Consider sitting comfortably in the reclining chair in your house. The default spot is probably facing the television where it’s easy to get comfortable and watch a flick. When relaxing from this perspective, the TV is front and center. On the wall to your right there is a window and on the wall to the left there is a painting. The pool table that doesn’t get used nearly enough is behind you. This is how it has always been and this is how it always will be; it’s comfortable and familiar.
Thanksgiving rolls around and your father-in-law shakes your hand after entering the house for the Holiday. He then plops into your chair and shifts it exactly 90 degrees to the left to view the amazing painting on your wall. You think nothing of it until everybody leaves and you go back to your comfortable and familiar man-cave that evening.
When you go to sit down, it wasn’t the 2 pounds of turkey consumed or 4 shots of whiskey knocked back that caused confusion, you’ve just never seen your own home from this perspective with the chair shifted. It feels weird to have the pool table on the left, window behind and TV on your right, with the painting front and center. You decide, for just tonight, to sit back and relax in unfamiliar territory.
Blocker Bets, Check/Raise Bluffs, Continuation Bets, Min-Raises, 3-Bets, 4-Bets and other plays can be executed with very specific, comfortable instruction from The Poker Model. Up to this point, we have made general rules and looked at specific instances when the plays may or may not be recommended. We hope that this set of instructions is aiding in building a foundation of knowledge that you will be able to build off of.
Just like in the example above, we must look at the game from different angles and move into unfamiliar territory as we move forward in our Poker careers. For example, if we’ve made a rule that states, “Call behind an open raise from our opponent if we have over 25 big blinds with the hand range of K-J+, A10-AQ or 22-QQ”, what are we supposed to do if all of those criteria are met, but we have 3 other players in the hand? Taking it one step further, what if all of the callers come from early position? What if one is in early position, one is in middle position and one is in late position?
Playing a lot of Poker is a great way to develop intuition and a “feel” for these situations, but if we simplify the game and recognize that our foundational strategies will still be effective with some of the variation then we’ll be just fine. All we are really doing is rotating our seat and keeping our default close by.
In today’s example, you’ll get a different perspective on how a River Blocker Bet can be used. We strongly recommend reviewing, “The River Blocker Bet” to pad your knowledge of the topic. Additionally, if you use a strategy from The Poker Model and find success, we’d love to know about it. We’d also be happy to break down a hand where you’ve attempted a strategy and came up empty. Pay close attention to the added complexity of The River Blocker Bet in today’s hand.
I’m holding 8h-7h seated in the Big Blind with blinds and antes at $45/$225/$450. As a review from “The Blinds Leading the Blinds”, this means that $45 will be taken from each player on every hand, while one player to the left of the Button must pay $225 and one player (me) two left of the Button must pay $450. 8-7 is typically not a qualifying hand because it is not two cards over 7, but it is very close. The fact that it’s suited would make it just good enough to call a min-raise from the big blind. Other suited connectors, like 4-5, 5-6 and 6-7 can be played similarly. I have 39 big blinds in my stack and the rest of the table is between 25-100 big blinds. Other player’s stack sizes will become more relevant after observing the table action before it’s my turn.
Recall from “Under the Gun” that the first seat to the left of the Big Blind is referred to as Under the Gun because no prior action has been conducted, leaving the player with no additional information on whether to call, raise or fold. The player one to the left of Under the Gun (Under the Gun + 1 or utg+1) makes a min-raise to $900. At this point I would make the call if all other players fold and see a Flop because I have a suited connector and over 25 big blinds. With over 25 big blinds, this call can be made with any two cards over 7, any ace, suited connectors and pocket pairs. A-A, A-K and K-K are the only hands that would warrant a 3-bet for value here. Depending on the Flop, I may just check and then fold to a continuation bet because this player has a shorter stack and has not been very active. This information adds to the story because players tend to tighten up as they get closer to 20 big blinds and are more loose with larger stacks. My decision will not change because of this, but it is something to keep in mind for later in the hand. While we can always think about a Check/Raise bluff if we have enough chips, we do not have to try to win every single pot that we are in.
The superstack (over 100 big blinds) calls the raise. As you can see on the middle of the table in white font, there is now $2,835 in the Pot. This provides further incentive for me to put an additional $450 in to win $2,835 (about 6:1 odds) if all other players in the hand fold. We should make a pair on the Flop about 33% of the time. While this math is helpful, many times making a pair gets us in trouble. For now, just be aware that the more callers in the hand, the more money in the Pot and incentive for me to get in cheaply. Generally speaking from the big blind with over 25 big blinds, we should be calling min-raises no matter how many players are in with any two cards over 7, any ace, suited connectors and pocket pairs. A-A, A-K and K-K should 3-bet for value.
All other players fold. An advanced play here would be to make a 3-bet to about $3,000. This bet would represent a big hand because it would appear that we have a monster, like A-A, potentially getting both of the other players to fold right now. This would put intense pressure on the original raiser to either go all-in (with a monster hand) or fold. For the superstack, it would not apply nearly enough pressure. He could simply call and see a flop because his stack is so big. A hand like 8h-7h has good ability to improve and make hidden monsters on the Flop, Turn and River. So instead of trying a big pre-Flop bluff, we should see a Flop with a mediocre pre-Flop hand like this.
I make the call and the Flop comes 4d-Jh-8c, giving me Middle Pair which falls under the “mediocre” post-Flop umbrella. Remember that with mediocre hands, we are not willing to go all-in, are unsure of where we stand in the hand, and are hoping to get to the River and flip our cards over. Our perspective is different in this hand because we have two other players and a plethora of hands that we can be beating or that can be beating us. The only way to sort through is to gain more information by checking and seeing how our opponents act.
I check, the original raiser makes a small continuation bet and the superstack folds. Recall that a standard continuation bet can be made with any two cards from the original raiser. If this is the case, then my Middle Pair of 8s may be good. What’s better is that the continuation bet got the super stack to fold. With a mediocre hand like Middle Pair, it’s always better to be heads-up than in a multi-way Pot because there are more potential “scare cards” in a multi-way. At this point, my opponent either raised with a hand like A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-J, 8-8 or 4-4 and is betting to get it all-in or raised with any two cards like A-K, A-Q, 2-2, A-2, K-Q, 9-2 or others and is betting in hopes that I’ll fold.
I make the call and the turn is the 3 of clubs. This is a good time to introduce the idea of the “Second Bet”. While the 3 of clubs can be seen as insignificant because it’s not a card above an 8 (which could make my 8s the worst hand), it very well can be. Recall that our opponent may have raised with any two cards. This means that 3-3 just became a set, two clubs just became a flush draw, 4-3 just became two pair, 5-6 just became an open-ended straight draw, etc.
We like our hand, but when we check to our opponent and he bets again or makes a “second bet” on the Turn, we have to think about looking for a better spot and folding. We should fold to the second bet with Middle Pair and potentially stay in with Top Pair or Over Pairs. Stack sizes, bet sizes, and texture of the board (are there draws or not?) will help determine what’s the best option with Top Pair or Over Pairs. Consider also that if he does indeed have a big hand, like A-A or A-J, that he may bet again here as well. We do not want to call when we are behind.
Sometimes you’ll come across a second bet, fold, and then your opponent will show a complete bluff. Deal with it. If you had made the call, then he was going to bluff huge on the River anyway. Players that show bluffs like that typically don’t last very long.
I check and my opponent checks behind. No second bet here, this is good news because his actions are more in-line with a continuation bet on the Flop with nothing, followed by a shutdown on the Turn. This could very well mean that we have the best hand with 8s right now. It also means that we’ve made it to the River card and can use a River Blocker bet to minimize risk.
The River is the Ace of Diamonds. It’s not a very good card for me because if our opponent raised and then made a continuation bet with any ace, then I’m beat. I do have something though and I don’t want to assume anything. After all, there is a long list of hands that I’m still beating.
Many players would check here, see what their opponent does, and then make a decision. At The Poker Model, we don’t like being that vulnerable. For example, what if our opponent decides that he is going to make a huge bluff on the River and bet $6,000 because he thinks we don’t have the Ace? This is not a bet we want to be on the other end of holding just two 8s. Consider if our opponent raised with A-4 pre-Flop, then made a continuation bet with nothing (just bottom pair), then checked on the Turn (no second bet), then improved tremendously to two pair on the River, now making a huge value bet that beats us.
The worst of all is when our opponent thinks that they are bluffing when they really aren’t! Like if he had 9-9 here, played the hand the exact same way, “bluffs” on the River and still beats our 8-8.
I make a River Blocker Bet of $1,750 in an effort to slow down my opponent’s ability to make my decision hard on the River. Typically this bet should be about 1/3rd of the Pot but he has a smaller stack and my bet is about 20% of his stack and significant enough to force him to call, fold or raise. If he folds, then I win with no River vulnerability. If he calls then I’ll find out if he had the Jack, hit the Ace or has a pair worse than my pair of 8s meaning I win. If he raises, then I can feel much more confident that he does indeed have a hand bigger than two 8s and I will fold.
My opponent folds and I win a nice Pot. He must have raised with any two cards, attempted a standard continuation bet on the Flop and then shut down after getting action from me. Many players will not understand why we are “betting when the Ace comes on the River”. The answer is simple, to slow our opponent down. Yes, sometimes we will get called by the Ace, but there is nothing we can do about that. Better to lose a small River bet than have to guess and lose more.
Grasping some of the recurring strategies mentioned here is only the foundation of your Poker education. Continue to practice and try new angles on what you know to be true. Most importantly, enjoy your two pounds of turkey.