River logic in a checked PLO pot

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I was playing recently in a $5-$10 PLO game at the Horseshoe in Hammond Indiana and had an interesting river situation. We were deep-stacked and five-handed with lots of history between solid players.

PREFLOP: I had {9-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}{5-Spades} in the big blind and everyone limped in except the under-the-gun player. I took my option and raised to $50; everyone called.

Checking my option would have been fine, but you have to build a pot to win a pot; plus, I was stuck.

FLOP: We were four ways to a flop of {q-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{7-Spades} and everyone checked. Nothing interesting on this street, but I still unsafely assumed the players that were last to act didn’t have a hand worth protecting or extracting value.

TURN: The turn was the {j-Clubs} bringing a flush draw. Everyone checked again. You might be asking why I didn’t bluff with my blockers to the nuts ({9-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}) and the answer is simple: The pot is small and we’re deep. With three opponents on a draw-heavy board the chances of me taking the pot there were small. For me to win, I would likely have to bet the turn out of position, fade all of the scary river cards, bet again, and get a fold. Too many variables.

RIVER: The river brought the {5-Diamonds}, giving me bottom set, and this is where things got interesting. The small blind checked to me and with $200 in the pot, I bet $50. The player on my left called the $50 and the player who was last to act raised to $250. The small blind folded and the action was back on me. I decided to make it $600 and everyone folded. You’re probably thinking, “You made a donk bluff with blockers, big deal.” But let me walk you through it.

My first reason for betting only $50 is I had a hand that could extract value from two pair, but I needed to bet small to get a light call.

Also, if I go to showdown, people see I’m value-betting light on the river and might pay me off more in the future. Advertising. But my main reason for betting small is I open the door for someone to make a play at the pot or try to make a value raise with a bad straight since my bet looks so weak.

The fish fell for my trap and raised to $250, which is just atrocious because he rarely, if ever has the nuts. He was the last person to act on the turn when the nut straight got there, plus I have two nines in my hand.

With that information in mind, I know he’s making a stone bluff or value-betting a bad straight. In case it was the latter, I raised to $600 to represent the missed check-raise on the turn. Everyone at the table had so much history with each other that I needed it to look believable, and a three-bet on the river in a four-way pot looks pretty damn strong.

You could argue a check-raise on the river would have sufficed, but cash-game poker is an art, not a science.