“If you suspect your opponent is bluffing more than one-third of the time [on the river], you should call every time. If you think your opponent is bluffing less than one-third of the time, you should fold every time.” —Ed Miller, The Course
This breakeven percentage value of one-third that Miller cites for villain bluffing frequency derives from an assumption that the villain has made a full pot-size bet into you on the river. For example, let’s say you flopped a set, but now the board has four-flushed on the river. Unfortunately, you don’t have the flush, so you’re either way ahead or way behind (WAWB). The villain’s bet is representative of a strong made flush–or he’s bluffing. You’ve seen the villain play mostly straightforwardly for the past few hours at the table, but you’ve also seen him make a few bluffs, too. So, should you call?
Well, like most things in poker, it depends. In this case, it depends on how likely you think it is your opponent is bluffing in this situation. If it’s greater than a third of the time, you should call. If it’s less, you should fold.
So this means you should almost always fold. Let me explain…
Don't slow play your big hands - a.k.a. Bet Your Set!
I remember a hand from a $25NL online game I played a few years ago. I was on the button and was dealt a pair of fives. A villain in the UTG+1 seat opened for a standard raise, and the cut-off cold called. Stacks were quite deep (over 150bb) and both players were bad, so I called with good implied odds as a set-mining play. Both blinds folded and we were three-way to a flop. What happened next can only be described as terrible play on my part…
You’re in a $5/$10 NL full-ring 9-handed cash game. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. You raise UTG with Js-Jh. It is folded to an expert player in the SB, who calls. The BB folds, and you see a flop heads up, which is: 2s-2c-Td. The SB leads for $80. You raise to $250, and the SB re-raises you to $650. Your image is tight-aggressive, very tight in EP, and you rarely bluff. What should you do?
Call and fold the turn if he bets again
Call and get all-in on the turn if no overcard hits
Call and get all-in on the turn regardless of the turn card
A common leak among beginning poker players is incorrect bet sizing, especially when their bets are too small. You’re not one of these people, right? Right?!
I always shake my head when I see villains making tiny little bets ranging from 25-50% of the pot, and sometimes even smaller. I sat in a juicy online game a while ago where two of the players at the table treated the game like some kind of ersatz limit game, making min-bets that were never larger than the size of the big blind. What exactly were these guys trying to achieve with these itty-bitty bets? I believe they themselves don’t know. Do you? Let’s look a little more closely at this notion…
... it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same pair of deuces
Here are two hands in which I was dealt an identical pair of ducks in the span of 10 minutes: 2♥-2♦. Both hands took place in a tough full-ring, $100NLHE online cash game. Would you play these two hands the same way I did?
Hand #1: I have a pair of deuces in the small blind and get open-raised 3xbb by a tricky and aggressive player in late position. He is purposely playing a short-stack of 30bb. He opens for 3x the big blind. The action folds to me. I muck.
Hand #2: I have a pair of deuces in the CO seat facing a 3xbb raise by a TAg UTG player with a full 100bb stack. I call.
What? Deuces are deuces, right? And the first villain in middle position has a much wider (read: worse) hand range than the second villain in EP, right? Don’t I have the actions in these two hands backward? Nope. Let me explain…
The acid test for any starting hand is the Miracle Flop Test. Take any [hand] and imagine what the best possible flop would be for that hand: If you wish you’d much rather have something else, then your hand is probably trash.” –Jeff Hwang, Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy
I had pot odds, is also often heard at the poker table when a donk makes a bad call. Most of them wouldn’t know pot odds from a tuna fish sandwich.” —Dave “Memphis Mojo” Smith
Position, Aggression, and Caution are the Lions and Tigers and Bears of Poker
At its fundamental core, poker is a game of decision making. He who makes the best decisions makes the most money. And there is nothing more important than the decision whether to play your hand or not. Preflop decision making is the foundation upon which postflop profits are built. And integral to good preflop decisions are the holy trinity of Position, Aggression, and Caution, or PAC for short. Let me explain:
Position and Aggression and Caution are the Lions and Tigers and Bears of Preflop Hand Selection. Oh-my!
Question: You’re in a $5/$10 NL Hold’em 10-handed FR cash game. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. The table is a mix of aggressive and passive players. Your image is tight-aggressive. You are UTG with Js-Th. What should you do?
...and why each of them is actually a good thing. Seriously.
In this session of Zone poker, I make a bad bet on the river when the river trips the board with three 3’s. This of course causes my jet-lagged brain to tangent off on the topic of losing in poker.
There are three basic ways to lose a hand of poker. First, you can suffer a bad beat (and I explain why this is actually a really good thing). Second, you can run into a cooler (which is a neutral just-part-of-poker thing). Finally, you can make a mistake or bad decision, and get your money in with the worst of it (negative EV). This third way of losing can actually be a good thing, as it can lead you to recognize your mistake and plugging that particular leak for future hands to be played.