The Threat of a Bet | capable of both triple barrel bluffing and betting a hand like KK for value on three streets

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The Threat of a Bet

The other thing I have thought about with regard to this hand is whether I should have bluffed the turn. Would my opponent have called a second barrel with top pair and a weak kicker? I'll never know, of course, but I want to point out that in deciding whether to call the turn, one thing he would have to consider is what kind of decision he would face on the river. If he did not expect me to bluff and/or value bet well on the river, then he would have an easier call on the turn. If, however, he knew me to be capable of both triple barrel bluffing and betting a hand like KK for value on three streets, he might decide just to fold the turn rather than play a big pot with a marginal hand out of position against a tough, tricky opponent.

This increase in the success rate of a bluff on the turn illustrates the additional value you can generate if you play well on the river. Especially in tournaments, where stealing pots is such an important element of a winning strategy, you want your opponents to feel uncomfortable calling you down with marginal hands. Flop and turn bets are much more threatening when a player must fear another difficult decision on the river. To take advantage of this dynamic, however, requires the ability to make thin value bets on the river. A lot of players tend towards overly cautious play, particularly with regard to large bets. It stands to reason, then, that since the bets are larger, many players are overly cautious about value betting the river.

It's an elementary concept, but it bears repeating: you don't need to be very confident in your hand to bet for value on the river. You just have to suspect that your opponent will call with worse hands more often than he will call with better hands or raise. (Actually, the risk of a bluff raise has to be given extra weight since incorrectly folding would cost you the entire pot rather than just your bet, but opponents too timid to make clear value bets on the river are not going to raise on a bluff very often at all).

In addition to the intrinsic EV of a thin value bet, demonstrating to your opponents that you are capable of such a bet can earn you added equity down the line. They will have to fear a difficult decision on the street where mistakes are at their most costly, and consequently they will allow you to steal from them at less expense earlier in the hand. So practice your river play, learn how to put your opponents to tough decisions, and watch the value flow downstream. ԍ


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