Thanks to everyone who participated in Rate Our Play: Blind Battle. I hope you benefited from thinking about this spot. Blind battles and other spots where players have very wide ranges are tricky because, if you just try to apply heuristics and experience from other situations, you’re going to get them very wrong. Simple rules like “no pair means no showdown value” don’t apply. Here are my thoughts on each of our decisions:
DP1: A6o is a tough hand to play, even when only a single opponent with a random hand remains. Raising denies the BB some equity and reduces the likelihood that you’ll have to play out of position after the flop, but it also sets you up to get blown out by a 3-bet or to play out of position against a stronger range in a raised pot. With antes in the pot, I think you have too much value to fold, but both calling and raising are reasonable options.
DP2: QJo is generally a good enough hand to raise for value into a small blind limp, especially because most people will raise the hands that dominate you and call some dominated hands. I’m not sure why I didn’t raise at the time, and I probably should have.
DP3: A few commenters seem to suggest that Villain can just bet the flop with any two cards because Hero will often “miss”, and against weaker opponents that may be true. However, better players are aware of the relative difficulty of making a pair and will defend appropriately to a flop bet, including by calling with strong unpaired hands and by bluff-raising. That’s not to say that Villain should never bluff, but he should expect only his better bluffing candidates to be profitable. Turning a hand with this much showdown value into a bluff is a mistake, as it is surely a profitable check and call.
You might object that since I called with worse, we can think of Villain’s bet as a value bet. However, overall he will not be ahead of my calling range, and many of my worse hands (though probably not this one) will often bluff him out on future streets anyway.
DP4: This is a clear call. Villain could easily be bluffing, and I ought to beat all of his bluffs plus have reasonable equity even against many of his value bets. Things get a bit dicier if he’s betting his Aces, but even then I suspect that I have enough equity to call.
As for raising, many of the same arguments apply as with Villain’s limp: the hand has too much value to turn into a bluff, at the moment anyway. On runouts that improve my weaker flop calls, I may end up bluffing with this, as it would then be the bottom of my range.
DP5: Villain’s flop bet, along with this turn card, killed any showdown value his hand had, so now it is a bluffing candidate along with the rest of the air he ought to have bet on the flop. However, Villain ought to have other bluffs with better equity available to him and probably ought to give up on this one.
Essentially, he’s got an Ed Miller pyramid problem here. His flop betting range was too wide, and now on the turn he’s going to hold too many weak hands and will have to get rid of them somehow. He can either keep bluffing, which will make my bluff-catches very profitable, of he can just check and fold, which with this hand at least is the better option.
DP6: An easy call. Villain may not be value betting worse, but even so, I have a very solid bluff-catcher. The hand is too strong to raise as a bluff and not strong enough to raise for value.
DP7: Another pyramid problem. Once again, if Villain is getting to the river with too much air and bluffing with all of it, then my bluff catches will be very profitable. This is certainly a board that favors his range, but that doesn’t mean that he’s guaranteed a profitable bluff when he doesn’t have any blockers to my calling range.
DP8: This is a clear call, though not a super-profitable one (unless Villain is bluffing too much, which this one, in retrospect, seems to have been), as I block JT and KQ or other turned two-pairs. Many players won’t go for a third street of value with top pair, at least not for this size, but even against those who do, I expect this to be a profitable call.
PokerWilo asked about my plan for future streets. While it will depend heavily on the runout, I think there’s an underlying assumption to address here, which is that I need to be able to call future barrels. This would be true if we had reason to believe that Villain would always or usually barrel off after betting the flop, and in retrospect it seems like this one might.
However, that’s not information that I had at the time. All I knew is that Villain might keep betting, and he might not. That means that, no matter the turn card, I need to have some bluff-catchers that fold to further bets and some that do not. That way, I punish (or at least do not reward) both players who give up too often and those who barrel too often. On many turn cards, QJ will be in my folding range, but on this one, it’s in my calling range. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with having a range of hands that will call once and fold to further action – in fact, it’s correct.
Thanks for playing, everyone!