In a recent session with my student Shiner, one of his opponents started to exhibit a betting pattern. I picked up on it, and decided on an adjustment. Shiner missed it initially. Can you find it? And what other observations can we make about this player?
Villain limp/calls pre-flop.
Flop is T♥ 4♣ 3♠
Villain checks, the original raiser bets a reasonable amount and then the Villain check-raises to 2.5x the c-bet (that is, just over a min-raise). The original raiser calls.
Turn is T♥ 4♣ 3♠ K♦
River is T♥ 4♣ 3♠ K♦ 7♦
Villain bets same amount as his raise, gets called and shows down the unexpected QQ.
We will leave his play without comment.
Tiny raise from an early position, called by one in the field and both blinds. Villain is the small blind.
Flop is 6♣ 6♠ T♥
Pay attention, this gets silly:
BB donks out 1/3 pot
Original Raiser calls
Villain makes a check-raise for 2.5x the c-bet.
Original Raiser now back-raises a healthy amount.
Villain tank calls
BB makes a reasonable size shove
Original Raiser calls all-in
Villain tank calls.
The two blinds chop with trip sixes where their kickers don’t play and the original raiser looks for sympathy with an overpair.
At this point I took Shiner aside and asked if he saw the pattern.
Maybe in text it is easier to see, but the Villain likes to make a smallish check-raise with hands he considers strong. First an overpair Queens the second with miracle flopped trips.
What else did we see? He seems satisfied with the tiny raise, and plays pretty passively from there out. With Queens the turned King is a bit of a scare card, but with the trip Sixes, Villain did not make a second raise when he had the opportunity.
Our working hypothesis going forward should be that a tiny flop check-raise is a big hand. What should we be looking for to disprove this? Well, mostly we want to see if there is ever a check-raise bluff. My initial guess is that there never will be, as they are not really common, but that would lend evidence against our hypothesis.
Given this read, what do we want to do about it?
If we also have a monster, get it in while Villain is willing to. He has a hand, but will play passively and we do not want to let a scare card ruin our good time.
If we have a medium hand, with no real improvement reasonable, fold.
If we have a draw call, our implied odds will be huge when we hit and there is no advantage to pushing the action with a draw when we have no fold equity.
This is our game plan. Now we can use other people at the table to see if our plan is good.
Villain is in the Small Blind versus the same Big Blind as the earlier hands. This Big Blind has witnessed everything that we did.
It is folded to the Villain who wants to play. This seems very unusual for this player type, we have not seen a potential chop for Villain yet. Villain then limps in.
My thought is that Villain has some semblance of a hand since chopping the blinds full ring is almost guaranteed. The Big Blind checks his option.
Flop is A♠ 8♣ 9♦
Big Blind bets $5 into $4.
Villain check-raises to $13
Big Blind calls.
Turn is A♠ 8♣ 9♦ 3♥
and checks through.
River is A♠ 8♣ 9♦ 3♥ J♦
Villain bets $13
Big Blind calls.
Villain shows A9o for top two on the flop. Big Blind shows JTo for a flopped open-ender that rivered second pair.
This is a place that we do better than our competition. This Big Blind had access to the same history that we did. In his spot, I would play the same as Villain except I snap fold the river and I do better by $13 than he does. When you cash out at the end of the night, the cage does not ask you “did you get these chips by ‘making good value bets’, or was it ‘by not paying people off?'” They just give you the money.
Finding a $13 improvement is a good improvement in your game, and in this case was very easy if you know what to look for and then act on it.