What’s Your Play? Ace on the River

What's Your Play?This is from a $5/$10 game at Maryland Live. Villain is an older guy, nitty mostly with regard to his pre-flop hand selection. Post-flop he isn’t just absurdly tight-passive, he’s capable of bluffing, value betting, etc. at least reasonably well. Probably he views me as a bit “wild”, as in playing too many hands, bluffing too much, but also capable of giving legitimately tough decisions. Effective stacks are $2000.

Villain opens for $35 from the CO, I call with 7s 7c in the BB.

Flop ($75 in pot) Tc 5s 4s. I check, he bets $50, I call.

Turn ($175 in pot) 5c. We both check.

River ($175 in pot) As

What’s your play and why? Be sure to include at least a tentative plan for future action. In other words, if you bet, how will you respond to a small or large raise? If you check, how will you respond to bets of various sizes?

Leave your thoughts and comments here, and I’ll be back on Friday with results and my own opinions.

26 thoughts on “What’s Your Play? Ace on the River

  1. His line based on what you described sounded like he could have a variety of things and its somewhat hard for me to put him on a range at this point, as he open raised in late position preflop and after a flop c bet, has not been very aggressive. He definitely has Ax in his range as well as some high cards that have or 10 or higher. I would check/fold this on river because his hand isn’t very defined, but the chance he bets an ace for value is way bigger then the chances he is using it as a bluff card.

  2. Prefacing as usual with “I don’t play live and have no idea of the average skill level of 5/10 players”…

    My instant thought would be to turn my hand into a bluff and go with a bet-fold plan, and I’d choose a fairly small sizing for exploitative purposes. (To lose the minimum when villain has me beat, but steal the pot cheaply if he sigh-folds a better one pair hand). Villain is never calling with worse (unless he makes a crazy hero call with 66 because “you bluff too much”), but his line seems consistent with pot-controlling a one pair hand like KT/JJ/99. He also can be one and done with stuff like KJ/QJ. The river initially seems like a scare card that improves the chance of your bluff getting through, as nitty types tend to be overly scared of flushes and overcards, but I think villain has quite a few aces in his range too. He’s obviously calling (or raising) with AT or better, and presumably he’d find AK-AJ too good to fold if he binked the river with one of those. I really don’t know what the worst hand this villain calls a half pot bet with. I’d guess at KT, meaning he dumps QT/JT/99 along with all his missed “air”.

    Depending on just how tight/passive he is, this “scary” river could improve villain’s range so much that your fold equity actually shrunk somewhat. Maybe check(-fold)ing is best after all. Check-calling is out of the question I think, since I don’t foresee many bluffs from villain, as he should have showdown value often enough to check back with quite a few hands that beat you but that can’t get called by worse

    If I did decide to bet (my initial plan), then I’m snap-folding to any sort of raise. I can’t imagine villain ever bluff-raising the river when you have flushes and boats in your range.
    OK, I’ll go with a half pot bet. We only need villain to fold a third of the time for this bet to show a profit, and I feel fairly confident that he dumps a third of his range when you make this bet.

  3. Sorry about that, the last two times I spent a long time on a response and then it didn’t work and I lost it.

    I think if you bet a reasonable amount, villain will call with an A or better. It seems to me this would be folding out mostly worse hands, but maybe some Th9h, 99, etc.

    I don’t see any value hands you would want to bomb this river with, especially considering villain could sometimes have AA and we really cannot have any full houses.

    We seems to be somewhat close to the bottom of our range, which consists of flushes, trips, tens, aces, even A4 is better than us now. We are ahead of KJ, KQ, QJ. I would probably check/fold to most bets, but maybe call a bet of less than 75.

    • No problem, sorry for the lost response. The site does seem to have been down for a few minutes this morning, apparently our host had a problem at one of their data centers. I imagine that’s related to the issue you experienced. Thanks for your persistence!

      • I was actually referring to something that happened several weeks ago. I’m glad it’s working for me now.

  4. Found this website at the start of this year and have read through nearly the job lot and particularly love these WYP sections. Keep up the good work Andrew!
    I am a terrible low stakes player but I feel like I should stop lurking like a dribbling voyeur add a Level 1 type post into the mixer here.

    My initial thought here would be to check raise, but then I am overly bluffy agressive. Villain will see the A as a good card to take down the pot with, with or without an Ace. But facing a check raise he should also know that Hero will see Aces as a large part of his range, pretty much polarising Hero’s range.

    The problem I see with this line is what Hero is representing and I think the only valid option is the 5. Both flush draws would have been bet on the turn (or check raised on the flop) and sets of 4s/5s probably similarly.

    The fact you have asked for responses to small/large raises makes me think I am wide of the mark. If you pushed me for an answer to both I would probably check-call a large raise based on Villain having air and check-raise a small bet to get him off an A (if that’s even possible).

    • Hi Alex, thanks for emerging from the bushes! I’ll have more to say about it on Friday, but you did a nice job with this comment.

      Edit: That’s not to say that it’s necessarily right or wrong, just that it’s well-explained and -argued.

  5. Really like this as a WYP b/c its a pretty common spot but one that is tricky to navigate.

    The majority of our analysis should follow from these three variables: (a) Villain checks back turn (b) we beat all of Villains bluffs (c) The As is the ultimate scare card in the deck.

    On Betting:

    Do we ever get called by worse?

    I think this is unlikely. Perhaps Villain gets stubborn with 66 but this is obviously far too small of a range of hands for us to play our hand as a value hand.

    Do we ever get better to fold?

    This is where things get interesting. The easiest better hands we can get to fold are 88 and 99. I believe these hands will fold our bet.

    Hands better than 99 become trickier to fold out. If Villain had AT or JJ-AA and pot controlled on the turn by checking, it would with the intention of calling any river bet by Hero. As described, Villain sees Hero as “a bit wild” and “bluffing too much”. This may cause Villain to adapt by playing a more showdown bound strategy. Despite the As being such a scary card, Villain can still find a call for the very reason that it so scary and Hero may be most likely to bluff at it.

    Overall, I do not like a bet by Hero.

    Checking (c/c or c/f or c/r):

    Again, the reason we are not so anxious to turn our hand into a bluff is that we beat all of Villains bluffs. Had we c/c flop with hands w/ a straight draw that now missed, we would lose to Villains broadway type hands and it would be absolutely mandatory for Hero to bluff at this card.

    If we check, we open ourselves up to difficult river decisions. Without specific reads on Villains’ bluffing frequency, we can default to game theory. If we believe Villain will bluff at this card around 15%-20% of the time, then we should be calling bets b/w $40 and $60.

    The decision of whether or not to check/raise should depend on how polarized we perceive Villain to be and how large of a bet Villain makes.

    If Villain is polarized to the nuts or bluffs, then check/calling becomes more appealing that check/raising as this would only lead us to getting calls from better hands and folding out worse hands.

    The decision to c/r with a hand like 77 requires us to believe that Villain will go for thin value. If Villain is betting all top pair hands and better pocket pairs only then does c/r become more appealing as these are great hands to target with a c/r as they are better than Hero’s and will fold to a large c/r often enough. Villain’s range is more capped than ours after checking back turn and Hero can rep a big hand with a large raise.

    The larger the Villain’s bet, the less appealing this all sounds as (a) Villain will have stronger hands when he bets more and (b) a c/r will be that much costlier.

    The only real read we have in the description is that Villain leans towards the more passive-tight play. Based on this limited information, I do not believe this Villain is likely to go for thin value with a hands like JJ-KK or weak aces against a wild opponent and would more likely just go to showdown. As tempting as it is to turn our hand into a bluff when the ultimate scare card comes, I am not sure we will have great targets to try to bluff when Villain bets.

    Conclusion:

    Again, because we beat Villains’ pure bluffs anyway, it is not necessary that we turn our hand into a bluff as oppose to when we call flop with straight draws that have now missed. Given run out I like starting with a check. Barring any physical reads that convinces me another option is superior, I am likely to pay off bets between $40 and $60 and fold to anything larger.

    • Great analysis, Raphael. After initially thinking betting was best, I’m becoming increasingly persuaded that we *shouldn’t* be bluffing with this particular hand.
      I’ll probably change my mind again in half an hour, however, so Andrew definitely picked a great hand to get us thinking, as the decision can definitely go either way. 🙂

    • My gut reaction was to check / call to keep his bluffs in. I ran a quick simulation, assuming that he opens a 20% range from the CU and that range stays intact all the way to the river. If he bet his entire range (which he wouldn’t) on the river, Andrew has 31% equity which means you could probably call all bets up to nearly pot size. In reality, villain probably has a polarized river betting range which would lead me to think that we’re ahead more often when he bets the river than when he checks it back due to the fact his range is still so wide at the river, it will have more bluffs than value hands than typical river ranges contain. His check back range will contain a lot of value hands that beats us imo.

      ref: http://propokertools.com/simulations/show?b=tc5s4s5cas&g=he&h1=7x7y&h2=20%25&s=generic

  6. If you are checking your flush draws and full houses on the turn then you actually have quite a few value hands on this river. You can also probably bet quite large with them considering your image and the A on the river.

    So, you probably want to have a lot of bluffs as well. It still feels to me like 77 has too much showdown value to be in your bluffing range. You will have a good number of busted straight draws and maybe even some worse hands ( 3 flushes and overs?, gutshots? ) to bluff with without throwing away showdown equity. Also, your image probably reduces your bluffing frequency a bit.

  7. I am surprised that nobody mention stack-pot ratio as critical factor for choosing betting vs xr-ing.
    CO range is pretty wide open on turn.River card opens CO,BB ranges even wider.Boat and flush are very much in CO and BB range.
    So betting regardless of bet size opens a matrix of mathematically sound solutions for player in position vs bluffy BB.
    The checking narrows the matrix and could push CO into “deeper waters” where position will play less and math becomes very complex to use.

    • I disagree that CO has many full houses in his range. Villain is described as “nitty mostly with regard to his pre-flop hand selection.”

      Therefore the only combinations of hands Villain can have that give him a boat are AA, A5s, 44 or TT. As you say, we are pretty deep in this hand and it would be quite costly for Villain to check turn with a hand he would like to play for stacks with. Of the combinations of full houses Villain can have, A5s, 44, and TT already are made on the turn and the other combo is AA which is also likely to bet turn for value/protection.

      I do agree that flushes are still possible. Though the As is on board and we have the 7s blocking some flushes, we still cannot say Villain does not have flushes.

      • “It is costly for Villain to check turn with a hand he would like to play for stacks.”
        Intent to play for stacks is valid motive to exclude full-house from CO range.Let’s consider BB range.Betting turn with full-house could be very costly against player who is good reader and likes serious fireworks on the river.

  8. Haven’t checked out your blog in two years, but here goes:

    I expect his range by the river to be Ax, random broadway cards, flushes, random air like suited connectors, and 22-99. I expect JJ-KK and Tx to bet the turn.

    Betting: never getting called by 66 or worse. May fold out a few better hands: 88, 99. But won’t fold out most of his better hands.

    Check/call: never ahead of his value betting range (Ax, flushes). He’s probably bluffing with his broadways and air, but… I’m probably just going to let him have it unless he bets really small (<1/2 pot) and I get a great price to call.

    Check/raise: Seems like a pretty ambitious play to me. Since villain views Hero as "wild", I don't expect Villain to fold flushes (obviously) or Ax. He'll fold his air, though.

    Check/fold: I'm probably going with this, as the river just improves a lot of his range.

    I feel like my answer isn't the "right" one, given that it's kinda weak-tight and I always expect crazy plays from these posts on your blog. But I just think most of his betting range is Ax and flushes, and I don't want to play a guessing game on whether he has broadways or not. And I think at least some of the time, hands we do beat (K high, 22-66) check back and we win at showdown.

  9. I don’t really see a need to ever bluff this river. As has been mentioned already, the only target hands to bluff of villians are 88 and 99. Villian can have a TON of broadway cards in his range still. And those all have decent showdown value on a 10 5 4 5 A board. His option to just showdown is even more appealling if we check into him for a 3rd time. No reason to turn our hand into a bluff. If he has a 10 it seems like he would bet turn also, unless he is the type to go for thin value on river thinking he can only get 2 streets from it.

    I could see us making a thin value bet to get called by KQ KJ Kx hands, afterall he may call light considering some draws missed. He may also not believe it if we rep a flush. Not sure about everyone else but I would defend BB very wide vs CO raise. Hero could have draws like 63 67 A2 A3 78 floats and still a lot of broadway overs that didn’t give up to the C-bet.

    If Andrew bets $50-75 on river, I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see a call from K high. If we value bet we want to keep it small obviously to keep his high card, small pp hands in a calling range still. I wouldn’t be too worried about seeing a bluff raise from villian.

    If we check the river. I would expect villian to bet a pr of 10’s or better, or bet a pure bluff like 97 J8 78. I would expect him to checkback Kx broadway and small pp hands.

    I’m back and forth on betting or checking. In the end I think betting is better. I would say bet around $65, and fold if raised. You will of course sometimes be betting into 10’s and Ax that will call and win. But I would have likely check called a small bet anyway so I think leading into him is more profitable. If he were trickydicky and might raisebluff river, then I like checking better. But he doesn’t seem the type after the stab on the flop. Plus this gives him the opportuinty to make a mistake by calling too light against someone he views as a bit wild and bluffy. Keep in mind because he views you this way he is even less likely to bluff the river against you. Again a reason why leading is better.

    All this being said, you could make a very good case for just check/folding. Afterall this type of player seems more likely to play straightforward after trying the c-bet once on the flop. And less likely to bluff again, so if you check and he bets, a fold may be the way to go. But him being a little nitty preflop doesn’t mean he won’t call super light on the river. Bet small, fold if raised.

    • Jungleman or Ike Haxton might call with king high, but if a random “nitty older guy” calls with Kx on this paired, flushy, ace-high board, I probably fall off my chair and re-evaluate my read on him, and also have a hard think about my own image. (Maybe I was appearing “wilder” than I thought).
      And then I’d move down back down to 100NL where they respect my raises. 😉

      • Good points. But I don’t know, I still think he will call extremely light. Not a lot of reason why he wouldn’t. Once he cbets flop, then checks behind on the turn. He has to expect us to bluff the river if we have nothing. We “would” bluff the river right, if we did indeed have nothing. The only way we check this river is if we have showdown value, which is of course exactly what we have. But a bet can certainly be seen as a bluff, we didn’t need much to float a CO cbet to begin with? I guess more considering he is tighter pre. Idk but truthfully I do play pretty fast and laggy so my opinion is very biased lol. Also need to remember even though villian is “older nitty preflop” he isn’t just a random 1/2 tourist. He’s playing 5/10nl with a 2k stack raising Brokos’s bigblind. Gotta give him credit for being able to call light, river is a totally obvious bluffing spot for hero. If instead of 77 we had 76, we probably lead river a ton. Huge chance to see an Ace or Ten call, but if you don’t ever bet into the better hand… Plus if villian is trapping or has flush we aren’t calling off to a raise, I would feel good about bet/folding, especially when compared to check/calling as an alternative. Close second for me is still just check/fold. Good discussions btw, glad I found this blog!

  10. I’m glad you used this hand, because it is such a common spot it’s very helpful (at least for me) to really think through.

    My instincts are just to check/evaluate, probably calling a small bet (maybe up to 2/5 pot?) and fold to anything bigger. However, if we do want to turn our hand into a bluff, I think that check/raising is a much better option then betting out.

    As Raphael and others point out, I think 77 is probably too strong to turn into a bluff by leading, as its hard to imagine worse hands calling and I think most better hands (at least any A) will call any reasonable single bet. Further, I think villain has many more medium-strength hands in his range, specifically many more A’s than we do. He probably has the majority of his combos AK-A8 (or whatever he is raising from the CO), as his line (raising pre, c-betting flop, checking turn) makes sense for A high. In contrast, we probably aren’t floating OOP with too many A high hands, maybe AK but we could very easily three-bet this pre-flop. On the other hand, while he has many more medium-strength hands, I think we have many more strong hands, specifically trips (aka a 5), 2 pair, and flushes. I think full houses are unlikely for either of us given how the hand played out (although certainly possible). And while villain could have a flush, many players will choose to barrel a strong flush draw on the turn (even if it isn’t the best idea with the board pairing). Our flop calling range is heavy on pairs and draws, so the river brought in a decent number of flushes and 2 pairs (AT, A4) to go with our trip 5s. So if Villain’s range is more capped than ours, we can at least consider running a big bluff. For this reason, if villain puts in a bet consistent with an A( 1/2 pottish?), and we think he would be capable of folding a hand like AQ, I would strongly consider putting in a big raise. If we knew the villain would usually barrel a flush draw turn, and/or always bet a bare A on the river, we could be more confident with our bluff-raise.

  11. I’d be betting trips, flushes, boats and bricked straight draws on the river after he gives up on the turn, that I think I should be check/calling with my pairs and check/folding my missed overs. If I’d want to bet more Ax on the river, I’d have to feel that he would call more with weaker Ax than bet weaker Ax.

    However, I would check/fold the weaker pairs if his bet+demeanor are so strong that I have to reconsider.

    I’m guesstimating that I’m betting 40% of my range, check/calling 40%, and check/folding 20%.

  12. IMO some of the comments downplay the fact that this is a somewhat nitty-pre older guy at live 5-10. He has comparatively few flushes and tens other than AT, which he is not folding. I agree that a river lead gets a few better hands to fold but not many (I would expect him to continue to fire with JJ+ on turn most of the time with a wet board). Ax is huge part of villain’s range here and I’m not expecting him to fold to a “wild” younger guy’s river lead just because the flush came in.

    The question is, does the (small) benefit of folding out 99-88 outweigh the EV of [% c/r gets him to fold Ax x increased cash from c/r]. A lot of nitty older guys would fold all one-pair hands to a c/r to 380 from most villains. The question is, is Andrew’s image shot enough that villain’s going to take a stand just because + very small % he has AK and thinks Andrew could c/r with a worse ace? This guy sounds like he’s at least semi-thinking, so there’s some leveling going on here (he probably knows that you know that he knows you have more flushes once the ace hits, etc.). I would check, planning to raise but maybe talking myself out of it if his bet is close to pot.

    I hate c/c for virtually any amount absent a sick live tell. This type of player rarely has air and rarelier (?) turns that into representing something when the scariest card in the deck comes in.

    • (rarelier — more rarely?)

      I would bet about 60 and fold to a raise. He will certainly call with an ace but if he folds better hands 25% of the time than this is a profitable bluff. Also protects us from getting bluffed out by his air as any raise is extremely unlikely to be a bluff.

    • Despite the fact that my post (first) was making my read based on not realizing that a possible flush couldve came for us on the river, this post is a more elaborate version of the point I was making above, check call is bad, bet fold is bad against this type of villain. For Wider ranged non nitty and even other good opponents I can see a bet/fold or check call here but it is very tricky and player/read dependent.

  13. Whilst it must be close to the bottom of our range, 77 must also be pretty close to Tx on this board when it comes to facing a river bet. Villain’s turn check should include some draws, some pot control type hands, and maybe some junk, although he equally can be continuing on the turn with a lot of his air, if he barrels at all. On the river, then we can expect him to have a decent chunk of hands that are not great, but beat us, some flushes, and some air. Leading out is tempting, although the read given seems to make it less desirable.

    At first I thought that checking puts villain into a great spot where he can polarise his range and get through a lot of bluffs defended by his flushes and top pairs. However, our range is not entirely restricted to mediocre made hands – we can have some boats, some flushes, to go with our range of 1 pair like hands, so villain needs to be somewhat circumspect about what he value bets and or bluffs on the river, especially as we have decent stacks behind.

    I originally wrote a long analysis wherein I convinced myself that we can be check raising 77 to balance our flushes and full houses. It’s a sort of sexy idea, but in seriously doubt I’d ever do it at the tables. It relies upon villain betting somewhat thin and then being able to fold an Ace. I feel like check calling is going to be painful most of the time given ranges, but I’m not sure I have the stones to check raise. Meh.

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