This hand is from a $2-5 NL full ring game. Long story short: my opponent called a substantial turn bet very quickly, and I should have thought more about what his action meant. I should have come to the conclusion that his quick call meant that he was most likely drawing, which means I should have bluffed the river.
I’d been playing this $2-5 for a couple hours. I’d been fairly active pre-flop, making a good number of raises and continuation bets, but not being too active on the turn or river, although I sensed that my opponent in this hand thought of me as mostly full of shit (just my general sense from his demeanor). He had not been active hardly at all, and I viewed him as quite nitty, just waiting for a hand. Only hands I’d seen him show down were small pots where he had decent strength hands that seemed like he should have put more money in.
I raise to $20 in late position with Q5 clubs. My opponent is in the BB and he calls, and it’s just us.
Flop is 8h 3s 4h.
Opponent checks and I bet $30. He calls pretty quickly. I think he can have anything from 89s-A8os, 99-JJ, and any decent hearts, unlikely much worse than that.
Turn is a 6s, giving me an open-ended straight draw. After a few seconds, he checks. Considering this guy’s range and just how nitty he’s been playing, I think he will fold most of his range, so a bet is definitely in order. I bet $80. He calls immediately.
The river comes another 3, making it:
Flop is 8h 3s 4h 6s 3c
Because of his turn call, I start thinking that a decent pair (99-QQ) is most likely hand for him. Maybe even an 8x that he has decided he is not folding to me just because of the image he has of me. If it wasn’t for my perception of how he viewed me, I probably would have bet, thinking he would fold a lot of better hands. But I check and he turns over KQ of hearts and takes the pot with KQ high.
This is when I started thinking about what his immediate call meant on the turn. I came to the conclusion that his quick call was a dead giveaway that he didn’t have a made hand, and that it dramatically increased the draws in his hand. If he had had a pair of 8’s, like an A8 kind of hand, he would have thought for at least a few seconds before making the call. Same thing if he had 99 through QQ; with a vulnerable pair he would have thought for a few seconds. Also with those hands he would have likely raised the flop or at least thought for a few seconds about it, but he called quickly on the flop, too. And with stronger hands like sets, chances are he would have raised me on the flop or turn, or at least considered it longer.
The more you think about it, a flush draw with overcards is so much more highly represented in the range of hands that he calls quickly with there, because it is (for many players) a hand of obvious strength and a no-brainer call. Most players are much more likely to put in money with that type of hand than they are with single-pair hands, even pretty high pairs.
In the book and in some past blog posts I’ve talked about the fact that quick calls of substantial bets are more likely to be draws than made hands. The important thing to realize about quick calls is that the player has decided very quickly not to raise but they have also decided very quickly that they are not folding. This can sometimes give you a lot of information. (It is especially meaningful when you are first to act and they are calling your bet, as opposed to them checking first and then calling a bet, because in the second case they’ve had more time to consider their options and plan a decision.)
I’ve talked about this tendency (quicker calls of substantial bets being more likely draws than made hands) in the book and in this blog, but I know I’m not that great at using that information in the moment as best as I’m able, especially now that I’m not playing as much as I used to. It helps me to write this stuff down because it makes it more conscious for me and helps me recognize it better next time, in the moment.
Looking more critically at the math involved, it seems it was a clear smart move for me to bet the river just from a fundamental perspective, considering the most likely hands he’s calling with (99+) are less numerous than the many drawing hands that beat me (mainly Ax of hearts) and weaker pairs he might fold to a bet. In the moment, though, I had decided he probably had a mediocre hand (as weak as a lone 8) that he wasn’t going to fold just because he was adjusting to me being aggressive.
As happens frequently, though, I think I was overthinking a relatively simple spot and making the mistake of jumping to a conclusion, thinking that he was being stubborn with my perceived aggression and willing to call down much lighter than he’d shown evidence of prior to that hand. If I had thought more about his immediate turn call, I would have been better able to put the pieces of the puzzle together a little quicker and could have decided that firing the river was the clearly superior move.
NOTE: See comments below and responses for more discussion on this. Also see soon-to-come post on same topic.