Don’t Call Without A Hand

As you move up in limits, you may begin to face opponents who seem to bet and raise at every opportunity. The pressure can be hard to deal with. When you start raising them back as a bluff, they just shove over the top of you, forcing you to be the one holding a real hand. So what do you do in these spots? How can you win a pot when you can’t make a strong hand and your opponent never shows any weakness? Well, it turns out that betting at every turn is a weakness, and there’s a very simple way to exploit it.

Most of the time that you bluff, you’re going to be betting or raising. That’s usually the only way to get someone to fold. While eventually you have to put a bet in to elicit a fold, there’s nothing to say that you have to do it on the flop.

When your opponent c-bets the flop but frequently gives up on the turn, it’s a good time to float. You call the flop with the plan of betting the turn when your opponent checks. The idea is to get the same folds you would get with a flop raise, but to wait until you have more information. This play generally works best in position.

If your opponent frequently fires a second barrel on the turn (but checks marginal made hands), you may be set up for a profitable bluff-raise on the turn. This has the advantage of getting more money in the pot than a flop bluff-raise would.

A more effective option can be to float a second time. Just call the turn. When they check the river, their range is extremely weak. Against this range, you have the opportunity to make the ultimate bluff.

In the last chapter we mentioned that few players will call both the flop and turn with absolutely nothing, then shove all in on the river. That’s reasonable enough. It’s a lot of money to invest on nothing but a prayer that your opponent will check and fold after putting in two barrels himself.

Here’s the thing. No one does it, so no one expects it. So expect it to work.

Affectionately known as the Mississippi Bluff, perhaps originating from the riverboat roots of poker, this is the ultimate “my balls are bigger than yours” play.

One situation where it can be effective is against very aggressive players who 3-bet a lot, bet lots of flops, barrel lots of turns, but won’t bomb off a whole stack on the river. (If a player has a tendency to shove all in as a bluff, the play obviously won’t work.) You want them to bet as much as possible while still leaving room for you to make a threatening river shove.

You can set this play up with a min-raise, keeping the pot on the smaller side. If your opponent re-raises to 8 blinds, the pot will be about 16 blinds going to the flop. A bet and call of 10 blinds on the flop puts the pot at 36 blinds. If each player puts another 22 blinds in on the turn, the pot is now 70 blinds. When your opponent finally gives up and checks, you have a hugely profitable shove.

The most aggressive opponents may fire three barrels with an extremely polarized range. When they bet the river, they’ll have a few very strong hands, and a ton of bluffs. Against this unbalanced range, you can make an ever bigger bluff than the standard Mississippi. Call it the Delta.

In a once-raised pot, you should have room to shove over your opponent’s river barrel. Your line will look so strong that some opponents will fold hands as good as sets. That’s not the goal, though. The goal is just to knock out all of the bluffs, along with any thin value bets.

In a re-raised pot with 100 blind stacks, your hyper- aggressive opponent will have a chance to shove his stack in as a bluff, robbing you of your opportunity. So in a 3-bet pot, stacks need to be about 200 blinds deep to try this play.

Use this play with caution! Make sure you have a solid read on your opponent’s range and barreling tendencies. When used judiciously, though, the Mississippi Bluff shows just how powerful position is, and how that power grows as stacks get deeper.

If you’re still wondering what this play looks like in action, here’s an example from a session Dusty played multi- tabling the $5/$10 games on PokerStars.

The opponent in all six of the following hands is the same highly-skilled grinder. While his normal game is very aggressive, on this particular day he was literally betting every street against everyone. While there are many times when it feels like an opponent is betting every street, they’re usually only betting most of the time. This guy was literally

betting every single time. He was playing looser before the flop and never, ever checking after the flop. That’s not his usual style, which goes to show how important it is to pay attention to how your opponents are currently playing, not just how they usually play.

Upon observing that his opponent was constantly putting in aggressive action, Dusty decided to employ the Mississippi Bluff. This decision was made before the flop. By betting every street, Dusty’s opponent was keeping his range wide all the way through his river barrel. The thing is, it’s hard to make hands that want to call a river shove. So while his river betting range was enormous, his river calling range was tiny. That means that the Mississippi bluff should work a huge percentage of the time. Given the fact that Dusty and his opponent were playing together at a number of different tables, these hands all occurred within a five minute time span. That gave Dusty the chance to apply the technique six times in rapid succession without his opponent catching on.

This last hand isn’t exactly a Mississippi, but the idea is the same. When villain calls the flop and almost pots the river, he can only really have air or a set. This is the sort of flop where it can be worthwhile to call a raise out of position as a float (against an aggressive opponent), since they’ll give up their bluffs on the turn very often, allowing you to take the pot on the river. That’s probably what Dusty’s opponent is thinking here, so Dusty checks back and shoves over the river bluff.

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