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❓ Have you ever tried to recreate a big bluff you saw a pro player make, only to end up regretting it when your opponent snap calls you? 

Often when we’re starting out with poker it’s tempting to just copy what you see the professional players doing, even if it doesn’t apply to your situation. One of the biggest differences between low stakes and high stakes poker is the amount that you are supposed to be bluffing your opponents. You’ll often see pros in the biggest games making gutsy plays, but often the best approach is a simple one. Here we’ll take a look at a hand Bencb played where he considered bluffing and figure out if it’s a profitable bluff spot to take.

First, let’s break down the hand.

Table of contents

Hand Breakdown:

The Under the Gun player (UTG) raises to 400, Ben calls in the Big Blind (BB) with A♠ T♠ (23,000 effective stack). UTG and Ben go heads up to the flop.  

The flop is 2♥  K♣ 3♠ (2,440). UTG bets 595, Ben calls.

 This is a profitable defend versus this sizing, not a very tough decision to call UTG’s 1/4 pot c-bet here. We have an overcard and a backdoor flush draw in case we’re currently beat, and we are ahead of all of UTG’s bluff combos

The turn is the Q♠ (3,630). UTG bets 2,678, Ben calls.

UTG will have a lot of bluffs with A4, A5, JT, T9 holdings here that can barrel, so we still have a strong enough hand to just call here. If we had a weaker flush draw it may be a better decision to either raise or fold, but here we have enough equity to just call. An Ace, Jack or any spade will still give us a very strong hand and we beat most of UTG’s bluffs currently. 

The river is the 8♣ (8,986). UTG bets 6,695 (leaving 13,042 behind) and action is on Ben.

Ben’s flush draw bricks and we’re left with just Ace high, facing a large river bet from UTG.  In this situation the first thing you should always think about is where your hand fits in your range. 

We’ll want to value jam our best hands in this situation, so we do need to find some bluffs. The question we have to answer now is if  A♠  T♠  is one of those hands that we want to bluff jam, or if we’d be better off just letting it go. 

UTG’s GTO River Betting Range:

To figure this out, let’s first take a look at what GTO says we should be doing. Take a look at UTG’s GTO range on the river. Is a low-mid stakes player going to be betting this much? 
(Orange = Raise, Green = Call, Blue = Fold)

As you can probably see, GTO wants UTG to bet pretty aggressively, even for this larger 3/4 pot sizing. According to GTO, they should be betting K9+ for value (top pair, medium kicker), as well as incorporating a lot of missed draws and Ax combos as bluffs. 

A player in real life will almost always under bluff rivers at low-mid stakes, and probably won’t be value betting as thinly as GTO would like them to either.

UTG’s Adjusted Range:

So, let’s adjust UTG’s river range to be a bit more accurate with our response:

(Orange = Raise, Green = Call, Blue = Fold)

Here we’ve changed UTG’s river range so that K9 and KT purely check, but we still include some bluffs with the Ax combos, T9, 76 and 54. 

Lot’s of players will still take the conservative route and check back holdings even as strong as AK after Ben calls flop and turn. However, this range is a more clear indicator of what your average low-mid stakes player might be doing, so let’s see GTO’s response to this adjusted range.

 

Ben’s GTO Response Facing UTG Bet:

Here is what Ben’s GTO defend range looks like facing UTG’s river bet. 
(Orange = Raise, Green = Call, Blue = Fold) 

As you can see, we are almost never supposed to bluff raise here according to GTO. Our hand,  A♠  T♠ is a pure fold, and the only hands we are ever allowed to bluff raise are the QT and Q9 combos. Even then, we are mainly calling or folding with our entire range, only raising 88 for value and sprinkling some QT and Q9 bluffs for balance. 

When we consider the fact that most low-mid stakes opponents are likely to still be more conservative on this river than UTG’s adjusted range, this spot is a perfect example of a situation where you should never be bluffing.

 

Summary:

One of the key takeaways here is that most low-mid stakes players will never bluff enough or bet for thin value enough on rivers.

Because of this we must approach river bluff raising with extreme caution, because most of the time it is simply not going to be a profitable play. Obviously every player will play differently and there are limitless variables and factors in poker, but one thing that we know for sure is that the population at low-mid stakes tends towards playing conservatively on rivers. 

Next time you think about going for broke with a massive river bluff, give it some thought and ask yourself what hands your opponent can really have that will fold to your jam. It’s very likely that they are massively imbalanced, and are only continuing with their strongest hands and a few select bluffs (at best). As our opponents deviate from GTO, we also must adjust and play differently. 

Hopefully this strategy article helped you with your decision making process on rivers. If you’d like to watch the full 10 minute breakdown of this hand, along with commentary and GTO breakdowns from Bencb, you can do so by clicking  here.

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