When You Don’t Want To Get All-In

Most of the time you will not want to get all-in. With tier 2 made hands, you will sometimes be beat, and with tier 3 and 4 hands, you will almost always be beat if the money goes in on the flop. In this section, we will discuss a betting strategy for non-nut hands, and I will show you how to consistently squeeze money out of these situations. Let’s discuss tier 2 hands first.

Marginal Tier 2 Betting Strategy

Sometimes you will face a situation with a tier 2 hand where getting all-in is marginal at best. In position, it is often best to exercise pot control. The typical situation you will encounter is having top pair weak kicker on a dry board where your opponent is likely very weak or very strong. When in position in these situations, it is often wise to check behind on the flop or turn. This adds deception to your game and balances the times you are betting with air. In the section on when not to c-bet, I discussed one such instance with a weak ace after flopping top pair. Here are two additional examples of refraining from c-betting the flop.

Example #12.13: Pot Control Leads To Either Damage Control Or Value

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($24.06)
HJ ($33.69)
CO ($21.60)
Hero (Button) ($14.33) SB ($10.80)

BB ($10)
Preflop: Hero is Button with 2♠, K♠

3 folds, Hero bets $1, SB calls $0.75,1 fold

Flop: ($2.50) 3♠, K♥, 8(2 players)
SB checks, Hero checks
Checking for deception on a dry flop. This board often misses our opponent’s range. If we had air here, we would want to c-bet.

Turn: ($2.50) 8♠ (2 players)
SB bets $1.25, Hero calls $1.25
The board pairs and we pick up a flush draw. Our opponent leads into us. Raising makes little sense here, as there is very little that can call us that doesn’t have us beat.

River: ($5) 6♠ (2 players)
SB bets $3.34, Hero raises to $12.08 (All-In), SB calls $5.21 (All-In)

We bink a flush on the river, and our opponent leads for just over half pot. If we still only had top pair, this is an easy call. Even though it is a paired board, it is still a value shoving situation for a short stack.

Total pot: $22.10 | Rake: $1.10

Re sults:

Hero had 2♠, K♠ (flush, King high).
SB had 9♠, 10♠ (flush, ten high).
Outcome: Hero won $21.
The theme here is that by checking back a dry flop with top pair, we gave good things a chance to happen and increased our chances of two streets of value in the process. As a side note, if we had started with 100 big blinds, then we might have hesitated to raise this river. And if we did, how gross would it be if he shipped his lesser flush? This is just another example of how playing a short stack simplifies things. ____________________________________________________________

Checking back can also occasionally be advisable with non-made hands. Sometimes you will flop a draw that has a low amount of fold equity either because of board texture or opponent tendencies.

Example #12.14: Checking back with a weak flush draw

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($27.41)
HJ ($22.70)
CO ($7.10)
Hero (Button) ($10.14) SB ($126.54)

BB ($50)
Preflop: Hero is Button with 5♣, 7♣

3 folds, Hero bets $1, SB calls $0.75,1 fold

Flop: ($2.50) J♣, Q♣, 4♦ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero checks
This is a common situation that I frequently see misplayed. If we c-bet and face a raise on this flop, we will likely have around 37% equity. And since we have only our initial opening raise invested, it is not necessary to always c-bet with the intention of stacking off. Doing so increases our variance, so I usually prefer a more conservative play in these spots. Drawing hands that I would more likely c-bet the flop with are 4♣7♣, A♣x♣. These hands are much stronger equity wise and don’t mind getting the money in fast. If you were to decide to bet here, I prefer a 25% stack bet followed by a turn shove to maximize fold equity.

Turn: ($2.50) 8(2 players)

SB bets $1.50, Hero raises to $3.50, SB calls $2

We complete our flush on the turn, and the small blind leads into us. There are way too many hands in our opponent’s range that can continue to a raise, so calling would be a mistake. In this instance, I make a small raise, but a shove would also be reasonable.

River: ($9.50) 6♥ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $5.64 (All-In),1 fold
Unfortunately, our opponent folds the river. Some people may disagree with how this hand was played, but knowing when to mix it up is a skill that benefits you immensely.

Both of the above examples were played in position. When out of position, since pot control is not nearly as easy, you are better off playing these hands aggressively with either a check-shove or a bet- shove line. While getting all-in may be marginal with some tier 2 hands, they are still almost always good enough to commit with as a short stack. Having to play these spots aggressively is the price you pay for being out of position.

Tier 3 And 4 Betting Strategy

So far, we have mostly discussed betting lines with high equity holdings. But maximizing value from premiumhands,whileimportant,isnotgoingtosignificantlydistinguishyoufromthefield. Thevast majority of the time you will not have a tier 1 or 2 hand and will have to navigate much trickier post- flop scenarios. In most hands, you will either be trying to get to showdown with your tier 3 hand or pick up the pot with a bluff while holding a tier 4 hand.

These marginal spots are where most poker players are lost and grossly misplay hands time and time again. Why is this? In my opinion it all comes down to human nature. Everyone likes to do things that are fun, and let’s face it, playing a weak hand is not inherently entertaining. Thus, as a rule, the average poker player spends little time attempting to expand his knowledge of situations they find dull and “unimportant.”

As a consequence, negotiating the “inconsequential” situations that almost everyone avoids learning about is one of the secrets to profit in today’s tougher games. The people who currently excel outplay their opponents in ways that the player pool is almost totally unaware of. Therefore, by learning to maximize your earnings in all situations, you too will become part of the elite and furtively increase your win-rate by focusing on the spots no one else is interested in. My suggestion is that, once you learn strong standard lines for playing tier 1 and 2 hands, you thereafter spend most of your energy polishing your play with the “weaker” parts of your range.

Betting With Showdown Value

Most poker authorities advocate taking a passive line when you have showdown value. I feel this advice is pretty ridiculous since, by adhering to it, you are many times giving your opponents the chance to play perfectly against you. Remember that showdown value hands only have value if you actually get to showdown. Taking a passive line will often force you to fold before the river or put in way too much money getting to it.

I believe that the optimal strategy is to stay aggressive, even with marginal holdings. For the most part, today’s micros and small stakes games abound with calling stations and nits. Against such competition, relatively small bets can and will get value from weaker hands as well as the occasional fold from stronger ones.

With a tier 3 holding, a reasonable standard bet sizing strategy is to bet 1/2 of the pot on the flop and a big blind or two less than half the pot on the turn. This allows you to keep the lead and maintain a relatively small pot with the ultimate goal of getting to showdown. Your river bet sizing will depend on many factors, so one size does not fit all. If you are in position, a river check back is usually best. However, when out of position, another smallish bet is usually optimal for both pot control and as a blocking bet.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of betting with showdown value:

Example #12.15: Triple Barrel With Showdown Value

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($33.16)
HJ ($7)
Hero (CO) ($12.65) Button ($120.34)
SB ($50)
BB ($34.50)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 7♥, 7♦
2 folds, Hero bets $1, Button calls $1,2 folds

Flop: ($2.75) J♥, 6♦, 8♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.38, Button calls $1.38
Standard C-Bet. We may be best and can get value from straight draws, worse pocket pairs, and 6x hands. We also set up future bluffs, if necessary.

Turn: ($5.51) J♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.50, Button calls $1.50
The board pairs and another diamond comes. Now there are multiple draws to get value from. Since Jx and 8x are never going anywhere anyway, we might as well bet small to keep the weaker parts of his range in as well. If raised, it’s a pretty simple fold.

River: ($8.51) 9♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $2.00, Button calls $2.00
The river is a card that can beat us quite frequently. Since our hand has value, a small bet to try to get to showdown is appropriate.

Total pot: $12.51 | Rake: $0.60

Re sults:

Button had 6♥,7♣ (two pair, Jacks and sixes).
Hero had 7♥, 7♦ (two pair, Jacks and sevens).
Outcome: Hero won $11.91.
We are going to be beat here fairly often, but by keeping the pot small, we create a profitable situation. If we had air, here a much bigger river bet would have been warranted to get our opponent off the type of hand he showed up with.


Example #12.16: Checking back the river with showdown value

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($20.92)

Hero (HJ) ($12)

CO ($31.66) Button ($14.25) SB ($48.25) BB ($96.64)

Preflop: Hero is HJ with 10♦, A♦
1 fold, Hero bets $1, 3 folds, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($2.25) 3♥, 9♠, 9♣ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $1.13, BB calls $1.13
We may very well have the best hand here, so sometimes our bet is for value. Checking back the flop is gross, because it gives a license to our opponent to bluff us off our hand on the turn.

Turn: ($4.51) 2♠ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $2, BB calls $2
We bet the turn for the same reason we bet the flop.

River: ($8.51) K♥ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks
Betting again here can be okay at times, but since we have showdown value, I prefer a check since we will be good fairly often. If we had a hand like QJ, we would want to fire again to try to get our opponent off Ace high and small pairs.

Total pot: $8.51 | Rake: $0.40

Re sults:

BB had A♣, 4♠ (one pair, nines, inferior kicker)
Hero had 10♦, A♦ (one pair, nines with Ace, King, ten kicker)
Outcome: Hero won $8.11.
This is not an uncommon result. By betting the flop and turn, we keep our options open no matter what part of our range we hold.


Example #12.17: “My Showdown Value Beats Your Showdown Value

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($9.55)
CO ($11.02) Button ($10.90) Hero (SB) ($2.90) BB ($3)

Preflop: Hero is SB with K♥, 3♠
3 folds, Hero bets $0.20, BB calls $0.10
It folds to us in the small blind, and we make a standard open.

Flop: ($0.40) Q♠, 7♠, 3♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.20, BB calls $0.20
We flop bottom pair and keep the lead with a half pot C-Bet. We are good here often as many opponents would raise a pocket pair or big queen pre-flop. 7x as part of a suited connector is likely the only hand beating us right now.

Turn: ($0.80) 2♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.30, BB calls $0.30
The turn changes nothing, so we decide to keep the pot small with less than 50% pot size bet.

River: ($1.40) Q♥ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.40, BB calls $0.40
The river is another queen, so we can safely bet-call the river. We decide on a small bet with our showdown value to lure in very weak hands or induce a bluff. Most of the time I would snap call a reraise as Qx would likely have raised the flop blind-versus-blind.

Total pot: $2.20 | Rake: $0.14

Re sults:

Hero had J♥, 3♠ (two pair, Queens and threes). BB had A♥,K♦ (Pair of threes).
Outcome: Hero won $2.06.

For whatever reason, the big blind decided to slow play AK pre-flop and then take a very passive line post-flop.

Example #12.18: The “Bluff Call”

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($10.51)
CO ($13.21) Button ($10.10) Hero (SB) ($3.31) BB ($8.82)

Preflop: Hero is SB with 8♥, 2♥
3 folds, Hero bets $0.20, BB calls $0.10
I am intentionally highlighting BvB play, as this will be a constant source of battles for you.

Flop: ($0.40) A♣, 3♦, K♥ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.20, BB calls $0.20
Standard C-Bet on an Ace high board. We expect to take this down on the flop a large amount of time. But this time our opponent floats us.

Turn: ($0.80) 2♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.40, BB calls $0.40
We pick up a pair which gives us both showdown value and the ability to improve on the river. Checking here would be very bad, as it allows our opponent to bet his entire range and force us to fold. Our only chance to win this pot is to continue betting.

River: ($1.60) 3♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.40, BB calls $1.40
The river comes another three, and we decide to bet a bit on the larger side to get folds from Kx and random pairs. Disappointingly, we get called and are prepared to ship the pot to our opponent.

Total pot: $4.40 | Rake: $0.30


Hero had 8♥, 2♣ (two pair, threes and twos).
BB had 6♠,T♦ (Pair of threes).
Outcome: Hero won $4.10.
To our amazement, we get called by ten high. There is no telling what our opponent was thinking. I suppose the lesson is that most players generally undervalue the strength of their hand against opponents that clearly overvalue theirs.

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