Capped Boards

We have discussed capped boards previously, but here we are going to add some details as we analyze them more extensively. If you a recall, a “capped” board is a flop where typically the caller’s range is limited to one pair or worse. This provides ample opportunities to bluff on complicating turns.

An example of a capped board is 6♠-8♠-9♦. Many sets, two pairs, and over- pairs would raise on this board because of the sheer number of draws. With shorter stacks most big draws would raise to get it in as well, thus taking advantage of their significant equity before a blank turn halves it. This leaves the flop caller with mostly one-pair-type hands that usually share a card with one on the board. Knowing what they have makes it far easier to go after them.

One tool you can use on a capped board is the overbet. If the board comes

7♠-6♠-5♣ and you know your opponent has flatted with one pair and doesn’t want to fold, then let them have it. “You want to come along, then come along,” you tell them, and make it 1.5x the pot. This is especially effective when the turn is an overcard or completes a draw they would have raised with on the flop.

You need to remember that many people have never faced an overbet bluff. If they have seen a bet of that size it was an excited player with a set. When they see the overbet those are the thoughts that go through their head. Your hand looks like a set that’s afraid of draws. Better yet, our bet needs to work 60% of the time. Many people feel that overbets need to work much more. When they see that overbet failing 30% of the time they think you’re losing monstrous amounts. In reality, you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

This means that you have to overbet with big hands. When you get exposed you need to remember the exact players at your table. If you’re playing online it’s best to take a note on their profiles with the poker client and then with the Hold’em Manager notes. Better yet, NoteCaddy can take a note for you of what the opponents have seen you do.

There are some very good players who will see through your overbet play, which is why you don’t see it that often at the highest stakes. Many good players question whether you’d really overbet a good hand like that. When they realize most players are afraid of losing value with their best holdings then they are capable of jamming over your overbet.

If you watch high-stakes games you will see Phil Ivey face this play from guys who tore up lower stakes. Everyone is flabbergasted when he jams top pair and no kicker versus the overbet, but he knows his opponent’s range is a lot of nothing (which could still have equity) and occasionally a big set. To cash out what money the over-betting player has already put out there he jams. Case closed.

When you overbet you are gambling that your opponent is not going to figure it out, or that he’s likely to let it go because you’re playing silly; it doesn’t reflect poorly on him if he folds to an overbet, as you’re the one taking ridiculous risks. If you’re up against one of these more intelligent players it is in your best interest to structure your bet sizings differently. Your turn bet should set up the river jam, and you should follow through on the river often.

Many good players see this and immediately think you are going for value. Some of them just fold on the turn, avoiding what to them is the obvious “river value jam.” Others become a little more stingy, thus ensuring that you need to follow through on that final card.

There comes a time when you must turn your hand into a bluff on the turn. Unfortunately, many players are resistant to do this, for example when they have

a flush draw. Say you have a heart draw on the K♠-6♥-7♥ board. The turn is

the same J♣ which misses you. Your opponent checks to you. There are many people who check here because they feel they are owed something when they

have a flush draw. They feel that they deserve to see if it will come in (and they often believe it never comes in enough). Their natural curiosity gets the better of them. They want the big hands. “I don’t know what I’ll do with the draw if I bet and he jams” is what many of them say.

So, instead of stacking equity with a bluff that works a great deal of the time and a draw that will hit a certain percentage of the time we are just checking and hoping for the best. You don’t know what you’ll do with the draw? You’ll fold. You usually don’t have the price to call, unless you’re explicitly jamming or nearly jamming the turn. “I don’t know what to do if he jams,” to me translates into, “I don’t want to fold if he jams,” which in turn translates into, “Waaaahhhh!!!!!!!” Sometimes we have to bet great hands and fold them. It’s not fun, but it is frequently a better option than checking back. More often than not it is a better play.

By the way, what is check/jamming versus you in this spot? K-J is about it. Usually people check-raise on the flop with sets, two pair, and the like. Their one-pair combinations are not going to stand at attention on the turn and go, “This guy has exactly a draw!” and jam. You’re almost always making a good fold when you’re jammed on there.

Another instance where this can occur is when someone has a weak pair.

Let’s say on the K♠-6♥-7♥ board you have 6-5. You bet and get called. The turn is the same J♣. It’s checked to you again. Fire! You have very little showdown value here. Yes, you’re beating draws, but what if your opponent leads the river after you check back? Are you ready to call with what is at best fourth pair? Maybe you’ll improve, but almost 90% of the time you won’t. And when you do, three of those “improvement” cards are fives, which complete a logical straight draw. Things could get pretty pricey there.

Instead you should turn your hand into a semi-bluff. If you hit your 6 or 5 it’s wonderful, but if you fold out 7-x, 8-8, 9-9, or 10-10 that’s even better. You’ll also fold out many draws which had a considerable live equity share in the pot.

It’s still wildly mocked to “turn your hand into a bluff” among mediocre professional poker players, but the truth is the best ones turn the ass end of their range into a bluff all the time. Be one of them.

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