In this article I will describe a couple of common situations that occur in 6-max Limit Hold'em games. For this I will be using a couple of example hands. The topic of this article is playing when we raise in late position. In the first hand we have the initiative, but we miss the flop. In the second hand we get re-raised and our opponent (referred to as villain) has the initiative. Here we flop a weak pair.
The global strategy after the flop is as follows: we bet/raise our good hands and add a couple of (semi-) bluffs to the mix. With marginal hands we try to get to a showdown as cheaply as possible. This means that if we have a weak pair (or Ace-high), we don't raise, but we also don't fold. If we completely miss the flop we stop putting money into the pot or fold (unless we need the hand to bluff). Furthermore, we will always continuation bet when up against just one opponent, no matter if we hit the flop or not.
We are sitting in the cutoff with . Everyone folds to us and we open with a raise. The button and small blind fold and the big blind calls.
Preflop: Hero is CO with (6 players)
2 folds, Hero raises , 2 folds, BB calls.
Flop: (4.5 SB) (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets , BB calls.
We might have missed the flop here but the chance is big that villain will have also missed here. The pot is now 4.5 small bets. If we bet (which is essentially a bluff) we are investing 1 small bet to win 4.5 small bets. Let's say we bet here and villain will fold immediately 20% of the time. Let's also assume that villain will always win if he calls. So, 20% of the time we will win 4.5 small bets and 80% of the time we will lose 1 small bet. Total EV (Expected Value) here is 0.2 * 4.5sb + 0.8 * - 1sb = +0.1 small bets.
But in reality we won't always lose if villain calls the flop. Sometimes we'll hit a K or a J on the turn (or river), sometimes we'll make a runner-runner straight, and sometimes we might already have the best hand. This means that our total EV for betting the flop is even higher. Furthermore, villain would have to call a lot of hands if he only folds 20% of the time. The important conclusion here is that you should always make a continuation bet if you are up against just one opponent.
You can also calculate how often villain will have to fold here to make this play profitable. You do this by 1/ (P+1) where P is the size of the pot. In this case it would be 1/ (4.5+1) ~ 0.18 or 18%.
Turn: (3.25 BB) (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks .
Our bluff on the flop wasn't successful. Now we have to decide whether it makes sense to bluff again. With the pot of 3.25 big bets villain will have to fold 1/ (3.25+1) ~ 23% of the time. The problem here is, however, that he called the flop and therefore is likely to actually have a hand which he won't fold often enough. The best option here is to check and hope that we hit on the river.
River: (5.25 BB) (2 players)
BB bets , Hero folds.
Unfortunately we missed and are now sitting on King-high. Villain bets and we have to decide whether or not to call. Villain could easily have a missed draw here. The problem with calling is that checking the turn to then call the river is a well known move, also known as a value-check. So because villain expects us to call the river here, he will be less inclined to bluff.
In addition, villain doesn't have a lot of hands in his range that he can bluff here. If he missed his flush draw he would have probably check-raised the flop. With what other hands can he call the flop here that don't beat our King-high? We are behind against every pair. He could have easily hit a pair or even a straight with the on the turn.
Considering all this, folding is the only right option here.
A couple of observations:
First of all it is necessary to regularly bluff the turn. If we don't do this we become extremely predictable. With a hand like KJo it's better to check here, but hands like flush draws, J9, J7 we can (semi-)bluff once more.
We can also decide to call the river every now and then to avoid always being bluffed out of pots. We fold KJo here because if we call with that hand, we will also have to call with KQ, A2 etc. This results in a far too high call frequency. We can call the river with AK, AQ and AJ but should fold every hand that's worse. Sometimes we might get bluffed out of a pot but that is an essential component with every strategy.
In this hand we are also the preflop raiser and open with 96s in the cutoff. Only now the player in the small blind 3-bets us.
Preflop: Hero is CO with (6 players)
2 folds, Hero raises , Button folds, SB 3-bets , BB folds, Hero calls.
This preflop raise might be a little loose but is still OK. If we would have a good read here on the player on the button that he plays very loose, a fold would have been the better option. If we raise with this hand, we can win bets in more than one way. Firstly, we win if everyone else folds preflop, which would be the best scenario. We can also win if someone calls and then folds after we c-bet the flop. Finally, we could also just hit the best hand on the flop.
Now we get re-raised from the player in the small blind. As we are getting odds of 6:1, we are always going to call this 3-bet preflop, even with a hand like 72o. In limit hold'em it is always correct to call a re-raise if you only have to call one more bet. But, it is also important to realise that his hand, on average, will be a lot stronger than 96s. This means that we don't have to be obstinate after the flop and try hard to win as many hands as possible. His hand is better, therefore he will win more pots. If we miss the flop, folding is the only right option.
Flop: (7 SB) (2 players)
SB bets , Hero calls.
Not really a great flop, but we hit. Often we will have the best hand here. Villain can easily have overcards here such as AK, KJ or AJ. Or he has 55 or 44. So we will often have the best hand and are getting pot odds of 8:1 to call, therefore folding here would be very weak. The choice is between calling or raising.
You could decide to raise here for a number of reasons. First of all, you could raise because you believe to be holding the best hand here. If we assume that villain is playing the top 15% of hands here (77+,A7s+,K9s+,QTs+,JTs,ATo+,KTo+,QJo), then we have 55% equity. We still, however, can't raise for value here, as villain will fold his worst hands and give us less equity against the range with which he will see a turn. He could even re-raise us, which would make us lose even more money against a better hand. The second reason to raise is for information. Villains reaction can tell you whether he really has a good hand or not, and if he acts like he does, we can fold our hand here. The problem with this is that the information we get from villain can't be trusted. He could easily be re-raising us with AK or maybe 89. Why would you invest bets to get information that you can't trust anyway? A third reason to raise here is to protect your hand. Problem is that villain is getting pot odds of 10:1 to call on the flop. Therefore he shall never fold a hand that still has a chance of winning, like AK, QJ, J9, A9. We therefore have no way of avoiding the chance that villain will hit a better hand here, but what we can do is make him pay to hit something. Then again he could be holding the best hand here, which would make us the player who's paying to hit. Villain may fold a number of hands on the turn if you continue betting, but even there he would call with a hand like AK. When thinking about protecting your hand, you should always evaluate the cost of protecting your hand and how much protection you actually get from it.
By just calling the flop we avoid losing too much money against a better hand. We are giving villain the chance to keep on bluffing on the turn and river. Our hand is too strong to fold but too weak to raise. The only option left, therefore, is calling.
You can also see this as a sort of pot control. In general a bet per street is enough if you're holding 2nd pair. If more bets go into the pot, you are likely to be an underdog. See it this way; which hand, that is worse than yours, will pay more than one bet per street? It is not sensible to put more money into the pot than your hand is worth.
If you raise and you get re-raised, you've lost 1.5 big bets. We will obviously call the flop re-raise as we are getting 12:1 odds. If we now fold the turn we could still be folding the best hand, and we miss out on the chance of hitting something on the river. If we just call the flop, and also just call the turn and river, we spend one more big bet, but because we're not folding, we can be sure that we're not folding the best hand here. Furthermore, we now also have the chance of hitting something on the river, and we can always decide to raise after we hit something, which gives us a kind of implied odds. In other words, we decide how big the pot gets. If we raise the flop, we will always increase the size of the pot.
Turn: (4.5 BB) (2 players)
SB bets , Hero calls.
Not a bad card on the turn, as now we have a pair and a flush draw. Apart from that not much has changed. Whoever had the best hand on the flop still has the best hand now. Therefore, there is still no reason for us to raise. If villain is holding AT here for example, we have 14 outs, which gives us approximately 14 * 2.2 = 30.2% equity. If he has a worse hand, then the chance is pretty high that he will fold to a raise. Furthermore, he is likely to check the turn with most of his worse hands (like AK) because he doesn't want to get raised on the turn.
A free showdown raise is not sensible here, as we will never win more bets from a worse hand. We can still raise the river if we hit our runner-runner flush. Villain will also never fold a better hand, so our bluffing potential is zero. The disadvantage of raising is that you have to call if villain re-raises you. Now you lose 3 bets against a monster hand like a set, assuming that we will fold the river. By calling we only lose 2 bets against a monster and win 3 bets if we hit.
River: (6.5 BB) (2 players)
SB bets , Hero raises , SB calls.
Jackpot. At least we hope so. We still lose if villain has a straight, a set or a better 2-pair. But we now beat hands like AA, KK, AT etc. Because we will often have the best hand here, and because villain will often call our raise with a worse hand here, we can raise. Sometimes we will lose 3 bets here, but much more often we will win an extra bet here against a hand like AA.
If the river would have come for example, we can just call here. We are still getting pot odds of 7.5:1 here, which means that we only have to win the hand 1/ (7.5+1) ~ 12% of the time.
The general strategy when hitting a marginal hand on the flop is to not fold, but also to make sure that the pot doesn't get too big. Calling is often considered as weak, but at the same time it's an essential part of a strong, winning strategy.