of us still quite deep with both having several multiples of the current pot size behind heading into the river card. The river made no higher straight possible and did not pair the board, but it did make the last three cards to hit the board all hearts, creating a backdoor flush possibility. I asked whether you all would check or bet in this situation.

First off, the flush possibility. I should start off by saying that I simply was not going to assume this guy had a flush just because it fell here. He had called on the flop, when only one heart was on the board, so two hearts is not a likely holding given the flop action. His bet on the turn is also not so fitting with the flush possibility to me, given that many people who pick up a backdoor flush draw on the turn might be tempted to check behind in that spot, take the free card and hope to hit the big hidden flush on the river and then make some cashish. So yes a third heart did hit the river, and before seeing any further action from my opponent here, I was not about to put him on a flush at this point in time.

The second issue I debated all in the span of what, 15 seconds or so, was whether or not this player was likely to bet out if I did check. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had been playing an aggressive game of heads-up deep-stacked poker over the preceding ten minutes or so, and I thought there was a good chance given his previous play alone that he would bet out on the river regardless of his holding in that spot. That said, Raveen made the very good point in his comment that, in a heads-up situation, it is often far more valuable to lead out with a strong hand rather than to check and hope for someone else to do the betting for you. With this I completely agree, as there is just so much less chance of at least one opponent having a hand worth betting with than there is when you are in there with four or five other players. Multiway pots are spots where I love to check strong hands on the later streets, because there is such a better chance of me being able to get in a checkraise since it's so likely that somebody's got something worth betting. But when heads-up, it is not quite as likely that your opponent will bet, so in general it's probably better strategy to bet most of your own hands rather than check and hope for a bet from your opponent on the river.

That said, in this case I have to say that in my mind, I was just sure this guy was going to bet out if I checked, so that's just what I did:

and that's just what he did:

My reasoning was that I just felt in the end that the line I opted to go for with this hand -- bet the flop and then check-call the turn -- lends itself more to me checking again on the river and causing an aggressive player to bet. I mean, I deliberately played this hand like I was weak, opting to represent the steal-bet on the flop and then giving off the meek check vibe on the turn. I've basically gone out of my way to encourage this guy to bet his hand on the assumption that I have nothing in my own hand. Given that that's the way I have opted to play my own flopped monster, and not receiving any information from this guy to make me think otherwise, I generally like to follow through with the story I start to tell in a hand like this and do the action on the river that is most consistent with that story. In this case, that meant check it again. I figured he would bet given the act I had put on here, and in this case it worked.

Most of the time I find myself not checking the river just to induce a bluff. That may just be isolated to me, I don't know, but I find the check on the river to induce a bluff to be a rare move for me. There is just too great of a chance that my opponent will not bet, and I will miss an important opportunity for a nice value bet. In a tournament, that is one thing. But in a cash game, to miss a value bet even of a relatively small size like in this hand, to me is a much bigger deal. I find that my results only really show solidly positive in cash if I am basically squeezing every ounce of value out of more or less every situation I can, so in general to risk my opponent checking behind my check when I am sure I am ahead is something I rarely do. But the times that I do find myself checking to induce a bluff at the end tend to focus on those situations where I have picked one of the weakest betting lines I can. And among the weakest is this bet-the-flop-like-it's-a-steal-but-then-check-like-a-pussy afterwards. So since I was about 80% of the way there already, and I knew I was playing an aggressive opponent, I decided to go for the river check here.

Having the luck I have had over time against flushes -- in my cash play in particular -- I ended up going for the pussy move of just smooth calling his bet here. I did not want to get stacked for $400 by the idiot making the runner runner 5-high heart flush. This was a weak move no doubt, but in the end it would have made no difference, as I do not think he would have called a raise of even the minimum size here with this hand:

So for him it was the busted double gutshot straight draw that got him to bet on the end in a spot where he could not possibly think his 9-high was ahead. I do like his bet size though -- $50 into a $60 pot -- in that it seems big, but not over-big like he wants me to fold, and not so small that it feels like a suck bet. In this case it would not have mattered because I am calling just about any size bet from him here, unless maybe if he is emptying his stack and putting me to the test for a large sum of money with no hearts at all in my hand.

Hope this one was fun. More to come I'm sure. Riverchasers tonight, 9pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "riverchasers", see you then!

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Blogger Shrike said...

I still think betting the river is much, much more +EV against villain's entire range, but a good result here obviously as you ran into the busted draw river bluff and caught it nicely.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

NB. One of the reasons I like the weak lead is that you will get some of your opponents to bluff-raise with a lot of hands, including their busted draws, which is obviously a very profitable outcome for you.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Esquire80 said...

I've got to agree w/ shrike, your optimal play is to bet out right into him. In this particular case he would have most likely folded but he could have called, folded or you would have induced a bluff which you were prepared to snap off.

Based on your read you are assigning him something like a 10% chance of a flush?

Overall, you are losing value here unless your plan is to check raise the river with your strong holding in an attempt to squeeze more out of him. In this case he didn't have anything to squeeze but if he had someting like Krag w/ 2 pair or got a cooler w/ a set you could felted him.

Frankley, to be results oriented I don't think you could have got any more value out of that hand given his holding but the value bet on the river is the superior play in the long run.

7:54 PM  
Blogger KiKer King Poker Blog said...

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5:28 PM  
Blogger Littleacornman said...

I'm in the same boat and often wonder if I should be checking the river more often,especially when the villain has been leading the betting and I've got a monster.I can never seem to stop myself betting out if I'm first to act after the river.

10:39 PM  

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