The following hand took place in a $1,000 buy-in World Poker Tour side event. The tournament just started and everyone had about 4,500 chips with 25/25 blinds. I raised to 75 from the cutoff seat withand only the small blind, a 50-year-old recreational local player, called.
The flop came. The small blind bet into me for 250.
My opponent bet more than the size of the pot, which is certainly abnormal on a board that should be excellent for my range. While I do not know what that bizarre bet sizing means, it certainly means something. He probably either has a premium made hand he is trying to get value from, a marginal made hand he is trying to protect from various draws, or a draw that is hoping to steal the pot. In my experience, most of the time when recreational players make this play, they have marginal made hands that are betting for protection, but it is impossible to know for sure. It is mandatory that you always put your opponent on a range of hands and not on one specific hand.
With what is usually the best hand, I could raise to get value from numerous worse made hands and also to protect my hand from the various draws, but that does not make sense because when I get significant action, I will usually be drawing thin. By calling, I force my opponent to stay in the pot with his entire leading range, which I am almost certainly crushing, while conserving chips when he happens to have me crushed. Calling also underrepresents my hand, giving me the opportunity to extract additional value on future betting rounds if it becomes clear I have the best hand.
I called. The turn was the ()- . My opponent bet 250.
When the opponent bets the same size on the turn as he did on the flop, I usually assume his bet sizing indicates that he has a marginal made hand. As on the flop, I wanted to keep him in with numerous hands I crush, which is now most of his range. If I raise for value and protection, many players with marginal made hands will assume they are beat and will fold most of their range, perhaps costing me some river value in exchange for not getting outdrawn some tiny portion of the time. Whenever you have your opponent crushed, especially when he probably has only a few outs, you do not want to raise and let him off the hook.
I called. The river was the ()- . My opponent again bet 250.
My opponent’s third 250 bet convinced me that he had a marginal made hand, so raising is by far the best play. Many players simply call and win the pot, but there is value to be had!
I elected to raise to 1,100. My opponent quickly called. I showed my hand and won a sizable pot.
I was unsure if he would call a sizable river raise with a worse made hand, but I was so sure that I had the best hand a huge percentage of the time that I thought raising was worth the risk. If my opponent simply bet more than 250 on the river, I would have called because then, I would have thought his range was a bit stronger. Remember, thinking you have the best hand is not a good enough reason to raise. You have to think you can get called by a worse hand more than 50% of the time. This time, the river raise worked out beautifully.