Donk betting (leading):
This is a very interesting part of the game, very few players do it. I don’t do it that much, but there are situations where it is optimal. The reason I don’t do it that much is because people cbet way too much in general, so check-raising is typically better. Don’t just donkbet to donkbet, have a purpose.
Typically check/calling a weak flush draw, say 65s on QJ8ss isn’t profitable, check raising MIGHT be profitable but again its a grayish area. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leading this flop with your hand. The great thing about leading this board with our hand is we can very easily bet/fold, and since our opponent has no idea what our lead range is (until we build up extensive history) in his eyes we could have anything. We can be sure we’re dead if he raises.
The first time I lead into someone I will normally have some weak hand, what I will never do is lead any draw/made hand and check/fold the turn. Sometimes I decide to lead KQ on Axx or T9 on K86 or something, but if I have 98ss with a back door flush draw on Kxx you better believe I’m betting the flop and turn, no matter what the turn is.
I don’t think you should lead strong made hands without a very good reason to, most notably history of your opponent putting you on weak hands (he’s seen you b/f leads or showdown second pair or something). Otherwise I keep showing up with semi-bluffs. Ball till you fall. Sometimes I lead KQ on like Kxx or something, especially if there’s a flush draw planning to bet call the flop and check raise a non club turn, but c/c and c/ring some opponents is fine as well, just remember you are at the very top of your range so against loose/goodish players you probably have to look up 2 streets and normally 3 if you c/c.
What you want to not do is lead 99 on J77 or 77 on K42 unless your opponent is bad and it will make the hand easy to play because good players will see right through that (even meh TAGs can beat the shit out of this strategy) just because its so transparent and bad. If your opponent respects your lead for whatever reason, go for it, but remember, gotta bet the flop and turn, no matter what.
Continuation betting is one of the most important elements of your strategy. It allows you to win a wealth of small pots and makes you difficult to play against if executed correctly.
Let’s focus on situations to profitably cbet:
The first scenario is the easiest to understand and grasp Against an opponent with a high fold to cbet (70% or higher) you can cbet basically your entire range profitably. When cbetting you want to have some hope for your hand, i.e. cbetting 98s on 552 is generally something you want to avoid doing, except against these players. There are three instances where I do not cbet against these players:
- ● They are short and my hand has very little potential. (i.e. 98s on 552, or 22 on T98)
- ● I have a note that says when I do not cbet they go bluff crazy. In these spots I’ll check very strong hands like 99 on 922 flop or something of this nature. (FWIW never check 99 on something like 974cc, anything with texture like this, even if they do go bluff crazy when you check flops). Another situation I would check would be something like AK or AA on K52, K22, K94 (rainbow, bet all flops with any FD).
- ● I have QQ on K52r (Or any second pair type hand where you are in a WA (way ahead)/WB (way behind) situation. By checking you can get value from like 77 (on this board) on later streets. Other WA/WB situations include like TT on Q77, or A2 on AK6.
Now lets focus on loose/bad players that are calling way too many cbets (calling way too much in general). Lets assume they fold to cbet 50% or less of the time. Against these players you have to be more cautious and give things up more easily, Before I go forward I want to interject and mention that you generally want to be cbetting almost every single Ace or King high board, as players will view your range weighted towards these types of hands (and coincidently they will not have these types of hands very often). They will give you an extraordinary amount of credit.
Even against two opponents I would cbet the vast major of Ace and King high boards (pending stack sizes and notes), however anything more than two I wouldn’t get fancy, but that doesn’t mean I check when I do hit.
This is somewhat contrary to what I’ve been describing about how to play against these types of players (being very close to the vest), but on occasion you are missing value by not double or triple barreling these types of players. For the most part I’m not going to indulge in any complicated triple barrel spots, but say we raise in EP (early position) and cbet a AQ4 (two flush or rainbow) and get instantly called by a player playing somewhere between 30-45% of his hands and folds to very few cbets (as described earlier). One of my favorite indicators for a good double/triple barrel spots is the SNAP flop call. This can never be a big hand (or very rarely) because if he does have AQ or 44 (and in some instances A4), he would at least have to think momentarily about his action. By instantly calling (btw this is something you should focus on avoiding, a lot of information can be drawn on timing) he’s basically telling you “My range here is some A7 type hand, or a draw”.
Pending some read that this player will never ever fold TP (which is uncommon for the games you’ll play in, for the most part these loose/bad players will not be stacking off with marginal 1pair in this particularly type of situation) you will be able to profitably double or triple barrel. In this situation I would most love to have a gutshot or FD myself (against these players I’ll put a lot of pressure on with FD’s, FD=flush draw) so you have some equity.
The point is put the pressure on If they are going to snap call your flop bet and have a range that is for the most part on the weak side (in this instance the strong hands he could have are AQ, 44, and A4, however is calling range is MUCH wider) put the pressure on. Don’t be surprised if he takes a while to call the turn If hes a particularly weak player this will rarely be him trying to disguise his very strong hand inducing a triple, it will be him genuinely weak trying to figure out whether to call or fold If this is the case I probably fire a river barrel.
Also if you have the opportunity to bet something like $99 or $199 on the river or something I suggest it, this bet size will terrify them.
Anyway when thinking about theory/strategy of approaching these call-too-many cbet type players, the simple answer is to tighten your range (which widens/tightens based on stack sizes, don’t forget) and simply c/f the flop. There are situations I don’t mind a c/c or a value bet with like AT+ or something. Say the board is like T99, some loose guy calls OOP, I don’t mind cbetting AJ here because him having a better hand is rare, and if he has some under pair his equity sucks. Also say I’m blind vs blind (BvB) with AK on 332 (I’m SB) against one of these guys, I will probably c/c this board, and pending a read c/c or c/f turn (your default is fold until he proves that he will put you on AK in this types of situations and try to take you off of it)
We’ve talked about weak-tight and loose-passive type of players and what our cbet tendencies should be, now lets get to the fun stuff… TAGs. These will generally be your toughest opponents (even if they are bad TAGs). These are the types of players where we like to mix up our play and throw in curve balls from time to time.
Against these guys I’ll cbet just about every ace and king high flop, because their preflop calling range is rarely going to contain TP, unless its like they flatted AJ or KQ or something, but instead their range is weighted to small pairs and suited connectors (FWIW a pair has a 1 in 9 chance of flopping a set). There is danger here, against your better/more thinking opponents simply cbetting will not be enough.
I remember playing against a player at FTP 200NL who played something like 21/18 and played me tough/tricky. He definitely loved to go after me and my cbets. Anyway, I raised 98s from the SB and he called in the BB. The flop came K85r. I cbet $8 (4 BB’s), he raised to $32. This is a very suspicious line from him. If he had any king it doesn’t really make sense because we didn’t have enough history for me to get it in with anything worse than a strong king, so this isn’t really a possibility. The flop was rainbow so he can’t be semi-bluffing anything but a 76, and the only made hand he reps is 55 and far less often 88. In this situation my opponent is likely bluffing because his range contains very few made hands, now I did like the fact that I had 98 because if he does have 67 I have the best hand and a blocker, or if he has something really weird like KQ or 77 I have the equity/the best hand (however this is a small factor in my thought process).
I discourage calling because then you are in a very marginal OOP spot and you don’t have the initiative in the hand, which makes your hand have less value intrinsically (Initiative simply means that you were the last person to bet/raise). So the simple answer Is that it is profitable to 3b/fold in this situation given the information (this is the yeti-theorem , which states that a 3bet on a dry board is always a bluff, and in this situations it kind of is, however we think we’re bluffing with the best hand)
I 3bet to $76 and he folded quickly, so our analysis was very likely correct as we ran into the majority of his range in this spot (bluffs). You probably won’t have a ton of history with TAGs (when it comes to cbetting and stuff) because your game selection should for the most part allow you to avoid these guys (you aren’t trying to avoid them, we would rather exploit them, but we want to exploit everyone we play, and fish are simply more exploitable and more profitable).
Out of position you generally want to just bet your entire range (made hands, semibluffs, second pairs, and bluffs), I remember recently watching a hand with Krantz and Peachykeen where peachy raised UTG and Krantz called in MP. The flop came K74r, peachy c/r’d the flop, and krantz shoved. Peachy had AK and Krantz had KQ. There is clearly a lot more here than meets the eye and a ton of history, but nothing about this makes sense or is any sort of standard You will never run into a situation at anywhere below $1000 where this is even remotely necessary, so out of position just cbet your range. (FWIW its ok to c/f like AK on 765 or something, against these guys you want to be more cautious about cbetting marginally, just look at their fold to cbet, if its low give up more and if its high go after them more, simple right=D).
Also keep diligent notes about how they react to cbets so that you can adjust accordingly. In position it becomes more interesting, IP I mix it up a lot and check tons of flops back, particularly when I’m marginal (this is called polarizing your range, which for the purpose of most MSNL games and lower is OK, but fundamentally against tough opponents is bad because its exploitable if they figure out what your doing. For the most part your opponents here will not).
What I mean when I say I want to polarize my range is that say I raise A2cc OTB and the BB (TAG) calls. The flop is AK5r and he checks, this is a great situation to check it back. It’s going to be very unlikely that he will ever call will a worse hand, and we will occasionally be c/r’d off the best hand and we will miss value from something like KQ or 88 (if its suited I will on occasion still check it back, just less frequently). Anyway this is a great spot to check it back and maybe fire the turn. If the turn is something like a King or 5 I will probably check it again because nothing about this board has really changed and it will still be difficult to extract, I’ll probably just vbet the river.
I would probably play QQ the same way, or I might just check it down depending if my opponent does or does not have the capacity to call with worse. If something like a K or A peels on the turn or river you should be more inclined to bet because its unlikely he’s checking trips and its very likely he thinks you don’t have trips either, so he might make a marginal call down. Against very tough player you will occasionally be river c/r’d with a range of trips/bluffs, but this is very uncommon amongst even good players at these stakes.
Let’s now focus on the flop check-raise. For the most part you have probably already cultivated an aggressive image by 3-betting your opponents, so lets suppose you slow it down and cold call preflop. For the most part when we check raise it will mean that we have defended our blinds. Lets look at c/r situations: (For these situations lets assume we’re up against a LP TAG opener who plays somewhere between 23/18 and 20/15.
Say we flat call with something like 33 from a CO open. The flop comes T53r. This is not a good spot to check raise unless one of the following two conditions are met:
- ● You have a reason to believe that the villain is bad and spewy and will always put in way too much money with a TP or overpair type hand, especially if you play your hand fast.
- ● You have a history of check-raising dry boards against a decent-good opponent and he has reason to believe you are doing it with air frequently, so we c/r with a monster to balance our range.
Both of these scenario’s require us to have some sort of read or note on an opponent, so lets assume we are just vaguely familiar with how he plays and we have his stats. You want to avoid check-raising these spots with strong hands because you are polarizing your range between air/sets and it will be difficult to get paid. Since we probably will peel (check/call) a hand like AT or 88 (pending history, as you build history you could c/r something like TP on this board for value) we want to simply c/c our entire range (of course not bluffs, it’s probably a good idea to fire away a c/r with something like QJss on this board because you have backdoor straight draws, potentially a backdoor flush draw, and two overcards.
It’s a good idea to go after your opponents without history in these spots because they will have to be very spewy to continue with most of their cbetting range and worst case scenario you develop an image that you like to c/r bluff which we can later exploit by c/ring with big hands). Anyway the point is when you flop a monster on a dry board start by check-calling, and go from there.
This was mentioned in example one but now lets say we have QJss or 76ss on T53r (one spade). Assume same type of villain. Tthis is a great check-raise spot because we have backdoor draws or a gutshot, and because our opponent will also have a tough time having a hand strong enough to continue with on this flop. Be more and more inclined to make these sort of bluff c/r’s against players that cbet a lot, really anything greater than 70% and you can do it fairly often As their cbet % decreases so should your c/r frequency.
History also plays a roll, if he gave up the first time do it again Put him to the test and make him adjust or just get run over. If he has seen you do it and is inclined to not give credit then change gears and just c/f and let him have it. Also you should see an increase in success of these types of plays in multiway pots.
So say for example you have been really going after a guy preflop and decide not to squeeze so you overcall something like A5s. The flop comes 732r, you check, the PFR cbet, whoever called preflop comes along. You should c/r this spot, you have assumable backdoor flush outs, an overcard, and a gutshot. Not to mention a ton of fold equity, and it appears as though you must have a huge hand because you just c/r’d a particularly dry board into two players.
The risk you run is the overcaller having a set on this board, however this is unlikely and in the event that he does we should have a little bit of equity (FWIW it’s a c/r, fold to 3bet, we obviously don’t want to put our money in with ace high and a gutshot).
As far as bet sizes go, for the first scenario lets assume your opponent cbets 6bb’s into 8bb’s, you should c/r to 18bb’s with everything. In the second scenario, lets say your opponent cbets 8bb’s into 10bb’s, someone calls, you should c/r to 30bb’s with your entire range (this is to keep it consistent and avoid giving away something on bet sizing). These are rough numbers, just keep it somewhere within this range and you should be fine.
Now lets imagine we flop a made hand on a drawy board, say we have 87 or 55 on 965dd. In this situation we instead want to play our hand quickly and c/r (as discussed previously, big hands should be slow played on dry boards), but on boards with draws and texture we should opt to play our hands quickly. Our opponents will be far more inclined to play their 1 pair/big draw type hands fast to maximize fold equity, and since they have none and we are way ahead we want to get the money in now.
These boards should on occasion also be c/r’d with draws, but keep in mind that depending upon the opponent you should likely weight your range towards made hand rather than draws as you will likely be getting money in behind/flipping most of the time, and there is likely a more optimal way to play your draw (FWIW big draws should likely be played for a c/r, for example 98dd on 762dd, whereas T9dd should be played for a c/c on 742dd [unless your opponent folds to c/rs more than most, in which case exploit this by c/ring draws and stone bluffs, and probably c/c most big hands, unless you’ve really been going after him and you suspect he is sick of you]).
Lets first focus on floating with over cards. We will never float OOP, it’s way too tricky and complicated. Its just -ev. This means all of our floats will be done in position. What we do by floating is calling with a marginal type of hands with the intention of winning the hand on later streets.
If we never floated people could just simply cbet every flop and give up because he knew he wasn’t good on the turn and would make us very easy to play against. When someone cbets and you are in position you can raise, call, or fold. We want to balance each range and raising certain situations simply isn’t a good idea because our opponents will realize we raise bluff too often and we are basically giving him a free pass to 3bet bluff us, or do so with a marginal hands. By raising certain situations we give away the opportunity of a free card to make our hand.
Let’s suppose MP or CO opens and we call IP with QJss. The flop comes T84r (with or without a spade). Our opponent is a normal TAG and cbets, which he will likely do with a big part of his range. Lets say on average he opens 20% of hands from these positions (combined, more from CO and less from MP).
Lets see what his range looks like at best in relation to this board: 22+,A8s+,KTs+,Q9s+,J9s+,T8s+,98s,87s,ATo+,KTo+,QTo +,JTo
There are a lot of 1pair or no pair hands in there. This is also a fairly conservative estimate, so if this is the top of his range we can certainly peel. So lets say we call his cbet and the turn is a brick, a deuce or 6 or 4, whatever, he checks. Now we execute our float and bet 60-75% of pot. He will generally be c/ring or c/fing this spot, leaning towards folding If he check/calls he probably have like T9 or 99 or something, but I would probably just give up unless you are sure he has some under pair. In which case bet the turn and river (FWIW you should do this with made hands like AT as well to valuetown him).
Now lets suppose we hit our gin card, a 9. If he checks we have no option but to bet and hope he c/r’s for us to shove over. If he bets again it is probably because he has a strong hand, and at this point I would probably just put in a medium sized raise. Say he cbets 15bb’s into 22 or so on the turn, I would likely make it 40bb’s to entice him to come along with something like JJ or QQ, or to hopefully reshove a worse made hand.
In the event that I know my opponent is spewy or will make loose triple barrels calling is best, but raising is probably a good default. Let’s now suppose we hit something like the A or K of spades. In this spot if he bets again you should just call, in the event that he is doubling representing this card we still can take the pot away on the river if he checks, and if he has this one pair hand it’s probable that he will want to go with it after making TPTK. FWIW raising isn’t a bad play, however it is high variance, and without a read as to his double barreling tendencies calling is likely best because if god forbid we do hit we can definitely get paid off on the river. If he’s super aggressive definitely raise this situation.
Now let’s suppose we hit a Q or J and he bets. Just call again and figure out what to on the river UI, you will likely have to fold unless the player is unusually out of line (to a triple barrel, though if he gives you a pass like betting half pot on the river, look it up and figure out what he’s doing).
Let’s now suppose he checks, just like when we were going to bet the turn if we missed we bet with made hands, some players will check call something like Tx or 99 on this board (which is bad) and we should certainly be looking to value town these guys. Fold if c/r’d pending a phenomenal read. I should mention that despite this board is rainbow you can also float something with like a flush draw, so let’s say for example the flop comes Td8c3d, you can still float this board, but however realize that on later streets you need to bluff-represent the flush to make this profitable. It is more tricky and should be played around with a little, try not to get crazy with this because it is a bit higher variance but it’s certainly a good play if you can become comfortable representing the flush on later streets.
Now let’s say we have T9s in this situation and the board is A72r or K85r, since we know our opponents will cbet a ton of A and K high boards we should certainly throw in floats. In these situations we have at least a back door straight draw, if not flush draw as well. Either way if checked to on the turn bet it 100% of the time (that’s why you floated right?), and if he bets into you again just call if you pickup a draw. If you make middle pair and he bets again it you can make an opponent dependent play. If he thinks you are peeling the flop light (this requires a read, don’t do this blindly) then you can peel another street, but never 3 UI without a read. FWIW this hand with these flops is another good spot to bluffraise IP, I don’t think either is preferential, you generally want to mix it up, if I had to assign a frequency I would say raise 15%, float 35%, fold 50%.
1. This isn’t something you are going to be doing that much of, but it does come up. Lets break it down into two sections, when you are the preflop raiser, and when you are not.
● When you are not the preflop raiser and you are going to raise the flop that implies that someone donked into you. Like all raises in poker it is earlier going to be for value or as a bluff.
First lets check out when we do this for value.
Let’s say a player who is donkish, 50/15 or something, kinda splashy, has a pretty decent history of leading weak hands (specifically weak pairs) but has also shown down draws. You have AJo on AK6r or on AT8dd, in either scenario you generally want to raise his weak lead. He bets 4bb’s into 8 bb’s, making it like 14-16bb’s is optimal because you don’t want to give the initiative in the hand away because that makes it difficult to extract value on later streets. Since we know he has something like A5 or 67dd we want to put in the raise to extract value while ahead. Sometimes he will fold and this is fine, but it is best to raise (which leads me to something I’m going to italize to emphasize importance:
“Calling is the worst play in poker, its so gross, you are frequently better off raising or folding than you are calling, however this is not to be confused with calling being bad, there are a variety of situations where calling is the only option“
I say this because when you call (unless you have some sort of very strong read and you are doing it purposefully to trap your opponent or float him in some way) you will generally have no idea where you are in the hand (or rather it will be very ambiguous).
Lets now examine what this piece of information means in relation to the hand itself. If you end up just calling and something like a 5 or diamond peels the hands that you think are in his range could have just gotten there, but you don’t know if he does or doesn’t have one of those made hands. In the event that we raise the flop and bet the turn we can be sure that he did or did not get there because he will c/r the turn only for value, these types of weak players will never semibluff or turn made hands like this into a bluff on the turn. It’s a very sophisticated and tricky play that generally is way over their heads. My advice is to raise the flop as described, bet the turn around 20-25bbs and bet the river smallish as well, 30bbs or so.
I thought about it for a while and this is the only real type of scenario I see you value raising the flop as the PFR, so lets get into bluffs:
Typically when some donk minbet leads the flop they don’t have much of a hand. This isn’t always true but for the most part they have a pretty weak range. Normally a weak TP at best. For these types of spots I always bluffrasie the first time around, just to build history and a read but also to put the pressure on him by putting him to a decision OOP, which is always tough. Again it is normally best to do it with things like QJ on T8x or with flush draws, but we can’t always be that picky. Let’s look at a more complicated spot:
We have 98 or A5 on J77r. If a donkish type player comes at you with a bigger lead, say he bets 6BB’s into 8BB’s. The first question you want to ask yourself is “what does he have?” If hes the trappy type of player and you’ve seen him slowplay sets to the river or went for a river c/r with an obviously strong made hand, or the last time you saw him have a monster and checked the flop you can immediately eliminate that from his range.
So that means he has a strong/weakTP, weaker pairs, or air. Let’s say that he 3bets QQ+ and that QJ+ is also unlikely based on history of him c/cing these types of hands. So in the event that he is basically never leading these hands his range is going to be super weak, and I would for sure bluffraise here. As always its very nice to have a redraw to the straight or the ace, but really your hand can be ATC (any two cards) because you know that his range is generally pretty weak. Never run multi street bluffs here, its too fancy. I’ve seen calldowns that made no sense.
Coincidently I play AJ on this board the same way, just because I know if he calls the flop (since I played my hand fast) he is likely thinking I’m bluffing and has made the decision to call at least one more bet. So when you get lead into big, think about his range, if he can’t have a big hand here its time to raise. If he can have a big hand, or you don’t know, its probably time to fold. On rare occasions it’s okay to bluffraise the gutterball, or AK for 6 outs. Don’t make this a habit unless hes folding.
What I tried to outline about bluff raising against donks is to figure out their range, and if its weak to exploit it by bluffing. If it’s strong/unknown exploit it by folding (pretty simple, right? It’s awesome that donks don’t balance their ranges)
Let’s now focus on the more complex beast, TAGs.
The first thing to understand is that a lot of the TAGs that play like 21/18 only flat like AQ/KQ and pairs (for the most part, as the distance between VPIP and PRF increases, the amount of like KJo and 87s type hands increase). Lets look at a pretty common situation (as far as leading goes):
You open the CO with AQ or 56, TAG (20/18) calls from the small blind. Flop is K42r, he leads 6BB’s into 8BB’s, whats our play?
Generally he is going to have like 55-99 here because he hates the c/c line, since it is pretty tough to play OOP with a weak pair and no initiative. The only problem is that he won’t have that many Kx hands in his range and will rarely have a set (however there are players that ONLY have sets here, I’m thinking of one of the 400 ftp regs that only leads sets, so I just fold to all of his leads)
It’s a lot easier for us to have a big hand than it is for him, so this is a spot I bluff raise all the time. Without history calling with Kx+ is probably best, however if he calls the raise and tries to make it to showdown ever with say 99 for example you need to start raising Kx+ to balance your range, also to make it impossible for him to lead and then call a raise. Also like most things it’s awesome to have a gutterball/overcard/backdoor flush draw. This is going to lead me to another italicized piece of strategy gold:
“Until your opponent adjusts, keep exploiting him“
This can be applied in many ways, but the most common are bluff raising his leads, c/ring his cbets, or 3betting him IP. Until he does something about it (3bets/4bets/calls down etc) you should keep doing it (unless you just don’t want his money).
So say he does it again next orbit, just raise again. (FWIW this situation is basically the same on an ace high board, he knows you’re gonna cbet this thing a shitload and he doesn’t want to c/c)
That scenario was pretty simple, now lets check out more complex spots.
You have A2dd OTB. A good TAG, 20/16, flats you from the BB. The flop is J87dd. He leads, you should:
Gross I know, but calling is actually best here. My reasoning is he will probably think you are raising most FD’s here, so getting paid on later streets is going to be very easy. Also for the most part his b/3b range has a lot more WB/SB hands than WA hands, and most of WA hands are drawing almost dead.
The only hands I raise in these type of spots are monster draws (like AJdd), monsters (like T9 or 88) and plain bluffs. I am polarizing my range, but polarizing your range is OK a decent amount of the time, because
- ● Your opponent could potentially not know what polarizing your range is and
- ● Even if he does he probably won’t ever have enough history/know how to use that information to his advantage. My range has bluffs in it because:
- ● He’s seen me have a monster here before or
- ● I’ve seen him b/f this spot.
Anyway call, if you make your flush bet big on the turn and river. He likely won’t give you credit. Also, if you get there and he bets again raise small enough to where he thinks you can bluff this spot sometimes but big enough to where he’s pretty much gonna have to look you up on the river for your stack (deep changes things, you are going to have to figure out how to maximize value deep). Just try to think about how he plays and what hands he’ll pay you off with and how to get those hands to put the most in. The last thing to specify about this hand is that I’ll probably peel every non-pairing turn if he doubles me and that I check back the ace to:
- ● get value on the river
- ● not get value towned
- ● let him draw to a second best hand.