Checking And Folding The Flop Is Weak

When deciding whether or not a continuation bet will be profitable with a hopeless hand, the first consideration is how hard the board hits your opponent’s range. A board like J92♠ hits smack in the middle of a big blind’s preflop calling range. AQ8♠ is another example of a board where little to no good can come of betting. You won’t get a lot of folds from most opponents.

If your opponent is extremely straightforward, then you can probably get away with c-betting almost every flop. Even the most threatening boards will only give your opponent a pair or better about half the time, and a straightforward player won’t bluff enough to keep you from taking a profitable stab at the pot. If your opponent is intelligent, aggressive, or tricky, however, your c-bets will show considerably less profit. And on boards like J92♠ and AQ8♠ , c-betting becomes a losing play. Your more sophisticated opposition will be stubborn with their made hands, semi-bluff with their draws, and do everything in their power to force you to have a hand, since they know you’ll flop a strong one so rarely.

Giving up is fine when there’s nothing to look forward to. As mentioned in the previous chapter, checking back isn’t necessarily giving up anyway. When there are no good cards to fire a second barrel on the turn, you may as well wait for more information before firing your c-bet (i.e. wait for the turn).

With a hand like 74♦ on a Q82♥, now you want to throw in a bet, since the board won’t hit a big blind caller’s range as hard. If you check back on a board like this, though, you won’t get 77♣ to fold on a 3♣ turn. So this is a spot where betting the flop is superior to waiting for the turn.

It’s not just about how often your opponent flops a pair or better. Hands that want to get to showdown are an obvious impediment to stealing the pot on the flop, but sometimes draws present an even larger problem. For instance, a weak pair may call a flop bet and fold to a turn bet. A slightly stronger pair may call the flop and turn, but fold to a river bet. Very passive opponents will often play their draws this way, but aggressive players will usually raise the flop. This means that you don’t even get to see the turn when they hold a draw. They won’t give you a second chance to get them off of their hand. They won’t wait to miss their draw, then let you take the pot away from them. They’ll use their draw as a way to subsidize their own attack on the pot.

Again, this is not to say that you should rarely c-bet. On the contrary, you should c-bet more often than not. We don’t want you to play weak and passive poker. But like everything else, you should use discretion. Consider ranges and how they hit the board. Don’t throw money at a pot that your opponent is unlikely to give up on.

C-betting too often may seem like a small error. Taken on its own, a bad c-bet won’t cost that much. The pot is small and so is your bet. But whether or not to c-bet is a decision you’ll have to make so often that those small mistakes will add up quickly. It’s not just the size of a mistake that matters, it’s also the frequency. To measure a leak in your game, you have to multiply the magnitude by the frequency. If you make a c-betting error that costs you 1 blind every 40 hands, that costs 2.5 blinds per 100 hands. That’s half of a good player’s win rate.

As we saw in the last chapter, checking back does not always mean giving up. When you have position on your opponent, you can often check back the flop and play the turn with better information. You don’t have this option when you’re out of position. For that reason, if you think a c-bet will be profitable, you should go ahead and fire one out. Checking the flop usually does mean giving up when you’re out of position, so if there’s value now, take it.

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