There are very few spots in poker where it’s correct to bluff-call the turn only to value bluff the river, but I got to do it this year on Day 4 of the World Series of Poker’s Main Event.
PREFLOP: The money bubble had just burst and the blinds were 3K-6K/1K and I had around 400K chips. I opened under the gun to 15K with two black fives and got called by an old man in middle position who was a very standard player and I had little history with him. Let’s call him Grey, and his call left him with about 450K chips.
THE FLOP: It was A-Q-Q and I opted to check, which typically is what I’d do if I had A-K, A-Q, missed set or air against this particular opponent. Grey checked as well.
THE TURN: Another ace came, for a board of A-Q-Q-A. I checked for the same reasons I checked the flop, but I definitely did not have the intention of giving up on the hand because I can still represent the nuts with my UTG raise. If I take a stab on the turn it gives him a chance to outplay me because I’m out of position on the river and my hand may as well be face up. The last thing I wanted to do was double-barrel on a board like this.
After I checked, Grey fired 35K into a 48K pot. This is where the rounders get separated from the flounders.
BREAKING DOWN GREY’S RANGE: He only has the nuts or air. His preflop call in mid position screamed a small pair. I would normally expect Grey to three-bet preflop with a hand such as A-K and fold a hand such as A-J. But just in case he decided to flat-call with either one, we can pretty much eliminate that range after he made such a large bet into someone who passively checked two streets.
His large bet on the turn is rarely an ace value bet and even more rarely a queen value bet. What is he expecting us to call with if he has the goods? Also, he has no need to protect his hand from the river.
My situational read said to represent the nuts because HE was trying to rep the nuts. He most likely had a trumped small pair or a suited connector.
THE CORRECT PLAY: Bluff-call the turn, and value-bluff the river. We can’t check-raise because it’s not believable that we would check-raise an ace on that board. The only hand that can call us is a chop or quads. So we just call, and when the fell on the river we led for 20K into a 118K pot.
CONCLUSION: It’s just too believable that we have an ace at this point after we check-call the turn, and it looks like we’re begging for a king-high call with our value-bet. Plus, if we were completely wrong in the hand it didn’t cost us that much.
The amount of times this play works and wins the pot far outweighs the times he was betting the top of his range on the turn. Our opponent ended up folding. Add this play to your arsenal.
— Jay Houston is a young poker pro and is a sit-n-go specialist. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org