Betting With Air

If you decide the situation is conducive for running a bluff, your strategy will only vary slightly from how you play showdown value hands. Since your goal is no longer to get to showdown, you benefit from a change in your betting strategy.

With showdown value, you do not mind calls and thus can structure your bet sizing to keep someone in the pot. With air, you want to skew your bet sizing a bit more on the larger size to make your opponents’ calls much tougher. The beauty of this notion is that a slight increase in bet size can have drastic effects on our opponents’ calling frequency and yet have to work a surprisingly small amount of the time in order to be profitable.

As shown in the above chart, a full pot-sized bet only needs to work about 17% more often than a 50%betinordertobreakeven. Thisgivesyoumuchmoreflexibilityinyourbetsizingthanyoumay have realized. Here are some examples to illustrate the point:

Example #12.19: Applying Pressure On Three Streets

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($10.33)

Hero (HJ) ($17.05)

CO ($130.79) Button ($47.80) SB ($15.25) BB ($61.64)

Preflop: Hero is HJ with K♥, J♣
1 fold, Hero bets $1, CO calls $1,3 folds

Flop: ($2.75) 2♥, 3♦, 6♠ (2 players)

Hero bets $2.00, CO calls $2.00

We c-bet a low board with the intention of giving up on most turns. Most hands that call this type of flop will not be folding to barrels. We bet a bit larger than if we had showdown value since we are trying to elicit a fold from our opponent right now on the flop and not planning a multi-street bluff.

Turn: ($6.75) Q♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $3.40, CO calls $3.40
A queen comes and we decide to modify our plan since the turn is probably a scare card for our opponent. A big card often helps our range and a bet will put a lot of pressure on many different types of hands that may have floated the flop. We go for a half pot-sized bet to give us a reasonable shoving opportunity on the river.

River: ($13.55) 4♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $10.65 (all-in),1 fold
With four to a straight on a queen high board, a river bet looks very credible for our range. I decide to shove to exert maximum pressure on hands such as 77-TT and 6x. It is conceivable that even some Qx hands might find a fold here sometimes. Our bet needs to work here a fairly low percentage of the time in order to be profitable, so checking and giving up here is almost certainly a leak.

Total pot: $13.51 | Rake: $0.65

Re sults:

Hero didn’t show K♥, J♣ (nothing).
Outcome: Hero won $12.86.
I by no means advocate going for three barrel bluffs that culminate in a river shove every single time you have air. But if a profitable situation presents itself, you have to have the will to follow through, otherwise you are leaving a lot of money on the table.


Sometimes you will barrel with showdown value and then get a river card that destroys your hand. At that point you will need to adjust your river betting accordingly. Take this example.

Example #12.20: When Showdown Value Turns To Air

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

Hero (HJ) ($14.72)

CO ($51.18) Button ($21) SB ($10.12) BB ($14.50)

Preflop: Hero is HJ with 2♠, 2♥

Hero bets $1, CO calls $1,3 folds

Flop: ($2.75) 4♦, 3♠, 7♥ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.38, CO calls $1.38
I c-bet to keep the lead and get value from random Ace high and King high floats. Since we raised in first position, a lot of our opponents will believe our range is strong here.

Turn: ($5.51) 7♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $2, CO calls $2
A very good turn as it is unlikely to improve our opponent yet does nothing to hurt the hands we are repping. It also adds a few draws that might make our opponent stick around another street. No need to bet big here as $2 accomplishes the same thing as $3.

River: ($9.51) 3♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $4.76,1 fold
The river destroys our showdown value, and we are left playing the board. We know we cannot win at showdown since even 5 high beats us; the only question is how much to bet. Since our goal is to fold out the majority of his air, any reasonable bet will do so. I chose half pot as it only has to work 33% of the time, but it’s likely that 40% bet would have been just as profitable


Example #12.21: Betting A River Scare Card

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($32.25)
HJ ($37.54)
Hero (CO) ($15.60) Button ($25.78)
SB ($75.53)
BB ($122.09)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 3♣, 6♣
2 folds, Hero bets $1,1 fold, SB calls $0.75, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($3) 4♦, 10♠, 10♦ (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $1.50, SB calls $1.50,1 fold
The flop is dry, so we should almost always c-bet here, even if multi-way.

Turn: ($6) 2♦ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $2, SB calls $2
A possible flush hits, and we pick up a gut shot. Checking back here makes little sense as we have no showdown value and will surely face a river bet that we can only call if we hit a straight.

River: ($10) J♦ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $5,1 fold
The board runs out four to a flush with an over. We have no showdown value and need to bet. We expect to get called by hands as weak as 8♦x, so we size our bet to get rid of the rest of his range.

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