Merge bet poker. What is it and how to apply it
Merging is a term which refers to value betting lighter, because your opponent may be calling lightly as he thinks you might be bluffing. This article discusses when and how to merge bet. Favorable situations will be explained and preferred opponents for merging. Also, meta game implications for merging will be discussed.
When to merge bet
A favorable situation for a merge bet is when your opponent thinks you might be bluff catching.
Bluff catching means calling with a marginal hand that only beats a bluff, for instance calling with ace high. Poker players do bluff catch if they think that there is a reasonable chance that their opponent is bluffing. One step further in this mind game is when you adjust to your opponent’s bluff catching tendency. If you think that someone may be bluff catching, you can value bet lighter, for example 3rd pair, because you may be called down by ace high.
The following video between Dan Colman and Daniel Cates (Jungleman) is an excellent example of bluff catching.
Favorable situations for merging in poker
Conditions for merging are good, if you are not representing a lot or a representing a missed draw. I will give some examples to clarify above statement.
Let’s assume we have a flop 9s 9h 4d and we are heads up in the big blind versus a button limper. We have 5c 5d and we bet to take the pot. Assume we bet 2/3rd pot and we are called. The turn is 4c and it goes check check. The river is a 2h. By checking the turn we practically announce that we don’t have a 9 and we probably don’t have a 4. Let’s assume that the button has A 10 off suit. In his view his ace is probably good on the river on a board 9s 9h 4d 4c 2h. Moreover, our line doesn’t indicate strength. If we bet on the river it could be interpreted as a bluff. So although our hand is not that strong (2 pair) it does get value from bluff catchers.
Another good situation for merging is when you represent a missed draw. Let’s assume we opened from the button with Ah 7h and the small blind called. The flop is 8h 7s 2s and we bet after the small blind has checked. We are called again by the small blind and the turn is a 3d. We both check and the river is a 3c. The small blind checks again. By checking the turn we again announce a marginal hand. Let’s assume the small blinds has pocket 5’s. If we bet the river, he might be thinking we missed our flush and or straight draw and that we try to steal the pot. So if we bet, he might or even probably look us up with pocket 5’s.
You might think: this is just value betting. But in old value betting logic you would not bet in the aforementioned examples, because you would only be called by a better hand. However, since bluff catching has increased popularity in recent years, you can value bet these hands.
Preferred opponents for merge betting
We do merge, because we think that our opponent is bluff catching. This implies that our opponent is a thinking player, who tries to put us on a hand range. So our favorite merging victims are thinking players, probably regulars and preferable regulars who are more or less non-believers (those who always think that everyone is bluffing).
Another good opponent to merge are calling stations. These types call you down lighter by definition, and therefore we can value bet lighter, hence we can merge. I have been called down with Q high, because the villain just did not believe me and likes to (hero) call.
Meta game Implications
Reactions on merging are a bit ambiguous. This is due to the fact that merging may be interpreted in different ways. I have been merged many times by players, of whom I suspect they even have never heard of this concept. Many level 1 thinking players, bet 4th pair, because it is a pair. So merging can be misinterpreted as a bad play and players may see you as a bad player (whereas you actually owned them).
Thinking players may adjust by bluff catching and/or calling less. When I got merged, or have been owned by a bad player who just bet 4th pair, I might tighten up. If you notice that after merging a player, one time or more often, he is less inclined to call your river bets, you will get more value out of your bluffs. The correct adjustment for you then would be to bluff more. On the other hand if someone bluff catches you when you are actually bluffing, you can probably successfully merge him after this. Playing good poker means making adjustments better and faster than your opponents.
Of course, above arguments count for thinking players who adjust. Some players however, just don’t and you can merge them time after time until infinity.
Finally a nice example of a merge bet by Vanessa Selbst versus Lily Kiletto. Kiletto is clearly bluff catching as she is saying: you have a monster or nothing.