I'm used to having a hyper-aggressive image at the table. One of the things it lets me do is get a lot of value when I make a medium-strength hand.
The opponent in this hand, "The Villain," and I have played lots of hands together, often putting in three- and four-bets preflop against each other. We also have played lots of pots in which I've bet on all streets postflop (known as "three-barreling").
One of the reasons this happens so frequently is that I know he likes to enter pots lightly. That lets me bet weaker hands for value, because it's less likely I'm beaten, and also lets me bluff more often, because it's more likely he has a marginal hand.
With blinds at 75-150, action folded to The Villain in the hijack seat, and he opened to $300 with a stack of about $10,000. I called on the button with Kh 10c and a stack of about $26,500. Both blinds folded.
The flop came 10h 7h 9c. The Villain checked. I checked.
I decided to check back this flop for a few reasons. It's a flop that allows for a lot of flush draw/straight draw and pair/straight draw combinations, and if he check-raised, there would be very few good turn cards for my hand. I also wanted to disguise my hand to get more value from weaker one-pair hands. It would be much tougher for him to call with a lower pair if the pot gets big and a scary card comes.
Having the Kh gave me the flexibility to check back, knowing that I'd have more equity and playability on the turn if a heart fell.
The turn was the 9s. The Villain checked. I bet $600.
I was pretty confident my hand was best once The Villain had checked twice. He might try to check-raise the turn with a strong hand, but I thought it more likely he had a hand that had some showdown value but was too weak to bet.
The Villain called. The river was the 5h. The Villain checked. I bet $3,150.
Once my opponent called on the turn, I was confident he didn't have three 9s. If he had taken a tricky line up to that point, he would probably raise the turn to make the pot bigger and try to get me to bluff-catch (i.e., call with a hand that beats my opponent's bluffs, but not his hands played for value). It seemed very unlikely I was beaten unless he had a rare boat with pocket fives.
On the other hand, my bet of about one and a half times the pot looked like a "polarizing" bet, one that is made with the very best hands or as a bluff.
The Villain called, showing 6d 7d.
One of the reasons why I was able to get such a big value bet out of my hand is that when I checked the flop, The Villain couldn't put me on a lot of the very strong hands that I could confidently bet big. He would expect me to bet most of my flush draws, sets and two pair on the flop. By choosing a bet size associated only with very strong hands when in fact it appeared unlikely that I had a very strong hand, I was able to get my opponent to make a light call.
Because I had shown a willingness to put lots of chips in lightly against my opponent previously, I was able to take a tricky line and get an unusual amount of value out of a medium-strength hand.
Ben Wilinofsky is a Canadian poker player with more than $3 million in online tournament winnings and more than $1 million in live winnings. He won the 2011 European Poker Tour championship in Berlin. Poker Pros runs every week.