One thing I've noticed is that more players are making high-card call-downs -- they get to the river and make a bluff-catching call with a hand such as ace, king or queen high. There are times when this play is profitable and optimal, but players aren't using this strategy correctly, and it's costing them.
For example, let's say I raise in late position with Ks Qs. An active amateur player who likes to see the flop with a wide range of hands calls from the big blind. We go heads-up to the flop, which reveals the 4c 5d 5s. He checks, and I make a standard continuation bet, which is called.
At this point, I can assume his range is something like low to middle pairs (with any higher pair, this player most likely would have three-bet my late-position opening raise), straight draws and maybe a few high-card combos.
The turn brings the Jh. A flush cannot be made at this point, and my opponent and I both check. His range has not greatly changed from my initial assessment, because I have not received any new information. If I thought this player would take control of the pot from me and bet certain parts of his range on the turn, then I could use that information to my advantage.
This highlights a fundamental point in poker: Always try to figure out your opponent's range and how it changes on every street. Your hand doesn't matter since you are allowed to look at it. Since my opponent's range has not changed, I am able to use my original
The 10s falls on the river, and my opponent now bets into me. I evaluate which hands in my challenger's range I can beat that he would bet -- although this depends heavily on the caliber of the player. If you are squaring off against a very skilled player who is capable of betting a weak hand on the river for value, then your job is a little more difficult. In my example, this amateur wouldn't bet a range that has value.
I can beat more hands than beat me, and I make the call with king high, while my opponent sheepishly shows 7h 8h.
This lesson is more about dissecting a range rather than calling down an opponent with a high card. Once you have mastered range "dissection," the decision whether to call a river bet with king high won't be so difficult.
Tristan Wade is a Director of Training and Education for DeepStacks Live poker seminars. Learn more at deepstacks.com.