Do not bluff against fish -  the story of one hand

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Do not bluff against fish -  the story of one hand

How often do we say to ourselves, "big fish are passive, never try to bluff them"? This stereotype has come to us from ancient times and is firmly entrenched in our minds. Keep the ingenious bluffs for winning regulars and never bluff fish. Is this really the case?  Often a guide for us in this situation is the WTSD (Went to Showdown) indicator. For an average player this is around 24% but for fish it can be as high as 32%, they prefer to wait patiently for top pair and immediately win the stack. But we forget that the fish is two to three times more likely to win at showdown than the regular is.  They win about a third of the time. We recall how we three-barrelled a weak player with a flush on the board and how they folded. And when they call, they rarely have anything weaker than top pair. Where are the weak hands? What percentage is lost on the slippery slope of continuation bets before showdown? Like it or not, the fish still able to fold, just not as quickly as we would like.


1) Overcard scenario

This is a classic situation in which to bluff on later streets. It may be even more profitable against fish, than against regulars. Good regulars understand that after the continuation bet on a board of T35 and the arrival of the King on the turn, it’s time to fire the second barrel and that there is a ton of bluffing options. When playing against aggressive regulars, do not burden yourself with thoughts about balance and making sure your continuation bets stay believable in such a situation. Against fish is different. They think in terms of absolute value. Why can you not push a fish off a full house?  Because it is a strong hand, it sounds cool and rarely comes.  Some perhaps even give away the strength of their hand through tells. Second pair is another matter. Especially when you have to take a decision for a lot of money.


2) Let us consider a specific example

This is a hand I played last month. The opponent is a standard average fish. Mostly limps , reluctantly folds to a c bet, draws passively, WTSD average (for a Fish), sometimes folds on the river if misses a draw (maybe not sometimes calls).


$ 0.50 / $ 1 No Limit Holdem • 6 Players • OnGame


UTG      mike_posner   $116.96

UTG +1  Moonpuppy27  $207

CO        s0923064        $100

BTN      altinova10       $53.37

SB        NOEL              $99

BB        zolih_             $107.40


  • Pre-Flop ($1.50, 6 players) Hero is SB


3 folds, altinova10 calls $ 1, NOEL raises to $ 4.50, 1 fold, altinova10 calls $3.50


  • Flop ($10, 2 players)


Preflop we made a standard isolation play. The flop came and we did not have to make a decision. Against the average fish this situation is perfect for one of two options - check-fold or three barrel. To stop at a continuation bet here would be a huge mistake.  A huge amount of the time a limp-calling fish will have an Ax hand and will not fold to a single bet. Moreover they could have a pair or a straight draw. We must also not discount the possibility of a call in position with two overcards.  There is nothing on the flop to frighten someone with two unsuited overcards and to stop them from drawing. Therefore, if we are not willing to put in three bets, then it is better to play check/fold.

Consider the case of the three barrels. If no five or ace appears on the board - the absolute power of the opponent's hand by the river in the vast majority of cases will be ace-high or third or fourth pair. Naturally, in rare cases the board might come 23434 and can be won by Ace high, but they will be very rare.


NOEL bets $7 , altinova10 calls $7

  • Turn ($24 , 2 players)


NOEL bets $12 , altinova10 calls $12


The turn is a nine, with overcards to the flop, we stick to the plan. Pay attention to bet sizing - it has two purposes. First it expands your opponents' calling range to include weaker hands and to give them greater encouragement to fold on the river. Secondly it leaves some money over to bet on the river. After all, if we could only bet half the pot on the river being called by third pair would not be so surprising. For this reason it's best to keep the pot small to begin with.  I would bet 7 to 10, I think 6 would  be OK too for the same reason - to keep the flop open and leave more money on the river.


  • River ($48, 2 players)



With the ten on the river, we have, in most cases, the best hand, so a value bet suggests itself. However, the opponent often has Ax (sometimes 5x , 6x), which can not call and may bluff as well, so we just have to consider the check-call. Especially if we expect our opponent to fold weak hands. Especially if the opponent is aggressive on the river when they miss a draw. During the course of the hand, I decided to sacrifice a short-term +EV situation and to see how effective the plan was as a bluff from the start. Our equity from two overcards, is, of course a benefit and our position only improves the situation, but the hand was originally planned as a three-barreled bluff. So I imagined that I had K8 rather than KT and ...


NOEL bets $36


  • Bluffing , swerved table
  • altinova10 folds


Final Pot: $48

NOEL wins $117.60 (net + $58.10)

altinova10 lost $23.50


The prank was a success!


Perhaps we should mention one more thing - if we are called on fourth pair it is very bad for us in this situation. If this happens do not get upset, write "ultra CS" in the notes, and never bluff in such a situation (for a similar distribution of cards, c-f on the flop). In addition value bet for all you are worth. Sometimes we hear that it is foolish to stack a fish with the nuts and that it can have very negative repercussions, because the fish can swim away leaving us against the regulars. However, it is important to understand that we are not paying to stack fish with the nuts. We are putting our money in trying to make the most of a EV+ situation and a call is a risk we take. We do not say "it would be better to fold AA pre-flop" after losing our stack. Do we even talk about it?