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StrategyFixed Limit

Food for Thought: The Delay Theory


In this Article
  • The Delay Theory
  • Advantages and disadvantages of the strategy
  • Practical application of the Delay Theory
The disadvantage of the strategy: a pre-flop cap can no longer occur. But you want exactly this when you have a strong hand. For example, if you have QQ in the BB against a raise from the button, the dream scenario would be that you 3-bet pre-flop and your opponent caps. Even against the oppositions cap range you will still have an edge.

For this reason, you should 3-bet your very strong hands which would still have an edge even if your opponent were to cap.

On this basis, a further theory is developed, which I call the Delay Theory.

The premise: many opponents play mechanically in heads-up situations when the have the initiative. If they were the pre-flop raiser and you check to them, they always bet. This mechanism can be exploited: an opponent who always bets the flop cannot trust the information from the flop. It's as if he's playing blind and betting without seeing the flop. He's playing a fixed betting sequence or FBS.

If we know that our opponent plays an FBS is a particular situation, we can take our playable hands exactly to the end of the FBS and then decide how to play further. This is a powerful advantage of information for us - we know a priori how the opposition will play a large portion of his hands - that is, his FBS. This effect is at least as valuable as having position on the the opponent.

There are at least 2 exceptions:

  • Very strong hands where we wish to see our opponent break off his FBS and give us excessive action.
  • Semi-bluff sequencews according to the Weak Spots Article

With normal- good hands we want to use the Delay Theory to exploit our opponent's FBS to the utmost. Requirements are that we are heads-up with the opponent on the flop.

The two maxims of the Delay Theory are:
1. Play pre-flop so that the opponent falls into his FBS pattern.
2. Wait until the end of the FBS to make your move.

Everybody knows the following example: you are on the button and raise with K3s. The BB 3-bets. The flop is KT2. The opponent is a typical SH LAG. He bets the flop. You are sure he will bet the turn if you just call. Thus, he has an FBS: 3-bet pre-flop, bet flop, bet turn. You wait until the end of this sequence, that is, until the turn, to raise.

The following idea is new for me though: in this same situation you can play a killer hand like AA in the same way. You call his pre-flop 3-bet, call his flop bet and raise the turn. Thus, you bring him to investing at least 6 SB in the hand.

According to the Delay Theory, you would play every playable hand the same way up to the turn. According to the theory , we want to induce an FBS in our opponent and then exploit it maximally.

Practical application of the Delay Theory against semi-loose aggressive players:


  • The pot is secure after the flop heads-up
  • Your hand is not so strong that you want to see a cap pre-flop
  • After a pre-flop raise the opponent bets the flop

Then you should:
- Call your opponent's raises and 3-bets
- OOP, either check/fold or check/raise flop, bet turn
- IP, fold flop or call flop, raise Turn. (fold turn against very bad turn cards as well)

Further considerations

The Delay Theory is easy to generalize; let us call this the FBS Theory. Here you want to identify and exploit general FBS's in an opponent and exploit them. The Delay Theory is a special case of this, since it is passive and gives the opponent the initiative to a particular point. There are also opponents who react to aggression with a particular sequence that can be to our advantage. Many people like to play cap or fold heads-up on the flop, meaning they either fold directly or they are ready to cap on the flop. They don't become passive until the turn. Against such players you can play your strong hands aggressively on the flop to pull 2 BB's out of your opponent.

Related article: How healthy eating can improve your poker.


That's not the entire article...

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