Thanks for the comments on the river bluffing What’s Your Play? I was actually surprised not to get more comments on this one, because the impression I get is that many people don’t feel comfortable in their ability to make good decisions about whether or not to fire a second barrel when the first succeeds. This is your chance to practice, people!
Have a Plan
Before I get into the hand reading and analysis, I want to make a general point about multi-barrel bluffs: they shouldn’t usually come as a surprise to you. In other words, when you’re considering whether to bluff the turn, you should already have a general idea of how many river cards you plan to barrel. This is important because there are many situations where a single barrel won’t be profitable in a vacuum but will show a profit as part of a multi-street bluff. You’ll miss these spots if you don’t try to estimate the effectiveness of a multi-street bluff in advance.
Flop Hand Reading
Neither player is likely to check a monster hand on a board of this texture. The number of draws out there suggest both that a bet will get action and that a free card could be disastrous. Villain 2 is a little more likely to check a monster on the flop, since he has reason to believe that at least one of his opponents doesn’t even have a draw, but he’s also less likely to have a monster based on the preflop action (ie he probably 3-bets TT and JJ at least some of the time).
Both Villains are also unlikely to have good draws. Straight and flush draws are good continuation betting hands even in multiway pots, so it’s hard to imagine Villain 1 checking them with any frequency. Villain 2, with his history of well-timed aggression, is also likely to stab at the pot when his opponents have shown weakness and he has a good draw.
To be honest I think even marginal hands are likely to bet, though it depends how marginal. But because so many draws can call and because the board is only going to get worse for him, I think Villain 1 would be a hand like AT if he had it. This isn’t the sort of board where you can try to pot control/bluff-catch with a hand like that, especially not in a multiway pot. It’s just going to get too hard for you to call down bets. He may be checking hands like 99 that have even less showdown value, but in that case he’s probably just giving up with them, not planning to call down bets with two overcards and a ton of draws on the board.
Villain 2 is, again, even more likely to bet these sorts of hands because the board is only going to get worse for him and he’d have reason to believe he’s currently ahead.
So my read on the flop was that neither player had much of anything. Excluding anomalous oddly played hands, I discounted both good draws and made hands stronger than third pair.
Bluffing the Turn
As the out of position player, I’m by far the one most likely to have checked a good hand or a good draw on the flop. Also, if neither of these guys has anything, it may not even matter whether my line makes sense – they might well fold the turn anyway. Villain 1 seems a little more likely than Villain 2 to get stubborn, but conveniently he’s also “squeezed” by Villain 2. Even if he’s suspicious of my turn bet, he has to worry about Villain 1 still to act behind him.
This is a fantastic spot for me to represent a big hand, and off the top of my head I can’t think of a single turn card that would be bad for me to bluff. A non-heart Ace would probably be the worst, but at that point I’d have top pair and probably wouldn’t be trying to bluff anyway.
My plan was to fire all non-Ace turns (even 9s, as I’ve nothing to gain by seeing more cards) and to fire again at most rivers. Even though both of these players’ ranges are in fact transparently weak, I think it’s going to look strong to them if I bet into two people on the turn. So even if they call once, I think I can represent a lot of strength on the river and get them off of almost anything they could have.
Turn Hand Reading
I’ll admit I was surprised to get two calls on the turn. Although this undermined my read that they both had air or near-air hands, it strengthened my read that neither had monster hands, and that’s the most important part. Surely even if they were slowplaying the flop, they’d raise the turn. Even turned monsters like a straight or a set of 7s is likely to raise. If I represent two-pair-plus on the river, I still expect it to be quite profitable.
But what do they have? I discounted the flop draws heavily, but a new draw presented itself on the turn. I think at least one of them, more probably Villain 2, has a spade draw. I suppose the next most likely hand would be something like 87 or T9, a hand that was pretty weak on the flop but improved to a pair + gutshot on the turn.
River cards such as clubs, 9s, and 8s that complete these draws are poor candidates for barreling. Also with a one-card straight on the board I may get hero-called more often if my betting range is perceived as polarized. Thankfully 9s will give me some showdown value so there’s a little less value in bluffing those anyway.
a) The Td is the trickiest of these, in my opinion. Like a four-card straight, a pair on the board can lead opponents to polarize your range and call you more often. Worse, it strengthens some probable turn calling hands for them. At this point we can’t expect Ts to fold and Js may get stubborn as well if there are any out there. So making better hands fold could be tricky. There might actually be a case for checking and calling or possibly even raising a bet, but such fancy play is beyond the scope of this article!
b) The 2h is a great card to barrel. Our read is that neither player is a heart draw, while our range is thick with them. Plus because I don’t have to worry about them having hearts, I can still bet two-pair for value on this river, so a good hand reader isn’t going to take my range for polarized.
c) I’d give up the 2s. I think it’s too likely one of these guys was on that draw.
d) I’m happy barreling a blank river, because my plan all along was to represent two-pair-plus. Yes, both of these players has a history of being a little loose, but realistically I just don’t see myself getting hero-called here by 88 or something. The looseness also works in my favor somewhat because it means they’re taking weaker hands to the river after making loose turn calls. For more on this concept, see How to Bluff a Calling Station.
e) I wouldn’t try to bet an Ace either as a bluff or for value. This is something you have to be careful about when you’re bluffing and then make some sort of made hand that’s weaker than what you were representing. If you thought it was a good spot to bluff, it’s probably not a good spot for a thin value bet! I’d look to check-evaluate, most likely folding to Villain 1, who’s more likely to have a good Ace and less likely to have a busted draw, and fold to Villain 2.
I bet 8000 on a 2h river and they both folded. Villain 1 commented that he’d played the hand very badly.