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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Feb 22, 2012

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Oct 24th — The best way to win a big pot with a flopped nut flush and deeper stacks is to fastplay. Action from inferior hands is more common early then on later streets.

One of the most commonly slowplayed hands in no limit is the flopped nut-flush. Regardless of position it is almost guaranteed that the flopped nut-flush will check or only call when bet into. This is a problem for a number of reasons in a deeper stacked cash game. As play has evolved and recreational players get better people do not stack off as lightly — especially on scary boards. The best way to get a lot of money in the pot these days is to do so early, when only three cards are out.

For example, let’s say in a $1-2 NL game with effective stacks of $600 an early position player raises to $10, a mid position player calls, and we call with ASpade Suit 10Spade Suit on the button. The flop comes out 5Spade Suit 8Spade Suit 9Spade Suit. The preflop raiser checks and MP bets $20. What is the best play here? To answer this question we must evaluate MP’s range. He could have a medium strength hand like A-9 or 10-9 or he could have a stronger hand like a set, straight or smaller flush. Let’s say we decide to slowplay like 99 percent of the player pool does. The preflop raiser folds. Pot $70. Turn 2Heart Suit. MP bets $50. We again decide to “trap” and just call. Pot $170. River 3Heart Suit. MP bets $120, we raise to $300. MP snap calls and tables KSpade Suit JSpade Suit. Whoops!! Even though we managed to extract $370 we have made a disastrous blunder in deep stack NL — we failed to stack a very strong second best hand with our nut hand.

This is one of the most common mistakes I see from players who are inexperienced playing deep. When you flop huge in deep-stacked no limit sometimes you are going to have to hope that your opponent also flopped big. We are not concerned with stringing along a hand like 10-9 here, a hand that will most likely fold to a raise on the turn or river. If we had played our nut-flush fast there is absolutely no way that we do not stack MP especially in a lower level no limit game. Most of the time our opponent will either get it in on the flop or possibly check raise the turn. By slowplaying, though, we take what looks like such a strong line, he falls into check call mode (whether we wake up on the turn or the river) and we fail to get all of his money. What if he had a straight, two pair or set? Again, if you wait until the turn or river to raise you announce that your hand is big and you may well let him off the hook. Another reason not to play the hand in this manner is that a scary card might appear on a future street — like a fourth spade — killing all of our action.

Oct 22nd — Weaker draws can be very profitable if you are willing to bluff obvious draws.

It’s easy to spot a flush draw. As opponents become more skillful they recognize when flushes are a good part of your range and pay you off less. Normally you don’t see players making big calls with straight draws or middle pair but why not? If players are going to fold when the third suit comes out, can we not profitably represent flushes with our other draws? The answer is an emphatic yes.

In fact, I actually prefer to draw to straights in NL cash games because I will bluff scary flush cards. Let’s say a player from early position raises, MP calls and you call with 7Heart Suit 8Heart Suit. The flop comes out 5Heart Suit 6Club Suit KClub Suit. The early position player comes out and bets close to pot. He’s tight, and you know that he will almost always have at least a king if he bets into multiple opponents. You also know that he is capable of laying down hands when the obvious draw comes in. You call. The turn is the JDiamond Suit. He comes out and bets big again.

Your open-ended straight draw is only eight outs and with his sizing you are not getting the right price to call. However, what if you decide to use a club as a bluff? Now, your draw has increased to 15 outs and the cards that make your hand are hidden. If a club comes you can bluff at the pot. If a 4 or 9 come there is a very good chance that you will get value as it looks like you’ve busted a flush draw. It’s the best of both worlds actually.

You can use the same approach making big calls with second or bottom pair. Say in the above example we hold 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit. We are pretty sure that the c-better again has at least a king but we continue on planning to bluff the flush. On the turn, we call another big bet; skewing our range towards flush draws. On the river we have 14 good cards to win the hand —nine club outs to bluff and another five two pair or trip outs. The key here is that the outs that make our hand are hidden and the flush draw is very apparent.

Beware, don’t get too fancy. For the same reason that this play works profitably I would not recommend going for flush draws and bluffing when straights come in.

Nov 7th — The times to play your longest sessions are when you are winning and have a good image, not when chasing losses

You’ve probably heard it since the first day you started playing — you should leave the table when you get badly stuck. Most players do not heed this advice and continue to play after getting buried. We are all human and most of us do not play our best game when we are losing. However, there is another, more important reason to stop playing when down — image.

Most of us, when we think of a player’s image, think in terms of looseness or tightness. In live play, though, it is much more important to think of image in terms of winning or losing. You would be amazed at what you can get away with when you are winning big.

Opponents think to themselves, “he’s hot, I want to stay away from him.” This allows us to maneuver more and take control of the table. On the flip side, when players see us lose they tend to want to go after us. Our continuation bets never get through and we are called down with the most ridiculous holdings.

Let’s say our hourly in a live $2-5 $500 cap game is $40 per hour. This rate is an average — total money won divided by total hours. It is not constant, however. Would it surprise you to learn that your hourly with a good image might be as much as $70-$80 in the same games? Or that you might be a breakeven player with a losing image? I often see recreational players hit and running, leaving after they are quickly up. The only time you see these players playing long sessions is when they are stuck. They put in many more hours with a terrible image making it impossible for them to beat the game. Don’t fall into this pattern. Take advantage of your winning image. ♠

Want Card Player and Bart to provide analysis on a cash game hand you played? Send full hand details (blinds, stacks, street-by-street action) to @CardPlayerMedia. If we choose your hand, we’ll send you a Card Player subscription.

Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on twitter @barthanson. Check out his podcast “Deuce Plays” on DeucesCracked.com and his video training site specifically for live No Limit players—CrushLivePoker.com. He also hosts Live at the Bike every Tuesday and Friday at 10:30 pm ET at LivettheBike.com