Friday, September 30, 2005

Value Betting on the River In NL

I am not the first person to post on this topic by a long shot but I've been thinking about a hand that I played this Tuesday.

Playing in a 1-2 NL game with about 500 behind, I restraddled a relatively tight-weak straddler with 300 behind (ok, most people that straddle aren't tight weak, but I think he was).

[Note for those of my readers who believe it or not don't usually play a lot of poker and yet somehow still read this blog (hi Dad): a straddle bet is an additional blind bet voluntarily made by the player first to act after the big blind, typically set in most card rooms at twice the size of the big blind. If you make this bet, you get the benefit of an additional option to bet after the original big blind. A restraddle is when the person who follows a straddle bet puts in another blind bet, this time for twice the size of the of the straddle. In theory, you can have restraddle bets all the way around to the button, but in practice, the first restraddle is rare and the second and third are signs of a pretty crazy game. Straddles are quite common in New York card rooms but not allowed in many casino card rooms where they are treated as simple blind bets with no option.]

I don't often restraddle, but tables at this club are generally tighter than most in New York and I have cultivated a bit of a loose aggressive image that fits me there.

Anyway, four players limped around to the original straddle, who called. Finding 5-3 offsuit, I was happy to see a flop with a decent $49 pot (small blind folded).

2-4-7 was the flop, with two hearts (I had one in my hand). The big blind checked to the first straddler, who made 25 to go. I was pretty sure that flop was likely to have missed anyone except perhaps the first straddler (stronger hands tend to raise more sharply against straddled and restraddled pots because there is more worth protecting and a greater chance you will face a wide array of unpeggable hands if you don't) so I thought if I called, it was unlikely we would see a reraise after us. I also thought that raising here would be imprudent. Calling 24 to win 74 with 6 solid outs and 2 tricky outs (A and 6 of hearts would make my straight but also would make a flush) seemed pretty good odds. So I called.

The table folded after me--while I was happy not to get any more callers (my draw wanted a multiway pot), I was happy with no raises either since I think I would have had had to lay down.
The turn came an offsuit ten, and I was very happy when the first straddler checked to me. I suspected a possible check-raise and so was quite happy to take the free card rather than make a move. I was rewarded when an offsuit six hit on the river.

The straddler led out for 25 more and alarm bells started going off. I had made my hand and yet he was betting into me. I think the first reaction for most players would be to reraise, either a little or a lot, to make the most of their successful draw. I wasn't so sure.

Let's review the facts. A tight-weak straddler had declined to raise preflop with 3 players in before him and only me after. This made it unlikely he had big cards or a big pair.

A ragged flop ensured, and then he bet with 3 callers behind. Okay, I think he has to have something. What? Hard to narrow it down too much: a pair, two-pair or a good draw I think are in the realm of possibility. Again, overpair pretty unlikely as I think even 88 he probably would have raised with preflop.

He's called and declines to bet the turn. Two scenarios here, either his flop hadn't hit that strongly--top pair, weak kicker or perhaps middle pair, or a draw that is still drawing--or it was quite strong, a small set or two-pair and he is check-raising me.

When I check behind, he's got to put me on a draw.

Then the river comes, filling several obvious straight draws (in addition to my 3-5, the six would have made better straights out of 5-8 and 8-9). Now he bets 25. Okay, what the heck can he have. It's not a big enough bet to push me off the pot. In fact, it looks like a value bet that wants to be called. The question is, what exactly wants to be called?

Scenario 1: it's fives or sevens, he's hoping I'm going to look him up with something like A2 or KJ of hearts, or maybe he's just hoping I'll fold a worse hand but at least he won't have to show his. Based on the pattern of betting and the probability of starting hands, I think this is the most likely scenario.

Scenario 2: It's a set or two pair and he's looking for me to call with a pair or a worse two. I think this is less likely given the check on the turn, but it's also possible he was check raising or hit his second pair on the river.

Scenario 3: It's a straight and he's fishing for any call and any reraise. This is statistically unlikely but consistent with the betting. It definitely cannot be ruled out.

Okay, so what do I do?

Folding is clearly out, so it's between calling and raising.

If I call, well, we're done and winner will take down a decent 121 pot.

If I raise:

Against 1: He may call a small bet, but against anything above a minimum raise of 25 he is likely to fold.

Against 2: He will call any moderate bet, and may possibly call a large bet. With a set, he may reraise a small bet.

Against 3: He will reraise, possibly all in, and I will have a tough decision that should probably lead to a laydown.

I called.

He turned over 54 offsuit pair of fives and could not believe I had not raised the river.

With the actual cards, I think it made no difference since I can't see him even calling a minimum raise here, though I suppose if he was bad enough to make the bet, he was bad enough to call that raise. In any case, the real tension I think lies in the value lost in not taking advantage of 2 versus the risk of running into 3. I think I am happy with my thought process and my decision, but I'd welcome thoughts on this situation.


At Fri Sep 30, 09:02:00 PM 2005, Blogger Mr Subliminal said...

I believe you gave him too much credit. Your analysis is better suited to a stronger player, IMHO. I often see weaker players leading out with successive minibets ($24, $25) in an attempt to steal the pot, so unless the player is one I know, I rarely give them any any credit. In addition, they are generally not capable of a bluff reraise on the river. So in this case, that would mean eliminating the higher straight possibilities and putting him on, say, two pair.

In retrospect any raise would not have been paid off. However, given the sequence of events and the type of players, I believe making a raise would be +EV i.e. the probability of Scenario 2 here is significantly greater than that of Scenario 3.

My 2 cents.

At Mon Oct 03, 12:09:00 PM 2005, Anonymous War said...

His play sounds pretty consistent with the "tight-weak" image you gave him. He suspects you are on a flush draw that didn't hit, but isn't sure. He knows that if he checks on the river and you bet, he'll probably fold because he doesn't have anywhere close to the nuts even though he suspects you are bluffing. But, if you truly have nothing, you probably won't raise even a $25 bet (I'm assuming that you don't have a reputation of wild bluffs on the river).

At Thu Oct 06, 02:56:00 PM 2005, Anonymous Mike said...

Which club do you like to play in in nyc? I live in NY and while I don't blog myself, I am a vet of this year's Bash at the Boathouse.

At Sat Oct 08, 02:30:00 PM 2005, Blogger SoxLover said...

Mike leave me an e-mail ( and I can reply.

At Mon Jan 23, 01:21:00 AM 2006, Anonymous coin collecting said...

How you doing
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