The phrase “thinking ahead” is often misused in poker; we are not simply thinking ahead to some abstract, mysterious outcome. We are, however, categorizing potential actions that our opponents may make and planning on how to counteract each one. In today’s hand, I’ll be forced to think a few steps ahead, but my thinking can be logically followed.
I’m on The Button (TB) holding Ah-Jh with $25,000 in chips. The blinds are $250/$500 so I have 50 big blinds, a large stack according to The Poker Model. I’ll observe previous action before making my move.
Under The Gun (UTG) raises to $1,000 and the action folds to me. Ah-Jh is a call behind hand according to The Poker Model, a hand in which I will call one raise as long as I have over 20 big blinds in my stack. I make the call and both The Small Blind (TSB) and The Big Blind (TBB) fold. The hand moves to The Flop.
The Flop comes Ks-2c-Jc and my opponent checks. I must qualify my hand as good, bad, or mediocre. I have flopped second pair which qualifies as mediocre according to The Poker Model. With mediocre hands I’m not sure if I have the best hand and want to get to The River cheaply to find out. For this reason, I’ll check behind. The hand moves to The Turn.
The Turn is the Four of Spades and my opponent bets $1,500. This is a medium bet according to The Poker Model because it is between ⅓-⅔ of the pot. A medium bet can be made with a wide range of hands and I will continue to execute on my play as normal. A larger bet may induce a fold from me with a mediocre hand in this spot. Against this bet, I cannot fold my mediocre hand because there is still a chance that it is the best hand. If I call the bet of $1,500, then I am leaving myself vulnerable to a river bet that has momentum. The bet has momentum because he made a turn bet first and then would be following with a river bet. The effect of this momentum bet is that the pot becomes too large to manage and I may even have to go under the 20 big blind mark to call. This is usually done with a good hand or with a complete bluff. I do not want to be put in this uncertain position.
I choose to make a Turn Blocker Bet to slow him down. A Turn Blocker bet is a minimum raise in this spot. The bet will either force him to fold, call, or raise. If he folds, then I’ll win a nice pot with little risk. If he raises, then I can fold, assuming he has me beat and losing a small amount. If he calls, then I have taken away his ability to make a momentum river bet. I make The Turn Blocker Bet of $3,000.
My opponent calls The Turn Blocker Bet and we move to The River which is the Eight of Spades. Unexpectedly, he makes a $12,000 bet which is huge (over ⅔ pot) This bet is a red flag because it’s very large and out of character; it implies that The River card improved his hand tremendously. I’ll always fold if someone bets the river after my turn blocker bet, but a bet this size makes the fold even easier. I must treat this river bet as if he had raised my Turn Blocker Bet.
Keep in mind that I still got the information I needed to fold on The River and lost minimal chips to get this information. I had to think ahead and know that even an unconventional bet on The River had a similar meaning to a raise on the Turn. I had to wheel and deal to save some money.