No rechecking of hole cards on flush-y board helps define opponent’s range?

Played $2-5 NL today and this hand went down. I raise from CO with 8c8d to $20. I get a call from the big blind. We have a little bit of history because he’s a bit steamed from a hand an hour or so ago where I value-bet a flush for a lot of money on the turn and he made a bad call for all his chips with a straight and lost. I get the feeling he’s a bit steamed at me or at least wants to get some chips back from me. My view of him: he’s a bit too loose and prone to not give people credit for hands. I have not seen him get too out of line with anyone before, but I think it’s possible he will make a move on me.

The flop is:

Kc Qd 7d

He bets $20 into me. I call.

Turn puts up a third diamond, 5d. He checks. I check behind.

River is another diamond, like the 9d or something. So I make the 8 high diamond flush.

He takes quite a while before he bets slowly bets $55. I decide it’s quite likely he’s making a move with a lot of bad hands, so I call. He turns over T4 of hearts and I win.

After the hand, I started thinking about it and realized that he didn’t once look back at his cards after the hand started. As you probably know if you’ve played much cash games, many players routinely check their hole cards when the board brings three of a suit or four of a suit. Most players, even good ones, don’t easily remember their suits, if their cards aren’t suited. (I, admittedly, needed to recheck my hole cards on the river to make sure I had the 8 of diamonds before calling.)

So I started thinking that, unless his hand was suited in diamonds, there would be a good chance that he would recheck his cards on the turn or river, just to make sure he had remembered that he had a diamond. The reason that he never had to look back at his hand, in this case, was because he knew he was suited in hearts (suited cards are easy to remember) and he knew he was making a move. 

Of course, he could have easily had a good diamond or two diamonds. But my point is that this player wasn’t super-experienced, and I’d seen him recheck his hole cards in other spots, so there would have been a good chance of him double-checking his cards on the turn or river when the third or fourth diamond came out. The fact that he didn’t do this made it somewhat more likely that he was bluffing. At least this is what I started thinking today. Love to hear any comments or thoughts on this to see if my logic is okay.

  • Anonymous

    Well the fact he didn’t check may mean he either has a flush on the turn or no diamond at all- One or the other. People don’t check when they actually have the flush either. Would he slow play a small flush if he hit? Does he bet his draws? If he doesn’t bet his draws and he wouldn’t slow play a small flush than that yes combined with the fact he didn’t check his hole cards would lean me towards he’s bluffing or he has the nut flush but most people bet their nut flush draws.

  • http://@nailed_on niall

    I certainly wouldn’t rely on it, but within the context of: your history, him shutting down on the turn then firing the river… its a nice little extra reason to call down.

    Also: What sort of a half-arsed line is that with T4hh?? Donk-weak-leads pot with pure bluff then gives up on perfect turn? Where’s the conviction!!!? Are you sure this was a real 2-5 hand? :D :D Convenient that he checks into you on turn and lets you get there. Unlikely he was planning a suicidal check-raise. I presume if he barrels you let the 8s go on turn?And what if river doesnt come a 4th d? Are you still calling down because he hasnt checked his hole cards or is this specific to a 4-to-a-flush board?

    If he’s been checking his hole cards during previous hands it does stands out as suspicious but on its own thats not always enough to make the light call.

  • Zachary Elwood

    Yes, he could have had the flush on the turn, or he could have even had a single diamond, I don’t discount that. My point is just, in general, this could be a clue and a factor into making a decision. I rarely rely solely on a tell to make a decision; it’s more like there can be clues that sway a pretty borderline decision.

  • Zachary Elwood

    I didn’t call him just because he hadn’t checked his hole cards. I made the call based on fundamental strategy and just thought about the hole cards stuff later. The hand itself, in this case, isn’t very important; I was just using it to introduce the idea that this could be a small factor in making a decision; but it will always just be one factor of many, and oftentimes a small factor.

  • Sérgio

    Nice point. I used a similar tell once, but in a little different situation: my adversary was representing a strong hand both pre and on the flop, maybe AA, KK or AK. When he checks his cards when the third card of a fluh came on the turn, I knew he hadn´t AA ou KK. If he had, he was not going to be afraid of the flush, instead he was going to protected his hand. When he checks his hand and check, I knew he had AK with one of then of that suit. I don´t know if I made my point right, sorry for my bad english… just a brazilian trying to participate :)

  • YH

    I think there are a few factors to consider in this specific spot.

    pot on the flop was 42, and the villain donked out slightly less than half pot. Given any regular player, could rep a weak king, any queen, QJ, QT etc.

    Consistent bet sizes are usually the hardest to read, but donking out is a harder play to “balance”. (i.e. if you incorporate donking into the raiser with in your plays, you’ll also need to do it with the nuts/air/strong hands to keep opponents guessing, but in the long run, we do not flop enough good hands to make donking a viable strategy, so this is probably more villain/situation specific).

    Back to the hand, as played, calling the flop bet (given history and villain) seems reasonable. (sometimes you just need to keep certain players honest). Check on the turn seems consistent with a one pair hand with no diamond or a weak diamond. Depending on the villain’s play-style, if not overly aggro.

    On the river, I noticed you mentioned he bet 55 slowly. This is valuable information to me. Many players with a mid-diamond might check (thinking that only a better diamond would call them, and also they wouldn’t like to be check/raised and have to fold river), so in essence, a high diamond (or air) would probably bet the river, however, given that a pair plus high diamond would continue on the turn (and most probably the river), him betting on the river in that spot (and slowly), raises suspicions.

    The slow bet almost feels like the villain is trying to represent strength. But as we know stillness/slowness reeks of fear (of being caught), maybe correlated to the way people “freeze up” when they are about to have their bluff called, this might be a variant of it. Again, all this is speculation, until analyzed against the villain’s baseline behavior.

    If we put ourselves in the villain’s shoes for a sec, its probably not a bad river to bluff on. It would be a much tougher call, obviously if hero had no diamonds for e.g.


  • hawkcarter

    I agree with your theory very much.

  • Anonymous

    I’m kind of surprised this wasn’t in your book. It’s one of my most reliable Caro tells. Checking cards on three suits almost universally means no flush, and many times means the fourth card makes the flush.
    Anecdotally, I also find it to be one of the few reliable false tells. I routinely check my cards when the third of my suit makes my flush as a false tell for a range of fish to moderately skilled players to encourage a bet and discourage a fold.

    • Zachary Elwood

      I don’t think this example is as simple as just an issue of “checking hole cards usually equals not having the two suits”. Because this spot was more subtle, I thought it was blog-worthy.

      I debated putting the simple concept of “checking hole cards” in the book but in the end decided not to. This was just because I felt like there was so much variety in the behavior and because even a lot of bad players are pretty well-balanced. But you’re right; I should have put something in there, even if it was to talk about the difficulties in using that information.