I am never a fan of trying to bluff players off of over pairs at the lower levels. 95% of the money won and lost at live mid-stakes games and below is through value betting. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you think that it is profitable to semi bluff from out of position you have to continue to fire barrels on the right scare cards.
This is why suited connectors and small suited aces are so difficult to limp-call a raise from up front. Most of the time when you flop good you are going to flop some sort of draw and draws are extremely difficult to play when first to act.
Last week I was playing in a loose passive $5-10 no limit game at a small room in Los Angeles and decided to limp in with 8♠ 7♠ from under the gun. This is a play that I would not recommend usually but most of the table was sitting with at least $3000 stacks and there was not much preflop aggression. Much to my dismay one of the more solid players raised to $50 after the player to my left also limped and two people called in late position. I decided to take a flop since there were so many weak players in the hand and I also thought there was a chance that I could get the solid player off of the best hand. The board came out 9♠ 5♣ 2♠. I checked, the limper checked and the solid player bet out $175. His bet is almost always a real hand here as this is not the situation or the type of board to make a continuation bet with nothing. The next player folded and the last, one of the weakest players at the table, thought for a long time and called. I was actually happy that this player got involved as I felt that if I now made an aggressive move at the pot the preflop raiser would have to worry about another player behind him. I am also showing additional strength because I am check raising multiple players. So, it got back to me and I check raised to $550.
My draw here is decent and I am a little under fifty percent against an overpair. I would be forced to get it in against the preflop raiser if he was shorter but am doing really bad against a shove back range of a set or higher spades. I also, with my sizing, wanted to drive the weaker player out if he had a hand like say T♠ J♠. It would also be harder for me to win the pot against two people on the turn. The preflop raiser tanked for about three minutes and finally called. Much to my delight the weaker guy got out of the way and folded.
Turn A♥. This is where most people freeze when they check raise with draws. A case can be made that when the pot gets this big betting another barrel is super scary and may show immediate profit. I do not necessarily agree with this logic but you should definitely be barreling certain cards—and I think an A or a K are two of the best. I bet $700 and the solid player painstakingly folded.
We can almost certainly narrow our opponent’s range in this hand down to pocket aces through pockets jacks. If this type of “solid” player was uncertain about his QQ or KK on the flop the ace is almost certainly going to scare him. The funny thing is the ace really is not that much of a scare card—although many people do not realize this. If our probable range on the flop is either sets or draws the only thing that the ace does is possibly pair up the nut flush draw but it would be highly unlikely to see a player continue to bet huge on the turn once they make a weak top pair in a pot like this.
You should also be willing to barrel as a bluff on the river when the board runs out scary. Say in the above example we were heads up and our opponent held JJ. He bets $75 in to a $100 pot on the flop and we make it $250. He calls. Turn is the Q♥. We bet $300 and he calls. River is the A♣. We bet $650. Even some of the more experienced players and good hand readers would have a tough time calling here with JJ. The most important thing to remember is that overcards to probable overpairs are indeed scary.