Unfortunately, I just learned an important lesson, but also a new piece of strategy I have never considered using. Of course, I wish I had not learned this lesson when a $150 pot was involved, but better late than never. I have not seen this strategy explained anywhere else, so for lack of a better term I will call this the Half Bet. When I find out what the formal term is I will have this revised. Please let me know if you are familiar with it. I would call it a Semi-Bluff, but he was not trying to convince me to fold. He was simply trying to improve his odds.
First, let me say I like to think of myself as a strong player, but not a pro. I have been winning consistently now for a long while. Sometimes this makes me a bit cocky and I tend to play the game too fast. By this I mean I make decisions without thinking about them because they seem logical at the time. Then later, when I look back, I wonder what the heck I was thinking. It is important, especially when expensive decisions are involved, to make the correct choice. The pros take their time and weigh the options every time they make an important decision; we should too.
I like to have control of the betting, especially when I believe I have the best hand. In a $1/$2 no-limit game a little while ago, against some very loose players, I was holding King/Ten of Hearts. I was in last position and raised four times the big blind ($8) pre-flop. I knew two players would call, they called every raise made. I was hoping to scare everyone besides these two players out, and I did. The pot was $27.
With the three of us left in the hand, and me last to bet, the Flop was:
King of Spades
Four of Hearts
Ten of Spades
This gave me two pair, but left a couple of scary options on the board. If either had Jack/Queen they had a good Outside Straight draw. If either had two Spades, they had a good flush draw. My job at this point is to make it unprofitable for them to call believing I have the best hand. Both players check to me and I bet about 75% of the pot ($20). Normally I would bet somewhere around 60%. That is enough to scare a good player with these types of draws out, but I knew I had to bet more against these guys. I managed to scare one out, but the other called the bet. The pot now had $67.
The turn was an Eight of Hearts.
No help to me, though it did give me a flush draw, and I assume no help to him. Here is where he made the Half-Bet which may have cost me the hand. To take away his odds of getting the Flush or Straight I would have to bet almost 50% of the pot, or about $33. My goal here is not to stop this guy from making his hand on the River. I want him to call if I bet correctly. He has about a one-in-five chance of making his hand on the last card so for every five people who call this bet, I will win four times and make a hefty profit. If he folds I am also happy. I win either way.
I was a little surprised when he bet into me with a $10 Half-Bet and I quickly called without thinking. The guy was loose, but smart. He knew if he checked to me he was going to get a bet he could not reasonably call. The right thing for me to do after his $10 Half Bet, believing I still had the best hand, would have been to come back at him with a $40 bet trying to convince him to fold. His bet into me of $10 confused me and gave him the chance to draw his Flush or Straight at a discount.
Guess what the River was?
Two of Spades
I knew as soon as he made the bet that I lost and had to call it. He did not make it big enough that I could fold at that point. I called his $20 bet and lost to the Spade Flush.
This Half-Bet is a technique to watch out for when someone uses it against you. Don’t let it change your betting strategy. It is also a trick you might consider using when you have a flush or straight draw. Make sure your Half-Bet:
- Is large enough to project strength;
- Gives you the correct odds for making your hand;
- Is made when the pot is large enough to take a shot at.
It takes a very strong and smart player to re-raise this Half-Bet, and I was humbled that I was not strong or smart enough to do it this time. Next time though, watch out.