A well played bluff

4-seat table, 2k/4k ring. I buy in at 500k.

History: Earlier I came in really hot and took some big pots with pocket JJ, got lucky calling a 2BB raise with J8s, making a flush draw on the flop, running out trip Jacks, and am up 100k in the first few hands. I get pocket TT and win a hand with it, get TT again and turn a set, end up losing a pretty large pot vs KK, set over set, they flopped KKK, on a board that had some broadway and flush draw possibilities, I made a daring call on the river for a halfpot bet and lost, shoulda folded with all the wet on the board, and fall back to breakeven. I get TT one more time and win a small pot with it, and then hit a straight, 5-9, with 97, and end up rivering a 9 to nullify the straight advantage, giving it to T7 who bets and I call. I’ve made some reasonable plays and gotten some good pots with it, but got bit a few times with some bad hands that looked good. The play here seems nice and reasonable, no overlimping, no overcalling, no tilty wild maniacs, just solid ABC poker.

PREFLOP: KsJd on the button in this hand, I call a 2BB open to see a flop.

FLOP: Flop comes TA9, all spades, I’ve got the nut flush draw. I’m hoping it’ll fill and I can crush a smaller flush. V bets into me, potting it, and I flat call.

TURN: Turn is a 3c, check-check back.

RIVER: I pick up the Kc on the river, and V decides to bet into me again for a half-pot value bet.

Knowing I block the nut flush, and have 2nd pair, decent kicker, and only QJ could have a straight, but likely wouldn’t feel safe with the flush flop on the board, I decide to go for a big raise and see if the bluff will work, looking to get an Ace to fold.

I put in a overpot-size raise, making it huge to call, 165k raise over a 33k bet into a pot of 65k (98k total, so a 1.66x river raise), and V tanks a while, then folds.

I’m really proud of this play, usually people will call very light since it’s play chips, and they don’t care. So I must have sold this one very well.

https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/718864005

This play end up winning me about 100k chips on a pot I very likely didn’t deserve. I’m figuring V had Ace-something, maybe with a spade offsuit, and tried to see if he could bet me down with top pair, then when I called it set up that I was on a suited spades hand for a flopped flush, laying a trap by checking back the turn rather than betting it, setting up a monster raise. I love this line.

With the nut blocker, and a draw to the nuts yourself on the flop and turn, you are in a good spot for a bluff on all 3 streets. I like the bluff the least on the river, as I’m not at all sure you’re behind. If the river had been something like a non-spade 2, I’d like the bet more. Here, it’s a bit harder to evaluate. You certainly could still be folding out better hands, but your hand has enough showdown value that at a minimum your holding is not gaining much EV with this move.

This is one of the reasons why large bets tend to be polarizing: the best bluffs to pick are often your weakest holdings, as they potentially gain the most from the move. With hands that have some showdown value, you are throwing that showdown value away when you turn them into a bluff.

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It’s a fair point that I have some showdown value with the King on the river. How much though? Not the amount I bet, I don’t think. I figure V either has nothing, missed flush, or an Ace. I’m not beating an Ace if I call, and I don’t want to raise here with a sizing that gets any non-flush Aces to call.

What range of hands do you play with the line V took? Full pot bet on the flop, check the turn, half pot river. I think only AxXs, maybe two pair, and maybe a QsX. Is that ever flopped middle pair? Is it reasonable to just call the river bet with 2nd pair KK-A-J, as played, and hope that I’m good?

The range is typically quite a bit bigger than the most reasonable hands you’ll select when you review the hand and think about it rationally, but I share your opinion that you are mostly behind. Are there spots when you turn a made hand into a bluff: yes, when you think that made hand now has very little showdown value. With a check on the river from your opponent, checking back for that showdown value seems like a fair line. After your opponent bets at you on the river, I think you are mostly only beating hands like QJ with one or the other a spade. But even then, at this level, I imagine most people would not make a half pot bet on the river with a holding like that, so I don’t think it amounts to too many combos. There may also be combos like KJ or KT, with the second card a spade, but your hand and the river block those, and again, I don’t imagine that is a typical line at this level.

So yes, rationally I’d think you might only be ahead 10% of the time or less. Maybe 20% optimistically, throwing in some of the really weird holdings you inevitably end up seeing from time to time, and that does leave calling a losing play with a half pot bet.

So if you can’t call profitably, is the bluff raise profitable? Having the king of spades helps, as I think there is some chance of getting a made flush to fold. With the check on the turn, it doesn’t really feel like your opponent has a made flush, but it is still possible, and illustrates the strength of a big bet with the nut blocker.

Maybe I’m wrong that the king on the river makes this the worst street to bluff. Your bet actually looks stronger on the river over his bet than it would have on the turn after his check, which makes it more forceful as a bluff. It is probably also easy for him to put you on QJ, value betting the straight, as it mostly looks like he doesn’t have the flush now.

I’m curious what others think… but I think I’m reversing myself, and concluding your bluff on the river was probably strong.

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That’s how I read V’s line, too. If he has a flush, it’s a weak enough flush that he wasn’t sure about whether to bet again after getting the pot-sized bet on the flop called. OR, he’s trying to disguise his hand, make it look like he misplayed and is now actually weak, hoping that I’ll be over him, which is why I only checked back, rather than electing to try bluffing the Turn. I opted to believe no-flush, and either an Ace for top pair, or an Ace backed with some spade, drawing to the flush but not getting there.

I think that cold calling the flop bet showed strength, and then just checking back rather than trying to take the opportunity to turn on the aggression was also a strong move; I’m comfortable enough with my holding that I don’t need to try to close the hand before a showdown. And then the big raise on the river is just a baller move, making it look like I had flopped the nuts all along.

As I say, I really like that line I took, and I think playing it as I did, allowed me to asses my opponent’s hand strength. At the river, I’m thinking likely he doesn’t have a flush, so I’m in reasonably good shape to bluff with the nut blocker, with the line I took really selling it. I think the bet size on the river is probably the best part of it. I didn’t try to oversell it by shoving, I just went for what would look like a strong value raise for a high flush. Which, ultimately, I think it’s more convincing/plausible that I have it if I make a bet that looks like I am not trying to get him to fold.

Thanks for the insights.