Bluffing isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, and not all bluffs that get caught are failures. While some bluffs can boast a whopping 90% success rate, sometimes unfortunate circumstances align, and opponents find themselves in the 10% that catch us. On the flip side, luck occasionally shines upon us, turning even the most thoughtless bluffs into unexpected triumphs.
Today, we delve into a poorly executed and low-success-rate bluff scenario.
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A Pre-Flop 4-Bet: A Recipe for Disaster Bluff
In a PokerStars NL100 fast table, a smooth-sailing Regular player opens with $3 from an early position. Another Regular raises (3-bets) to $10, prompting folds from everyone else. Both players have an effective stack depth of $300.
Given the deep stacks, a larger 3-bet is typical. It encourages folds and hinders easy 4-bets, as 4-betting is susceptible to calls (or even re-raises) due to the remaining stack depth. However, the initial 3-bet is on the smaller side, and when everyone folds, the opener 4-bets to $29.
Initially, things seemed normal. For a 100BB stack depth, a standard rhythm for raises is often 3x-9x-23x or 2.5x-8x-20x.
But when the opener’s 4-bet is only $23, opponents with the position are unlikely to fold. If the opener has Aces (AA), they’re willing to play for a big pot. Even if they’re bluffing with a hand like A4s, they’ll allow some folding equity.
However, an opponent calls the 4-bet. The flop reveals A♣Q♣2♣.
At this point, it’s improbable for a position player to have hit the top set, but they have a plethora of valuable hands. Even a player without position could have hit value hands or even top sets. Confrontations between players in early positions, particularly at a fast table, generally involve strong ranges for both sides.
The opener continues with an $18 bet, and the opponent calls. The turn shows 3♠, and the opener applies pressure with a $62 bet.
Interestingly, the betting pattern on the flop implies that opponents won’t readily fold, even with weaker ranges. It seems the opener hopes for continued engagement. Alternatively, they might be probing their opponent’s strength and aiming to capitalize on the pot with a big turn bet.
Faced with a 2/3-pot-sized bet on the turn, an opponent’s call suggests they likely hold a decent hand, perhaps a made hand or Kx. If the opponent called the 4-bet with a wide range on the flop, the opener’s bluff might succeed.
However, the opponent still calls. The river is A♣Q♣2♣3♠9♦, with a pot of $220. The opener bets $188. Let’s examine the potential value of hands. Any flush or straight would go all-in for value, including unlikely combinations like 54s or pre-flop bluffs like K♣J♣ or K♣T♣.
Notably, it’s unlikely for the opener to have a flush given their pre-flop play. Moreover, could they truly have QQ? Weren’t they concerned about a 5-bet pre-flop?
The crucial question arises: with what hands could the opener bluff?
Bluffing hands should ideally block river calls from the opponent’s range, not hands that would fold. For instance, hands like K♣Kx or AxK♣ might call on the turn and fold on the river, so they’re unlikely bluff candidates.
Furthermore, any nut flush draw, such as K♣T♣ or K♣J♣, would likely call on the river. However, the number of combinations blocking these calls is much smaller than those blocking the six possible hands that would fold, like K♣Kx and AxK♣.
Thus, a hand like Q♥9♥ or Ax9♣ is an ideal bluff candidate for the opener, as it appears strong and could capitalize on the large pot. But due to the pre-flop play, it’s unlikely the opener has these hands. Consequently, the best-remaining bluff candidate is Q♥9♥, along with Ax9♣. Although seemingly strong, given the pot’s size, these hands are unlikely to win at showdown.
The opponent calls with Q♥Q♦, a perfectly reasonable move. The opener reveals 8♥7♥.
The bluff’s flaws became apparent on the river. Even 6×3♣ could have fared better, as it still held some equity on the flop.
In comparison, 8♥7♥ falls significantly short. It lacked equity earlier and offered no blocking value on the river, making it arguably the worst bluff hand imaginable.