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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

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One of the things I’ve noticed in low level no limit hold’em ring games is that many of my most profitable sessions have come after an early hand in which, for one reason or another, I looked foolish.  On a huge site like PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker, most of the players with whom you are sitting have never played with you before, and, as the old saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”  And so, be it human nature, or just the weakness of low level players, when the first hand you show down on the river is seen to be a bluff, the other players tend to give you very little respect in the hands to follow.  You can exploit that impression to your great financial advantage when the proper situation arises.

Consider what happened to me in one of my sessions:  I was playing at a .10-.25 no limit hold’em table.  I had taken down a nice pot early without showing my cards when I check-raised the pre-flop raiser with top pair and a flush draw.  Sitting one off the button, I found {K-Spades}- {Q-Spades}.  Two players called in front of me, and I decided to raise to $1.25.  They both called.  The flop was {A-Clubs}{2-Clubs}{7-Hearts}.  The two players checked, and I made a continuation bet of $2.  One player folded, but the other called.  I put him on a weak-to-medium ace.

The turn card was the {J-Diamonds}, giving me an inside straight draw.  My opponent checked, and I gladly took the free card.  The river was the {8-Hearts}.  Once again, he chose not to bet.  Although I still thought it likely that he held that weak ace, he also might have missed a flush draw.  I decided that although I was most likely beaten, I would try to steal the pot with a decent-sized bet.  This would create two potential positive outcomes.  The first would be if he folded, in which case I would win the pot.  However, I knew that if he called and I lost, it would “advertise” me as the fish at the table, which would be just fine.

As it turned out, I bet $4, and he called with {A-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}, exposing my K-Q for all the world to see.  Basically, I had given back the chips I had won earlier, but with an eye toward capitalizing on my new image as the table donkey.

A few hands later, I was in the big blind with {4-Clubs}{3-Clubs} and $13.90 of my original $15 buy-in.  The player in second position raised to $1, and everyone folded to me.  I decided to see the flop, knowing I could release the hand easily if it didn’t hit.  The flop was {3-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}.  Yahtzee!!  Now, how could I go about maximizing my profit on the hand?  I began by checking, and he bet $1.50, which I called.

The turn was the {10-Spades}, and I checked once again.  This time he bet $4.25.  I decided it was time for the “donkey bluff raise” right then and there, because there was no guarantee he would fire the third bullet.  I raised my last $7.15, and he called with pocket eights.  The fourth 3 fell on the river to put the cherry on the sundae.  For some reason, he didn’t even type in so much as a “nh” in the chat box.

I am fairly certain that the earlier bluff weighed heavily in his decision to push his pocket eights so hard.  Although he was getting a decent price on the last $7.15 (a bit less than 3-1), if, in fact, I did have a 3, or even a 10, he was drawing to two outs.  Having shown that I would make a seemingly foolish play earlier, in his mind I was just continuing that same poor judgment on a later hand.

Interestingly enough, the play of the suited 4-3 changed my table image once again.  Now, players were more wary of pushing hard after the flop if I was involved in the hand.  I was able to steal a few pots, and also win some pots with post-flop aggression.  All in all, I more than doubled my buy-in playing only 38 hands.

This was a small example of a phenomenon I have noticed many times in ring play.  While advertising yourself as a loose player who will bluff at any time may be uncomfortable for you, if you tend towards tight play, those who give action will receive action later on, especially if they appear to be lousy players.  With the increased tendency towards all-in bets that low limit players already have, any little nudge to push them over the edge can create a nice payday.  Try it sometime, and see how it works.

See you at the tables!

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