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The Last Bet
Of the 111 players who entered the 2005 Monte Carlo Millions, only two remain: Phil Ivey and Paul Jackson. Each knows the other to be a smart, successful, and aggressive tournament poker player. Jackson limps from the small blind with 65o. Ivey raises and Jackson calls. With 176,000 chips in the pot, the players see a flop of JhJc7c. Ivey bets 80,000, Jackson raises to 256,000, Ivey raises 240,000 more, Jackson raises 300,000 more, and Ivey five-bets all in for 581,000 more. His only other option to call all in with 6-high, Jackson is forced to fold. Ivey shows him Qh8h, for no pair and no draw. With much deeper stacks, itӳ hard to say how long this bluffing battle would have gone on before someone blinked. But Ivey got the best of Jackson by making the last bet. Jackson folded, not necessarily because he was convinced that Ivey had trips, but because bluffing was no longer an option. In tournament play, when everyone has so much incentive to steal pots and play marginal hands, these multi-level thinking situations where Ԩe knows that I know that he knows that I knowŔoccur quite frequently. Itӳ essentially a game of chicken, but tournaments are also unique in that thereӳ a guaranteed way to make your opponent blink first: move all in. Even if your opponent suspects that you are bluffing, there may be nothing he can do about it. YouӶe deprived him of the opportunity to re-bluff you, so if he canӴ even beat a bluff, heӬl have no choice but to fold. Inducing a Bluff Putting in the last bet is so important in tournament poker that it should often determine how you choose to play your hands. The quick and dirty principle is that when you have a strong hand and want to get all the money in, you should structure the betting so that your opponent can move all in. If he mistakenly believes that you will sometimes fold, he can raise all in with a wider range of hands than he could call in.
Suppose that with blinds of 400/800, a very aggressive player raises to 2000 from one off the button and you call with 87s on your big blind and about 12,000 chips behind. The flop comes 772. YouӲe first to act, so itӳ time to think about how to maximize value with this monster. Your aggressive opponent will probably continuation bet this flop, so you could check to him with the intention of raising. If he knows that you know heӬl often have nothing on this flop, he may even pay off your check-raise with hands as weak as AQ. However, heӬl still have to fold the majority of his range, because whether or not you check-raise all in, you wonӴ have enough money behind for him to consider re-bluffing you. You have essentially put in the last bet, and even if your opponent reads you as weak, there will often be nothing he can do about it.
You would prefer to take a line that would allow your opponent to put in the last bet, as that will result in him paying you off with a much wider range. In my March article, I suggested that if the big blind leads into the pre-flop raiser or a dry board like this, it is often a steal, and the pre-flop raiser should consider raising as a re-steal. If you lead out with a probe bet, your opponent will likely call or raise with all of the hands that could call your check-raise, and in addition he will sometimes call or raise with weaker hands that would have fold to a check-raise.
Your objective is to get him to commit all of his chips, so letӳ look at the size of the pot. Assuming antes have not begun yet, there is 4400 in the pot, and you have 12,000 in your stack. You should lead out for about 2600, putting 7000 in the pot and leaving 9400 behind. This sets your opponent up perfectly to move all in on a bluff: heӬl put in 2600 to match your bet, at which point the pot will be 9600, meaning that an all-in bet would charge you just about the size of the pot.