When you’re out of position and debating whether to fire or not it’s worth noting how often your opponent folds to a continuation bet. If the rate is 60% or higher that’s fairly honest; 30% or lower means they are not going to give you the pot right there. It’s also a good idea to look at the folding percentages throughout all the streets. When does your opponent become honest?
The cold calling statistic becomes very important here. If it’s less than 10% that signifies someone who calls raises with generally stronger hands. If it’s 20% or higher that is a player who likes to splash around more. With NoteCaddy you can also get a breakdown of all the hands someone cold calls with. This can be immensely helpful.
Bet vs. missed continuation bet is another worthy statistic to pay attention to. If you find your opponent bets there 30% of the time or less that means that they generally bet when they have the hand. Otherwise, they are content to let the hand go more smoothly toward a showdown. If they have a percentage of 60% or more then they fire out a few more bluffs. Paying attention to a person’s turn aggression frequency and turn continuation bet becomes important here. That lets you know how often you’re going to face the second barrel. Of course, knowing what they do on the river is helpful too. Before you do anything on any flop, you should always be trying to picture how the hand is going to play out on multiple streets.
Always remember that when people are in position they are naturally going to fold fewer of their hands. As we discussed previously, this can be because they have stronger hands, or it could be because they are trying to assert their positional dominance.
Don’t be afraid to subtract 5–10% from their fold-to-continuation-bet numbers. Ask yourself if you’d still bet into that. If the answer is no you should seriously consider a check.
For obvious reasons, it’s much harder to control the size of the pot when we’re not in position. We are not going to be the one making the decision whether to see the next card or not. Our opponent can blow up the pot to their heart’s content. There is a need out of position to defend your checking range. If you always check with the intention to fold you’re going to be telling the world to bluff you every time you pass the action to them.
It’s good to pot control with hands that will remain strong. If you have a weak second pair when there’s a flush draw on the board and you don’t have a card of that suit then it’s a better idea to bet. If you check/call on the coordinated boards your opponents are more likely to know that you are pot controlling with one pair, as you were more likely to lead out with anything stronger.
If the board has no flush draw and your pair is unlikely to lose its value this is a fine time to try a check/call. Say you have K-J on a K-8-4 rainbow board. If you bet it’s unlikely your opponent will call with a weaker king; he probably folded K-10 and worse to a raise. If you check that’s the exact board he can try to represent with his broadway-heavy flatting range. Your hand is unlikely to be outdrawn by the river. Most of the time it will remain top pair, and a flush/straight draw will not appear.
There are players who are very honest to continuation bets but fire haplessly in position when checked to; these are the guys you want to focus your efforts on. Their fold-to-continuation-bet percentages are generally 60%+, but their bet in position versus missed continuation bet percentage is a similar number, if not higher. It’s good if you get an idea whether they shut down on the turn or river, or if they fire the whole clip. You want to be prepared to call down a certain number of streets when you check, and not try to figure it out later.
Backdoor draws are of considerable importance when you are continuation betting out of position. It’s not that their equity is very significant; they only add a percent or two to our hand’s equity share on the flop. It’s that backdoor draws give us a number of cards to fire on the turn.
Let’s say the board comes 9♦-6♦-5♠. We have Q-J♠. This is much better
than having Q-J♥. Why? Because there are 10 cards that are going to allow us to bet again. If our opponent flats us on that board what is the strongest hand they
can have? Think back to previous sections. If they called us preflop it’s unlikely they have an over-pair. Most people would have 3-bet those combinations preflop. If they flat on the flop it is less likely that they have a set, two pair, or a good flush draw (especially when stacks are shorter, around 30–40BB), which means that they have one-pair combos.
On the turn, you hit a 2♠. It doesn’t give you a straight draw, but still the effect is tremendous. You lead for two-thirds of the pot. How often does this need to work? 40% of the time. You fire it out there. But wait, is your opponent ever raising now? That seems rather unlikely given most of his hands are one- pair combinations. When was the last time you called a flop bet and raised turn with even top pair?
If they are only calling us on this turn then we get additional equity, because we are going to see the river. We have nine cards that give us the win out of the 46 unseen cards from our perspective, so our chances of hitting on the river are 9/46 = 0.1956 or 19.6% of the time. If we’re going to hit the river 19.6% of the time and have the lock then our bet doesn’t really need to work 40% of the time on the turn. It would need to work that often if we lost 100% of the time when our opponent calls. When we win 19.6% of the time our bet actually needs to work 40 – 19.6 = 20.4% of the time. Look at that! We’re betting two-thirds of the pot, a large bet by anyone’s standards, and our bet can fail four times out of five and still nearly break even. If our bet fails here 70% of the time we’re still raking it in.
This is one of the hardest parts about poker. In any other endeavor in life failing 70% of the time would be horrible. Here, it is a sign of victory, though that doesn’t mean it feels good the seven times out of 10 it doesn’t work.
Now, we made a few assumptions here. First, we obviously assumed our opponent never raises. This is close to reality, but your opponent does wake up with goofy two pairs on occasion, and randomly he might decide it’s go-time with a small over-pair. However, we also assumed that we don’t make a dollar on the river. If we make any amount of money on the river when we hit we don’t need this bet to succeed 20.4% of the time.
We also assumed that if we hit our overcard outs they weren’t good; obviously this is far from reality. Finally, we assumed our hand is always good when we river the flush. Occasionally, we will run into a superior hand, and this diminishes our equity. I listed all those caveats so you could see this is an inexact science. It’s a helpful illustration to simply subtract 19.6 from 40 and show you how seldom your hand needs to work, but realistically we need to know much more is going on here.
You should still barrel your draws constantly. It has been my experience throughout the years that the incredible profits that come from backdoor rivering a monster hand trump all other equity detractors. This will also help you blend your range when you want to double barrel bluff or value bet. To throw in some draws further complicates the range, and makes it more difficult for your opponents to put you on anything.
You should generally be trying to charge your opponents for the luxury of playing against you in position. Their advantage is getting to see what you do; yours is to fire the first bet. Make that bet count. Use larger sizings. Don’t piddle a third-pot bet out there and check/give up the turn. It’s better then if you didn’t bet anything. The two-thirds or three-fourths-style bets, especially when coupled with draws, have been shown to work remarkably well when we’re wrestling pots away out of position.
Occasionally, you should even lead a pot-sized bet or slightly more. Try it sometime. I will bet you 10 bucks that your opponents will be completely stumped. If they are like 90% of people, they will mumble something about how stupid your bet is, then fold everything that isn’t second pair or better. Sometimes they even fold a slight under-pair to top pair or second pair.
If they’re playing top pair or better they are folding 70%+ of the time minimum. If you bet two times the size of the pot your bet would then need to succeed 66% of the time. Your bet needed to work much less often, and it did.
There are times you have something akin to 23BB behind you and you fire out a continuation bet of 3x. He raises you to 7.5x. You suspect he’s fooling around, but what are you supposed to do? He’s put you in the vice grip. If you 3- bet it’s most of your chips. If you have any semblance of a hand you’ll be forced to call the 4-bet because of the extravagant pot odds. This player has identified an inflection point. He has correctly surmised that his raise will force you to play only your best hands for either a 3-bet or call, because you feel it’s too many chips to flat, and it’s not enough chips to bluff with.
One way you can remove this play from your opponent’s arsenal is to check- raise him. These aggressive types are very prone to firing the flop blindly after you check to them. You could put him in the exact same spot, since he’s playing 23BB effectively as well. You could check, he could put in a 2.5x bet, and you can check-raise to 7x. He now can’t flat or 3-bet comfortably. You’ve turned the tables.
The boards you should be attacking are very similar to what we discussed in the check-raising section. Remember to view your opponent’s cold calling range though in this specific circumstance to see what hands he feels deserve a preflop flat. This will help you identify what boards were good for his hand.
These hypothetical situations go to show you what horror awaits those who autopilot through an entire tournament. I can’t tell you how many of my students are decent players and understand what you just read, but constantly fire out the continuation bet here without thinking further.
One further note: in my hypothetical I was careful to tell you that 3-betting is not comfortable. I say this because it’s a large percentage of your chips and you will be getting great odds if your opponent 4-bet jams. Notice I did not say that you couldn’t 3-bet/bluff there. Sometimes you will have NoteCaddy notes that show a guy has raised in position most of the times he’s bet into. He’s even folded to a few 3-bets already. Versus this guy, on a board where most people wouldn’t raise, you should consider 3-betting. Many players will fold simply because they imagine nobody could be doing what you’re doing without a hand.