Learn the art of the rebluff in poker

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I was fortunate enough to play in the Aussie Millions main event this year. Things didn’t go my way (because I’m a spewtard, duh), but before everything went south I found myself in an interesting spot.

The blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante. I had a slightly aggressive image and everyone at the table had around 20K. The action folded to me in middle position with {a-Hearts}{5-Hearts}. I opened to 475 and a very weak-straightforward player, who we will call Scot, called me on the button, as did the big blind.

The flop: {a-Clubs}{10-Spades}{7-Spades}. The big blind checked and I made a continuation bet of 875. Scot called and the big blind folded. The turn completed a possible flush with the {3-Spades}. I checked and to my surprise Scot checked. The river fell the AS, bringing four spades and a paired board.

Holding {a-Hearts}{5-Hearts} out of position on a board reading A-10-7-3-A with four spades is not an ideal spot. What would you do, bet for value; bet as a bluff; check-call, check-fold or check-raise?

The answer definitely is not bet for value or as a bluff. So we are going to check hoping he checks behind. But then Scot bets half the pot. Now what?

We know he is such a dramatically straightforward player that his range can be determined from the action in the hand, so let’s break down Scot’s hand range before we make our decision.

What hand do we think he has?

A. A-K, A-Q, A-J: Wrong, remember a straightforward player usually three-bets these hands. Also, Scot checked the turn and didn’t protect A-K, A-Q or A-J with a bet. Likely not.

B. 10-10, 3-3, A-10, 7-7, A-7: He COULD have a monster, but would YOU check a set or two pair on that turn? I would hope not.

C. Ace rag: This is an unlikely hand because if he had an ace with no spade he’s likely checking behind on the river. He also is more likely to raise the flop-turn if he flopped-turned two pair. If he has an ace with a baby spade he’s probably checking behind the river as well.

D. {k-Spades}{q-Spades}, {q-Spades}{j-Spades}, {5-Spades}{6-Spades}, etc.: We assume Scot doesn’t have a hand like this because he would have raised the flop on a semibluff or bet the turn for value protection.
E. Just a 10: Most likely, yes. Q-10, J-10, 10-9, etc. But they would have to be OFFSUIT hands for that to be possible because the 10S is on the board. It’s tough for us to imagine Scot wanted to get involved with us preflop holding a hand like {q-Spades}{10-Diamonds}.

THE KING CONCEPT: It’s important we know he doesn’t have the {k-Spades} because it’s dramatically more likely he won’t call our bluff on the river, because it widens our range vs. his hand. He shouldn’t have the {k-Spades} in his hand 90 percent of the time because it’s unlikely he decided to just call preflop with a hand like {a-Diamonds}{k-Spades}. It’s also unlikely he would call the flop with a range of hands that has the {k-Spades}in his hand. Scot is a standard player and doesn’t peel for gutshots so we can rule out hands such as offsuit K-Q or Q-J, etc. He also is more likely to raise the flop or bet the turn with a hand like {q-Spades}{j-Spades}, {k-Spades}{j-Spades}.
Our final action

So we are going to check and hope it gets checked behind, but if Scot bets the river, we check-raise to turn our hand into a bluff and represent a huge hand. A lot of people would think that just calling would be the optimal play if we think Scot is bluffing, but I disagree.
We broke down Scot’s range and we think he shouldn’t have a full house of any sort, and he is value-betting the queen, jack or nine of spades (but that’s unlikely because that means he would have had to call us preflop with Q-10 offsuit, etc.) or he is just bluffing his blank 10. But just in case he has the second nut flush or worse, we check-raise the river clearly repping a failed check-raise attempt on the turn with the {k-Spades} or the full house.
Feel free to show the {5-Hearts} to your table when you are mucking your successful rebluff.

— Jay Houston is an instructor with DeepStacks.com and is a sit-n-go specialist. You can email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com