Getting Maximum Value with Garbage Hands

With a garbage hand like 7-2o of 3-2o, the equity of your hand is so low that you're usually not going to win the pot at showdown.

If you have a medium to deep stack, you will often go in check-fold mode when you pick up these sorts of hands in the blinds. However, if you're under pressure to accumulate chips, you can consider using your bluffing equity to still make the most of these trash hands.

In order to decide whether bluffing is going to be a profitable option, there are a couple of factors that you need to consider.

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Showdown Value

One of the first things you need to think about when the flop is dealt, is what the showdown value of your hand is. In other words: if the hand were to be checked down to the river, how often would you have the best hand and win the pot? Another way of looking at this, is to think about the equity of your hand. How many chips will your hand win on average by the river?

  • If your hand has high showdown value, you want to play it for a big pot, in which case you can start betting/raising for value on the flop.
  • If your hand has mediocre showdown value (like Ace-high or King-high), you may want to play some pot control. Your hand has medium strength and you don't want to play it for a big pot. Getting to the river cheaply is often going to be the best line.
  • If your hand has low or no showdown value, there's little point in trying to get to showdown. You either want to get out of the hand by just check-folding, OR you want to use the bluffing equity of your hand. If your hand has almost no chance of winning at showdown, you can still take down the pot by forcing your opponent to lay down a better hand.

Bluffing can be a risky play, as you're relying on your opponent to fold. If he is reluctant to do just that, it can end up costing you a lot of chips.

You will have to seek out the most profitable bluffing opportunities in order to make the most of your garbage hands. Bluffs will fail from time to time, but if you do your best to pick the best spots with the highest chance of success, you can still make those garbage hands work for you and earn some chips.

Bluffing With 7-2 in a Hyper Turbo

In this 6-max hyper turbo, I attempt to bluff the flop with 7-2o , when stacks are very shallow. My hand has basically no showdown value, so the only way I can win the pot is by bluffing.

When to Bluff?

If you're considering a bluff, these are the factors you need to consider:

  1. Board texture
  2. Opponent's range
  3. Opponent tendencies
  4. Under how much pressure are you to accumulate chips?

1. Board Texture

The texture of the board has a big impact on the success rate of your bluff attempt.

  • Dry boards are favorable to bluff at
  • Wet boards are not so good to bluff at most of the time

Dry boards are boards where there is not much going on. They don't have immediate flush draws or straight draws. Paired boards that contain 2 cards of the same rank, are very dry in the sense that it is mathematically less likely for your opponent to hit it. An example of a dry board is Q♣-Q-2♠. 

A wet board on the other hand, contains flush and/or straight draws, increasing the number of hand combinations that your opponent may be willing to continue with. An example of a wet board would be T-9-J♣.

Whether the board is dry or wet should have a big impact on your decision to bluff or not. On dry boards, your opponent won't have a lot of hands in his range that he wants to play. Whereas on a wet board the odds of your opponent holding a hand that he'd like to continue with, are generally much higher.

If you want to make your opponent fold, dry boards will be much more suited to your purpose than wet boards.

2. Opponent's Range

The second factor to consider is your opponent's range and how well it hit the flop. Did his range hit the flop hard? Then you'd better think twice about bluffing. But if his range largely missed, you will have good chances for a successful bluff.

The more equity you think your opponent has, the less likely he is to fold.

Note that this often correlates with dry and wet boards. An opponent is likely to have a lot more equity on a wet than on a dry board. But this isn't always the case. For example, a flop of 4-5-7♣ is very wet. However, a very tight opponent who only plays strong hands, will have mostly high cards in his range that completely missed this flop. So in that case, there would still be a good opportunity to bluff and make him fold, even though the flop is very wet.

3. Opponent Tendencies

Your opponent's tendencies are also an important factor to consider. How does he tend to play post-flop? Is he aggressive or passive? Does he like to (check)-raise your bets?

  • Very bad candidates to bluff are calling stations. They will call with such a wide range of hands, that there's a very low chance you can make them fold.
  • Bad candidates to bluff are ultra aggressive opponents who like to contest almost every single pot. You will generally have a hard time trying to make them fold. But these players do give opportunities to successfully re-bluff them. Trying to (re-)bluff these types of players is relatively risky and can cost you quite a few chips.
  • Good candidates to bluff are weak-tight players who tend to fold whenever they don't have a strong hand.

4. Under how much pressure are you to accumulate chips?

Finally, the pressure you are under to accumulate chips, plays a big role in deciding whether to bluff or not.

The more pressure you are under to accumulate chips, the more you should be inclined to bluff.

The less pressure you are under, the less inclined you should be to bluff and take risks.

Consider the following scenarios:

1. You're playing a hyper turbo SNG with an effective stack of 8 big blinds.

Here, you are under a lot of pressure. Blinds in hyper turbos increase fast, you have a short stack: it's time to get going! In order to stay alive, you have to pick up pots. Bluffing is a risky play, but you have to take these risks to make a chance at reaching the money. Whenever you think there's a decent chance you can get your opponent to fold by bluffing, you should go for it.

2. You're playing an MTT, it's the third blind level and you have a stack of 100 big blinds.

Now, there's hardly any real pressure to accumulate chips. You have a healthy stack, it's still early on in the tournament, and there's no need to take any big risks. If you have 7-2o on a safe looking flop, you don't necessarily have to try and bluff. Even when you think there's a decent chance your opponent may fold if you bet or raise. There's not a real incentive to take unnecessary risks, so running bluffs with garbage hands will usually not be +EV.

So, these are the factors to consider whenever you contemplate bluffing. Can you think of more relevant factors? Post them in the comments below!

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