Hand History Breakdown - $5/$10 NL Deep Stack


Hi everyone. Last weeks strategy article was about limit Omaha 8 or better cash games. This week I thought I'd break down a hand that I played in 5/10 NL a while ago and show the thought process when deciding whether to make a thin value bet on the river or not. I have talked about this concept in the past over at AllVegasPoker so I thought I would re-introduce it here for PokerAtlas members who haven't been around AVP for the past few years.

The setup:
The game is 10 handed and is playing relatively deep. For simplicity sake, I will use terms HERO to descibe the hand of the player that we know, and VILLAIN to describe our opponent. Players positions will be describes as UTG(under the gun), EP(early), MP(middle), HJ(2 from button, or Hi-Jack), CO(next to the button or Cut-Off), BTN(button), SB(small blind), and BB(big blind).

Stack sizes:
HERO (CO)- $3800
VILLAIN (MP)- $2200

Reads: Villain in this hand is relatively new to the table, so we haven't seen him play any hands worth note yet.
*In spots like these, we have to heavily rely on bet sizing for information.

All fold to VILLAIN in MP who min raises to $20.
All others fold to HERO in CO. HERO re-raises to $70.
All others fold and VILLAIN calls $50 more.

FLOP: Ac-4s-4d (Pot-$155)
VILLAIN checks
HERO bets $85

TURN: Jh (Pot-$325)
VILLAIN bets $200
HERO calls

River: Qs (Pot-$725)
VILLAIN checks
HERO ?????????

Now, lets break this hand down street by street, try to narrow our opponents hand range down, and then make a profitable decision on the river.

When the VILLAIN opens for a min raise first in, it is essentially the same as a limp in most live cash games. His range isn't narrowed at all by his min raise, and still includes all hands that he would open
limp with. When it folds to us, a re-raise of 3-3.5X his open is very normal and "puts the ball back in our court" by giving us the lead, and also defining his hand a little more.

FLOP: Ac-4s-4d (Pot-$155)
This is a great flop for our hand. Because of the texture of the board and there being very few draws present, a big bet is not necessary. All hands with an Ace in them will call, and most other hands will fold. Also, if we bet smaller with our good hands here, we can also bet smaller later when we are bluffing this board and garner the same amount of respect as if he have the Ace, thus cheapening our bluff attempts.

TURN: Jh (Pot-$325)
Now it's time for deductive reasoning and trying to narrow his hand range down. When he calls the flop we can narrow his range down to hands containing an Ace, hands containing pocket pairs, and a few random hands that he may be check calling like 98ss in an effort to see if I give up on the turn. We can do this because the fact that he called on the flop tells us that he has a made hand or rarely a hand that he's planning on bluffing, and not a drawing hand.
When the VILLAIN bets $200 on the turn, we can deduce that he is doing one of a few things.
1- Betting a hand like A-7 to prevent me from taking a free card with a hand like Q-T which has picked up a straight draw
2- Setting his price with a hand like A-7 and also getting information so that he doesn't have to check call turn then decide what to do if HERO bets the river
3- Betting a small pocket pair to fold out all of my missed hands since VILLAINS hand isn't strong enough to check call again (This would be an example of a blocking bet in order to avoid being bluffed out by the HERO)
4- Betting air that he reverse floated (check called the flop out of position with the intent to bluff later streets) in an effort to get me to fold pocket pairs and higher ranking air
5- Value betting A-J which just turned top two pair
Based on this information, calling is the best line in my opinion. This allows him to keep bluffing later streets, allows us to represent a weaker hand than we have (like A-2 suited), and also decreases our stack exposure if he did turn Aces and Jacks.

RIVER: Qs (Pot-$725)
The Queen, which is a pretty bad card for the HERO, as A-Q is still in the VILLAINS range, is dealt.
Now, when the VILLAIN checks, the HERO is faced with a dilemma, which is the purpose of this Hand Analysis
To Value Bet or Check Behind?? That is the question.
Let's look at this and try to figure out the answer.
If we bet the river I feel like we will get called by a lot of hands that we beat, namely all Aces that havent made a second pair with their kicker. Also, this player is not the type to check raise the river as a bluff, so there is no fear of us betting our hand and being raised off of it by a worse hand. With the Queen falling and him checking, we can rule out Ace-Queen as a hand in his range, unless he is check raising with it, in which case we are folding anyway. This pretty much narrows the hands that beat us down to precisely Ace-Jack that may check call this river rather than betting for fear of HERO having A-Q..
Now that we know this, it becomes a clear value bet to extract from A-2, A-3, A-5, A-6, A-7, A-8, A-9, and A-T since those hands far outnumber the hands that we are losing to when called or raised.
The next step is to figure out bet sizing. Since we know his hand is on the weaker end, we need to size here in order to get paid. The pot contains $725 but we can't bet that much because we'll get the VILLAIN to correctly fold too often. In a spot like this I would lean towards half the pot or less, and this is all dependant on how often you think the VILLAIN will call.

As the hand played out..

River: Qs (Pot-$725)
VILLAIN checks
HERO bets $250

HERO shows Ah-Kh for 2 pair, Aces and Fours, King kicker
VILLAIN shows As-Jd for 2 pair, Aces and Jacks, Queen kicker

VILLAIN wins pot of $1225

Unfortunately in this instance the VILLAIN showed up with the one hand that we were worried about. All we can do at the table is make the right decisions when it's our turn to act, and the right decision here was to bet for value, as we will win this hand far more often than lose it, thus making this river value bet very profitable in the long run.

Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions here in TableTalk about this article. Thanks for reading and good luck at the tables.


  1. Rob
    • Rob

    Great analysis, Benton. I appreciate that you picked a hand where you lost, but explained so thoroughly why your bet was correct. A reminder to all of us that you cannot be results oriented.

    Off topic question....I was surprised that you said you were 10-handed in a 5/10 NL game. I'm sure all games of that size in Vegas are 9-handed. Is it more common outside of Vegas for a game that size to be 10-handed?

  2. I get the value bet but given the early action AJ or AQ is a fairly likely hand there. And with the lack of info about the player and you staying aggressive the whole hand, he could have been trying to set up a check-raise on the river. He also could have just have not been able to put you a hand and at worst was going to check-call the river to keep the pot small in case you did have AQ. I do like the value bet but I do think there's an argument there just to check the river and save the money.

  3. @Rob at the time I wrote this the play was 10 handed at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. They have since went to 9 handed play at 2/5 and above.

  4. @StripMan Fair enough, but as I thoroughly describe I think AQ/AJ is a small part of his range. And so what if he's trying to check raise? We would have called a $250 river bet and if he's never check raise bluffing with worse than AK then betting $250 and folding to a check raise is the same as just calling $250 if he led in to us as we have zero intention on paying off a check raise.

  5. It's amazing how some people can play hands so badly and still win. Hope you cleaned that guy's clock later that night.

  6. Thanks for the breakdown of your reads and strategy. I was struck by the flop analysis and how you anticipated what this might do for your capacity to bluff later in the session. With that in mind, would one factor for consideration be that checking behind on the river lets you show a strong hand bet properly. In that case, people see that a c-bet on the flop means something and so it helps you in the long run, whereas a bet on the river risks inducing a fold from the wide range you beat. I know that's the point of proper bet sizing the river, but I wonder if the "opportunity" to show is a factor that should make you reduce the size of the river bet.

  7. @Wes88 That's an interesting concept. I do see merit in what you're saying, but ultimately poker is a game of money and I tend to lean towards going for value if I see value there. Also, I felt like I was going to get called here a large % of the time as his hand is definitely weighted towards value hands that will pay off my 1/3 pot river bet.

  8. Just curious. Isn't it fair to assume given happened pre-flop and plus the fact that he's out of position anything from A-9 down is probably not in play here without having any other info on the villain?

  9. I can see some of the points you guys are making but Benton's right. He's going to win there so many times he has to put a bet out there. Remember, it's about playing the right way and not being so results oriented.

  10. @doubledigits

    First time poster. Does anyone have any experience using sites like hhsmithy.com ? I am new to online poker and wondering if this would be a good idea ? Feel free to move this if I posted in the wrong thread. I am new to this.

    Thanks for the help all,

  11. Hi,

    Thx for the in-depth analysis,while I get the point to thin-value here, was there a specific reason why you narrowed so much his range all the hand (AJ-air-Ax)? I mean I was quite surprised that at no point you considered a 4xs or any xxdd in his range. Taken apart that villain played the hand horribly (should check-raise turn/donk bet 3/4 pot the river when x/x on turn), I'm not sure that VILLAIN would donk bet A5-T on the turn to check the river, wouldn't he more block bet the river than the turn?
    To my mind at the end, YOUR thin-value bet was in fact more a blocking bet since you set your price to be called by AJ-AQ-KTdd (considering he's not able to check raise you bluff), and I'd say that A5-T hands played this way (x/c flop, donk turn, x river) would fold the river to a bet since your bet reveals your hand (you would polarize more with 4x or AA or a pair turned in bluff).

    Thank you for the discussion


  12. great analysis, great ideas!

    There is perhaps one more thing to consider (not including what people have already stated). I'm not sure how much you knew about his play, but if you are saying there is zero chance he will check raise bluff the river, then you obviously have some reads on him.

    so, with that said, what do you image he put you on? That wasn't in your analysis. When you narrow your own hand down based on what HE thinks you have, that further narrows down his hand and gives you more incite into his actions and hand. Then, also assuming you know if he is generally a forward or backward player (strong means strong or strong means weak).

    you can they say whether his play seems suspicious and why it seems that way.

    remember, in general, just because something hasn't been thought of doesn't mean it doesn't exist. our greatest problem is figuring out what we don't know because by definition we don't know it. don't know its even necessarily possible.

    as your analysis goes, it was a sound analysis, and according to your analysis I believe you did the correct thing. I encourage you to go over it a few more times from his point of view to see how that can help you even more in the future.

    good luck!

  13. Pre-flop, Villain makes what in a smaller game would amount to a limp.
    Hero's raise is easily mistaken for isolating a limper by Villain, so he calls.
    Hero then proceeds to slow-play quad 4's to bludgeon your prone and helpless body with down by the river, laughing maniacally as he watches Big Slick sink slowly into a watery grave.
    I think pocket 4s can--and often are--played this way by a certain sort of player. We know nothing about Villain, so he could be one of those kinds of players. Amazing how many people think they should be set-mining heads up for respectable money.

  14. I appreciate the analysis, but why do you leave Jack,jack out of the equation??

  15. First, i appreciate the detailed hand analysis. A value bet in the river is usually the right play in the long run. However, in this specific case, I would check the river.
    Reasons (and tells):
    1. villian is a relatively new player to table. You have to gather info solely on his betting pattern and give him a standard type of line.
    2. His min raise to $20 in mp shows me that his hand could be limped or is not that strong. However, when he calls your 3bet to $70, it tells me (based on standard player lines since we don't have much info yet) that his hand is good enough to Stand a raise. This helps me narrow his range and actually take out all A-X suited below A9-A10 (avg player folds below A10 about)
    3. He check calls your flop bet. He doesn't know u either or ur image (assuming he's new) . He has to have an A or pocket 4s . That's it.
    4. He donks the turn when the jack hits. This is such a fishy line that extracts min value. It's either a blocker bet to see if u have an ace or to not give a free card if u don't have and end the hand. Or his hand just got better w AJ. A avg player who flops quads wouldn't lead out so pockets 4s are unlikely.
    The key giveaway in this hand for me is that if it's a blocker bet, villian is unlikely to bet almost 2/3 of the pot. $200 into $325 tells me he has a good hand. A typical blocker bet is more in the 30-45%range of the total pot.
    5. queen hits the river. He checks. Deduce all the info. He raises weak, calls 3bet so strong enough but not a first tier hand (unless he's trapping unlikely here ) . Then check calls flop, leads out turn and checks river. When you call his turn bet villian recognizes that you have a decent hand too . Since ur 3bet pre his standard thinking tells him that u may have ak aq aa kk jj qq. His check on the river shows me he just didn't like the river card and not the fact that he's weak. I would table a check here behind almost certainly w an unknown player.
    Added value is if it goes check check n he tables the winner and u show ur AK. Tells him inside that he got lucky, that your play was solid, u have position on him, and you can exploit this later to polarize your range against an obviously standard at most or weak player.