Should He Try To Bluff The Recreational Player? (Analysis)

I’ve analyzed a lot of high stakes tournament hands here on the Upswing Poker blog, so I figured some readers might appreciate a dip into a low stakes hand.

After all, tournaments in the $10-50 buy-in range online and the $100-500 buy-in range live are what the majority of poker players prefer to play.

That’s why this article zooms in on a hand played by English poker pro Ian Simpson, who has racked up over $1,000,000 in career tournament cashes. 

In this hand, Simpson fearlessly turns his third pair into a bluff. At first glance, it seems like an unnecessary bit of “fancy play syndrome”. But upon further inspection, his play is well thought through and has a lot of merit.

Read on for a recap of the hand and analysis.

Editor’s Note: This article is by Irish tournament pro and Unibet Poker ambassador David Lappin who is a great follow on Twitter. Alongside Irish poker legend Dara O’Kearney, David produces and hosts the GPI global poker award-winning podcast ‘The Chip Race” sponsored by Unibet Poker. All episodes are available on Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Background

Game: €33 Online MTT
Format: No Limit Hold’em
Stage: Early

Relevant Stacks:
Small Blind (Ian Simpson): 61bb
UTG +2: 85bb
Big Blind: 19bb

Preflop

UTG +2 limps. Ian completes in the Small Blind with T♠️ 9♦️ with 61bb. The Big Blind checks his option.

Preflop Analysis

The fact that UTG +2 limped with a stack of 85bb suggests that he is a weak and passive recreational player. Limping that deep and from that position is something that a strong player will never do.

Faced with the limp, Ian talks about his hypothetical iso-raising range, saying he would mostly raise strong hands like 66+, AQo+, suited aces, and some suited connectors.

This is usually the correct way to approach these spots, but Dara notes that the Big Blind is playing just 19bb. Being this short stacked, the Big Blind will likely 3-bet all-in with a good number of hands, which makes Dara prefer raising a stronger range of 88+, AQo+, and AJs.

As played, Ian’s call with T♠️ 9♦️ is fine. This offsuit connector is too strong to fold and too weak to raise.

Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games, heads-up, and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!

The Advanced Solver Ranges for cash games — one of six sets of preflop charts in the Upswing Lab.

Flop

The Pot: 4.08bb
The Flop: A♣️ Q♦️ 8♦️
The Action: Everyone checks.

Flop Analysis

There isn’t much to say here. With his gutshot straight draw, Ian should be checking to the player who limped.

When the original limper checks, his range is likely capped barring some super strong hands (like the unlikely trapped Pocket Aces). This is important to keep in mind for the rest of the hand.

Turn

The Pot: 4.08bb
The Turn: (A♣️ Q♦️ 8♦️) 9♣️
The Action: Ian checks. Big Blind checks. UTG +2 bets 2.04bb (50% pot). Ian raises to 8.48bb. Big Blind folds. UTG +2 calls.

Turn Analysis

At first glance, Ian’s hand might seem like a call. He has a pair that could be good, plus 8 outs to complete an open-ended straight draw.

Instead, he opts for a check-raise. This is very much a merge bet — one which can fold out better and get called by worse. It is an aggressive approach at this point in the hand, but Ian explains his exploitative reasoning. He points to a couple of key factors that influenced his decision:

  • His opponent’s play so far implies a mid-strength holding (such as QJ or K9)
  • His hand has blocker value (his 9♦️ blocks two pair combos and his T♠️ blocks the straight)

Because of these factors, Ian’s turn check-raise is justified.

Note: Want to test your exploitative strategy skills? Take our quiz: Can You Exploit This Hypothetical Poker Table?

River

The Pot: 21.04bb
The River: (A♣️ Q♦️ 8♦️ 9♣️) 5♥️
Stack-to-Pot Ratio: ~2.5:1
The Action: Ian bets 28.04bb (1.33x pot). UTG +2 folds.

River Analysis

This river is mostly a blank. 76 makes a straight, but all of the other flush draws and straight draws have missed.

Holding third pair and a straight blocker, Ian decides to continue his story and bomb the river with an overbet of 1.3 times the pot.

With this sizing, he puts his opponent to the test. A bet size of 70-100% would represent lots more value hands, but this overbet is polarizing in nature — Ian is saying he has a very strong hand or nothing.

As mentioned, the fact that Ian has a ten reduces the frequency that his opponent has the nut straight. And his 9 reduces the likelihood of 99, A9, Q9, and 98.

Having profiled his villain as a recreational player, Ian believes that there is a higher likelihood that a big bet gets disproportionately more folds than a smaller bet would.

From the villain’s perspective, Ian has polarized himself, so the specific hand strength is less important than blockers. For example, Q♥️ T♥️ and Q♠️ J♠️ are better calls than A♦️ K♣️ for two reasons.

  • They block the nuts and Ian is representing the nuts.
  • They also unblock busted flush draws which we want Ian to have should we decide to call.

In the end, Ian’s bluff makes sense and the play worked well as his opponent folded what was likely a stronger hand.

Results

The UTG +2 player folds and Ian wins the pot.

Final Thoughts

Playing in smaller stakes tournaments presents some different player types than you would encounter at the high levels.

Because of the presence of limpers, you are more likely to end up in spots outside of the traditional game tree that you may have studied. When this happens, you sometimes need to take creative lines based on your own intuition.

That’s it for today. Good luck at the tables this week.

What do you think of Ian’s play?

Let us know in the comments.

Want more tournament hand analysis? Check out The $2.5 Million Bluff That Changed The Poker World Forever (Moneymaker vs Farha Analysis).

Thanks for reading!

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