If you’re a poker book hoarder like I am, then you should already have added the book Poker Plays You Can Use by Doug Hull into your library.  If you haven’t, then let me tell you a story about how the book paid for itself in a single bet at a live $1-$2 table last week.

First, a bit about my game – I’m a hobby player that only gets to play live poker once per week.  I’m rolled for $1-2, and will soon start taking shots at $2-$5. My biggest leak (that I know of) is a nebulous fear that creeps into my head as bets/pots get big.  Not a fear of losing money exactly – more of a fear of making a big mistake, I think.  This fear causes me to lose value when ahead, and sometimes prevents me from making bluffs/semi-bluffs when the situation warrants.  Anyway, it’s something I’m working on, and can usually overcome if I’m playing my “A” game.

So I’m buzzing through the Hull book at some point a few weeks ago, and I’m reading about “play” number #30, which reads as follows:

If you two barrel a loose passive and then make a hand on the river, you can value bet

Not an earth-shattering realization by itself – of course you should value bet a loose passive if you have a good hand on the river.  What stuck with me was the end of the hand – Hull writes “This passive player is never going to check-raise without the goods.  This is a place where many people miss value. Bet with the intention of folding to a raise”.  In the example hand, Hull makes a solid half pot bet on the river with top pair, top kicker.  This rang true in my own game, where I often miss value for fear of the better hands that the board says could be lurking out there.

Fast forward to last Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving, I’m getting in a nice pre-holiday afternoon $1-$2 session in a jam-packed Cleveland Horseshoe poker room.  My table is full of loose passives, and I’m waiting around for a hand.  At one point, I observe a player who limps, then calls a raise from the blinds, and then calls big bets on flop and turn with his Queen-Eight suited top pair, despite large, solid bets from the villain.  He checks behind on the river and his hand is good.  (Note to the other guy – don’t bluff the calling station!).

My turn against this same opponent comes with me holding pocket tens in the cutoff.  I open for a table-standard $13 and he calls from one of the blinds.  We see a heads-up flop of:

J♦ 6♠ 2♦

My opponent checks.  Since I have seen this poor player call flop bets in prior hands with gutshots, overcards, and even worse – I still feel like I have the best hand enough of the time to warrant a value bet.  I bet $22 into the $29 pot and he calls.

The turn brought the:


My opponent checks again.  I wasn’t too afraid of the diamond flush (my prior observations lead me to believe the villain would have lead out had he hit his draw at this point), but the diamond brought even more hands with which the villain would call a bet (specifically, single diamonds with a pair).  I also had the ten of diamonds that could bail me out in case the villain was calling down with top pair.  The value was a bit thinner, but I felt like it was still there, and at the very least I had a semibluff going.  I bet $30 this time, and the villain called again after taking a few seconds to think.

This pause that the villain made before calling the turn really felt to me like he had more of a top-pair hand, and was deciding whether to continue in the presence of the flush or not.  Because of this, I was ready to concede the river had I not improved.  Fortunately for me, I did improve, when the river was the:


Giving me three of a kind.  My opponent checked right away.

It occurred to me right at that moment that this hand was a classic example of play #30 from the Hull book – I had bet flop, barreled turn, and then improved on the river.  There was a flush out there, but every indication told me that this villain didn’t have a flush.  Even with this solid evidence though, the old fear monster would sometimes creep in and I would end up saying something to myself like “well, it doesn’t look like he has a flush but you can’t be sure”.  Then I would either check behind (awful) or make a “same bet” of $30 (less awful – still bad).

This time, I had good old Poker Play #30 to reinforce the concept that I needed to make a value bet, and have the stones to make it a good one.  The pot was about $125 and at least a $55-$60 bet was in order.  However, either based on my prior observations of this player taking top pair way too far, or perhaps because I was overcompensating for my fear, I bumped up the bet to a super-healthy $80.  The villain really took his time now, and I thought I had gone too far, but to my eventual relief, he just had to see what he was up against and made the call, then mucked when I showed him my rivered set.

So there you have it – based on the advice in Hull’s “Poker Plays You Can Use”, I made an extra $50-$80 profit with a single river bet.  The book paid for itself two or three times over in that single moment. Pick up your copy of the book today and start adding more plays and skills into your own game!

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  • jeff

    so he had jacks correct?