8 Critical Questions: The Anxious Decision of a Third-Bluff Bet on the River

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Picture this: It’s the river, and you’re seated in the Cut-off (CO) position, holding a hand that’s practically empty. There has been betting action on the previous two rounds, and now you’re contemplating whether to attempt a third bluff on the river.

Let’s delve into a scenario to explore the opportunity for a third bluff.

The Scenario

You’re playing in a regular 1/2-dollar No-Limit Texas Hold’em cash game. Pre-flop, you raised to $15 with K♣ J♣ after several limpers, and only one opponent called. You both have around $300 in chips.

The flop reveals Q♠ 8♣ 2♦. Your opponent checks, and you make a continuation bet of $30, which your opponent calls.

The turn card is A♣. Now, you see an enticing opportunity for a second bluff because you’ve got both the nut flush draw and the nut straight draw, and Ace could hit your opponent’s range as well. You bet $75, and your opponent calls once more.

Finally, the river brings 9♥, making the community cards Q♠ 8♣ 2♦ A♣ 9♥. Your opponent checks once more. Your effective chip stack is now approximately $195, and you’ve missed all your draws. The question arises: Should you go for a third bluff?

Eight Questions to Help You Decide

Here are eight questions that can guide your decision on whether to make a third-bluff bet on the river.

Does Your Hand Have Showdown Value?

In other words, does your hand have a chance of winning without betting? In the scenario described, it doesn’t. It’s a weak hand without any pairs.

Is Your Opponent’s Chip Stack Big Enough to Fold?

If your opponent has a small chip stack, they might call your river bet even with a weak hand because they’re pot-committed. How small is too small depends on the specific opponent, but generally, anything less than half the pot could increase the likelihood of a call.

What’s Your Opponent’s Likely Range?

You have three avenues of action to consider when considering your opponent’s likely range. What could they be playing based on their pre-flop actions? Can you further narrow down their range based on their actions on the flop and turn? Considering all these factors, what range do you assign to them now?

What’s Your Opponent’s Typical Playing Style?

Your opponent’s likely range heavily depends on your impression of them. Are they playing loosely pre-flop? If so, they might have called your initial pre-flop raise with a wide range. On the other hand, if they’re very tight, they might not have called pre-flop without at least a medium pair or two big cards.

How Does Your Opponent Perceive You?

To determine if a river bet is reasonable, you must also have an idea of how your opponent perceives you. Do they think you’re tight, aggressive, passive, or tricky? Remember, it’s not what you are but what they think you are that matters.

What Range Might Your Opponent Put You On?

Considering the factors above, what might your opponent think you’re holding? If they’re a more experienced player, they’ll likely consider your likely range before making a call. If you believe your bet represents a leading range that your opponent is likely to trust, you might be inclined to make that third bluff on the river.

Do You Have Blockers?

Blockers are cards in your hand that prevent your opponent from having strong hands because you have those cards. While having blockers is not a primary reason to attempt a third bluff, it can be a contributing factor. In the scenario mentioned, you hold one of the four Jacks, which reduces the probability of your opponent having a straight (specifically, JT) by 25%. This slightly increases the chances of your bluff succeeding.

What’s the Likelihood of Your Bluff Being Successful?

After analyzing the first seven questions, you might not have complete certainty about the success of your bluff. However, a lack of certainty is not a good reason to avoid a river bet. Instead, you need to assess your level of confidence and compare it to the pot odds you’re offering. When you weigh all these factors together, you can gauge how likely your bluff is to succeed.

If your bet is about half the pot’s size, you’d only need your bluff to work around 1/3 of the time to break even. If you feel you have a 50% chance of success, then not betting would be a losing proposition.

In poker, decisions aren’t always clear-cut. The outcome depends on a complex interplay of factors, your reading of the situation, and your opponent’s tendencies. However, by carefully considering these eight questions, you can make informed decisions about whether to make that crucial third-bluff bet on the river.

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