Skip to content


Pirate Day Q&A: Bluffing with AK, Facing Raises and +EV Play #257


Sky Matsuhashi

on September 18, 2019

I answer questions about bluffing with AK, facing raises after cbet bluffing and developing a +EV intuition.

Listen to Dread Pirate Sky as you follow along below…

Q1: Bluffing on the Flop with AK (3:30)

One last question:  when having AK in hand, naturally make a value bet at the preflop with something like 3-4bb.  However, if the flop comes with totally irrelevant cards, such as 6d, 2h, 8c.  In such a case, do you suggest I continue with a C-Bet or play cautiously depending on my position?

– Cenk

When it comes to cbet bluffing with AK, don't think about holding AK (76s or JT or whatever your hand is).  Instead, when you're considering a cbet bluff, consider the likelihood the player will fold.

That's all that really matters.  Sure, if you have a flush draw with your AK, then if they call you can still hit your flush or Ace or King on the turn for 15 outs to a better hand.  That's “backup” in case your bluff doesn't work.

What matters most is if your opponent will fold:

  • The board you used in your example is 862r, which is pretty dry and hard to hit. They're more likely to fold on a board like this than Ts9s8h.
  • Your sizing matters. If you make a 1/4 pot bet,they're less likely to fold than if you had bet 2/3 pot.  Bet an amount they would fold all their non-pairs and Ace-high hands to.
  • Your position matters. If in position, they're more likely to fold on the flop because there's still two more streets where you have position and can pressure them.
  • Your image. Do they think you're always bluffing flops?  If so, they're less likely to fold.
  • Your range. If you raised preflop, will they think you can have TT+ on this flop?  Probably, so they're more likely to fold to your bluff.  If you just min-raised to 2bb's, they might think you don't have those strongest hands so watch out for that.


When they ain’t folding, we ain’t bluffing.

Q2: Facing Raises after Cbet Bluffing (6:00)

I’m experiencing a problem though, there are multiple times where I get myself into a situation facing mainly TAGS. OOP, I would cbet with two over cards and then I end up facing raises! This leaves me stuck with an overvalued hand or a draw.

This is extremely trying and I try to 3bet when I feel people notice the weakness.  Of course, the whole strategy can vary with each hand, but any general advice?

– Andrew

The first thing to think about is why are you betting?  Your example is a cbet bluffing situation.  You're bluffing, so when facing raises, it's an easy fold.

The tough thing comes when they don't do what we expect and sometimes this surprises us.  In poker, if you're surprised by their reaction, then you didn't give your action enough thought.

Now you face a raise when you wanted them to fold.  You know the best play is to fold, but then you think about the equity you're giving up.  What a bummer to ditch the two over-card hand.

But before you made the OOP cbet bluff, how often are they folding and how often are they raising?

Things to consider:

  1. Look at their Fold to Cbet when IP. If they fold 60%+, great!  Cbet bluff.
  2. How does their range interact with the board? If it hits it well, your cbet is less likely to work.
  3. Speaking of the board, does it hit your preflop range? Should they be concerned you hit a strong hand on this board, or will they suspect your cbet bluff is exactly that?
  4. Do they respect you? Do you have the image of a bluffer?  They're less likely to fold to Maniacs/LAG's when they've got position.
  5. Are you using a sizing that will get them to fold? 1/2 pot doesn't work as often as you'd like it to anymore.  Go 2/3 pot + to get folds especially when OOP.

Ultimately, if all signs point to them folding most of the time vs your cbet, and then you're facing raises, then they've got a good hand and folding is the right play.  If they're bluffing you, so be it.  You've got to find the fold when signs point to you being beat.  Those who can't fold when they should remain losing/break-even players.

One final thing, before you raise preflop, look at those yet to act and gauge whether or not they'll call and put you OOP on the flop.  If you've got lots of callers who will be tough to bluff, tighten your open-raising range or raise bigger to get less callers.

Q3: Developing an Intuition for +EV Plays (10:55)

I need help with quickly calculating equity to make the correct +EV/profitable plays.

– Manny Fernandez

I don't actually try to calculate EV for anything. The numbers themselves don't matter to me, what matters is if my intuition tells me the situation is +EV or -EV. I treat EV like a mindset not an actual calculation to base decisions on.

For example, calling with a hand like K9s in the HJ is not a money-making play because I'm just inviting a lot of other people to call behind or I'm inviting an aggressive player to 3bet squeeze. If I do happen to get to the flop with K9s, I need to flop something really nice to earn any money with it like 2p or better. That happens very infrequently, so most of the time I will be check-folding or just folding on the flop. So because of these things I know that calling with K9s is not a positive EV play, so I'm better off just folding it.

The way I develop my intuition for +EV vs -EV plays is by reviewing hands off-the-felt.  The more hands you review, both winning and losing hands, the more mistakes you'll catch yourself making.  Every mistake is a -EV decision, and catching these constantly will allow you to spot patterns in these mistakes.

For example, you might catch yourself open-raising then calling 3bets with ATs.  You realize as you do hand reading exercises and assign your opponents ranges that they never have worse than ATs in their 3betting range.  So, you realize you should never be calling their 3bets with a hand worse than their range.

Bam!  Lesson learned and hopefully future -EV decisions avoided.

Support the Podcast

Soulcode picked up the best poker software, PokerTracker 4.  My favorite since 2006!  In appreciation, I sent him a copy of my Smart HUD for PT4.  Along with the growing database of hands to study, the Smart HUD is a powerful tool in anyone’s poker toolbox.

Stef Couston purchased the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  It’s the best online poker HUD in the business, and you can get the Smart HUD by clicking here.

Thanks to Richard Canelle for picking Playing to Learn: A Micro Stakes Webinar.

Thanks also to Ade and Richard Canelle for purchasing the Poker Mathematics Webinar.


Sky Matsuhashi

Don’t Miss Out!

Get expert tips and strategies straight to your inbox each week!