Muddy Rivers

The Nuts is the best possible hand a player can have at any given time. For example, A-A is the Nuts pre-Flop because no other two starting cards have better odds of winning at this phase. 9c-10c is the Nuts on a 6h-7s-8d Flop, making the high Straight and best hand at that time (6-7-8-9-10). If the Turn is the 9d, however, the Nuts becomes 10h-Js because it makes an even higher Straight (7-8-9-10-J). Lastly, if the 2d shows on the River, then Ad-Kd will be the Nuts making a Flush, which beats all Straights (8d-9d-2d-Ad-Kd). If you’ve ever viewed a movie (Molly’s Game comes to mind) where a rich businessman folds the Nuts on the River because he had a bad feeling, then you can feel confident that it’s complete fantasy. Why would we ever fold the best possible hand for any reason on the River?

The Nuts don’t come around too often so having the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even 5th to the Nuts is usually a very strong hand. In today’s hand, we flop a monster and keep our edge to the Turn. An unfortunate card shows on the River leaving us in a tough situation.


I’m in the Big Blind holding 2s-Ks with blinds at $30/$60. We are very early on in the tournament so all players have deep stacks. Compared to previous hands where assessing short stack all-in ranges was necessary, in this hand we can expect most of the important action to occur post-Flop. 2s-Ks falls into the category of hands that we fold pre-Flop to a raise. At this point, I expect a raise from one of the other eight players at the table, followed by a fold from me in the Big Blind.


A 3x ($180, three times the Big Blind of $60) raise comes from under the gun, followed by calls from Player 29 in middle position and Player 22 from the Cutoff position (one to the right of the Button). All other players fold and the action is on me in the Big Blind. I will typically fold in this spot because I expect to miss the Flop and face a continuation bet. It will also be very difficult to use a Check/Raise Bluff because stacks are so deep and players are less threatened by this play. This is because when players have bigger chips they are more likely to call or raise our Check/Raise Bluff compared to a shorter stack that doesn’t have the flexibility to call or raise the same raise without putting their tournament at risk.

Two arguments exist for calling here, however. 1) There are three other players in the Pot (giving me good pot odds) and I will get a big return on my small investment if I happen to make a big hand. Calling because of good pot odds essentially means that we are aware that our hand is mathematically behind, but choose to remain in the hand because of the potential pay out that comes with making our unlikely hand. I like to think of it as throwing a penny into a pot of $100. It’s not significant if we lose, but is if we win.  2) I have a large stack and losing the $120 is a non-factor.

Warning: If you plan on making calls like this it is imperative that you have a full understanding of how to minimize risk on the remaining phases of the hand. We aren’t able to get into the details here, but proceed with caution if you are calling for the two reasons explained above. It’s always easier to just fold here and we do recommend it.


I make the call and the Flop comes Jh-2h-Kc with the action on me. Bingo! This is a very big Flop for me because I’ve made Two Pair. Some would call this a Big Blind Special because I’ve made an investment from the Big Blind pre-Flop due to pot odds and actually hit my hand on the Flop.

Two Pair is solid right now because there are only a few hands ahead of me, let’s break those down. K-K is the Nuts because no other hand beats it right now. While it’s certainly possible that Player 23 raised from under the gun with K-K, it’s highly unlikely because there is a King on the board and a King in my hand. Players 29 and 22 would most likely have 3-bet with K-K pre-Flop as well. The only other hands that are beating us right now are J-J, 2-2, or K-J. These hands could all be out there, but again, very unlikely (J-J-J is a set and <13%, 2-2-2 is a set and <12% because we are holding a 2, K-J is two pair and <3%).The only information that we have at this point is that I’m holding K-2 (K-K-J-2-2). To assume that other players have these unlikely hands would be a mistake. We’ll follow the same logic that we had pre-Flop and check, expecting a continuation bet.


I check, Player 23 checks, Player 29 takes over the continuation bet (makes the bet after the original raiser checked), Player 22 folds, and the action is back on me. To start, I’m glad that someone made a bet here; it means that I’ll have another opportunity to act before an additional card comes that could potentially hurt my hand (like a Jack, Heart, Ace, Queen or 10). I also notice that Player 29 bet $180 into a pot of $750. This bet is ¼ of the Pot and falls under the Small Bet category of The Poker Model. To review, small bets are < ⅓ pot, medium bets are ⅓-⅔ pot, and large bets are > ⅔ pot.

While I’d never be able to place Player 29 on a specific hand here, I can develop a range. We should also add “any two cards” to the range because players sometimes flip over cards that are completely unexpected.

Here we go. A-K would most likely have 3-bet pre-Flop. K-Q and K-10 are certainly hands that would call behind a raise from under the gun, then bet Top Pair on the Flop (we are beating both). We’ve already covered how K-J, J-J, and 2-2 are very unlikely, as this point we can’t expect Player 29 to have those hands. This leaves Q-Q, A-J, (which we are beating) and all Flush and Straight draws that may bet here (Q-10, A-10, A-Q, any two hearts). That’s right, any heart, ace, queen or 10 could make our hand second best on the Turn.

We must bet when we have it, and we certainly do. The potential of Straight and Flush draws squandering our made hand on the Turn should not stop us from trying to get value on the Flop.


I raise 2.5x Player 29’s bet of $180 to $450. I chose this size because it invites him to call or raise me back if he has something. Many players will play back at me with One Pair or even unmade draws in this situation, which works well for us because I’d be in a dominating position against those hands. If Player 29 folds, then he didn’t have anything and it would have been a struggle to get value later in the hand anyway. If I didn’t have a hand at all and was performing a Check/Raise Bluff, then I’d raise 3x to $540 in an effort to get him to fold right now. If I had a mediocre hand, then I wouldn’t be raising. I’d simply call and look to make it to the River and flip my hand over due to it’s showdown value.


Player 29 calls and the Turn is the 8c. Now I’m fairly certain that I still have the best hand although always skeptical. The 8c didn’t fill any Flush or Straight draws, which was my main concern. K-8 or 8-8 will beat me now, but K-8 is usually not in the hand pre-Flop and 8-8 shouldn’t be in after my raise on the Flop.

For these reasons I’m locked and loaded to make another bet on the Turn. I’ll make this bet medium sized in hopes of getting Player 29 to move all-in over the top. If I make my bet too small, it may induce a call which is ok, but will require us to dodge another bad card on the River. If I make my bet too large, then Player 29 may just exit the hand to keep his tournament life.

As a review, we are ready to get all-in here because our hand is mathematically ahead of almost all possible hands that our opponent can have. The few that are beating us currently (K-8,K-J, J-J, 2-2, K-K, 8-8), are all unlikely to occur. Additionally, there are many very good hands out there that we are dominating that would move all-in against us right now. J-2, J-8, K-X (except K-J or K-8), and draws come to mind.


I bet $825 and Player 29 calls. Then the worst possible River, the Ah, shows on the board. This card is atrocious for our hand because all Flush Draws and the Q-10 Open-Ended Straight draw have both hit. Also, if our opponent was sticking around with One Pair and an Ace (A-2, A-J, A-8, A-K), we are now beat with a higher Two Pair. Remember, no matter what we expect, it’s always possible that any two cards are in play.

So how do we handle this situation? We’ve built a large pot and had full control all the way to the River, where a bad card rattled our confidence. In these instances, we must revert back to keeping tournament life. How can we flip our cards here without going below 20 big blinds?

If I check, then I’m leaving myself wide open to get bluffed out of the hand. For example, what if our opponent is holding Jc-10c? He called pre-Flop, then bet and called our raise on the Flop, picked up a Flush draw on the Turn and called our bet, and missed on the River. Again, if I check to him, he can go all-in and I’ll have to fold. What if he does have the hand? If I check and he goes all-in then I’ll have to fold as well, but with zero clue if I was ahead or behind.

The Poker Model says, “let’s not make it about him!”. Blinds are 30/60 which means $1200 chips is 20 big blinds. This is the amount of chips that I must leave myself with on this hand, no matter what. There is $3300 in the Pot. It’s clear that a River Blocker Bet is the way to go. A River Blocker Bet is when we make a ⅓ pot-sized bet in an effort to leave ourselves above 20 big blinds and slow our opponent down, while still flipping our cards over and seeing if we have the winner. In this case, a bet of $1100 is ⅓ of the Pot and will leave me with $2185.

If he folds, great! If he calls, maybe I’m ahead or maybe I’m behind, at least we found out. If he goes all-in over the top then we’ll lose the Pot but can feel supremely confident that we didn’t have the best hand.


I make the bet of $1100 and am called by As-Js, losing to a higher Two Pair. Even though we lost the hand, it was played in such a way to minimize risk, cut our losses, and get the information we needed.

We started by calling an open raise with 3 total players in front of us due to pot odds. After flopping a big hand, we elected to raise a small bet made by a player from middle position. If we just call this bet, then we’re losing tremendous value and a spot where we can potentially double up with little risk. Our bet was called and a blank Turn card gave us the confidence to bet again for the same reasons we raised on the Flop. This bet was called as well. The River hurt us because it filled up both Straight and Flush draws, while also putting an over card on the board. This forced us to slow down and use a River Blocker bet to ensure that we did not get bluffed out of the hand on the River, which ultimately was a card that made us lose.

If you review the hand knowing what both of us had, then you’ll see that we were betting to get it all in when we had the best hand and blocker betting to slow down our opponent when we were unsure. This means that if the cards were face up, it would have played out in a similar fashion. This is textbook Poker Model and what we aim to do on every hand. The only thing that we could have done differently according to our rules is fold Ks-2s pre-Flop.      

Today’s hand was a prime example of how to stay alive when a bad River card shows after a large pot has been built. No matter what type of bad beat you take, it’s in your control to stay in the tournament and separate yourself from the emotion attached to losing a hand like this. The Rivers will be muddy at times, but keep your head above water and don’t drown.


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