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Poker: Unconventional bet leads to big pot

Unlike chess, poker will never be solved. What I mean is that in chess, there is always a right move or a wrong move as all possible information is laid before you. Poker, on the other hand, is a game of incomplete information because you don’t know all the cards.

That said, poker is about as close to being solved as it’s ever going to be, thanks to a game theory optimal (GTO) strategy, which basically means you play in such a way that an opponent can’t exploit you.

However, a recent movement has seen some players steer away from GTO and open themselves up to possible exploitation in the hopes of making more money. In other words, some players are increasingly more willing to make unconventional plays.

One such play paid off big-time for Kyle Bowker on the first hand he ever played on “Poker Night in America,” a poker program that airs weekly on CBS Sports Network.

The hand happened during a $25-$50 no-limit hold ‘em game at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia. Bowker, a poker pro with more than $2.5 million in lifetime tournament earnings, had just entered the game and “straddled” to $100. To straddle is to voluntarily post a bet that’s twice as large as the big blind, with action then beginning to the left of the player who straddled.

Esther Taylor-Brady raised to $300 with Kc Jd, Alec Torelli called with the Ks Kh on the button, and Bowker came along from the straddle with the 6s 6c.

When the flop fell 10h 6d 2d, Bowker checked his set of sixes, Taylor-Brady put out a standard continuation bet of $550, and Torelli raised to $1,800. Bowker called, which should have sent up red flags, and Taylor-Brady got out of the way.

Things got interesting after the dealer burned and turned the 4s. That’s because Bowker, who was first to act, bet $2,200 – an unconventional play to say the least. Most players in that spot would check, hoping their opponent would bet so they could check-raise. However, in this hand, Bowker didn’t go that route.

Instead, Bowker opted to take the initiative and lead out. Why would he do this? One reason is that it’s likely to confuse his opponent. Suddenly, Torelli has to ask himself why his opponent is making such a big bet and reach some sort of conclusion, be it right or wrong. If Torelli held a big hand – which he did – he would be put in a tough spot as far as how to proceed. Also, if Torelli held a flush draw, there’s no sense in giving him a free card.

Torelli ended up making the call, the 8h completed the board on the river, and Bowker bet $6,000.

At this point, Torelli seemed to know something was amiss, but he had little choice but to call with pocket kings. (He could still beat a single pair and missed draws.) Torelli then watched as $21,525 was pushed to Bowker, who can thank his unconventional play for winning him a monster pot in his very first “Poker Night in America” hand.

Chad Holloway is a 2013 World Series of Poker bracelet winner and managing editor for PokerNews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadAHolloway.