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On the Flop – When to Play Passively
IntroductionIn this article
- The advantages of passive play
- When you can afford to give away free cards
- How to react to your opponents' action
Now that you have learned a bit about aggressive flop play it's time to take a look at the aspects of playing passively on the flop. Passive play simply means that you don't bet or raise. Aggressive play is advantageous in many situations, but sometimes it can be better to take things slow.
Passive play generally falls into one (and sometimes several) of the following categories:
- Pot control
- Playing way ahead/way behind
- Passive draw play
The goal is to get as much value as possible out of weaker hands, and to lose as little as possible against stronger hands. Way ahead/way behind embodies this principle nicely (both pot control and induce-the-bluff are a part of way ahead/way behind play). The catch: you give away free cards and give a possible draw a chance to complete. We will discuss when you can afford to do so later in the article.
Let's take a look at a few examples.
When to play for pot control, way ahead/way behind
PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)
Stacks & Stats
CO ($25) (15/12/3.0/24/1871) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
Pre-flop: Hero is BU with K , Q
2 folds, CO raises to $1.00, Hero calls $1.00, 2 folds
Flop: ($2.35) 5, 7, Q (3 players)
CO bets $2.00, Hero calls $2.00
You decide to play your hand passively before the flop and call a relatively tight opponent's open raise. You hit top pair on the flop.
You can't really say for sure. Your opponent could easily have raised with a very strong hand (like AA/KK/QQ/AK) before the flop and have you dominated. However, he could also have a small pocket pair.
You could hardly expect more from a flop. You hit top pair on a relatively dry board. Any weaker hand would probably fold to a raise, and any better hand would call or raise.
You call and give your opponent the chance to bet again on the turn. You are playing way ahead/way behind, meaning you are way ahead against weaker queens and pocket pairs, or way behind against an overpair or AQ.
You don't have to go broke just because you called with top pair on the flop. You have to ask yourself what your opponent could have and why he might be betting on each street. In this example you could call another bet on the turn and possibly on the river, as well.
You can play a relatively strong hand passively on a dry board. Raising will usually only lead to your isolating yourself in a pot against a better hand. Raise/call would be overplaying the hand, and raise/fold would ultimately be a bluff, which isn't exactly your goal when holding top pair.
PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (10-handed)
Stacks & Stats
UTG+1 ($25) (40/5/0.3/35/432) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
CO ($25) (8/5/1.8/18/371) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
BU ($25) (15/12/2.1/23/800) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
BB ($25) (12/9/2.6/21/333) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
Pre-flop: Hero is MP3 with A , T
1 fold, UTG+1 calls $0.25, 3 folds, Hero raises to $1.25, 3 folds, BB calls $1.25, UTG+1 calls $1.00
Flop: ($3.85) A, 6, 6 (3 players)
BB checks, UTG bets $2.50, Hero calls $2.50
You think your ATo is good and make a loose pre-flop raise to isolate UTG+1. Unfortunately, the BB called, too, and you are now in a 3-handed pot on the flop.
You hit top pair on a drawless board. You can expect to be ahead of UTG+1, since he limp/calls with a wide range of hands, including many baby aces. The very tight BB probably has a pocket pair and is not likely to have hit a set.
Once again you are playing way ahead/way behind. Raising will only get weaker hands to fold. You also have position on your opponent, so you can decide on the turn/river if you think your kicker is strong enough to call another bet. If your opponents start heavy action they probably have you beat, if not you might have the best hand.
You can lay down your hand if the BB goes over the top (check/raises). You'll have to give him something like AJ-AK; he will rarely bluff in this situation.
You can call on the turn if the BB folds and UTG second barrels. If he then slows down and tries to see a cheap showdown, you can make a value bet with your top pair.
You can play for pot control on the flop in a 3-handed pot, as well. You have a good hand and don't want to scare off weaker hands that could pay you off later. If there is too much action, you'll do no harm in laying down your hand.
Let's look at an example of pot control.
PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)
Stacks & Stats
CO ($25) (14/4/0.7/26/518) [VPIP/PFR/AF/WTS/Hands]
Pre-flop: Hero is UTG with A , K
Hero raises to $1.00, 1 fold, CO calls $1.00, 3 folds
Flop: ($2.35) K, 7, 6 (2 players)
Hero bets $1.50, CO raises $3.50, Hero calls $3.50
You definitely like the flop, but you don't like the min raise at all. Your opponent is very passive and could have a very strong hand.
You can theoretically give a player who tends to call instead of showing aggression a wide range of possible hands. 77/66, as well as flush and straight draws, can't be ruled out.
You don't have any real reason to think he is bluffing. The question is: Would he raise with a draw or a weaker king, or does he have a monster?
A fold is out of the question, and you have to be willing to bet it all if you plan to raise. And that is your hard spot: You will get your opponent to fold a weaker made hand or a semi-bluff to a 3-bet, but expect him to show you a monster if he calls. This is why you decide to play for pot control.
The idea behind this call isn't the same is in the way ahead/way behind examples. This time you are consciously giving a draw a free card. You want to keep the pot small and get to the showdown as cheaply as possible.
You're not willing to invest your entire stack now, so there is no reason to get reckless on later streets. The first piece of information you want: How high will your opponent bet and how much will it ultimately cost you to get to the showdown?
Unfortunately you will have to take a fold into consideration if another turns up; there would be hardly any hands that you still beat with which your opponent is still willing to invest money. That's the risk you run when you play for pot control, but at least you still have most of your stack.
Sometimes you have to play for pot control on wet boards. Don't try to protect your hand with a push if you suspect your opponent will only continue to play with a very strong hand. If your hand is too good to fold, you won't have much of a choice other than giving away a free card and seeing what happens.
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