Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Ken's Hand Of The Week - Turning A Made Hand Into A Bluff

star-smallOften times a player will have a made hand but as the play develops will overplay it to the point where it goes from the made hand to what can best be considered to be a bluff.  While there are certainly some valid situations where doing this is a wise move, often the player will not put enough thought into it and this therefore can turn into a bad move. The main reason why turning your hand into a bluff so often turns out badly is that as the hand develops, you may only be able to beat a bluff from your opponent, meaning that a high percentage of his or her range may be bluffs.In this case, bluffing yourself isn’t going to be all that wise, as you are risking a lot of chips to capture hands you already have beaten, and therefore you aren’t really adding much at all if anything to the money you win when you are ahead, but you are significantly adding to the amount that you lose when you are behind and get called.

In order for any bluff to be effective, you need to make more money from a particular bluff move overall than you lose.  So if you have an opponent beat if they don’t have it, but are beat when they do and will call you, then this is the absolute worst time to do it, as you aren’t helping yourself but are certainly hurting yourself. It’s rarely that cut and dried though in practice and there usually are at least some hands that an opponent will fold to your bluff.  However, this range needs to be big enough to justify the times when you are called and lose.  This is often a function of pot odds, for instance in cash games they need to fold often enough to show a profit pot odd wise.

Generally, this means that they need to fold about a third of the time or so if you are making a standard sized bet or raise with your bluff.  The bigger the sizing though, the more often you need to fold out better.   If you are overshoving the pot, you really need to be sure of yourself. However, in poker tournaments, the differing chip values require us to be even more conservative here, since the chips we win are worth less than the chips we lose.  So we are going to need to be even more sure of ourselves when we use this tactic in tournaments. This week’s hand involves a student starting out with a pretty good hand, 7 (s) 7 (h). 

This hand tends to lose value with every subsequent card dealt providing that opponents stay in the action.  In other words, as they continue to play on, they tend to represent stronger and stronger hands.  This is the case generally, but with overcards and draws hitting more and more, middle pocket pairs like this tend to be even more vulnerable.

So the table folds around to the button who puts in a standard raise and our student calls.  The button is playing a pretty wide range here and I really would have liked to see a raise from our friend here in spite of being out of position. His hand is likely ahead here and it’s definitely a good time to put pressure on his opponent, and getting a fold here isn’t something we need to be afraid of, especially with this hand. So the flop comes 6 (c) 10 (c) 4 (d).  This is probably as good a flop as we could have hoped for, with only a club draw of note, with a fairly small chance that we are behind here.  Hero checks, villain makes a very small bet of about a third of the pot, hero calls.

Once again, our hero is playing this hand way too passively given what he has.  He is probably ahead here but needs to put way more pressure on his opponent, and especially does not want to give him such a cheap price to draw to a better hand. The turn comes 2 (s), hero checks again, villain bets 1/3 of the pot again, hero calls.  The river is 9 (c), hero checks, villain bets 1/3 of the pot again, hero shoves all in, 2.5 times the size of the current pot. This is absolutely terrible.  Our friend has turned his hand into a complete bluff here, and makes no extra money at all if he has his opponent beat.  Unless our opponent has a pair or tens, there’s really nothing that he’d be folding that has us beat.

To make matters worse, if our friend had made the flush, he probably wouldn’t be checking the river with it and risk being checked back on, something that’s even more likely given the flush hit, making the opponent less likely to bet here. He could have just called the small bet and not risked any more chips than that.  There isn’t any reason to fold here and calling is the only sensible move.  I wouldn’t even consider a min raise here, as that isn’t even justified. So what we need to focus on here is making sure that the risks we take are justified by the rewards we get, and you want to be especially cautious when you put your tournament life on the line like this. 

This is a time where you need to do more thinking, not less, and not just throw caution to the wind for no good reason at all, like our friend did.

Planet Mark's Update: Carbon Poker have just announced the schedule for the next tournament event, Poker Maximus, starting Stepember 6th, this is open to both US and Worldwide players, has $1.3 million in guarantees and satellite qualfiers are running right now! Check out my Carbon Poker Review for more on why this is the stand out site for US players at the moment + a reader special offer of a free $11 SNG token. We are now back on track with Coach Ken's hands... so come back next week!

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