What’s Your Play? Coping With Lead Bets Results

Thanks for the many, many responses to this week’s What’s Your Play? It occurs to me, in retrospect, that I was fishing pretty hard for compliments with the way I worded my post. Well, I’m glad that I got them, and that so many people enjoy the WYP posts! I’ll try to keep them coming. When I see them getting dozens of comments, that’s a strong incentive for me to find a new one for next week.

Don’t Soul Read Without a Read

Our first step, as always, should be to put Villain on a range. Some commenters claimed that his small sizing, especially on the river, must be a bluff, since he is giving himself such a good price and would want to get more value with a big hand. Others say that it must be a value bet, since he is giving us such a good price that he can’t expect a fold.

To assume either would be to assume a lot more about the Villain than I’ve told you here. If you actually have a read that your opponent will or won’t bluff with a small bet, then by all means exploit it, but without that read it’s dangerous to leap to a conclusion about what he “must” have and deviate sharply from the fundamental mathematics of the game. Given the pot odds Hero is getting, we shouldn’t fold often, even if we think a bluff is unlikely.

A Pessimistic Range

Let’s try to read Villain’s range with a bit more rigor. His wide pre-flop tendencies makes it hard to say too much about what he takes to the flop, but we know one important bit of information: he’s unlikely to have an overpair. It’s not impossible, but for our purposes I’m just going to rule out JJ+ entirely. I’m less confident, though, that he’d 3-bet AJ. Although AJs technically does land in the top 5% of hands, I’m going to leave all combos of AJ in his pre-flop calling range.

Our kicker isn’t great, but if he really is playing nearly half the deck, then he probably will see the flop with some Jx that is weaker than ours as well. I left J9o and J8s in his range. Plus of course there are pocket pairs, suited connectors, and suited Aces that could have flopped a pair or a draw. That gives us a sense of what sorts of hands from his pre-flop range would have connected with this board.

I don’t think we’re going to see him just randomly bet into three people with air. That eliminates most possibilities of Ax that could have rivered us, though as many of you pointed out there’s a chance that he flopped an Ace-high gutshot and bet it, then rivered top pair.

In truth, I think Villain is less likely to play a monster this way than a hand that has only marginal showdown value. His small bets suggest that, whether he thinks he has the best hand or not, he isn’t trying to build a big pot. If he were, he could have check-raised or bet bigger at some point. For now I’ll leave a fair number of strong hands in his range, but I’ll want to return to this point.

So I think a pretty generous interpretation of Villain’s range would be {TT,44-33,AJs,A5s-A2s,KJs,QJs,J8s+,65s,54s,AJo,KJo,QJo,J9o+}. This has him betting all of his Jacks, a good number of gutshots that rivered top pair, and even some monster hands like trips, full houses, and quads. It contains only 6 combos – the TTs – against which Hero will do better than a chop on the river. Even so, Hero has 38% equity, far more than enough to call a bet of one-third of the pot. So folding is out of the question.

After writing this, I realized that Leo Wolpert made an even more compelling case for at least calling than I did:

Doubt I fold river when I only need to be right 20% of the time and there are many plausible hands that have no showdown value and may feel compelled to bluff (eg 65, 75, 76, QTs, random spazzes). If he’s bluffing with 8 combos, we need to gin up 32 value combos on the river to fold. That’s going to be tough to do; even against a super pessimistic range we still have more than 20%:

Board: Jd 3s 4h 4s Ad


equity win tie pots won pots tied
Hand 0: 22.892% 09.64% 13.25% 8 11.00 { JcTd }
Hand 1: 77.108% 63.86% 13.25% 53 11.00 { JJ, 44-33, AJs, A5s-A2s, KJs, K4s, QJs, Q4s, JTs, J4s, T4s, 94s, 84s, 76s, 74s, 64s+, 54s, 52s, 42s+, AJo, KJo, QJo, JTo, 54o, 43o }

If we add in some Axo combos we’re finally justified in folding. But if he’s showing up with those kinds of hands he’s probably showing up with some more bluff combos as well.

Call or Raise?

The real question is whether Hero ought to attempt to bluff Villain off of a chop. The math behind this play is relatively unforgiving, as Hero stands to win only half of the pot when it works (he’d have won the other half anyway, by calling) but to lose his entire raise (he’d have lost the call anyway) if Villain can beat a Jack. This assumes that Villain will never fold a hand that can beat a Jack, which sounds reasonable to me.

The central consideration, then, is how likely Villain is to have a hand better than a Jack. Admittedly, a bit of soul-reading is involved at this point, and I perhaps know or suspect a bit more about this Villain than I let on here.

The most important point I want to make with this post is that when you strongly suspect that you will chop the pot, you should give serious consideration to raising. Calling may seem like the “safe” route, and while it is a good way to ensure that you don’t lose a big pot, it also guarantees that you won’t win a big pot. One commenter called a raise an “unnecessary risk”. I suppose the idea is that Hero can have some sort of edge in the game without attempting a play like this, so why bother with it?

When playing poker, I don’t think in terms of necessary or unnecessary, I think in terms of profitability. There are no profitable but unnecessary spots, in my mind. Perhaps you play for fun and really do hate losing big pots more than you enjoy winning big pots. More power to you. But if your primary objective is to make money, then you can’t afford to take “safe” plays that are less profitable than ambitious ones. Money won from bluffing an opponent off of a chop is worth just as much as money saved when your bluff would have been called.

I’m inclined to agree with many commenters that Villain’s bets look most like blocking/protection bets. As Gareth says, “I think this is a situation where we see fear in our opponent (barring live tells). The reason we see fear, in my estimation, is he fears you betting. So he preempts you. Also, we see a descending bet size in relation to the pot, this may or may not speak to that fear, but I think it more often speaks to a hand seeking showdown.”

Nate’s point is a good one as well: “One more psychological point is that people often react to aggression / Andrew “not giving up easily” by fearing losing control of the pot to him. Many players feel more comfortable betting this river into a guy like Andrew than they do checking a hand like 88 or QJ.”

Admittedly, I threw you a bit of a red herring with my comment about Villain being reluctant to give me credit for a hand. If we’re really confident that Villain has Jx, then how often he folds it to a raise barely matters. Even if he doesn’t fold, we have nothing to lose by raising into that hand.

The real risk is in running into a better hand. I was damn near certain he had a bare J prior to the river. There’s an outside chance he hit with AJ, but I believe he would have bet bigger if he’d done so. From his perspective, he had plenty of reason to believe I would call a bet but not much reason to expect a raise, so he ought to bet big with strong hands rather than try to induce me  to raise him. I don’t really see him betting A5 or A2 on the flop and turn, but nothing about the set-up for this post suggested that, so it’s good that so many of you considered the possibility.


I was very sure that a call would result in a chop. I didn’t know how Villain would respond to a raise, but it didn’t matter. If he called, we’d chop it anyway, and if he ever folded, that would be icing on the cake.

I raised to 925. He told me that he ought to pay me off, showed me a Jack, and folded what he told me was J9. He then asked if this hand would be on the blog!


Other posts you might like:
  1. What’s Your Play? Coping With Lead Bets
  2. What’s Your Play? Making Yourself a Target Results
  3. What’s Your Play? Second Nuts on Four Flush River Results

9 Responses to “What’s Your Play? Coping With Lead Bets Results”

  • Sean says:

    He folded getting 3.6:1 on a call? Wow. On the other hand, if his river range is the {AJ,KJ,QJ,JT,J9,J8s} you suggest, I guess he only needs to fold his other Jx 11%+ of the time (or less if you discount AJ) for your raise to be better than a call.

    On a related note, I wonder what villain’s best line would be on the river. Your range looks a lot like Jx as well, since you would want to build a pot at some point and I would suspect that your would raise with monsters to balance aggression with your draws, which I expect that you would likely play aggressively in position. I suspect that villain should be check raising to push you off a Jx might have been the better play for villain.

    Check/calling on this board in hoping that you will try to represent the Ace with a missed draw might be an option, but you shouldn’t have many Ax in your range here either so bluff catching to chop doesn’t sound too attractive.

  • Another Sean says:

    I wanted to comment on the original post, but time didn’t allow. Please keep the WYPs coming! I also fall into that category of people who don’t give themselves enough credit to contribute something worthwhile, but I also tell myself that it’s a learning exercise for everyone of all skills, so if you keep posting, I’ll be contributing something.

  • Carlos says:


    BOOM! Finally got one right.


    “Money won from bluffing an opponent off of a chop is worth just as much as money saved when your bluff would have been called.”

    And money won from bluffing an opponent off of the winning hand is even better. When I read this I imagine you must be constantly putting people on marginal hands and bluff shoving the shit out of the ones who cant adjust and hero call you.

    God knows what would have happened had that river card not come in and prevented you from doing it to me.

    2pm Andrew picks Carlos up from the airport
    3pm Andrew bluffs Carlos off his entire roll
    4pm Andrew gives Carlos a ride back to the airport

    • foucault says:

      I don’t know about constantly, but yeah this is a significant part of the dynamic when playing with deep stacks. It’s the best way to punish people who are unbalanced. Which hand are you referring to where the river kept me from bluffing you?

      • Carlos says:

        I think you raised the btn on my bb. I 3bet with AQo. Flop came Axx. I check called 2 streets and the river paired the second card I believe. You checked back the river with air.

        I believe you put me on something marginal like KK-TT or second pair and planned to blast the river had it been a blank. I know that calling your river bet would have been correct, but I was already in for half the money I’d brought. I am about 80% sure I would have found the call button, but it would have been tough and an awful start to the trip had I been wrong. Still not sure. Hero folding is a leak of mine.

        • foucault says:

          Oh yeah. Sounds like more likely than not you were going to own me had the river not come the way it did.

  • Gareth says:

    Man why would I let Nate/Leo talk me into anything? I should have just formed my opinion and rode it out until the end of time!

  • James Antill says:

    > From his perspective, he had plenty of reason to believe I would call a bet but not much reason to expect a raise

    How do you get this read, surely your range includes all of the 65 and KQs type draws. Now it’s possible that 4x/33/AJ hands would be better off betting bigger to get value from Jx/QQ/KK given you probably have more value than draws … but that changes a lot if you start raising to get rid of chops.

    In your math for raising you also didn’t seem to account for villain thinking “hero is unlikely to just call a monster on the flop with two people behind, and is unlikely to have AA/AJ/J4 … let’s 3bet” :)

    • foucault says:

      You (or I, and I think Villain, anyway) really don’t see river bluff-raises all that much. If he had AJ, I’d expect him to think about how to get max value from a J, not how to induce a raise from a busted draw. On a related note, you are correct that I did not factor in a risk of Villain 3-betting to get me off of a chop. Then again, I can represent AA better than he can…