$25/50 HU, I raise on the button to $150 with A‐10 and opponent calls. The flop is 4‐7‐9o. I might check this flop because the opponent is passive and if my ace high is good he will be passive enough to allow me to check it down and win. On the other hand if my hand is K‐10 I would be more inclined to bet because king high is much worse than ace high in a showdown. Say my hand is A‐7 then I’d ask some questions like “how aggressive is my opponent?”. Some opponents will either fold or raise and not call – in that case betting will only serve to protect my hand, it won’t fold out better hands or gain value. Here it isn’t needed to prevent versus a bluff because my hand is strong enough to call a future bet so it deprives me of a future bluff. If on the other hand the opponent is passive then I’d go for a bet for value and to protect my hand.
$25/$50 HU, I raised pre‐flop with A‐9 and he called. The board was 9‐3‐4o. Now I’d be more inclined to bet the flop because my hand is better so it is more possible for him to call with a worse hand (gain‐ ing value for me).
$25/$50 HU, I raised pre‐flop with 59, he called and the board is 9‐3‐4o. Here I’d be a lot more likely to check the flop because it’s harder for the opponent to call with a worse hand – for him to have hit a pair means he has top pair with a better kicker, or a pair of threes of fours, but since the three and four are such low cards, it’s hard for him to call pre‐flop with a three or four in his hand very of‐ ten.
$25/$50 HU, I raise pre‐flop with K‐5o and he calls. The flop is K‐J‐8. Here the board is very coordinated, and even though my kicker is bad it’s quite possible the opponent hit a second best hand and I can get value with a flop bet. One consideration when you hit a hand and want to gain value is “how aggressive is the opponent”? If he’s aggressive I’d rather check to be tricky and try to catch a bluff on the turn and/or river. It also depends on how happy you’d be to call a raise and build a big pot with your hand – if you are happy to do that then there could be huge value in betting and calling him down if he is aggressive and raises.
$25/$50 HU, I raise to $150 on the button with 6‐9o, opponent calls. The flop is 2‐3‐6. If my opponent is tight and passive, even though we have top pair there aren’t a lot of ways to gain money from this situation because if I check behind he won’t bluff, he won’t call with a second best hand, and we certainly can’t try and make him fold a better hand with a flop bet. So the main considerations are not rele‐ vant and we resort to secondary considerations like protecting your hand. Here protecting your hand doesn’t gain you much value, but then again neither does checking so it’s best just to bet and take the pot down.
$5/$10 HU, opponent is loose and bad, effective stack size is $825, I have 10‐10. He opens to $30 and because is he loose and bad there is a lot of value to be had in reraising with a hand as good as tens. I reraise to $90 and he calls. The flop is A♠‐7♣‐8♣. If I check and he bets I will be confused about what to do versus this opponent. That is not enough of a reason alone to bet out; however, in this situation the opponent is bad enough that he could call with a worse hand, so my bet serves as a value bet and also protects my hand from getting outdrawn. All those reasons on their own are small, but added to‐ gether it makes betting the most attractive option here. As the hand turned out, I bet $130 with the aim of achieving all those goals and he called. The turn was J♥ we checked. The river was the 6♦, I check and he bets, and the very fact that he bets makes me think I’m beat, but he only bet $80 into a much bigger pot so based on pot odds I called and he had K‐8.
$25/$50, effective stacks of $5,000, four‐handed. Opponent opens under the gun to $175 and I call in the BB with A‐Jo. The flop is 10♦‐10♥‐K♣, I check and he bets $300. Even though not much has happened, due to the board texture we can already do some hand reading. Would he bet like that if he had a ten in his hand? Most cer‐ tainly, he could raise with it pre‐flop and then he’d definitely bet the flop to build a pot and get value for his strong hand. Would he bet a king like that? This is the crux – he may or he may not. For him to bet the king he needs to be able to put me on worse hands that could call him, and it’s hard to do that because of the board – if I hit the board I hit either trip tens of a pair of kings. So maybe he has a pair of kings with a strong kicker and hopes I have a pair of kings with a weaker kicker. However even then he might check the flop, because he isn’t going to try and bet the flop, turn and river, so there is no rush to bet. If he wants to get one or two bets from me he can do that on the turn or river more effectively. So it polarizes his hand range such that he probably has either a very strong hand (the trip tens) or a weak hand (not a pair of kings), and strong hands are rare.
Based on that, it’s a good spot to raise, and I did so to $1,000. Pot odds are one way of looking at this – we are risking $1,000 to win $650 so he has to fold about 2/3 of the time which I think he will. However, implied odds come into play here too because we do have a gutshot draw which will probably give us the best hand. Also there is a chance the ace is an out. Also position is important here so we want to play aggressively to neutralize our disadvantage – so if we’re going to make a play for the pot we need to raise and try and end the hand now. Stack sizes are also favorable for this play – if the opponent was short‐stacked, it makes it more likely he’ll bet the flop with a pair of kings or even a weaker hand he is willing to get all‐in with (because he doesn’t need to worry about pot control). As it is, when we bet $1,000 if he wants to reraise us he’ll have to reraise a lot more, and if he calls he’ll have to face the prospect of a big turn bet, so the stack sizes give us power here. In the hand he folded.
$5/$10 three way, I raise on the button to $35 with A‐Ko, the BB calls and the flop is A‐J‐4o, he checks and I bet $60. My hand is quite strong, I’m willing to get a lot of money into the pot and even get all the money in here (we have $1,000 each). So a big part of the plan here is how we want the money to go in. The hands that are most likely to put money into the pot here that are worse than us are pairs of aces like A‐Q or A‐10. Those are the sort of hands from his per‐ spective that are likely to just call when I bet. They don’t need to raise because they aren’t afraid of getting outdraw (there aren’t draws on the board), worst hands won’t call the raise and just call‐ ing allows me to keep bluffing.
Thus if he raises me he usually has a bluff, two pair or a set (or a pair of aces that he is playing badly). If I bet the flop for $50 and he check‐raises to $150 and I call then the turn is a three and he bets out for $350 a fold should be considered. Here his hand range is very different when he does this as opposed to if he check‐calls twice and then checks the river to me, where I’d bet as much as I thought could get called because his hand range is very different.
$5/10, six‐handed, second to act opens to $35, he has $455 and I cover, I am the only one to call with A♥-J♥. The flop comes A♦‐4♦‐8♠, I check and he bets $50. As far as hand reading goes, there isn’t much information to say what he has. He could be bluffing, or bet‐ ting with any ace or a flush draw. At this point I need to make a de‐ cision if I’m happy to get my hand all‐in versus his hand, and if so whether raising is the superior play because by calling I allow him to bet the hands he wants on the turn (the hands that beat me), and check the hands that I want money to go all‐in against. I’m not too afraid of free cards here because I have top pair and no overcards can come. He could have a flush draw but flush draws don’t come along all too often. The main reason for a raise here is to gain value from weaker aces that he might have.
$25/$50 HU, opponent has $1,600, he opens to $150 and I call with 8‐9o. The flop comes 8♣‐8♠‐10♦, I check and he bets $150. Here the main concern is how to get in the most money and to gain value for the hand. For him to outdraw me with a straight draw is 4‐8 outs and to hit a higher full house is two outs. So those aren’t concerns, it’s just figuring out how to get the most money in. Based on his flop bet it seemed like he had a pair of tens or some sort of hand so I raised there to gain value from it. He went all in after my raise to $600 with A‐10 and lost.
$5/$10, it’s folded to the SB who limps in, and you check in the BB with Q‐8o. The flop comes A‐K‐5, and he checks. Here there is not much value in betting because a worse hand won’t call and a better hand won’t fold (with the exception of Q‐9, Q‐10 and Q‐J). So here is the equity calculation of checking. Let’s say he has 10‐9 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time he checked the flop as a trap with a made hand that will call. And then the 10‐9 outdraws us about 1/4 the time:
1/5(–$15) + 4/5($20) = $13 1/4(0) + (3/4)($20) = $15
Here it shows that our EV is good in either case, but it’s slightly higher in the case where we don’t bother betting the flop. The equa‐ tion shows we don’t gain much value by “taking control” and taking it down immediately. We risk a lot that costs us the few times he trapped us and don’t gain much equity because he won’t outdraw us very often. However, let’s change it a little to say that if we check there is a 20% chance he will bluff us:
1/4(0) + 1/4(0) + 1/2($20) = 10
Because of the small but significant chance of him bluffing us betting the flop is marginally better than checking behind. Note how all the decisions are close, but if you keep adding in factors and making the decision more and more precise a better decision is arrived at. This equation will change from player to player – some people trap on the flop a lot which makes checking behind more correct, and some bluff a lot which makes betting more correct to stop them from do‐ ing it (although if they do very often then maybe the best way to capitalize is to bluff raise the turn).
$25/50 six‐handed, I open UTG with K‐10o to $175 and am called by the BB. As far as hand reading goes, the BB needs a weaker hand than other positions to call because he already has $50 committed to the pot so he has to call a smaller bet, and also no one else is to act so no one can reraise him out of the pot. Also I raised UTG so he views me as having a strong hand. The flop is 6♥‐6♠‐Q♥ and he checks. Here is a good spot to bet because of the factors just mentioned and the main goal is to bluff him off a better hand. He folded.
$25/50 HU, opponent limps on the button and I check with J‐8o. The flop is Q♥‐Q♠‐9♥, I check and he bets $100. There had been one other hand where he limped pre‐flop and bet the flop in a short span of playing so based on that it makes his hand range here wider and weaker than normal. Also even if he does have a made hand like a pair of nines which is a lot more likely than trip queens, I will have outs. So here I check‐raise bluffed and he folded.
$5/$10 HU, I raise to $30 with 10‐9o and the opponent calls. The flop is J♣‐5♥‐7♦, he checks and I check. The opponent has been playing slightly tight (though not particularly pre‐flop) and aggressive. The fact that he plays tight and aggressive, and the fact that the board is coordinated, make a check‐raise too likely here for us to try a bluff. We also have outs in the shape of a gutshot draw to the nuts and also some pair outs that might be good, but we might not get the opportunity to hit vs. an aggressive opponent if we bet the flop (and get raised). The turn came a 3♣ and he bet $30 and I folded.
$50/$100, opponent limps on the button and I check with 8‐5o. The flop comes A‐Q‐7o, I check and he bets $50. In terms of hand read‐ ing I think pre‐flop if he had a hand with an ace in it he would raise, so I don’t think he has a pair of aces. With a pair of queens or sevens he might bet but he might check to try and trap me for a small bet later on. Also if he does have those hands he might fold to my check‐raise, but most likely he has nothing. So I check‐raised here to $250 as a bluff and he folded.
$5/$10 five‐handed, I button raise with J‐9o, SB calls and the flop comes A‐10‐4, then he checks. People like to call with pocket pairs pre‐flop to hit a set and then try to get money in. With low connectors people will just call because they are weak hands (especially out of position). With high cards like strong aces they will semi‐bluff raise and if they get called try and pair up. So here in this situation there isn’t much information to go on but an ace is at the bottom of his hand range and we can definitely have an ace on the button, plus our jack high has no showdown value so this is a good spot to continuation bet.
$10/$25 HU, opponent has $500 and I cover. I have J♥-4♦ and raise to $75 on the button, opponent calls. Flop is 2♦‐7♠‐3♠, he checks and I check. Please note that in general the more I raise pre‐flop (and I raise a lot, almost automatically as can be seen by my raise here with J‐4o) the more I’ll have to check the flop and show discretion. This is because if I raise preflop and then bet the flop everytime I obviously can’t have hit the flop everytime and he can take advantage of it eas‐ ily by bluffing me.
The turn is the 4♠, he checks and it’s to me. Here is a perfect example of a time not to try and protect my hand with a bet. If he calls me I have no outs and if he raises me I cannot call. If he beats me I’m beat, and if he raises me it could very well be a semi‐bluff but I can’t do anything about it because either he has a lot of outs or I’m dead. These reasons are pretty simple and overwhelming but most people let the thought of “look at all those cards that can hurt me, I want to just take the pot down now” make them bet. The problem is the un‐ derlying math which makes it a clear fold. Basically, I stand to lose a lot more than I win by attempting to “protect my hand”. The math is I either win a medium to small percent of the pot by forcing him to fold a hand that has a medium to small number of outs or I lose the value of the whole pot with my pot sized bet when he simply calls me with better hands, and I lose the same when he raises me with better hands or as a bluff. Also since we have a made hand but checked twice it’s a little tricky and maybe we can gain a little value on the river. In the hand the river was the 2♥ and he led out $25.
That looks like a wacky bet with something weird like ace high, so I min‐raised him to $50 and he called with Q‐10.
$25/$50 HU, stacks of $5,000, opponent limps on the button and I raise to $160 in the BB with J‐J; he calls. The flop is A♦‐9♦‐3♦. Betting to protect my hand is a bad idea here. Say the opponent has 9♣‐10♦,
or say he has K♦‐2♣, or something even as weak as Q♦-2♣; if I bet he is certainly not folding. And his equity is roughly equal to mine on the flop so I’m not gaining anything. Instead I’m building a pot out of position in a very precarious spot. He could also easily take a
hand like that and just bluff me out of the pot, which is obviously bad. Betting to make a worse hand call doesn’t make sense because his hand range is very narrow for hands like that – he’d need to
have 9‐x with no diamond and even then he might just fold the hand. After betting he will never fold out a better hand, and again con‐ sider specifically what hands. The most likely hand that is better than ours is a pair of aces and he wouldn’t fold that. We check and the turn is the A♥. Now if he has a diamond in his hand his equity has gone down significantly, and the second ace on the board also makes it less likely that he has one (and also less likely that we have one so he will be tempted to call us down with a weaker hand). Also he checked the flop suggesting that he doesn’t have a strong hand so now we can bet for value and to protect our hand.