Checking the flop as PFR

    • MarliesB
      MarliesB
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.04.2013 Posts: 685
      Hello,

      I believe that the best move is to check as the preflop raiser when we have second/third pair such as AT on QT4 or KK on A92, right? So with which 'value' hands should we do check too in order to get a polarized range? If we only check with less-than-top pair we're very exploitable. On the other hand, we may lose a lot of value with the good hands we check with.

      EDIT: Also, how do we play on further streets the same way with both those strong and weak hands, without losing too much value with the strong ones and without value-owning ourselves with the weak ones?
  • 11 replies
    • GotDeuces
      GotDeuces
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.10.2012 Posts: 11
      Hey marliesB.

      This is a really good question, and the theory you are eluding to is something I've been working on in my own game lately so I'll try to answer as best I can.

      When we first start to learn post flop strategy we are shown the power of the continuation bet, and ever since that day it feels like the most natural thing to do. Because of this, it feels slightly uncomfortable taking passive lines with the pre-flop initiative, and you may feel like you're guessing quite a lot down the streets. These feelings are natural, and although the c-bet has some merit, there are loads of spots where taking a passive line is better and I'll try and explain why.

      First of all let me respond by saying that the two situations you mentioned in your OP are very different and should be treated as such. In this reply I am going to deal with the former.

      Let's say that we open Ah Ts at $100nl for $2.50 in the cut-off and a competent villain peels the button. We are both 100bbs~ deep, the blinds get out of the way and the flop comes Jh Th 4c. There is now $6.50 in there, and is might seem very natural to bet on such a drawy board to protect your hand and for value, but can we make a more profitable check here? Let's see.

      First of all, you have to think about what kind of opponent you are dealing with.
      Now our villain in the example is a competent reg, so he will be expecting us to check/fold this board texture a lot since it hits his "perceived range" quite hard since he will have quite a lot of middling suited connectors which have straight/flush draws and broadway hands which have smashed the board when he peels the button vs our cut-off open. Because we want to be able to check/fold this board quite a lot, we should have some hands that we are going to check/call right? So now we have to decide which type of hands we want to check/call and why. We should start by throwing some of the hands as described in the OP in our checking range because Tx hands aren't quite strong enough to bet vs a competent opponent since he won't make really bad calls and he can raise this board a decent chunk of the time and really put us in a coffin since we now have no idea what to do. We can't really start bet/calling AT and just heroing down without really specific reads, so let's just check this type of hand and call his bet.
      Because he expects us to c/fold this board so much he will (most likely at this level, the following statement is less true at high levels as the standard of player increases) bet an "unbalanced range" when we check. What this means is that he won't bet a range of bluff hands which is proportional to how many value hands he has; he will bet almost anything he's called with pre-flop because of the reasons I stated above about his perceived range. This makes c/calling a very strong and profitable play and should be something we do with our weaker value hands where we can't feasbily get three streets of value (weak top pair hands, second pair hands against anybody even slightly aggressive).
      In our example we have a perfect hand to do this with because we gain so much more value from his bluffs than we could get from weaker Tx hands if we bet since there are so many more combinations of bluffs relative to the hands that we beat. Also, we have the Ah so we can continue on every heart turn too, which really increases the playability and durability of our hand.
      Now obviously there are downsides to this play, in that we ARE giving him free cards to his draws and overcards, and we also allow our opponent to value bet Jx for two streets at least, since as you very correctly stated in the OP, everyone seems to be doing this with their weaker showdown hands atm. So how do we counter-act these downsides? We add strong hands into our c/calling range.

      On boards where you want to be able to check/call weak showdown hands and not get crushed, throw some strong hands like top set and AJ/KJ in there and be prepared to call down three streets and check the replayer to see him showdown some ridiculous hand that he has decided to go crazy with because he thinks you have second pair. Also, he will always bluff the cards which improve your hand when you have KJ/AJ since he never thinks that you have any other overcards other than your kicker to your perceived second pair hand, adding even more value to the check/call.

      If the villain was a passive "fish" or nitty reg then if we checked they may take a free card with a lot of the weaker draws that they would call a c-bet with, so we would be losing value from our hand and opening ourselves up to getting outdrawn for free by checking, so betting would be a better option. Remember that you don't have to only apply this logic to your weaker hands, you should consider checking three tens here (or similar strength hands) but for the reasons I've stated above, end up betting for value.

      I don't want to get too technical ITT but if you do want to start check/calling your weak showdown hands in cash games, then i do genuinely believe that it's VERY important to have a somewhat balanced range, even at $100nl and similar levels. So you want to have a balanced check raising range and a check/calling range which involves both strong and weak hands. I'm not going to break this down right now because this post is already a bit TL;DR and I could spend pages and pages dissecting checking ranges on different board textures. Also you can break this down mathematically to work out what % of your range you should have etc. but that is very involved and this is just a general theory response.

      So let me summarise.

      In spots where you are out of position post flop and have the pre flop initiative, we should have a check/call and check/raise range on boards where we are expected to check/fold a lot (ie boards which are good for our opponents perceived pre flop range). We do this because it allows our opponent to bet TOO MUCH so we can make a considerable profit. As a general rule we should be considering check/calling with the hands where you can't get three streets of value, so we gain more value from his bluffs (ie second pair and weak top pair hands). If we want to do this (which we do) then we should be check/calling with some of our strong hands too (top set, TPTK etc.) sometimes to balance it out, and also check raising sometimes too (but that's a whole other thread).

      I hope this makes sense, sorry if it's too long and a bit much to digest, i just think that it's an important part of a strong NLHE strategy.
    • UPAY4DINNER
      UPAY4DINNER
      Bronze
      Joined: 27.09.2009 Posts: 21,923
      Wow!

      Thank you for that great reply GotDeuces!

      I will move this to our NL Discussion board where it's more at home :)
    • PriscoInline
      PriscoInline
      Bronze
      Joined: 05.05.2012 Posts: 326
      Wow indeed.
      I have been c/calling my second pair type of hands as PFR for a long time already, to get value out of bluffs and trying to keep the pot small, but I had never put so much thought on it, or balancing this play.
      I'll be working on that now, thank you for it :)
    • MarliesB
      MarliesB
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.04.2013 Posts: 685
      Hi,

      thanks for your awesome reply. It's definitely not TL;DR and if you ever find some time feel free to write those other pages, haha.

      Anyway,
      Thanks!
    • GotDeuces
      GotDeuces
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.10.2012 Posts: 11
      Sigh I killed the thread! Sorry!
    • MarliesB
      MarliesB
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.04.2013 Posts: 685
      Hey GotDeuces,

      I don't know what stakes you play, but I'm just a micro stakes fish.
      On another question I posted, people told me that balancing is not important in micro stakes at all. Does that include this topic? Do I just check 2nd pair and lower and have a depolarized range?
      Raising and check/raising the flop
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
      Super Moderator
      Super Moderator
      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,904
      Sometimes you see a flop you so hate you just know you're done.

      For example, you OR 44 from BU, and flop is AKQ single-suit and you don't have it..

      You going to put more money in it?
      Let's assume that villain is a calling station.

      My suggestion is that if you ever are in a situation where you just have no idea whether is it best to check/fold, check/call, check/raise, bet/call, bet/fold, bet/raise then plug you nose, close your eyes and click a button.

      Then MARK THE HAND and submit it to the hand evaluation forum.

      Then we ALL learn something.

      You do review interesting hands in the HE forums, don't you?

      Peace,
      --VS
    • GotDeuces
      GotDeuces
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.10.2012 Posts: 11
      I play $200nl rush/zoom at the minute with aims of moving up before christmas.

      Yeah what you've heard is right, my response was a theory based response. Sometimes there are very valid reasons to stray from the game theory optimal option, usually an exploitative play that makes more money due to stake.

      What I mean by this is that sometimes the plays which make the most money because of what stake your playing are theoretically incorrect because they aren't balanced or whatever, but that's a big part of beating the games on your way to the higher stakes. Even at $100nl I made a lot of my money making unbalanced exploitative plays.

      That being said, it is very important to UNDERSTAND the theory first, identify the correct play IN THEORY, and then actively choose to make the exploitative play which makes more money, because this way you are still improving your theory game for when you move to stakes where that knowledge is relevant.

      Does that make sense?
    • GotDeuces
      GotDeuces
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.10.2012 Posts: 11
      Originally posted by VorpalF2F
      Sometimes you see a flop you so hate you just know you're done.

      For example, you OR 44 from BU, and flop is AKQ single-suit and you don't have it..

      You going to put more money in it?
      Let's assume that villain is a calling station.

      My suggestion is that if you ever are in a situation where you just have no idea whether is it best to check/fold, check/call, check/raise, bet/call, bet/fold, bet/raise then plug you nose, close your eyes and click a button.

      Then MARK THE HAND and submit it to the hand evaluation forum.

      Then we ALL learn something.

      You do review interesting hands in the HE forums, don't you?

      Peace,
      --VS
      I don't think this is very productive advice to give to an amateur. Closing your eyes and guessing at an option is not going to help you, even if you do evaluate the hand afterwards because it's now impossible to assess how successfully we thought about the decision since we merely guessed. I understand your sentiment, but i think that response was sloppy.

      What I would advice however, is if you are in a situation where you are completely stumped, then take the more orthodox or tighter option. I think that in general you will lose less money during the learning process if you make tighter folds rather than making looser calls/raises. Then after the hand definitely take VS's advice and review the hand with a winning friend or post it on here somewhere and try to work out what the best line would have been.
    • MarliesB
      MarliesB
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.04.2013 Posts: 685
      Yes, it does make sense and is probably the best thing to do, but I think it's very hard to learn a GTO while at the same time knowing how to adjust it to win the stake. I think maybe it's easier yet still good to learn the stake's optimal play (which I guess is partially GTO). And when you move up to a higher stake, adjust it to that stake's optimal play, which will eventually become the GTO as you move to higher and higher stakes.

      Also, I post a lot of hands for evaluation when I'm in doubt of the correct play. Furthermore, I think coaches reply with the optimal game plan for their stake, EG shove here because at these stakes people call a lot of that's most +EV.
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
      Super Moderator
      Super Moderator
      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 8,904
      Originally posted by GotDeuces

      I don't think this is very productive advice to give to an amateur. Closing your eyes and guessing at an option is not going to help you, even if you do evaluate the hand afterwards because it's now impossible to assess how successfully we thought about the decision since we merely guessed. I understand your sentiment, but i think that response was sloppy.

      What I would advice however, is if you are in a situation where you are completely stumped, then take the more orthodox or tighter option. I think that in general you will lose less money during the learning process if you make tighter folds rather than making looser calls/raises. Then after the hand definitely take VS's advice and review the hand with a winning friend or post it on here somewhere and try to work out what the best line would have been.
      Hi, GotDeuces
      Yes, you are quite correct, and your advice is better.

      I might add that if this is happening a lot, then back up a step and tighten up a bit pre-flop -- especially OOP and with offsuit hands.

      Thanks again, GotDeuces...
      --VS