One key to becoming a winning limit hold’ em player is the ability to maximize the value of your winning hands while minimizing the losses of your second-best hands, and one great way to accomplish this is to be able to induce bets on the river by second best hands. Here’s an example of a hand that I was in during a 6-12 limit hold’ em game that really shows the point that I am trying to make.
I am in the big blind with the Jh-10c, there are two limpers, one a fairly weak, yet somewhat experience player in middle position, and the other a rather experienced aggressive player who is one off the button, and myself. We take a flop of Kh-Qd-4h, now normally I would semi-bluff my open-ended straight draw in this situation, but instead I simply check due to the fact that I usually do not like to semi-bluff smaller pots especially in bad position. Add to that the probability that the flop had to of hit one of the other two players with the Kh-Qd on board I do not want to bet and then face a raise behind me. The first limper also checks and the aggressive player bets. I then call the bet and the first limper calls as well.
The turn brings the Qh which although brings me the second nut flush draw as well as the straight draw brings the possibility that even if I make one of my two hands, they could be dead to a full-house, and I once again check with the intention of folding to a bet, however the two other players in the hand check behind me and give me a free look at the river..
The river brings the 8h which gives me the flush with the Jh and a great possibility of having the best hand, however I do not bet it and this is why. If I do bet it and get raised I am almost sure to be beaten, and given the day and my mood I may or may not get off the hand and save myself another twelve dollars. I can still lose to any full house or the Ah, so my jack high flush really isn’t a lock. So instead of betting on the river I simply check (intending to call a bet) and give my opponent the chance to bet the worst hand into me. This way if I am beat I can find out for one bet instead of two, and I give my opponents the chance to bluff at me if the sense any sort of weakness (by the way bluffing multi-way pots in limit poker is almost always a losing play and not one that should be used very much if at all).
So I check and the first limper bets twelve on the end, and is called by the rather experienced player who must have decided that he didn’t have much of a hand, and I also call the bet on the end. The first player shows the 7s-7h, player number two shows the Kc-10h, and I proudly show my Jh-10c to scoop up the nice 60 dollar pot, a pot which when I checked on the river was only 32 dollars or 6 small bets minus the 3 dollar rake and the 1 dollar jackpot. Notice how much I made by simply checking and calling on the river. If I had bet that hand I almost certainly lose the bet from the 7h and I might even lose the call by the 10h.
It is important to remember that when dealing with weaker or aggressive players it is sometimes the best play to let them take the lead in the hand (especially on the river, when you can’t give any free cards), so that you give them the best opportunity to give you their chips.