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Multistreet Bluff from a WSOP $1500 NLHE Event

I alluded to this hand on a recent edition of Killer Poker Analysis. It’s been awhile since I played this hand, so I’m hoping I get all the details correct. In the worst-case scenario, my memory of the hand is incorrect, but I still discuss an interesting line of play. This is a prime example of taking a medium pocket pair and turning it into a bluff when it appears to have little-to-no showdown value.

Blinds were T50-T100 without an ante. I had about T5,000-T5,500 at the start of the hand, and I was playing purely with respect to cEV. I had been relatively active at the table, but after about 2.5-3 hours of play, I had only been involved in one hand that went to showdown. I was CO with 88, and I opened to T225. B and BB called, making the pot T700 going to the flop. The flop was J52 rainbow. BB checked. Though a T375 bet would have been okay, I also checked. B bet about T400. BB folded, and I called. At this point, I put B on something like {KJ+, QJs, JTs, TT-22, Positional Bluff}.

The pot was about T1500 going to the turn. The turn was a Q which was the same suit as the 2 on the flop. I led around T800. B looked a bit puzzled and hesitated a bit before calling. During his hesitation, there was no indication that he was thinking of raising (i.e. I had no real indication of whether he’s very strong). At this point, I thought my opponent’s range was constrained to something like {KQ+, KJ+, QJs, 55, 22}. Therefore, my opponent’s range, broken down with respect to hand combinations, looked something like:

AQ: 12 combos

KQ: 12 combos

AJ: 12 combos

KJ: 12 combos

QJs: 2 combos

55: 1 combo

22: 3 combos

Total: 54 combos

The pot was about T3,100 going to the river, which was a 5. The 5 was the same suit as the Q and 2 – making a backdoor flush possible. With my 88 not beating any part of my opponent’s range, I had to decide between bluffing and giving up. Some players feel compulsed to bluff in these situations – justifying their compulsion by saying something like “betting is the only way I can win.” However, if the only way to win the pot is a -cEV play, you’re better off simply giving up. When deciding between bluffing and giving up, you need to account for your opponent’s range, the range of hands you represent, and make a decision accordingly.

In this case, I thought that a river bet of about T1,800-T2,200 could get AJ and KJ to fold. A bet of T2,200 only needs to succeed T2,200/(T2,200 + T3,100) = 41.5% of the time to be profitable in the long run. AJ and KJ represent 24/54 = 44.4% of B’s range. Combine that with the small probability of my opponent folding other hands in his range due to me possibly representing {75s, 65s, 54s, JJ+, 55, 22}, and a T2,200 lead looks to be profitable here in the long run as long as the bluffing part of my range isn’t too wide – something like {88-66}. Of course, exploitatively speaking, my bluffing range can be wider than 88-66 if my opponent doesn’t think I’m capable of launching such a bluff here.

If we suppose that QJo is also in my opponent’s range here, the math changes a little bit. If we, again, assume that only AJ and KJ will fold, leading will now only work 24/61 =  39.3% of the time. Given the entire range I’m leading here, and given my uncertainty as to whether QJo is in my opponent’s range, a T2,200 lead is still probably +cEV. Whether a T2,200 lead is the most +cEV bet given my leading range is another question entirely. And of course, we should also question my intended leading range to begin with!

If I was currently in Vegas, I’d crank out some CardrunnersEV analysis to figure out what the best bet is given a leading range of {75s, 65s, 54s, JJ+, 55, 22, 88-66}. And I’d also have some fun tinkering around with various leading ranges (and bet sizes given those leading ranges). But since I’m currently in Taipei enjoying some quality time with my wife (who is currently napping), I think I’ll cut the analysis short and simply state my belief that small-medium pocket pairs can make for interesting hands to turn into bluffs when you believe they have little-to-no showdown value.

(For those interested in the result of this hand, I led T2,200, and my opponent tanked for 1-2 minutes. He counted his stack – which was maybe about T3,500-T4,000 – and he eventually called with QJo. Given his mannerisms, I think he was waffling between calling and folding. However, there’s a chance that we was waffling between calling and shoving. Of course, the result of this hand doesn’t make me any less gun shy in these situations. After all, if you’re not willing to strap on your seat belt and embrace calculated risks, you’re pretty much dead money in tournaments with top-heavy payout structures.)

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera


Feel free to repost this as long as you include the following author box (including hyperlinks):

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author, an instructor at PocketFives Training, a member of Team Moshman, and host of the popular poker strategy podcast, Killer Poker Analysis. Tony blogs about decision optimization on and off the felt at


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