Rate Our Play: Blind Battle Results

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!

7 thoughts on “Rate Our Play: Blind Battle Results

  1. If I remember Ed Miller’s pyramid, if u call w QJ on the flop you should be continuing on the turn 70% of the time. What cards would u continue with and what turn cards would get u to fold, assuming V is barreling all turns. And I guess the bigger question is, are there enough “good” turn cards to continue with?

    Although Q high has some showdown value vs a limped sb range, the SDV goes way down imo as the barrels keep coming. So u either need to bluff raise at some point or hit a pair. If villain shuts down once called, do u try to get to showdown?

    • Well that’s just a very rough figure but the idea isn’t that any given hand should frequently continue to another bet, it’s that your RANGE should frequently continue to another bet. Many hands in my calling range, most notably the better pairs, will continue on most or all turns, so it’s OK to have hands like QJ that will fold on a majority of turns. And yes, if he checks, I’ll often look to check down, though as I said there are boards where I’ll turn it into a bluff.

      • Question. In order to call and then bluff raise future streets you would also need to value raise thin – to balance your range. Otherwise your value raising range is representing much too narrow of a range and you’re likely to get rebluffed or called lighter. I feel like a hand even as strong as top pair is hard to raise with in this spot bc it’s better to bluff catch. So if we’re not raising with top pair type hands, what hands are we representing when we do raise? 2P or better? If I were villain and got raised, I would probably call w ace high and check call blank rivers. Interested in hearing your thoughts.

        • How did we get on to bluff raising? It still seems like you’re assuming Villain is going to keep betting just because he bet the flop. Not that I would never bluff raise, but mostly when I talk about bluffing I’m talking about betting the turn or river after Villain checks. Also, think about this: “I feel like a hand even as strong as top pair is hard to raise with in this spot… If I were villain and got raised, I would probably call w ace high and check call blank rivers.”

  2. You say the A6 isn’t a value bet on the flop it’s a bluff. I’m thinking that against this sizing our “classical GTO” call percentage is supposed to be at least 73.3% Given that we have raised a lot of our premiums (and maybe KT+) pre-flop how often do we actually have a pair here – isn’t is less than 73.3/2 = 37% of the time? Don’t we need to call a tonne of unpaired hands on this flop? Also if we’re saying its a bluff then what worse hands does it fold?

    Having said that, I do think though its a spot where the classic value/bluff distinction doesn’t hold – a lot of the value comes from “bluffing” random unpaired six-outer hands out of the 25% of the pot that is rightfully theirs, he can’t get a naked A high to showdown a lot of the time etc. The main problem is that another subset of those hands float and “give value”, but after he shuts down on a blank turn they are able to bluff him out.

    • You’re right that the bet doesn’t quite make sense as either a bluff or a value bet, which is why I think it’s not a good bet.

      As you say, it’s true that some hands worse than A6 will call a flop bet, however many of them will either improve or bluff on later streets. While betting the flop is certainly +EV for Villain, I very much doubt that it is his most +EV option.

  3. Sorry the end of the first above should say “what better hands does it fold?”

    Anyway I recently read the Theory of Poker by Sklansky which is very much oriented towards limit poker. His “reasons to bet” section isn’t primarily about “value vs bluff” he gives 7 reasons which are mostly tactical considerations. The sizing on the flop is so small maybe the limit poker mentality is the best way to analyse it.

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