Using one opponent to block another (warning: contains actual poker content)

by Lou on January 18, 2007

I figured you deserved a break from my obsession with the Neteller arrests over the past few days. So here’s some real, live poker content, taken from a side game I was involved in at the recent ESCARGOT weekend at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. Pictures are of me at ESCARGOT, and yucking it up at the banquet with World Chowaha Champion Nolan Hee (center) and Mark Kolstad (right). If you come to ESCARGOT next year, you’ll have as good a time as we did; I guarantee it.

In a recent $20-$40 hold’em game I raised with As-8s on the button. Two opponents called: the big blind and a player two seats to my right. The big blind was a savvy player, but the guy on my right bluffed often and usually bet the turn if he bet the flop in order to perpetuate his bluff. He was aggressive, yet was his own worst enemy against players who were able to figure him out and would call with good hands, raise with great hands, and mostly fold but occasionally raise with trash.

The flop was Jd-6s-3d. The big blind checked. The player to my right bet. I called. So did the big blind.

The 8h gave me second pair on the turn. I figured the guy to my left for a draw and wanted to make him pay for another diamond. I knew he might also have a very weak jack and called before the flop because he was getting 5-to-1 on his money.

Both the big blind and I knew the player to my right was very aggressive and would certainly raise if he had a decent hand. But I also figured the guy to my right was more likely to have missed the flop based how ragged it was and the high frequency of his aggressive moves. I wasn’t all that worried about the guy to my right, but I was worried about the big blind. He seemed more like the player I’d lose to in a showdown, not the guy to my right.

The big blind checked, the overly aggressive player bet and I raised. The big blind folded.

I got lucky when another eight came on the river. My opponent bet. I raised. He folded and flipped over A-7, so I knew I was right in my assessment and was ahead of him all along. While the guy to my right was bitching about my being a lucky player, the big blind was congratulating me for making a good play on him. He did have a weak jack and told me he folded to my raise because I might have had a better jack than his as well as the high likelihood that our other opponent might have a better hand too. He told me that he did not think his weak jack was worth calling two or more bets on the turn and another on the river.

My bet amplified whatever threat the player on my right created in the mind of the big blind. By betting, I put the possibility of a raise in the big blind’s mind, causing him to release his hand rather than find himself sandwiched between someone betting into him and someone else raising.

When that happened, the enemy of my enemy became my friend.

This concept comes up much more frequently in split pot games and occurs whenever you have a two-way hand that is not strong enough to scoop. When one opponent is going high and the other is going low and you have a two-way hand, you can pull off this play if someone bets into you on the river. Your play is to raise, pressuring at least one of your opponents to fold. When this happens you can usually win half the pot, and sometimes you can even scoop.

When it works, you will either split a pot you would lose if the three of you had shown down, or scoop a pot you otherwise figured to split.

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