Postflop Leaks - Poker Strategy
In my previous article I was discussing leaks in someone's preflop game that cost a player money without him/her really noticing it. The mistakes I exploit the most against other regulars and through which I make the most money off of them are the mistakes that these players are unaware of. Today I will continue about these leaks, but this time I'll be focussing solely on postflop situations.
Continuation bet too often
In 6-max games you will almost always see a flop 2-handed and sometimes 3-handed. Since you will miss the flop more often than hit it in Texas Hold'em, playing your hands aggressively is essential when developing a winning playing style in poker. A great percentage of the continuation bets you see on the flop are a logical result from this, but as your opponents get better, they will become aware of this and start adjusting to your playing style. Therefore, you need to find the right balance when c-betting: sometimes you c-bet the flop, sometimes you wait for the turn to c-bet and sometimes you just don't bet at all. The mistake many players make is that they think they have to be aggressive and therefore continuation bet too often. There are numerous flops that will hit a lot of hands and after which I wouldn't c-bet unless I hit something myself (for example ). A good guideline might be to c-bet 2 out of 3 times, and I think for many players this is still quite a low percentage.
Folding too often against c-bets
Seeing as, in Texas Hold'em, we seldom flop a nice hand but still keep playing aggressive, you don't often need that strong a hand to continue on the flop. Within the c-betting range of many average aggressive players you will find a lot of hands that completely missed the flop, and continuously folding to these bets can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Therefore you need to look for spots in which you can continue in the hand after hitting a pair or a strong draw.
When sitting out of position this becomes a lot more difficult as you can't really float (call the flop with little or nothing to then pick up the pot with a bet after your opponents shows weakness on the turn). I therefore recommend to flatcall very tight when playing out of position, otherwise you might be forced to fold too often against continuation bets. When you are in position you have a lot more options, and hands like gutshot/backdoor/overcards become much easier to flatcall or bluffraise profitably.
In HoldemManager you can find a very handy stat for this: folded to c-bet. The average value for regular players in my database is around 50-60%, but of course it greatly depends on how often your opponent will continuation bet on this specific flop and how hard you want to play back at him. The lower the stakes you play, the less aggressive your opponents will be, so if a player at a low-stakes table fires out a c-bet, you can put him on a better range than you would if a high stakes player does this. In general I would try and make sure to have a 'folded to c-bet' value of around 65% in 6-max games. For full ring games this is slightly different, as there will be more multi-way pots and therefore less continuation bets.
Missing out on light valuebets
Once you have created an aggressive image at the table and the other players are aware of this, it is essential to also place some light valuebets every now and then. Every time you miss out on a valuebet while you could still get action, you are throwing away a situation that could have made you direct profit. This is a leak in your game that you can figure out quite quickly when looking at the showdowns, and to solve it you will have to start valuebetting more and look at which players pay you off with what hands. Bear in mind that you are valuebetting against his entire range and not just the hand he is holding at that moment. If you end up valuebetting and losing the hand you might look a bit silly, but the bet is already profitable if you get called and win the hand more than 50% of the time.
As soon as I see players who check too often rather than betting, I will immediately make a note about this player, because you then know that their river betting range is polarised: it is either a very strong hand or a bluff. Against this player, a bluff catcher is pretty much the same as a good hand, and you can now base you call on the specific situation rather than just the strength of your hand.
However, you do need to watch out for players who are good enough to recognise river check-raise bluff situations. In most situations it is obvious that you are valuebetting a decent made hand, and most players will look at their own hand and decide whether or not they have a chance of winning against your range and call or fold on that basis. The better players, on the other hand, will look beyond this if they believe they can't call profitably with their hand in this situation. If there is a strong hand they can represent with a check-raise on the river, this is often a good option for them, seeing as they know you will have a hard time calling with your medium hand.
Under-representing your hands
This is something I often see with former limit players and extremely tight players. There are many situations in which you flop a strong hand but there are some dangerous turn cards that you don't want to see. With this I don't just mean cards that could make your hand be second best, but also cards that are bad for your opponent's range and will limit the action you get from this player. But still, there is often more value in underplaying your hands.
Very tight players probably adopted that style to avoid unpleasant situations and don't want to slowplay their hand if this could lead to them having to make a difficult decision. This also works by playing all your strong hand aggressively , and on low to mid-stake tables that is often enough to obtain a nice winrate. But in many situations, especially when playing against better opponents, there is a lot more value in adopting other lines.
It sounds like slowplaying, and in a certain way it is. I prefer to call it under-representing your hand: if you flop a set for example and only call, this is the absolute top of your made-hand range while your opponent will be thinking about the lower end of your end. This will lead to him bluffing more easily, and he needs a lesser hand to valuebet: you are making him overplay his hand without him knowing about it.
Of course there is also a risk connected with this, namely a possible bad turn card. There are no definite guidelines for this, it all depends on the strength of your hand, how drawy the board is and how much more value you can get out of this opponent. Bear in mind that it is often the drawy flops that get raised with a lot of hands. Draws have the most equity on the flop, so they are often played aggressively on the flop, which in return is good for you and balancing your range if you raise with your strong hands as well. Therefore, think about the fact that, if your opponent is on a draw, it is often easier to get action from that player on the flop. You can let him 2- and 3-barrel, but the players who tend to do that are usually also the players that won't give up a draw that easily on the flop and will play back at your flop raise.
Using standard bet sizes against weak players
When playing against other winning players, it is important to give away as little information as possible when it comes to the size of your bets. In order to determine the bet size against these players you can use information that is available to everyone: the pot size, the stack size and the texture of the board. If you start to deviate from this line too often and base you bets on the strength of your hands, your opponents will quickly figure this out and as a result, have a good read on you.
When playing against weaker players, however, you can be much more creative with your bets. Not only will you play against these players less often, but these are also the players who spend most of their time looking at their own hand, so it doesn't matter whether you bet $15 or $10 on the flop. If they hit they keep on playing, if not they don't, and they rarely make out the $5 difference in your bet. Against these players you CAN just base your bet size on your hand strength a lot of the time.
Something I also realised about weaker players is that they don't like to be put all-in. Often these players will be sitting at a table with their entire bankroll and don't want to go bust. So, if you want to get paid off by this player, make sure not to put him all-in so that he has some money left to play the next round. On the other hand, if you are bluffing this player, putting him all-in could be the easiest way to pick up the pot.
Betting too big in re-raised pots
In today's cash games we are experiencing a great deal of re-raising, and investing 12 big blinds before even seeing a flop creates a relatively large pot when working with stacks of 100 big blinds. Even in these pots players tend to stick to their standard bet size of 3/4 or 4/5 of the pot. I myself, when sitting 100BB deep, prefer to reduce my bets to about 2/5 or 2/3. This might seem quite small, but I don't think there's any need to bet any bigger than that. Seeing as you re-raise relatively often and you don't always have a hand when you do, your bluffs will become a lot cheaper. Even if you do want to play for stacks, this can still happen in the course of three streets, seeing as the pot is now large enough to get your money in at any point.
Furthermore, betting small ads and extra dimension to playing re-raised pots. If you always bet 4/5 of the pot, then the betting line is dyadic: we are talking about bet/call, check-raise all-in, bet/fold and so on. But if you bet 12BB into a 25BB pot, it will be a lot harder for your opponent to shove all-in because it is quite a large overbet. The betting now becomes more complicated and you will have to play your hands in a completely different way. The odds for your opponent to call a re-raise with 78s will be a lot less, seeing as he will win less chips after shoving all-in with his flush- or straight-draw following your 12BB continuation bet instead of a 20BB continuation bet.
Betting smaller also attracts a lot of action. This can be bad and good for you. You will get less respect when you bluff but many players will be tempted to regularly bluff-raise your 12BB bet to 30BB, which gives you the bet/3-bet all-in option for your drawing hands. It is also easier for your opponent to float, seeing as he doesn't commit himself if he bets 1/2 the pot on the turn. Be aware that opponents will play back at you more often if you bet smaller in re-raised pots, which will also require some adjustments on your part.
Chasing bad draws
Everybody has kind of an idea what the odds are to hit a certain draw, but these odds are often taken over directly in order to calculate the value of a call or that of placing a bet. There are a lot more factors to consider than just you hitting your draw. Due to the relative large bets in No Limit cash games you will often not get the direct odds to call your draw and you will have to look at what you can win if you hit, and what you can lose if both of you hit. Here are two examples:
in the big blind on a board in a limped pot with four players. The small blind bets 3BB (pot is 4BB). If you call here and hit, you will, first of all, have to hope that the flush-draw didn't hit, and you will have to ask yourself if you will get paid off. There will now be four cards to a straight on the board that will scare off many players, and often you will end up splitting the pot. Furthermore, there is little reason to believe that the small blind has a strong hand and will pay you off if you hit.
on the button, you call a raise from the cutoff and see the following flop heads-up: . He continuation-bets 3/4 of the pot. Although all you have here is a gutshot with a backdoor flush, which is usually a very weak hand, this is a good spot to try and hit your draw. Your opponent won't often fire out a 2nd barrel here because the board is very static and therefore the great deal of your flop calling range consists of made hands, so if you don't hit and he checks the turn, you can often still pick up the pot with a bet. If he does keep on betting he is likely t have a very strong hand, so if you do hit you are likely to get paid off.
Whenever a limped pot is played at a 6-max table, this usually indicates that a weak player is in the hand with you, because almost all good players either raise or fold preflop. Even if the flop looks very dry and you decide to take a stab at it you will often be called by these weak players with high cards/gutshot/backdoor hands, and if you then give up on the flop, he can easily pick up the pot. You won't often have position in limped pots, which makes it very difficult to pick up a pot without a real hand in these situations. There's nothing wrong with that though. You can just give up, seeing as there isn't that much to win anyway, but make sure that you don't end up losing a lot of money by trying to pick up these pots without a hand
Well guys, that's it again for this week. As always, comments and questions are more than welcome on the forum. Good luck at the tables!