Poker Tips from the Pros
Andy Bloch
Poker Tips from Tunica
A Curious River Raise
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Tips From The Pros
Andy Bloch
Lesson: 45
Tips From Tunica

I'm writing from Tunica, MS, where I've played in several World Series of
Poker Circuit events at the Grand Hotel and Casino. A couple of days ago, I
played in a $2,000 No-Limit Hold 'em tournament, and I saw some of my
opponents make some pretty odd plays. For this tip, I decided to highlight a
couple of these strange decisions and describe why you should avoid making
similar plays.

A Curious River Raise

Midway through the tournament, I saw King-9 in the cutoff (the seat to the
immediate right of the button). I raised to put some pressure on the blinds,
and I was called by the big blind. The flop came T-5-2 rainbow, so it was no
help to me. My opponent checked, and I checked behind him.

The turn was a 9, giving me a pair. He checked, and I made a small bet that
he then called. The river was a King and I now had two pair. After my
opponent checked and, thinking that I had the best hand, I made a
substantial bet. At this point, he surprised me and made a large raise. I was
reasonably sure I was up against a set or Q-J for the straight, but still, I
made the crying call.

He showed pocket Aces and I took a nice pot.

What should my opponent have done?

For starters, he could have re-raised pre-flop, though calling pre-flop was
certainly reasonable. He also could have taken the lead in the betting on the
flop or the turn, not allowing free cards to hit the board. However, his real
trouble came on the river.

When he check-raised, he failed to ask himself a critical question: What hand
can I call with that he could beat? His river check-raise showed a lot of
strength - so much, in fact, that I probably wouldn't have called with any one
pair. By the river, he really had no idea what I was holding. For all he knew, I
could have had Queen-Jack or any sort of two pair. If I held the straight, he'd
be facing a very large raise, one that would certainly be a mistake to call.

In this sort of situation, his best play was to check-call on the river. By the
time the river card hit, he should have been looking to showdown the hand
with the hope that his pair survived.

While here, I've seen many players make similar mistakes on the river. They
bet or raised with any hand that they suspected was best, including marginal
cards like second pair. But their big mistake was that they failed to consider
their opponent's hand. When you hold marginal cards, you should ask
yourself two important questions: Do I have the best hand? And, if I do, does
my opponent hold a hand that he's willing to call with? If you can't answer
"yes" to both questions, just check the river and showdown the hand.

Trouble on the Turn

Later in the tournament, I raised pre-flop in late position with King-6 and the
big blind called me. The flop came Ac-As-7s. I didn't have an Ace, but I bet
anyway when my opponent checked. After he smooth-called and a 6h came
up on the turn, my opponent bet big.

This play makes no sense because it doesn't tell a coherent story. A check-
raise on the flop would be reasonable - my opponent would be representing
a big hand, maybe trip Aces. A check-call on the turn would make sense, too.
In that case, he probably holds a monster like a full house or he could just
have a seven.

As it turned out, my opponent had A-7 (that's what he said, anyway), and by
betting he forced me to fold. That wasn't very smart. If he checked, I might
have continued with my bluff (though that-s unlikely).

In any case, it's almost never a good idea to check-call a flop bet, and then
bet the turn if a blank hits. A play like that might confuse your opponent
momentarily, but you're unlikely to gain much value. Your flop and turn bets
should be related – they should tell a consistent story.

If you think carefully about your turn and river bets and what you're trying to
gain, you're sure to improve your results. You'll get better value on the turn
and avoid drowning on the river.

See you at the next tournament stop.

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