Frontbetting - Tournament Strategy

Frontbetting - Tournament Strategy 0001

This article will focus on the concepts of donk- and frontbetting. More variation in your poker game makes you more unpredictable. By using a couple of example-hands we will discuss different possibilities of how to play hands when sitting in the blinds.

In my opinion poker player are making too little use of the aspect of


. Frontbetting indicates that you lead out postflop from the blinds and is also referred to as donkbetting. In order to master this weapon, you need to know what kind of opponents you're dealing with, how you need to play and what you are trying to represent. When used correctly there is a lot of money to be made with this move.

Just a short example to clarify things: Let's say we're sitting in the small/big blind and a player raises preflop. Another player, somewhere in middle/late position calls the raise. Regardless of what hands you have, many players who aim to win this hand will often say "you need to squeeze here (re-raise after a raise and a flatcall), because by doing so you represent a strong hand, and even if you get called you can often pick up the pot with a continuation bet." In order to make this move, however, you would need to have a relatively deep stack so you wouldn't be committed after your possible c-bet on the flop. Furthermore you could easily get trapped by an opponent just flatcalling with Kings or Aces after your squeeze.

Another option you have in this situation, which will most likely be cheaper in the long run, is just calling the bet out of position. If we then see a relatively dry board we can bet out here. We do this because it'll make the initial raiser think, "I raised before the flop, he just calls and is sitting in the blinds, it's a dry board, so why would he bet out on the flop if he doesn't have a hand?"

Now the initial raiser, as well as the MP/LP caller will think a lot less of their hand and only stay in the hand if they have at least top pair. Seeing as the chance for them hitting top pair or better is relatively small, we can pick up a pot of 10BB with a bet of 5/6BB. By playing a hand this way you are not only adjusting your gameflow, you are also strengthening your position in the hand. If we get called by one player we can always fire a second bullet on the turn, which will make our opponent think that we're never going to give up this hand. As a result he will most likely fold every hand without proper showdown value.

In order to illustrate my point to you I will use a couple of my own hand histories to explain my thinking process and playing style.

Hand 1:

Full Tilt Poker Game #10249819644: The Sunday Brawl (75192379),

Seat 1: Player A (13,784)

Seat 2: Player B (14,909)

Seat 3: Player C (38,488)

Seat 4: Hero (44,533)

Seat 5: Player E (24,500)

Seat 6: Player F (36,015)

Seat 7: Player G (61,021)

Seat 8: Player H (21,671)

Seat 9: Player I (60,741)

Player A antes 150

Player B antes 150

Player C antes 150

Hero antes 150

Player E antes 150

Player F antes 150

Player G antes 150

Player H antes 150

Player I antes 150

Player C posts the small blind of 600

Hero posts the big blind of 1,200

The button is in seat #2

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to Hero {q-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}

Player E folds

Player F folds

Player G raises to 3,456

Player H folds

Player I calls 3,456

Player A folds

Player B folds

Player C folds

Player D calls 2,256

*** FLOP *** {k-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{8-Spades}

Hero bets 5,800

Player G folds

Player I folds

Uncalled bet of 5,800 returned to Hero

Hero mucks

Hero wins the pot (12,318)

*** SUMMARY ***

Total pot 12,318 |

It always makes sense to look at the standard of your average opponent. I can also recommend to start using HoldemManager if you don't use it already. The statistics you get from this program can be very valuable when it comes to making important decisions. The hand above was played in the Sunday Brawl tournament on Full Tilt. At this stage we had already passed the money bubble a while back. I was sitting at a pretty 'normal' table without a lot of 3-bets and without too much aggression.

A player in middle position opens to roughly 3xBB, a player in MP flatcalls and we find {q-Clubs}{10-Diamonds} in the big blind. After taking a short while to think about our decision, we make the call. The flop shows {k-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{8-Spades}. This is a very nice flop to pick up the pot immediately. Let's say we make a 'donkbet' here; we'll get action from AA and any paired King and possibly an eight. Pocket Q's through to 9's will rarely continue in the hand because they can assume that we will bet out again on the turn. If this happens they will have to face a similar, more expensive decision. Seeing as I was in the big blind it is possible I hit an eight (especially because I let the timebank run for a while before making the call, giving off the impression that my starting hand wasn't necessarily a very strong one). Given these thought processes we can bet out for just under half the pot and pick up the pot. Making a donkbet like this can also be seen as a form of 'squeezing' because you are basically squeezing the initial raiser. The initial raiser might already be worried about the limper, and now he is confronted with a potentially dangerous lead from the big blind. These are more than enough reasons for him to let his hand go.

Even if we are dealing with a good player here who knows that we might be making a frontbet here it would still be too expensive for him to play back at us here. This is because he would have to make a raise of at least 10BB, which is quite a lot for so much insecurity in the hand. Because of this insecurity you are imposing on your opponent it will often be profitable to make this play and pick up the pot this way.

Hand 2:

PokerStars Game #24092582155: Tournament #134680700, $30+$3 Hold'em No Limit -

Seat 1: Player A (174895 in chips)

Seat 2: Player B (262732 in chips)

Seat 3: Player C (119879 in chips)

Seat 4: Player D (314710 in chips)

Seat 5: Player E (117813 in chips)

Seat 6: Player F (371100 in chips)

Seat 7: Player G (278114 in chips)

Seat 8: Hero (339882 in chips)

Seat 9: Player H (234875 in chips)

Player A: posts the ante 800

Player B: posts the ante 800

Player C: posts the ante 800

Player D: posts the ante 800

Player E: posts the ante 800

Player F: posts the ante 800

Player G: posts the ante 800

Hero: posts the ante 800

Player H: posts the ante 800

Player G: posts small blind 4000

Hero: posts big blind 8000

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to Hero {7-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}

Player H: folds

Player A: folds

Player B: calls 8000

Player C: folds

Player D: folds

Player E: folds

Player F: folds

Player G: calls 4000

Hero: checks

*** FLOP *** {5-Hearts}{3-Spades}{2-Spades}

Player G: checks

Hero: bets 18200

Player B: folds

Player G: folds

Uncalled bet (18200) returned to Hero

Hero collected 31200 from pot

This is the final table of a $33 freeze-out on PokerStars. A player in MP open-limps, the small blind calls and we check in the big blind. The flop shows {5-Hearts}{3-Spades}{2-Spades} and the small blind checks. This situation is very easy to play. The small blind checks relatively quickly here. Imagine he completes in the small blind after ~2 seconds and on the flop he thinks for 10 seconds before checking. In this case you would have to be careful and play the hand more passively. This wasn't the case in this example, and therefore we can expect to encounter little resistance from the small blind. Seeing as we could be playing any two cards in the big blind we can always bet out on a flop like this when we're up against one or two opponents. Merely an overpair will stay in the pot with us here while the rest of the hands will usually fold. Betting half the pot here is enough to pick up the pot 80-90% of the time.

Sometimes the situation changes as a result of the turn considerably improving our hand. Your goal in that hand has now changed, and now you need to focus on getting value out of your hand. You can now base you actions on the information you received as a result of your donk/value bet.

Hand 3:

PokerStars Game #24088658215: Tournament #134680700, $30+$3 Hold'em No Limit -

Seat 1: Player A (19007 in chips)

Seat 2: Player B (16473 in chips)

Seat 3: Player C (31648 in chips)

Seat 4: Player D (17067 in chips)

Seat 5: Player E (6967 in chips)

Seat 6: Player F (14431 in chips)

Seat 7: Player G (13623 in chips)

Seat 8: Hero (21623 in chips)

Seat 9: Player H (10675 in chips)

Player G: posts small blind 200

Hero: posts big blind 400

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to Hero {2-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}

Player H: folds

Player A: calls 400

Player B: folds

Player C: folds

Player D: folds

Player E: folds

Player F: folds

Player G: calls 200

Hero: checks

*** FLOP *** {2-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{8-Clubs}

Player G: checks

Hero: bets 925

Player A: calls 925

Player G: folds

*** TURN *** {2-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}

Hero: bets 2250

Player A: calls 2250

*** RIVER *** {2-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}

Hero: bets 6998

Player A: calls 6998

*** SHOW DOWN ***

Hero: shows {2-Clubs}{k-Diamonds} (three of a kind, Deuces)

Player A: mucks hand {9-Spades}{a-Spades}

Hero collected 21996 from pot

*** SUMMARY ***

Total pot 21996 |

This is the $33 freeze-out on PokerStars. This is a tournament that generally has quite a low standard of players. The opponent in this example was a player who open-limped quite often compared to other players (with hands including AT/97s). Here we see this player open again and we find {k-Diamonds}{2-Clubs} in the big blind. The flop {2-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{8-Clubs} gives us bottom pair. On a flop like this it doesn't really make a difference whether that bottom pair hit or not. There's nothing wrong with betting out on a flop like this, because our opponent will only call here with flushdraws, an Ace or a high pocket, which isn't really part of his range here as he would have probably raised a hand like that preflop.

Many players like to raise flushdraws on the flop, but in this case it wouldn't be a good idea. Experience teaches us that preflop limpers aren't likely to semi-bluff with a raise, with the goal of most limpers being 'hit first, then play'.

Therefore we bet out 3/4 of the pot here, and the limper calls. On the turn our hand suddenly improves drastically, and suddenly we have to switch from bluffing to getting value. Thoughts about the possible hands of villain:

• If he calls a 3/4 pot bet on the flop with a flush draw he is likely to call the turn as well, so you can go ahead and make a nice valuebet here.

• If he calls a 3/4 pot bet on the flop with top pair, no matter what kicker, the {2-Diamonds} wont have changed much for him, so we can expect him to call another a large bet.

• If he called the flop with a pocket pair( between 99 and KK) he would check if we check, call/fold after we bet (doesn't matter how much we bet, if he calls, no matter how much, his thoughts will be that his hand has showdown value). Therefore we will never check in this situation, because you want to get value out of this limper. He wont decide to bluff after you check, so you have to keep betting.

He calls, just as we expected. As long as the river doesn't show an Ace or a heart we know for sure that we're going to keep betting and hope that our opponent will pay us off. The river is a nice blank ({6-Clubs}). The conclusion we can reach is that we will only get paid off by an Ace, or a strange player with 99-KK. That's why we make a big valuebet here at the end and sure enough, he has an Ace with a medium kicker.

Hand 4:

Frontbetting is not only a different form of bluffing. In order to use this move effectively you will also have bet out with your good hands every now and then. Lets say you hit two pair in the big blind on a flop showing 975r, try out frontbetting here as well. Or if you hit a set on the flop, don't always pull off the same check-raise move. By adding some variety to your game you will become more unpredictable for your opponents, making you more dangerous as an opponent

Here is my last example-hand for frontbetting with a good hand:

PokerStars Game #24584860527: Tournament #137801363, $100+$9 Hold'em No Limit -

Seat 1: Player A (4135 in chips)

Seat 2: Hero (2815 in chips)

Seat 3: Player B (2920 in chips)

Seat 4: Player C (8775 in chips)

Seat 5: Player D (4037 in chips)

Seat 6: Player E (2747 in chips)

Seat 7: Player F (6674 in chips)

Seat 8: Player G (4920 in chips)

Seat 9: Player H (1860 in chips)

Hero: posts small blind 50

Player B: posts big blind 100

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to Hero {8-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}

Player C: folds

Player D: folds

Player E: calls 100

Player F: folds

Player G: folds

Player H: calls 100

Player A: folds

Hero: calls 50

Player B: checks

*** FLOP *** {10-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{j-Clubs}

Hero: bets 300

Player B: folds

Player E: raises 300 to 600

Player H: folds

Hero: raises 2115 to 2715 and is all-in

Player E: calls 2047 and is all-in

Uncalled bet (68) returned to Hero

*** TURN *** {10-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{j-Clubs}{6-Spades}

*** RIVER *** {10-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{j-Clubs}{6-Spades}{7-Diamonds}

*** SHOW DOWN ***

Hero: shows {8-Clubs}{q-Diamonds} (a straight, Eight to Queen)

Player E: shows {10-Spades}{j-Hearts} (two pair, Jacks and Tens)

Hero collected 5694 from pot


You always need to keep evaluating your game. If your frontbet ends up getting called once, for example on a board showing 944, remember to give up the hand if a scarecard like an Ace or a third suit appears on the turn and don't keep on firing bets.

Donk/frontbetting is something you need to be careful with. It's not a good idea to make them too often because your opponents wills stop believing you after a while. Before you even think about making a play like that you should be very aware of the opponents you're dealing with, what stack sizes they have in front of them and above all, your image and history with these players. On flops like {a-Hearts}{k-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}, {7-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{9-Clubs}, {q-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{8-Spades} it is not a good idea to make use of frontbets or donkbets, considering the large range of hands that hit on these boards. So make sure that the flop is an appropriate one before you make a move like this.

Donk- and frontbetting are good ways to add another weapon to your poker arsenal in order to stay unpredictable for your opponents and bring more variety to your game. Just make sure to only use them when the time is right.

What do you think?

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