Dodging the bluff in poker

May 12, 2009 5:09 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

It’s not often easy avoiding the bluff out!

Alberto, one of my star poker students at the Claude Pepper Sr. Center, was in a $3-$6 limit hold’em game at a local casino. In a middle position, he looked down at K-Q offsuit in the hole – a great starting hand. Having learned that the best strategy for playing this hand is to try to force out anyone with A-rag, he raised preflop after an early-position limper had bet. His raise was called by the button, the big blind, and the limper.

The flop looked so good: Q-10-5, rainbow. Alberto had top pair! The limper checked; Alberto bet. He was called by the limper and the button.

But then the turn brought an ace.

Now Alberto had reason to be concerned. He hoped his preflop raise had forced out anyone with an ace; but he couldn’t be sure. Could one of his opponents now be sitting with a pair of aces, making his pair of queens a poor second-best? That could be very costly.

The limper, without hesitating, came out betting. "Six dollars," he smiled, tossing the chips into the pot. As he contemplated the situation, Alberto glanced to his left. (Alberto knows how to look for tells.) The button was gathering chips in his hand in preparation to call the bet – or maybe to raise. Well, if the limper doesn’t have an ace in the hole, then certainly the button does. . . Alberto studied the pot. The pot odds were about 6 to 1. Assuming he had to improve his hand to win the pot, he had just 5 outs to make two-pair or trip queens, giving card odds of about 9-to-1 against him. And if an opponent had two-pair, aces-up, then Alberto had only 2 outs. The card odds were not favorable relative to the pot odds. So Alberto folded his hand.

To make a short story even shorter, the river didn’t help anyone’s hand. The limper bet and was called by the button.

The Showdown

The limper revealed his hole cards, 10-K offsuit, giving him a pair of tens:

And the player on the button proudly turned up his pocket jacks:

Alberto stared at the board as the dealer pushed the pot to the Button. Alberto’s pair of queens would have taken the pot! "George," he said, "I guess I was bluffed out. What could I have done to prevent being bluffed out?"

Yes, Alberto was bluffed out. How might he have prevented it? I’ll toss that question to you, dear reader. What could Alberto have done to avoid getting bluffed out of that hand?

There will be a prize – a copy of the Hold’em Algorithm – to the person with the best answer. Esther Fayla Epstein (my 13 year-old granddaughter who created the Esther Bluff – It’s awesome!), Arizona Stu, and I will be the judges. Send your answer to [email protected].

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