Was I right to turn top pair into a semi bluff?

Barry Carter stacked off quite light because of a gut instinct, so he consults the solvers and his coach to find out if his hunch had merit.

In the Self Study series Barry Carter reviews his own play in a hand, then asks his coach Dara O’Kearney to review not only the hand, but how he studied the hand. In the previous articles Barry reviewed how to play against disconnected players and why we sometimes overbet with Ace King.

I recently played an MTT on Unibet where with 45BBs effective I raised from the Cutoff with T9 and the Button min reraised me, I called. 

The flop came T86, I checked, he bet 2/3rds pot and out of pure instinct I shoved. I really felt this was the right hand to do this with, but could not quite articulate why. My instinct was that my bet was a good semi bluff, a good value bet and it was a hand that benefited from folds all in one. 

Off to the solver streets

I reviewed this hand in a solver to try to make sense of it. This is the range I gave myself:


I think I call most of the hands I opened with because the reraise was so small. Sometimes I flat with big pairs like AA-QQ but most of the time I would reraised with those. This is the range I put my opponent on:


Based on the player population I believe that the min reraise is usually a very strong hand or a pretty suited connecting high card hand that wants to take initiative but doesn’t want to bet big. Fancy play syndrome type hands. I don’t think we see many small pairs here. 

The solver suggested I check 100% of the time, no surprises considering he has so many overpair type hands and position. It also suggests that Villain bet his entire range with the 2/3rd sizing he used in-game. This is how the solver suggested we respond:


The green hands are calls, the blue hands are folds and the red hands are reraises. 

We fold most of the Ax, they don’t look very strong vs this bet, nor do the smaller pairs. We call AT/QT/KT/77/A8/A6 type hands, these seem like good bluff catchers against his polarised range, they either also have a blocker or a draw.  

I am really happy to see a lot of raising here, almost 17% in total. We obviously do this for value with AA-QQ and also to deny equity, ATs is our worst value bet and it only does that with AT because that doesn’t have a backdoor flush draw.

A9s is mostly a raise, I presume this is because it can hit a gutshot, a backdoor flush and it blocks some of the calling range. Q9s is similar because it can hit more straights. A7s is played in a similar way to A9s but not as much as it is weaker. J9s is played less aggressively because it is a better draw, it is more likely to hit. 99 is played aggressively because it is an OK draw but as a pocket pair it cannot improve much and it is best to take it down now.

66 is played aggressively as it unblocks a lot of draws. 88 is played passively because we need a strong set in the calling range and I guess because it blocks 89, which is a very small part of Villain’s range. TT is a pure call because it blocks the top pair that we want to call if we did reraise. 

On to my actual hand, T9s, and I was over the moon to see my hand is literally the only hand which is a pure raise and mostly the big sizing I used. I think this confirms my theory that T9s has a bit of every type of equity.

Our top pair will beat some of the hands he will call with (AK-AJs, 99, 89) and outdraw the hands that beat us a reasonable amount of times. My gutshot can make a straight and I can hit runner runner to make a flush, as well hitting trips or two pair. I also have enough strong hands like AA-QQ, 66 and 99 in my range to improve my fold equity. 

Different types of equity

dara Dara O’Kearney

Dara’s thoughts:

The reason why your hand was specifically the only one to reshove all the time is precisely what you thought. Every hand has equity coming from different places – blockers, draws and value. Your hand had a bit of everything to make shoving your best option. 

You can make worse hands call and you are very happy to get your opponents to fold when they have a good amount of equity with over card type hands. Any card higher than a ten on the turn or river is bad for you. You block some of his value and crucially there are a lot of good cards you can hit if you get called by a better hand.

This is a very well played hand. 

In-game he called quickly with Pocket Aces but I felt good about the hand immediately afterwards. 

How do you study your own hands? Let us know in the comments:

Barry Carter

Barry Carter

Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy, PKO Poker Strategy & the new book Endgame Poker Strategy

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