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When to bluff on the river in position (hand example from BBZ)

When to bluff on the river in position (hand example from BBZ)

Hands up if you think you’re a calling station? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve seen countless hands where players think their opponent is never bluffing on the river but then make the call anyway, only to be shown the nuts.

Interestingly, this way of thinking is actually creating great opportunities for river bluffs. Think about it. If your opponents are changing their tactics and opting to fold more often against river bets because “you always have it”, it frees you up to start pulling the trigger on the river more often when you’ve whiffed.

But good river bluffs can’t just be plucked from the sky. They need to be well-timed, well-thought-out, and well-executed.

So when should you be bluffing the river in position?

Here’s a hand example from the BBZ Bundle, created by BBZ Poker founder and head coach Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond. It’s from his ‘BTN Bluffing Rivers’ video in which BBZ breaks down his own hand histories and analyses why he chose to bluff on the river in each spot.

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Calling in position

The villain min-opens to 28,000 in the hijack and BBZ flats on the button with 67. Both blinds fold and they go heads up to a flop.

TIP: Suited connectors like BBZ has in this hand example can make great pre-flop calls, but a lot of other hands you’ll want to call with don’t. To improve your preflop play, check out 3-Betting vs Calling: Why flatting wide preflop sucks.

It falls 349 giving BBZ a gutshot straight draw (a non-diamond five would give him the nuts). The villain checks.

“I expect on this board texture we should have a relatively high frequency ‘bet small or check’ strategy,” says BBZ. “I don’t think there’s any reason to scale up the sizing and I also don’t think it’s a very high-frequency check in position.”

BBZ bets 22,765 and the villain raises to 91,000. While the raise is annoying, there’s a good chance that hitting a pair of sixes or sevens on the turn will make the best hand, while the five remains the dream scenario.

“I don’t see a lot of reasons to fold,” BBZ explains. “He’s betting 91,000 into roughly 116,000, so I’m going to have to defend something like 55-60% of my range.” He calls.

Weighing up your options

The turn is the q and the villain checks again. BBZ now has three options:

  • He can check back and hope to realise his equity
  • He can bet and hope to get villain’s check-raise bluffs to fold
  • He can shove and apply maximum pressure

“My hand doesn’t have enough equity to shove, in my opinion,” BBZ says. “It also doesn’t have much equity so if I bet and get shoved on I’m not miserable, unlike pretty much all of the other hands I could have.”

BBZ gives a few examples of those other hands he could have, including j10. “If I have j10 and I bet instead of shoving and then get shoved on, that sucks.” The same goes for his flush draws.

The 67 is the perfect hand class where if BBZ bets and gets called he has outs and if he bets and gets shoved on he can fold his hand comfortably.

He goes for the bluff and bets 81,375 into 271,250, a little under a third of the pot (“I don’t see any reason to bet large,” he says). The villain calls.


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Whether you are new to studying poker or a seasoned pro, this video will give you the tools to understand the basic maths supporting a sound poker strategy.

The Introduction to Quantitative Strategies is a must own tool for anyone looking to sharpen their game. Founder and Head Coach at BBZPoker, Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond, provides you with an easy to follow video that includes:

  • MDF Defined – Remain unexploitable by bluffs!
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Deciding to bluff the river

The river is the 10, completely missing BBZ’s hand. The villain checks a third time.

Before he can do anything, BBZ has to consider if a bluff makes sense.

BBZ doesn’t have a lot of ace-high hands in his range. It’s likely he’d have checked back ace-high on the flop and he’s less likely to bluff with ace-high on the turn. His king-high hands, however, are all integrated with the board (kq, kj and k10).

“I don’t have many ways of bluffing this river as my button-call range is integrated with the flop,” BBZ explains. “Here, I have a rare hand which loses to everything in my opponent’s range which isn’t a bluff. I just don’t have many hands like this one.”

TIP: If you’re unsure of how to construct ranges for yourself and your opponents, check out our Breakdown of poker hand ranges article.

So BBZ decides to bluff the river, shoving for 189,501 into the 434,000 pot. One thing it’s important to note is that BBZ covers the villain on the river (they have 183,019). “Quantitatively, I’m betting ~183,000 to win ~617,000. I think my opponent is going to have to hero-call with 9X sometimes, and hero-call with 10X for sure. But I think this bluff has an attractive risk/reward considering I cover this player and it’s for their tournament life.”

In the BBZ Bundle, Jordan then walks us through the solver solutions to show how different hands for both players should have been played.

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What have we learned from this hand example?

Well, when you’re thinking of bluffing the river there are several things you must consider.

What are you trying to get them to fold?

In this hand, BBZ says he would expect the villain to hero-call with a nine or a ten often (and we can assume they would call with a queen almost always). But there are still hands out there which can fold to a shove, including all ace-highs (the villain has far more in their range than BBZ does, based on how the hand was played). Both players also have busted flush draws in their ranges and the villain will also have to fold these to a shove.

Even those nines and tens are going to feel the pressure when calling all-in means they risk busting the tournament.

Does your range interact well with the board?

By the river, BBZ has complete air. But his button-call range is all over this board.

Let’s say he had flatted the button with a hand like KQ (it’s a hand you’ll often want to call with pre-flop instead of three-betting as it has so much playability it would be brutal to have to three-bet fold).

Would he have played the KQ the same way he did the 67? With two overcards and a backdoor flush draw, BBZ certainly could have led the flop and called a raise. If he then paired his queen on the turn it’s likely he would have bet the turn too when checked to, so a shove on the river is well in the range of possibility. The same could also be true for hands which river the nuts (kj and kj, for example).

Do you block your opponent’s potential draws?

The flush draw is the most obvious draw on this flop and therefore diamonds are the most obvious bluffs.

The fact that BBZ doesn’t have a diamond in his hand means he actually unblocks flush draws, slightly increasing the likelihood that his opponent could have one.

By the river, the villain is probably not expecting BBZ to continue bluffing with diamonds, which makes his shove in this instance even scarier.

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