My wife is from Colombia and we visit every year for 4-5 weeks. One of the great benefits of the international poker boom is that you can now often find games while playing internationally no matter where you are. Poker is booming in Latin America. Five to six years ago there wasn’t a poker game to be found in Colombia, at least not in Medellin. Now, there are casinos, Texas Hold’em clubs, weekly tournaments, and many, many new players are playing the game.
This was an interesting hand that I played in a tournament on a visit to Medellin. There were 94 entrants with a $20 buy-in. We started with 10,000 in chips, 20 minute levels, and the blinds were 50-100. This was the very first hand of the tournament.
One or two players limp in. I limp on the button with 8-6s. Four or five players see the rainbow flop of 5-4-3 rainbow. The big blind bets 300 or so. I call. She knows I'm a poker author when the hand started.
The turn is a 7, all rainbow, giving me the nuts. If anyone else holds a 6 then I should be able to double-up. The big blind bets 500, I raise to 2,000, and unfortunately she only calls. Nevertheless, I still have a good chance to win another decent bet on the river as long as it is a blank. The river is a 3 and the big blind bets out 2,000.
First, I’d like to discuss the river bet in general terms. This is a great bet whatever she might hold. Let's say you are the big blind with 6-x and the straight where you are likely splitting against your opponent. You think your opponent is a very good player who is also capable of bluffing. Betting the river is a great play in this spot. And the lesson here, is that in general, if you are in a spot where there is a good chance that you are likely splitting the pot, and a small chance that you are beat, betting out the river in certain situations can be way better than trying to check and call.
This is an excellent bet with 6-x given that a thinking opponent might fold in this spot, which is exactly what I did. Now, several members of the forum at my website disagreed with my fold and would have called, but I thought it was a rather simple decision. This was the first hand of a tournament with 10,000 starting stacks against an unknown woman. She called a big raise on the turn and then bets out on a paired river card. To me a pretty standard line for the typical amateur player with a set on the flop. If she bluffed me off my hand with a 6 in it then I tip my hat off to her, but I would have no way of knowing that she is that advanced of a player to make that line of play. If she had bet a little smaller, I might have considered it a blocking bet, but I thought 2 million was a lot for her to risk against a possible boat, unless she had one herself. For me to beat her hand, she needed to be either really bad (calling a big raise on the turn with no straight or set or calling a straight and then thinking her hand was good on river and bet out), or either very, very good (calls the turn with a straight and takes a stab at the pot on a river scare card).
Expanding this hand a little further, consider you are in big blind again with 6-x. You call the turn because your opponent is capable of bluffing. The board then pairs the river and you check. If villain now bets, a check-raise would be absolutely beautiful as there is pretty much no way the villain can have a full given he raised the turn. This can backfire if your opponent doesn’t bet the straight himself, but in a live setting sometimes you can just smell a bet from your opponent. Of course, I was already considering checking the river on the button but against some opponents I might bet the overstraight.
She showed me a full house so I made the correct laydown. But in the process of folding, I was able to see another example where betting out on boards like these can be an excellent move with lots of upside and little downside.
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare is available now at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.