When your bluff turns into the nuts

Here’s a nice little hand played at a small-stakes short-stack SNG. Unbelievable runout for both player’s hole cards, and a brutal nut over 2nd nut showdown after both players hit their draws on the river.

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Your opponent should fold pre, 53o is one of the worst starting hands in holdem. On the flop, it’s fine for you to bet with one overcard plus a gutshot, but you should just check-fold a lot of the time because your hand is terrible. They should obviously just fold the flop.

On the turn, checking is good because your hand is not good. Once he bets you should usually just fold. Based on his weak bet, it is fine to turn your hand into a bluff because you have nothing, but know your opponent. If they don’t care at all and won’t fold, then don’t try to bluff them. Against your check-raise, they should easily fold even with the open-ender.

Your bet sizes were fine, but you should probably just shove the turn because there isn’t enough left behind for a meaningful river bet.


Little correction: Nobody had the nuts. The nuts would have been 9T.

That’s true.

“The nuts” gets thrown around a lot. Players on paired boards with the highest possible full house will say they have it, when really quads made with the pair is the true nuts.

Lately Jonathan Little has been talking on his youtube channel throwing the term “effective nuts” a lot, by which he means “a very strong hand” not the “best possible hand”.

I’m not really sure what to think about it; I think Little’s trying to encourage players to bet strong made hands, without fearing the literal nuts, because most of the time your opponent won’t have it, so he’s kindof coined this term “the effective nuts” when he really just means “a set on the flop” and not even top set, or “a five-card made hand on the turn” – regardless of whether it’s the best possible. A straight that isn’t an idiot-end straight, but isn’t the top straight, on a board that isn’t flushing or paired, would be an “effective nut” hand in this sense, particularly if the nut straight isn’t likely to be in your opponent’s range.

If you play every pot like you’re potentially up against the literal nuts, you’re going to miss a lot of value and overfold, so thinking of your strong hands as “effective nuts” is maybe useful to avoiding playing that way.

I’m sure that my opponent in that hand thought he was good when he hit his inside draw on the river with 53, and a lot of time he might well be. He could have been up against A8 for top pair top kicker, an or two pair, or maybe a slow-played pocket 99+s trying to trap. He made a hero call against a big bluff raise on the Turn holding weak rags and nothing made, banking that he’d fill it on the river, and then he didobviously he won’t be folding folding that hand when you actually make it, he’s hoping I go all-in - just hoping I don’t have a 9-5.

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That’s true. It was a cooler. But in a other situation it could also be a cooler against you with an opponent holding 9T in such a situation. Of course in Texas Hold’em you can’t always look after the nuts. Top Pair or two pair are the best hand most of the time. But don’t play Omaha Hold’em with this attitude :wink:

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JD, that is such nonsense that someone should fold with 5-3. I like a fork hand, where there is one card missing. It can lead to an unexpected straight and a huge pot. Which it almost did if it wasn’t for a lucky fool bluffing on 9-5
Puggy had the worst hand with 9-5
If you think you should only bet “Good” hands, you should ask Negranu how he did with AA two hands in a row…

He is in position, which is a plus, but that doesn’t mean he should play any two cards. With effective stack sizes of about 20, you want to have hands with top pair value, not drawing hands. And quite frankly 53 is neither; it is one of the worst drawing hands. Looking at a distribution of the best 87.5% of starting hands, 53o is not one of them. Of the 169 distinct hands in holdem 53o is one of the 13 worst.

I won’t give an exact range from the button here with these short stacks, but even if you put chips in the pot with a relatively loose range of 80% of hands, 53o should not be one of those hands. Offsuit gappers and even offsuit connectors are extremely bad hands, and just because you can make a straight (3% of the time?) doesn’t make them good. Your two pair will likely be bottom two pair, your straights will likely be the low end. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine that there are many (any?) players out there with a +EV record with 53o, including Negreanu, though it is impossible to know for sure. Throw this garbage away and choose a better spot.

Here are some examples to illustrate how bad 53o is (and why it is not generally good to play any two cards). Against a garbage hand like J6o you have 36% equity. Against an “amazing” hand like 66 you have 14%. Even against a hand that you dominate like 43s, you are marginally favored (57%), while against hands that dominate you (and there are many more that dominate you than are dominated by you) like 75s you are at 33%. Even against a dominated hand like 52s, you would only have 51% equity, in one of the best case scenarios. Long story short, save yourself the grief and let go of hands that “could” make straights because they make bad straight and make them very rarely. They also make terrible pairs, awful flushes, and even weak boats.

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The effective nuts does not mean just any very strong hands. It means the hands that are better should not realistically be in the villains range based on the way the hands had been played.

For example, when playing for real money (as opposed to here, where so many people play passively) if you open with 99 and get called pre and the flop comes K93 rainbow, you have the effective nuts, because the actual nuts (KK) would have been expected to 3-bet pre 100% of the time. You can “effectively” ignore the possibility that the villain has KK or AA based on how the hand had been played. Yes it is possible that someone slowplayed their kings, but it’s such a bad play and so uncommon that you shouldn’t factor it into your analysis of the situation.


JD, you’re not getting what I’m saying because from what you are saying I would have to deduce that both Polk and Negreanu are bad poker players. They both have flopped with low end cards and won.
Poker is not only about math but also about potential.
Big time winners play hands for potential many times. Luck is always a big factor in cards.
You can still land a boat with 5-3, get trips or get the only pairs. If you limit yourself to only ‘winners’ you’ll be very predictable
Negreanu had AA and he lost two times in a row!! Do you want to do the math for that? Tell him he’s fool for playing?

Polk and Negreanu are playing a minimum of 100 big binds deep, which changes the value of weak hands because you can get paid enough if you hit to justify the poor odds. Even taking that into account, I don’t think they would be playing 53o. Maybe at a very low frequency. They also wouldn’t call with it pre flop. They would raise. In the example hand they are only 20BB’s deep, so it can’t be justified. It should be folded pre.

Also, in your earlier comment you said the player bluffing with 9 5 is a “lucky fool”. This is incorrect. 9 high with a straight draw is exactly the type of hand you should be bluffing with. You can’t expect to win with 9 high, so you want to bluff to get your opponent to fold better hands which are too weak to continue with. And if they don’t fold you can hit your straight. The player with 53 should either fold or shove when bet into, for the same reason that 95 is a good bluff. Again, the stacks are too short to justify calling.

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I thought it was a good hand to bluff with, and didn’t think the call from 53o was very good. It surprised me to see what they called with – it seems we both were counting mightily on that inside draw to come, which usually is not such a good idea. I did think the bluff might have worked against a good player, especially with that holding, but this is what you run into on this site more often than not.

Comparing the play in this hand to elite play by hall of fame professionals is a little bit silly, if flattering. But yes, heads up you do need to defend a very wide range of hands, and you have to bluff sometimes, and so sometimes things like this will go down. I don’t think you can expect to win much with 53o or 95o, in the long run, but at the time I made the bluff move, I wasn’t just playing my hole cards – I was playing the board, and also reading into my opponent’s action that they were not particularly strong. My “mistake” was to think that the bluff would result in a fold, but happily I was actually ahead in any case, and got bailed out on the river.

If I’d missed the straight, though, I might just have check-folded the better hand, figuring that my opponent had a pair, and then gone bust very shortly thereafter. I lose so many pots betting missed overcards that I raised big after some middle-weak hand that should have folded hits for a small pair and then hero-calls 3 barrels on this site. People on this site love to play hands like 83o against AK opening to 6BB, pair the 3, and then hang onto it for dear life and of course it holds up 90% of the time. A bluff shove with my remaining stack wouldn’t have gotten someone off of a pair, probably, at that point, although I’m sure it would have folded 53o missing the gutshot if the river had gone down that way and I had dared to shove anyway. And if they’d called without the straight, well obviously they’re not going to win against, well, pretty much anything in this spot.

Joe Dirk mentioned that he thought a better sizing for the bluff was to jam it all in, and he might be right there, but against a lot of typical Replay opponents, shoves seem to be invitations to call, like a game of chicken. I lose more games on bluff shoves than anything else on this site, and I thought that the less-than-stack bet would give the bluff a little more credibility. It also gave me the opportunity to fold and keep playing if I lost the hand, although I would have been left with little hope of making a comeback at that point. Only people I play against can bounce off the zero and double up 4-5 times in a row when they’re down to their last 290 chips.

I understand your point, but the main problem I see with your approach is, that you are too predictable for your opponents, like Click has written. For example: If you play against me, you raise my blind and I call and than a low flop comes, I know exactly that you missed the flop and I can take the flop away with a pot sized bet or a checkraise - unless, you have a big pair in the pocket, but that happens not so often. Because of this I think you should from time to time also play hands like 34 or 54 from the button - even ofsuited. But of course you should raise them and not only limp.

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I am struggling to unpack @Click because there is so much misunderstanding. I will say that it is not a good idea to say “never” or “always” about poker. I won’t say you should “never” play 53 because there can be a situation, like when your opponent makes an extremely weak play indicating they might fold, where you will bet any two cards, including 53. As you point out, saying you never play them means that an opponent can know you don’t have them in your range. But Click is taking this idea way too far. There are many times in poker where your play should indicate a potential range of hands (like would you re-raise over an opponent’s raise with 27 offsuit? No, you would choose strong hands and good bluff hands).

The reality is that you need to balance these ideas, being unpredictable, balanced, and playing winning hands (nuance on the internet? Burn it down!). Click appears to be arguing that because a good player once played 53 or because 53 once hit a straight or once won a pot you should play it all the time because you never know. This idea is incredibly wrong. Almost beyond trying to explain how wrong it is. You want to play a range of hands that can hit different boards and not only play AA (of course!), but that doesn’t mean treating all hands like they are equal.

The reality is that most of the time in poker you can know whether a particular board hits your opponent’s range or not. If someone calls a single raise preflop and the board is 89J, they are likely to call with a lot of hands with 8, 9, T, J, Q in them. If I 5-bet preflop and the flop comes 663, the chances that I have a 3 or 6 in my hand is extremely low. It is part of poker strategy to identify what your opponent’s range is likely to be and how it fits with the board. That doesn’t mean you need to play every single hand you see because you never know what will happen. These decisions are informed by math. 53 will lose to AA 85% of the time, so you can’t treat them like they are equal. In any given hand 53 can win, but it will lose 85 times out of 100 on average.

To address the broader point, you can incorporate hands into your range that hit different types of boards while still playing more playable hands than garbage 53 offsuit. For example, it is a much better idea to play 53 suited because it can flop flush draws or even flushes that give you a lot more equity and opportunity to semi-bluff. You can also play A5s and A3s, which assure that you can hit boards with 5s and 3s on them. I don’t have a ton of time to get into the weeds of ranges, but I will at some point if you are interested.

Maybe Click and I don’t disagree as vehemently as it appears and it is only the rhetorical vagueness of the internet, but the fact that Doug Polk can win a pot with 53o or Negreanu can lose twice in a row with AA does not prove anything about how good those hands are and how they should be played.

TLDR: 53o is trash and you should almost never play it. AA is a decent hand…


JD, this is your maxim;

> “Your opponent should fold pre, 53o is one of the worst starting hands in holdem”.

because a good player once played 53 or because 53 once hit a straight or once won a pot you should play it all the time because you never know.

  • That never came out of my mind or mouth, especially the “all the time” that you ascribe to me.
    I dispute your maxim that you should fold pre flop with 5-3o, period.
    I’ve folded with hands like that only to see it turn into straights, trips or doubles with ridiculous pots. I now go by how I’m flowing.(I don’t think you can find this in your math charts) If I’m on a winning streak, I’ll flop them and take it from there. If I am losing, I don’t bother unless the buy-in is low.
    RP is not real poker even though we try, because we don’t lose money.
    I will call on RP, just to see a guy’s hand where I wont do that in a live game.
    If you really think those % ranges have great value in poker, I think you should send them to Negreanu. He is about $800,000 behind and it appears that he has no knowledge of these magical, can’t lose, charts…
    Poker is unpredictable, just cry me a river!

Yes they should fold 53o, it’s one of the worst hands in poker. I stand by that. Whatever else you said is superstition not strategy. I’m just trying to discuss strategy but if you’re not interested that is your decision.

I’m not crying about anything. I don’t get why people get triggered by their own rigid thinking and get the idea that their wrongness impacts me. It is helpful to keep in mind though to at least evaluate my ideas to see if they are valid before expressing them. But any discussion of poker strategy including the ones released by negreanu and Polk include hand ranges because that is the most fundamental aspect of playing poker. So do whatever you want. Playing against people who have no idea what they are doing and seem to think it’s random is too easy.

Of course AA is a much better hand than 53, but also of course you can make crazy three- and fourbets with 72 off - though I in person wouldn’t ever do that. It’s not my personality, not my style. But good LAG-players do it from time to time and from time to time they even limp in with strong hands. Being unpredictable gives you a huge advantage over your opponents. But I for myself do very rarely make three bets. One time in a live tournament I had aces on the final table and made my first three bet during the tournament. Befor that I even flatted with TT for example. The originall raiser in this situation had QQ (he told me after the tournament) and he had sat with me the whole tournament. He really thought about folding his hand and I became lucky that he hadn’t enough discipline to do that preflop. But after I flopped my set of aces, he was done with his hand. Since that I almost never threebet. If I have a very strong hand and I want to avoid a familypot, I just shove, but I prefer to take the risk to play a pot with 3-4 other guys. But there are many ways to play poker and each one has its advantages and and disadvantages.
Here for example you can see how LAGs play 72: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZgPcMKt_Cw

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@motherhulda, i know that Joe can speak for himself but it still seems like you are claiming that anyone can play any two cards just because they occasionally win.

The professional players find themselves in positions where people fold to them. How often does that happen here? The pros are reasonably capable at reading ANY signal, can you say the same about yourself?

Just because it can be done, by professionals, in a real money environment, does not mean that it is right at low stakes cash or any stakes on replay.

I would quite happily play 9-2 off from the small blind if the table folded to me and i knew my opponent. that isn’t about the cards, it’s about playing the player. i would also fold K-T off under some circumstances.

5-3 is never a good hand to play, get over it.

it can be done by professionals, for serious money, occasionally. that is as far as it goes.


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Remember that chapter in the Art of War where Sun Tzu advises his army to dress up as Bronies and only carry sporks from Dairy Queen for weapons? No one would expect a fearsome attack from a group such as this so they surely would be victorious. Neither do I.

With no ante, on 25bb, 5/3o is just below the limping range if you are employing one. You aren’t losing a ton if you play it. If you are raise/folding only, then its a fold.

Every 2 cards can flop well and make big hands. However, the frequency with which they do so and the types of hands they can make are different. HU on a short stack, big cards are far more valuable than low connected ones. Suited or not doesn’t matter a great deal as pairs are usually enough to stack off with. A or K high will often win at showdown.

One of the best ways to lose money/chips is to think you need to see every flop. Its a slow bleed. Now, vs terrible players, you aren’t going to be punished as much for it but its still a losing strategy. Try to keep a range and positional advantage over your opponent(s) whenever you can. Expand that margin when you are equally matched or facing someone better than you. Contract it when you are more skilled than they are but it really shouldn’t go negative.


@theanalyst01: Good comment. I want only to add, that even on Replay there are situations in tournaments, when the blinds are high and the bubble is near. Than you can see a lot of folding preflop and playing aggressively has some advantage.

I agree that comparing to pro play is silly, but Click was trying to use hands he’s seen in Polk v Negreanu to justify playing 53. I was just pointing out the fundamental difference between what you see a pro doing at low frequency when 200BB deep in a cash game, and what you should be doing when 20BB deep in a tournament. Stack depth is debatably the most important factor in poker.

With the specific hand, I think the one mistake you made was the bet size with the check raise. It’s too big. You are only leaving about 1/3 pot on the river, which is too small to force many folds, and if you give up, you are giving away the majority of your stack. If you raised to about 150, you are left with 420 to shove into 490 on the river, which is a much better bet. And if he re-raise shoves on the turn you can fold, and still have a decent stack left. I think shoving on the turn is an option, but not ideal. You would be shoving for nearly 3x pot.

In your example you talk about triple barreling with AK. This would generally not be a good play. The cards that make good bluffs are ones with low showdown value but potential to improve to strong hands. AK is simply too strong. You should be checking two or three streets if you don’t hit, and hoping to show down for a win with A high. The hands that make good triple barrel bluff candidates are low suited connectors. E.g. You open with 56s. You hit a flush draw and/or straight draw on the flop. You can bet three streets hoping that one of the draws hit. If you miss, by the river you have 6 high. You can’t win with 6 high, so you bluff, hoping for the fold.