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De-Polarizing Your Turn Range
Last month, I examined two situations where the river play was determined by one player’s mistaken perception of his opponent’s betting range. My intent was to demonstrate both the immediate value of betting medium-strength hands for value on the river and the way in which strong river play can create value on earlier streets. This month, I want to take a similar look at situations where many players’ turn ranges are polarized. Narrowing an opponent’s betting range to either a bluff or a very strong hand enables you to exploit him by calling down with much weaker hands than you otherwise could or even raising as a bluff or semi-bluff. Thus, it is important to find ways to de-polarize your own range so as not to open yourself up to exploitation by strong players whom you encounter on a regular basis. Exploitation The game was 5/10 no limit hold ‘em. At a 6-max table, I opened for $35 second to act with a pair of T’s. The player to my left called, the button and the SB folded, and then the BB re-raised to $145. The BB was a regular in the 5/10 games, and although he wasn’t among the most aggressive regulars, I still gave him credit for being able to make a squeeze play, which is a very common move in this game. I called the raise, and the third player folded. The flop was Qh 4d 9h. My opponent bet $190, which I would expect him to do with almost anything he squeezed pre-flop. This is a good board to continuation bet, and TT is one of the better hands I could have here, so I called the bet. I was not happy to see the Kc, a second overcard to my pair, come on the turn. When my opponent bet $430, however, I felt that his range would be polarized. A K is a good scare card for him to bet, because I’m often going to have exactly the kind of hand that I had here, and many players in my shoes would be inclined to think, “Well, AK just got there, so if I wasn’t behind already, I am now.”
But how many good but not great players actually bet AK here? In my opinion, the more standard line among tight aggressive players is to play for pot control and check if they bluff at the flop and then connect with the turn. Precisely because the K is a scare card, a player holding AK would expect me to fold everything worse than AK and move all in with anything better. So although he would expect his top pair, top kicker to be the best hand quite frequently, he would not expect to get value from worse hands very often by betting.
Consequently, I did not believe that he really had AK when he bet the turn. With KQ or stronger, he could reasonably expect to get action from worse hands with a turn bet, so I was worried that he could have a monster. But I also expected him to bluff the K very often if he didn’t have anything, and based on the action so far, I still felt that air was a substantial part of his range. I moved all in for his last $400, and he folded.