Thursday, August 27, 2015

Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold

Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold
When to CBet the flop and when to lay off is something that a lot of people at the micros struggle with. I get questions about it all the time. The reason why is that you have so many fish who don't fold and even regs who don't like to fold at these stakes.

This creates a lot of problems since most of the time you are going to miss the flop or only catch a small piece of it. It can be very frustrating to keep making a CBet in these scenarios only to be called or raised again and again. 

So in this article I am going to talk about how to approach flop situations as the preflop raiser versus calling stations. I will discuss when you should bet and when you should just give up. I will also have plenty of example hands at the end to make this all more clear.


Make a Flop CBet 75% of the Time (Under Normal Conditions)


Any of you who have followed my work (blog posts, books, videos etc.) know that I toss this number out there a lot. Make a CBet 75% of the time.

The reason why is that people like concrete numbers to go by and I think that in a typical micro stakes cash game which has a lot of tight/passive regs this will be close to optimal.

It is important to remember that you only need to get somebody to fold about 1/3 of the time in order to break even when you are only CBetting 2/3 of the pot . Basically everybody (even most fish) fold this often.

But of course every situation is different in poker and so this number is only just a guideline. As I just mentioned, some games at the micros (especially NL2 and NL5) include a lot of these no-fold'em players. They will call you down with two napkins.

Would it be a good idea to fire a CBet against them 3/4 of the time? Probably not. 


Make a Flop CBet 60% of the Time (Against Players Who Don't Like to Fold)


So my flop CBet is indeed a fair bit lower at these stakes (NL2 and NL5 in particular). I tend to fire a continuation bet about 60% of the time. Again, this is just a rough number because people like numbers. Don't take it too literally.

But overall I will certainly be more selective in deciding when and who I CBet against at these stakes. You always have to be adjusting to the game conditions in poker.

This one is really simple. If they aren't going to fold very often, then I won't waste my time (and money) firing endless CBets into them. I will make sure that I have something. 

Keep in mind that at these stakes you will have more "family pots" as well. Once one person calls it often creates a domino effect where everyone and their dog wants in. It is of course much more difficult to get folds versus multiple players. So I will have to be even more selective in these situations.

Not all games at the micros are like this though.

If I notice that I am at a table full of nits who can't wait to fold to my CBets then I might be firing a bet 80% or even 90% of the time. 


Perceived Range


Before I get into some specific examples though let me talk a bit about some CBetting basics to make sure that we are all on the same page. If you have read my first book then you know that I talk about something called a "perceived range" quite a bit.

This is the the range of cards that you are "supposed to have" when you raise preflop. This would typically include big pairs, big aces and broadways. Hands like:
  • AA, KK, QQ, JJ and TT
  • AK, AQ and AJ
  • KQ, KJ and QJ
But of course if you follow my advice then you will have plenty of other speculative but still reasonably decent hands in your raising range as well such as:
  • 22-99
  • JTs, 98s, 87s
  • ATs, A9s, A8s
And many, many more hands especially as you get closer to the button. 

So this perceived range of only having big cards isn't exactly true most of the time. However, this is what we should expect our opponent to believe. And that is the only thing that matters.

This does of course assume that they are indeed thinking about this sort of thing. Most fish won't but most regs will. 


Good Flops to CBet


So given this perceived range (where basically we get too much credit) it will make sense for us to CBet most flops. The reason why is that our perceived range hits a lot of flops hard or it may be assumed that we have a big pair which didn't need to improve anyways.

These are the types of flops that I am talking about:
  • Single Broadway (A82)
  • Double Broadway ( AK4)
  • Triple Broadway (AKJ)
  • Paired (TT3)
  • Raggedy (952)
  • Bingo (777)

Calling Range


The only boards where we should be a little bit hesitant to fire the CBet are the ones with a lot of middle cards such as:
  • 986
  • 875
Boards like this hit the range of a lot of the types of hands that they will be calling us with preflop such as:
  • Suited connectors
  • Suited aces
  • Middle pairs
  • Small pairs
The caller will usually have a few more suited cards in their range as well which means that a flush draw on the board probably hits their range a little harder than ours.

This calling range is generalizing a bit once again. They will have some sort of ace or be slowplaying a big pair from time to time for instance when they call us preflop.

However, these types of middle card flops hit a lot of hands and we should also expect them to have a lot of these types of cards in their hand as well.


Flop CBetting 101
Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold


So to sum up here is some of the general theory surrounding flop CBetting. 

1) The preflop raiser is thought to have a lot of big cards and big pairs and therefore should CBet on most flops. 

2) The preflop caller is thought to have more drawing hands and middle cards and therefore will probably continue more often on boards which hit this range. 

3) As mentioned above, the situation changes quite a bit when facing several opponents. We can't rely so much on our perceived range in order to get folds. There is simply a much higher chance that somebody has something and therefore we should have actually hit the board in some meaningful way when CBetting. 

4) Lastly, position does matter. We should be more inclined to make a CBet when in position. Poker is always so much easier (and more profitable) when we get to act last. However, it shouldn't be a massive difference. Whether or not you think that you can get your opponent(s) to fold a decent amount of the time should be the over-riding concern.


Versus the Low Fold to CBet Fish or Reg


All of this is great in theory. But as mentioned above there will be times especially at the lowest stakes when we know that we are up against a fish or a reg who does not like to fold to flop CBets.

They will typically have a fold to flop CBet of 50% or less on your HUD. 

Now it is important to make a clear distinction between the type of player who is only sticky on flops with the type of player who doesn't fold on any street.

For instance, if you see a player like this: 
  • Low fold to flop CBet% (~40%)
  • High fold to turn CBet% (~70%)
Then you should absolutely make a CBet and then fire again on the turn. This is a very profitable situation.

However, if you see a player like this:
  • Low fold to flop CBet% (~40%)
  • Low fold to turn CBet% (~30%)
Then it would be a big mistake to try and barrel this player off of their hand. It will be very bad for your win rate to keep firing with air versus a player like this. 

The WTSD% (went to showdown) stat will help a lot here as well. The players who you can get to fold will typically be in the low 20's and the players who won't fold will be in the high 20's.

Let's look at a few examples now in order to add some clarity to this discussion.

Here is a quick legend:

EP = Early position
MP = Middle position
LP = Late position
IP = In position
OOP = Out of position

Assume these two things in all of the following examples as well:

  • All stacks are 100bb to start the hand
  • All opponents have a low fold to flop CBet% (50% of less)

Example #1 


Hero raises with 5♣5♦ in EP and a fish calls in the blinds

The flop comes:

A♦K♥4♠

The fish checks
Hero???

Hero should CBet here even if the fish has a low fold to flop CBet%. There is definitely no fist pumping going on though. 

Oftentimes in poker when there is no clearly most profitable decision it is best to just choose the one that sucks the least.

And that is the case here. 

Even though we don't expect to take it down a lot with a flop CBet we can probably still at least break even. Our opponent has already checked to us which indicates some weakness and this flop hits our perceived range hard. 

The other option is checking back and allowing the fish to hit his overcards or complete some ridiculous draw for free. It is difficult to see any benefit for us in this. Therefore, I would rather just try and take down the pot on the flop. 

Since this spot is pretty close if I was OOP in this hand it would be enough to change my decision some of the time. I would indeed just check and give up more often. The fact that it is very difficult for my hand to improve plays a role in this decision as well.


Example #2 


Hero raises with A♥J♥ in MP and a reg calls on the button

The flop comes:

K♠T♥3♣

Hero???

I think this is a spot where once again we should CBet even versus a player who does not like to fold. We once again caught a board that is very good for our perceived range. 

It should also be noted that we have a lot more outs if called this time with potentially two live over cards, a gutshot to the nuts and the backdoor nut flush draw.

Just keep things simple and make your standard CBet in a spot like this especially against a reg. Regs will also be more likely to pull one off on the flop but give up on the turn if you continue with the aggression.


Example #3


Hero raises with 2♠2♥ in MP and gets called by a fish in the CO

The flop comes:

9♦8♦6♣

Hero???

This is the classic spot where there is no way on earth that I am going to waste a CBet. Let's look at all of the odds that are stacked against us here:
  • Opponent is a calling station fish
  • The board hits his range hard (middle cards and a potential flush draw)
  • We have very few ways to improve our hand on later streets
  • We are OOP
This is a spot where you should be simply checking and giving up. Making a CBet here is just lighting money on fire. 


Example #4


Hero raises with J♣T♣ in LP, a fish calls in the SB and a reg calls in the BB

The flop comes:

Q♦9♥3♠

The fish checks
The reg checks
Hero???

Even though we probably won't get both players to fold all that often we should make a CBet here. We have an open ended straight draw and possibly two live over cards. Also, both players have already checked to us which indicates some weakness.

As I mentioned before though, you need to be more careful in multi-way pots especially against players who don't fold to flop CBets. You should have hit the board in some reasonable way like we have here. 

If I had complete air here with a hand like 87 or A5 against two players like this I would likely just check and give up. Against one opponent it would be ok to take a stab. 


Example #5 


Hero raises in EP with A♥K♥, a fish calls in MP and a fish calls on the button

The flop comes:

T♦6♠5♠

Hero???

A spot like this in particular is really difficult for a lot of people at these stakes. You have a huge hand preflop but you completely whiffed the flop versus a couple of bad players. To make matters worse, you are OOP. 

I know it might not be an overly popular choice but the best decision here (by far) is to simply check and give up.

You have to forget about how pretty your hand looked before the flop and realize that in this spot it will be difficult to get both of your opponents to fold. We know that they are calling if they have any piece and even bottom pair with no kicker is a sizable favorite against us.

Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold

We are behind against a simple flush draw as well.
Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold

Versus one player OOP here it is definitely much closer. I would probably be CBetting some of the time. But against multiple opponents it is definitely a better idea to simply give up. 


Final Thoughts


CBet spots on the flop at the micros really aren't as difficult as some people make them out to be. As I have mentioned before, one of the biggest keys to my success against the throngs of bad players and calling stations at these stakes is to simply be more patient. This means that sometimes you will need to simply check and give up even with a hand as strong as AK. 

Against the weak/tight regs you can just keep things simple as well by barreling hard on all of the boards that hit your perceived range. If they choose to call you down or fight back they will often have a big hand and you can safely fold.

Against the tricky opponents at these stakes who will float and raise you with a wide range there is obviously a lot more to say. You will need to consider things like balancing your range and taking unconventional lines a lot more often.

That honestly is a topic for an entire other article. But I have indeed already written that other article before. You can go check it out here. 

If you have any questions or comments about any of the example hands above feel free to leave a comment below. What is your strategy versus bad players on the flop?

If you found this article helpful then do me a favor and "Like" or "Tweet" it below!


Flop Strategies Versus Bad Poker Players Who Do Not Like to Fold

11 comments:

  1. Nice blog Nathan, ever since I started table selecting I've been facing those kinds of villains more and more. On example #1 say that the fish calls the cbet, a brick falls on the turn and the villains checks again: do you consider firing another barrel or just check it back? I've been on that spot several times lately. Thanks a lot and take care!

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    1. Thanks Jorge! I would generally just give up at this point if he called my flop cbet. There was no flush draw available on the flop so I feel like the fish probably hit the flop in some way with an A or a K and might call me down the whole way. Best case scenario is probably that he has some sort of silly gutter like JT or QT. Even these hands have some decent equity against us.

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  2. Just started subscribing and am impressed with how often you're putting out useful content - didn't expect to be getting so much in such a short time, so it's too bad I didn't join sooner. This post is no exception; a very simple and concise way of breaking it down into ranges that either help or hurt us. It seems more like your strategy pertaining to tricky opponents, but I like to check back IP slightly more than OOP, especially in a hand like #1. Saves me from having to deal with an uncomfortable check-raise, and as long as I check back my Ax sometimes on that flop as well, I can get aggressive on the turn. But I think I might be leaving money on the table against calling stations, so off I go to hike up my c-bet%. Thanks again! David

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    1. Thanks for the kind words David, glad to help!

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    2. Follow this man advice's and you can even become a pro! hehehehehe
      Good stuff man, even though it is kind of old for me, it is always good to revisit old basic topics, those plays look so simple but are the ones we are making hundres of times in the course of a session.

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    3. Thank you Willian! And yes, I write about mostly beginner level stuff. Glad it is still somewhat useful to a crusher like you though!

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    4. It certanly is, the simple stuff is the type of thing that happens every minute at the tables. Begginers tend to focus so much about how to play a floped set, when in reality they should focus way more on how to play well a flopped second pair type of hand.

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  3. Haven't commented in awhile but I read your blogs as gospel! As I suggested to you in an e-mail awhile back when I told you how great your two books were, you should charge at least a nominal fee for this as a subscription. I will pay!!

    This blog is so timely for my wife and I - we play online but played last weekend live $2-$4 limit in Jacksonville. We had a table where consistently 5-7 people stayed in through the turn. Your advice is well taken for our next trip there in two weeks. We managed to break-even but it was frustrating given we were getting junk hands that session virtually the whole time. I had to resist just playing for the sake of it but your guidance tells me to be patient. I like your breakdown especially of understanding which boards to cBet with and which not to do so.

    Thanks as always!!!

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    1. Thanks Chris, I appreciate you being a loyal reader and commenter over the years very much! I like your idea of charging haha but my blog posts will always remain free. It is great to know that they help people such as yourself.

      Also, they do help drive a lot of traffic to my website which in turn creates sales to my books. So I certainly do get paid for writing them in an indirect way :)

      Those sound like some awesome live games. Hope you pick up some better hands next time! It sucks when you are handcuffed like that.

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  4. Exactly the article I was looking for Nathan. It was really frustrating to waste C.bets on fishy players.

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