It’s tempting to want to take a stab at the pot when you have no chance of winning. You might feel like that’s where skill comes into play because a weaker player would just give up and lose. In today’s hand, I’ll discuss why it’s okay to give up on a hand and check down The River, even with a losing hand.
I’m sitting in The Big Blind (TBB) holding Jh-10h with $10,000 in chips and blinds at $50/$100. This is the very first hand of the tournament so all players have large stacks.
The action folds around to The Small Blind (TSB), who raises to $200. Because I’m in The Big Blind (TBB) and have over 20 big blinds, I can make this call with J-10. Be mindful that J-10 is only a call behind hand when I am in The Big Blind (TBB) because there is no action behind me and I have already invested my big blind into the pot. If I was seated in any other seat and facing a previous raise, then I would fold Jh-10h here. Other hands that I would make this special call behind with from The Big Blind (TBB) but not from other seats are 7-8, 7-9, 7-10, 8-9, 8-10, 8-J, 8-Q, 8-K, 8-A, 9-10, 9-J, 9-Q, 9-K, 9-A, 10-Q, 10-K, A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5, A-6, and A-7. With premium hands like A-A, K-K, and A-K, I will 3-bet (reraise) in an effort to get more Pre-Flop action and hopefully all-in right now.
I call the raise and we move to Phase #3 – Flop. The Flop comes Ah-Qh-2c and my opponent bets $200. As always, I must qualify my hand as good, bad, or mediocre. In this case, I have Flopped a Royal Flush Draw. Sounds exciting, but it is still a mere draw and a mediocre hand. With mediocre hands I want to see if I can improve my hand on The Turn and/or River and then maximize value. I call $200.
The Turn is the Four of Diamonds and my opponent bets $400. The Four of Diamonds is no help and I still only have Jack high. But my stack is large and I can afford to call $400 more to see if I can improve my hand on The River. With second pair I’d make a Turn Blocker Bet, a min raise to slow down my opponents betting momentum going to the River. With top pair/over pairs I’d make a similar call as I did on The Flop with the expectation that I’d call a River bet and flip my cards over. With a flush and/or straight draw like I have in this case, I will call and see if I can make my hand on The River, where I can look for value. I call $400.
The Eight of Spades hits The River and my opponent checks. First off, the Eight of Spades helps my hand in no way. There are no more cards to come and I have a very bad hand, Jack high. If my opponent had bet into me, then it would be an obvious fold. But he didn’t. He makes a River check, leaving me the opportunity to steal the pot.
In this spot, many players would make a big bet and attempt to bluff their opponents out of the hand. The Poker Model says “no” to this thinking because it’s likely that your opponent was betting with something that you will now be called with. So for this reason I wave the white flag and check The River.
My opponent shows Qc-6s and wins the pot. As predicted, my opponent had something. If I had made the big river bluff, then I would have most likely been called. There will be many opportunities to make continuation bets and bluff using The Poker Model, but this spot is more of a guess and is not a scalable play, meaning there is too much feel involved and not enough logic behind the move. We cannot say, “make a big bluff on The River every time your opponent checks and you don’t have a hand.” We will say, “play mediocre hands cheaply and bow out if you miss.” I challenge you to give up on a few hands this week and observe the cards that your opponents are flipping over. Notice how insignificant the loss is in the long run.