It will take some time to make this read, but when you do you want to make sure you’re exploiting your opponent’s play properly. Most of the time you’ll eventually find this in the regulars you’re playing against. Sometimes within a short session you’ll pick up on this on players that may not be regulars in your game. You want to keep a sharp eye out for players that are betting slim on the turn and river. This means weak top pair on bad final boards, second and sometimes third pair. Sometimes it can be two pair on really draw heavy boards that have four to a straight and flush possibilities. The bottom line is that it’s pretty narrow considering how the hand played and the final board.
Typically you’ll be in a spot with a marginal hand as well since on average these opponents will be more aggressive and you’ll be calling down a bit lighter. Instead of trying to call down narrow against them, turn some of your weak made hands into bluffs on the turn or river. In most situations since you caught them value betting light, they will be in difficult spots to call a raise. Take note though that against some of your really good regulars, if you do raise it needs to be consistent with some likely hand you could have, or you may be looked up light.
To take advantage of the SVB, you’ll want to focus on spots where your opponent is still going to be betting a wide range and your equity when behind isn’t that good. Also situations on the river where your combo draw hand, or one time marginal top pair, has minimal bluff catching ability against your opponent’s ability to slim value bet top, second and third pair effectively.
In the above example, a noted SVB open raised from the hijack (MP) in a 6-max cash game with effective stacks around 100 BBs. You called in the CO with 7d7c. The flop came 4dJh5c, your opponent continuation bet, and you called. The turn brought the Kd, and your opponent bet again. At this point since you know our opponent
will bet the turn pretty slim he’s going to have a fairly wide betting range of 99+, 44–55, J8o+, 5dAd, 67o+, KTo+, AQo, AdQd, QTo+, AdTd, ATo+,T9s, A8s+, and probably a couple of more hands. You probably have around ~25% equity against our opponent’s range, and you know they are aggressive, since most SVB’s are, and you will likely face a bet on the river.
It’s a common example where of course you’re going to call the flop with second pair, but now you’re in a spot facing a second barrel against someone who is aggressive, but also value bets very slim. Your hand doesn’t have much improvement equity when behind (only about 5%). If you take a look at your opponent’s hand range though, you should notice that they are going to have to fold at least half of that range facing a raise, and if they come back over the top, it’s a super simple fold since your equity will be nearly non-existent.
If there were say 17 BBs in the pot after you called the flop, and your opponent bet 12 BBs into you on the turn, and you raised to 29 BBs, you’ll risk 29 BBs to win 29 BBs. Your opponent will only need to fold half the time, and you do have a miracle card you will hit 5% of the time that won’t improve your opponent’s calling range. If your opponent folds half the time it’s a narrowly profitable play, but if they fold more than half the time, which is entirely possible against some SVB opponents, then it’s a solid +EV play. In this situation they should only roughly continue with 45% of their range or less on the turn.
Another fairly common example on the river is when you call the flop with a draw, turn a pair, and are now facing a bet on the river in a spot that against some opponents might be good to bluff catch. Against SVBs though you should consider raising in a lot more of these situations instead of calling.
In the above example from a 6-max cash game (but this also applies to full ring), both players start with effective stacks of 120 BBs. A noted SVB opponent open raises to 3 BBs in the hijack and you call on the button with 9h8h. Everyone else folds and the flop comes: 6d7hQs. The SVB player continuation bets 5 BBs and you call. The turn is the 8d, giving you a pair and a draw. The SVB player bets 12 BBs into a pot of 17.5 BBs, and you call. The river brings the Kc, and the SVB player bets 25 BBs into a pot of 41.5 BBs.
At this point your pair of eights could be a reasonable bluff catcher against some opponents. Obviously some flush and straight draws missed, as well as some turned draws. Knowing your opponent can value bet light, he can easily have Qx, 66+, Kx, 78, 67, 68, 9T, 45 as well as the previously mentioned flush and straight draw misses and complete air. If you are going to choose between a raise or a call, then you have to do a quick mental run through of the number of combinations of straight and flush draws your opponent can have versus better value betting hands. Meaning, are there enough bluffs in his range, versus better hands he’d value bet that you can fold out?
In this case, there are definitely enough Qx, Kx, and TT+ type hands that you can fold out if you raise. Some two pair combos such as 67, 78 and 68 will also fold out a percentage of the time (sometimes they will call). The other part of our decision is of course how much to raise, since we are primarily looking to fold out Qx, Kx, TT+ and some of the weaker two pair combos. The stronger two pairs, sets, and straights obviously aren’t going to fold. Something in the realm of 70 BBs (or a raise of 45 more BBs) would accomplish this. You would need your opponent to fold just over 51% of the time to be profitable.
Only including their river value range, we should be able to fold out about 56% of that range. So if we evaluated the EV of call versus raise, the EV of raise would be slightly higher in a scenario such as this. An important note is that if you are playing mostly micro stake games, your opponent’s calling range is going to be a bit wider on the river. You won’t be running into a lot of good SVBs though, and you can look for many spots to move some of the regulars that are in your games off of better hands when you suspect they are value betting slim a good amount.