Merge, $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold’em Cash, 4 Players
BB: $71.48 (143 bb)
Hero (CO): $61.44 (122.9 bb)
BTN: $64.48 (129 bb)
SB: $82.56 (165.1 bb)
Preflop: Hero is CO with J A
Hero raises to $1.43, BTN folds, SB raises to $5, BB folds, Hero calls $3.57
Flop: ($10.50) 6 Q A (2 players)
SB bets $0.50, Hero raises to $5.75, SB calls $5.25
Turn: ($22) T (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $13.66, SB calls $13.66
River: ($49.32) K (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $37.03 and is all-in, SB calls $37.03
Results: $123.38 pot ($2 rake)
Final Board: 6 Q A T K
Hero showed J A and won $60.69 (-$0.75 net)
SB showed J A and won $60.69 (-$0.75 net)
Okay, if you’re not used to reading hand histories: I open with AJ from the cutoff, the small blind raises, and I call. I make top pair on the flop and he bets the minimum. I raise and he calls. I bet again on the turn and he calls. On the river I make the nut straight, go all-in, and he calls. It turns out we have the same hand.
The part of this hand I want to discuss is his flop min bet. This is a pretty unusual play and during the hand I thought it could mean a lot of different things. It could be a very strong hand trying to induce a raise. It could be a marginal hand trying to freeze me. It could be a “probe bet” designed to get information about my hand (believing I would raise strong hands). Since this is online, it could easily be a misclick.
The best way to react depends on which of those things he’s actually thinking. If he’s inducing with a strong hand I should call for pot control (or fold, I suppose, but it’s not reasonable to fold top pair for a 5% pot bet). If he’s trying to freeze me with a marginal hand I should raise for value. If he’s going for the probe bet I might want to call to under-represent the strength of my hand and perhaps induce a multi-street bluff. If it’s a misclick…well, I don’t know.
Since I didn’t know what his min bet meant, I decided to just regard it as a check, to which it’s nearly equivalent. Facing a check here I would mix it up between betting or checking behind. This time I decided to bet because I thought he might think he would be inducing a lot of bluffs with the min bet, so I should be more inclined to go for value.
I bet the turn again to get value from KQ, QJ, KK, and Ax with a weak kicker, all of which could easily play this way. My intention was to fold to a check-raise, as it’s just really hard to imagine he would take a min bet/call, check-raise line as a bluff. On the river I make the nuts and obviously go all-in for about 75% pot.
After seeing his hand, I think I know what he was trying to do. His hand is pretty strong, but not so strong that I’m likely to pay him off with worse if he just goes bet, bet, bet. So he decides to use his hand to try to induce a bluff. Evidently he regards me as the sort of aggressive player who will attack apparent weakness. His min bet is something like a matador waving the red cape.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I presume he sometimes checks this flop. Given that checking and min betting are effectively the same, that means that by incorporating both of these actions into his game he is willfully volunteering information about his hand. The live poker equivalent would be to sometimes check and other times check while saying, “Come and get it, big boy.” He’s hoping that he can use this volunteered information to mislead and manipulate me.
That’s quite the can of worms, because if I can get one step ahead all of a sudden I’ll have the information to play perfectly against his hand. Any time your actions are a decipherable code for your hand, that’s very dangerous against a capable player. But then again, he can change the code at any time.
If I like, I can opt out of playing the game by choosing to regard his min bet as a check. Or I can enter the labyrinth. Essentially this feature of his game is an open invitation to a battle of wits.
I don’t usually make plays like this against strong players, as I’m very leary of giving up any clues about my hand strength, but against a weaker player whose psyche you understand, this kind of play can be incredibly effective.