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January 16th – Pay attention to the distribution of suits on rainbow boards. You can then determine the likelihood of your opponent making a backdoor flush
Hand reading is a critical element in becoming a big winning player at no-limit hold’em. One of the most confusing things for a beginner is to recognize the possibility of your opponent making a backdoor flush. Commonly this happens on dry, rainbow boards where our attention is taken away from the possibility of the board running out flushing. One of the important things to watch is which cards on a rainbow board are not the flush suit.
Say we are playing in a $2-$5 game and we hold A A in the cutoff with effective stacks of $700. It gets folded to us and we raise to $20 on the button. The big blind calls.
Flop: K 7 2. BB checks, we bet $30 and he calls. Turn: 5. BB checks, we bet $75 and he calls. River: 3. BB checks, we bet $150 and he check-raises all-in. It is extremely likely that our opponent holds K X. It is very important to notice that the top pair on the flop was not a club. Let’s change the flop to K 7 2. It is now unlikely that your opponent has made a flush unless he is making a light peel with 7 X.
We can use the same logic when the board contains a straight draw or a front-door flush draw. Let’s say we hold K K on a Q 2 3 board. We bet and our opponent calls. Turn is an 8. We bet again and our opponent calls. River is a 7 and our opponent now makes a gross overbet all-in from in front. Chances are our opponent has a hand like A 5, A 4, 5 6 or 4 6, not a busted club draw. Again, it is really important to notice which cards do not contain the backdoor flush on the flop and how light our opponents will call us early on in the hand.
Some players will never peel with a four on a K 4 2 board where others will call with any piece of the flop. The looser players may very well make a backdoor flush with 2 X or a gutshot like 5 6. I would not take this advice too far however, and start bluffing when backdoor draws appear. For the same reasons that we are good players and can recognize when we are beat, most players at the lower levels are not as advanced, and will not fold big hands to our bluffs.
Mar 5th – As a rule of thumb, you need to make 10 times the raise size from the total pot when set mining, 20 times with suited connectors and 30 times with gapped suited-connectors.
One of the simplest leaks to plug when playing small level no-limit cash games is calling with the wrong kinds of hands preflop. Most of the time, the games are not deep enough to make large preflop calls with speculative implied odds types of hands.
There is an easy formula that can be referenced when evaluating whether to call or fold preflop. I call it the “Ten Times-Twenty Times” rule, and it also applies to gapped suited-connectors. Basically, the rule states that you must make ten times the raise size from the total pot when set mining, twenty-times the raise size when calling with suited connectors, and thirty times the raise size from gapped suited-connectors. The “total pot” references the amount won by the end of the hand – which is another way of saying your opponents’ effective stack.
Let’s look at an example: Say we are playing a $1-$2 no-limit game where we have $300 and our opponent has us covered. He raises to $20 and we hold pocket fours in position. How do we determine if we can call? Just multiply the raise size ($20) by ten, and the rule dictates that we need to make $200 from the total pot to call. Since the effective stack sizes are $300, we can call. The actual odds in flopping a set are about one out of 8.5. We use one out of ten to account for the times that we flop a set and our opponent misses or has a hand like K-K on an ace-high board.
We can use the same math when dealing with suited connectors and gapped suited-connectors. In the above example, if our opponent raised to $20, we could not call with a hand like 5 6 because if we multiply the raise size by twenty we end up with $400 – but our effective stacks are only $300. The same could be said if he raised to $15 and we held 9 7. Here, we multiply the preflop raise size by thirty and realize that we are not deep enough to continue on.
The math here is really simple and will immediately increase your win rate. The formula is only intended as a rough guide, however. Some have made the argument that to set mine we actually need fifteen or twenty times, especially in tougher games where opponents will not stack off easily with overpairs. You should also adjust the numbers when calling opponents that have much looser opening ranges because it is more unlikely that they will not have a big hand when we flop a set.
Be aware of playing suited connectors and gapped suited-connectors from out of position. Even if you are getting the correct twenty or thirty times, most of the time it is not going to be profitable to call heads up from out of position. You too frequently flop a draw with these types of hands and are at a big disadvantage when first to act. If I am playing against a really tough opponent from the blinds – especially if they have a wide opening range from late position – I may not call with small pocket pairs either. Too often I will get bluffed off of the best hand or hit my set and not win the ten times I am looking for.
Feb 25th – Always calculate money made on future streets or implied odds enabling big calls (Aaron R.)
Often times, I will make really big calls with draws. In fact, I get a lot of weird looks after making a pot-sized call on the turn and snap folding the river. People constantly underestimate the value of their draws, especially when there is a good chance their opponent has a big hand. We actually want the players we are calling against to have the nuts – there is much more of a chance that we will get paid off. Many players at the lower levels do not realize that when a draw comes in, their hand becomes a bluff catcher – no matter how strong their holding was on a previous street. You can check out the Deuce Plays episode “Bluff Catcher” for a further explanation of this concept, and I will be expanding upon a bluff catching tweet in a later article.
When evaluating whether or not to call with a draw, we must calculate our implied odds – the money that we will make from future bets on later streets. I use a basic formula to determine if I will call with a draw. I call it the “45 Unseen Card Rule”. It is not exact, but it is more precise than some other well known techniques. Simply put, I divide 45 by my number of outs. Say we have a flush draw on the turn (nine outs). We calculate 45/9, yielding 5/1. This means we must make 4 to 1 on our opponents’ turn bet size. Let’s look at an example: We have 7 8 and are out of position on the turn. The board reads A K 2 3. Our opponent bets $150 into a $200 pot and he has $800 left in his stack. We have nine outs and need to make 4-to-1 to call. We multiple $150 by four and get $600. On the turn we call $150 to win $350 immediately, so if we hit we need to bet (and be called) $250 ($600-$350) on the river to make our turn call profitable.
Let’s look at a bigger draw: Say we have 6 7 on a Q 10 4 3 board. We now have twelve outs and divide 45/12 giving us a 1-in-3.75 chance of hitting (2.75 to 1). If our opponent bets $200 into a $200 pot we must make $550 total (2.75 x $200), so when we hit we bet at least $150 ($550-$400) on the river to make our turn call plus EV.
This process may look a little daunting at first, but if you practice and can do simple addition and division, it is a fairly fast and accurate way to precisely evaluate how much you have to bet on a future street to make the previous street’s call profitable. There is a detailed explanation of this math in Deuce Plays episode “Draws”. I also go into the concept of reverse implied-odds (the chances of hitting your draw and NOT being good) and how the math effects those scenarios. ♠
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
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