Checking bluffs and marginal made hands

poker table

In games like No-Limit Texas Hold’em when played with deep stacks,many players like to either give up on bluffs or go into pot control with weak and marginal hands. The reason behind this is fairly obvious and if they have fresh air then many players shut down when they get called once and especially twice because the risk of loss is far greater on their bluff and they may be walking into a monster hand. Secondly, with marginal hands then the same problem exists because with a hand like 10-10 on an A-9-6-4 board then a pre-flop raise and call followed by a flop bet and call will spook a lot of people.

Many very aggressive players will continue firing bluffs and many very good players will turn a mediocre made hand into a bluff if they suspect that they could be worse. For example if in the 10-10 hand you checked the river and so did your opponent who then showed you A-2s or a hand like Q-Q then you lose. However had you suspected that your hand was worse on the turn then you have the option of firing a bigger barrel on the river.

Now let us reverse this and look at it from the angle of the caller. If our opponent raises pre-flop and bets the flop and then checks the turn then they are very unlikely to have a big hand. If they held such a hand then they would very likely have looked to continue the action and build the pot. So we can be very sure that they don’t hold a powerhouse on the turn. They either have a hand of very low value that they don’t want to risk bluffing because of its very low pot equity or they have a hand of medium value that they are looking to see the showdown with as cheaply as possible.

What we now need to know is will this player fold if we exert pressure? We can be fairly certain that they will fold their junk but will they fold their decent mediocre hands like weak top pairs and second pairs? Sometimes players will call our turn bet hoping not to see another bet on the river. If they call our turn bet then we can then eliminate weak holdings from their range.

We have already ascertained that their hand is unlikely to be very strong as their line isn’t conducive with a strong holding. We have also deduced that their hand isn’t likely to be total fresh air either because when they check-called the turn then they are unlikely to be holding fresh air. So the probability dictates that they are holding something mediocre.

This is where exploratory big bets will tell us an awful lot. If they fold then we simply rinse and repeat the next time that we are in a pot with them. If they call then we log it and look to value bet them more strongly and refuse from firing another barrel on the river unless we improve.