If you can get someone to fold with a certain board run out it can be sometimes better to turn your hand into a bluff than check back with good showdown value.
During one of my Crush Live Call-In shows that streams live on Twitch.tv at 4:45PM PT on Sundays a listener called in about the following hand. He had called a preflop raise of $20 in a $2-$5 no limit game with KTs, $1200 effective against a player that he thought was very likely to pay him off if he hit big. Two other players called behind him and they saw a K♣ T♠ 6♠ flop four ways. The preflop raiser bet out $90, which indicated to the caller that he was extremely strong. With top two pair he raised to $225 and both other players got out of the way. The turn brought out the 6♥ and the upfront preflop raiser checked. The caller got concerned that the preflop raiser might have a hand like AA and checked back. The river was the Q♠, completing the front door flush and the preflop raiser checked once again. The player with KT, still scared of AA and now the possibility of his opponent having KQ or a flush was happy to check behind and see a showdown and dragged the pot in versus AK.
I have several issues with the way that this hand was played by the player with KT and it brings up a good point about turning some made hands with showdown value into bluffs. First of all, I agree with the raise on the flop in order to build a pot up against a likely strong hand. Usually in this situation the preflop raiser has the nut flush draw as the bottom part of his range when he continuation bets such a large amount on a wet board into three people. We want to get value now and not have anything come that could possibly scare him away. In terms of made hands he could easily have AK, KQ, KJ or AA. When the turn pairs the 6 we only now lose to AA but by betting we would continue to get value from all of the other weaker kings and the nut flush draw. If I were in this players spot I would certainly bet again here and bet most rivers small for value. Many players lose too much value by checking back turns and cannot make up for the lost value when their opponents miss draws at the end.
However, the reason why I think that this hand is so interesting has to do with what came at the end and the decision to check back the river. If I had checked back the turn and was faced with another check on the river I very well may have decided to turn my hand, which has a decent amount of showdown value into a bluff. The reason why is because when the third spade comes in at the river and we assume that our opponent would not check a flush to us his range consists of the made hands—AA, AK, KQ and KJ. Now, we lose to two of those hands in the form of AA and KQ and we beat KJ and AK. Is it better for us to just check back and sometimes lose against AA or KQ, if we think that we can get the player to fold with a bet? Of course not!! IF we think our opponent is capable of folding such a hand we should bluff in this spot.
Now I caution you—most of the money that is won in live No Limit holdem is through value betting not bluffing. Recreational players are not in the business of driving to the casino to fold hands. But there are certain situations where you look so strong you can fold out someone’s entire range. Here by checking back the turn we represent either that we were on a spade draw that got there or we filled up and were slowplaying. The fact that we still had the best hand on the river is actually irrelevant. It would have been a disaster for us if our opponent had turned over KQ or AA and we would have lost the pot—if we think he would have folded to a large bet.