Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Gareth Chantler
Board Texture, Not Your Hand, Should Dictate Your Actions
It’s great to see pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth battling it out on poker’s biggest stages for millions of dollars, but the truth is that most of us will never get the same opportunity, nor will we really learn anything from their play that directly applies to our own games. The truth is that while we all aspire to be the next Phil Ivey, many of us will do so from the comfort of our friendly neighborhood home game or the low-stakes tables at a nearby cardroom.
In an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to unveil the brand new series Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.
Pro – Gareth Chandler
Concept – Turning missed draws into successful bluffs by being aware of board texture and how it affects capped hand ranges
Gareth Chantler is a pro who makes his living playing 25¢-50¢ and 50¢-$1 no limit hold’em six-max games online under the screen name “GarethC23.” He has been playing professionally for three years and makes instructional videos for Card Runners and PokerSchoolOnline.com.
Before Black Friday, the 26-year-old Canadian traveled around the world while playing online to support himself. He spent time in Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos, Trinidad, and Grenada.
This past summer he made his way out to Vegas to play in several WSOP events while tackling some live cash games on the side. He recently sat down with Card Player to discuss a river bluff he made in a $1-$3 no limit cash game at the Rio – a spot he feels that many small stakes players will encounter when they miss their draw.
There was an under-the-gun limp from an older female and a “Caribbean tourist” raised to $8 behind her. Chantler was next to act and made it $25 with A 4. Chantler started the hand with $280 which just covered the tourist and the woman had started the hand with $215. The woman and the original raiser both called and they saw a flop of Q J 8. All three players checked and the turn was the 2. The woman bet $40, the tourist called, and Chantler called. The river was the 10 and both players checked. Chantler moved all in for $215, the woman quickly folded, and the tourist proudly folded 10 8 for two pair face-up.
Steve Schult: What are your reads on your two opponents and what is your image at the table?
Gareth Chantler: My image I’d say is pretty tight-aggressive. I haven’t been playing a ton of hands so there is no real reason for players to think that I am getting out of line and most of my starting hands have been reasonable. The woman is weak tight and the tourist is a maniac who plays a lot of hands, which I determined after a bit of table history.
SS: So the woman limps and the tourist raises. What hand ranges are you putting these two players on at this point and are you ever worried about a limp re-raise from the woman?
GC: It’s definitely a possibility (a limp re-raise), but if it happens I just know that I can pitch my hand. I do have an ace blocker, so her limp re-raise range is something like queens plus and ace-king, if even that wide. I made a cold three-bet, so there is also the possibility that she would flat pocket queens or ace-king. I just don’t think the limp re-raise will happen too often since she hasn’t been limping much. I think her range consists of a lot of small pairs and some weak Broadway hands.
When the tourist makes it $8, there is no chance he has a good hand here because if he had a top 7% hand or so, he would have made it $12 or $15. When he makes it $8, I pretty much know how he wants to play his hand, he wants to have the preflop initiative and he wants to continue to try and be table captain for the cheapest price. His range is like lots of ace-rags, suited garbage, and a lot of other weak hands. By three-betting, I can get people behind me to fold hands even as strong as ace-queen since they haven’t put money in the pot. I don’t expect to win it that much preflop because I expect him to continue with a call a lot, but I think it’s my best option.
SS: What range of hands are you going to be three-betting here?
GC: I would be three-betting all of the hands that I don’t think I can profitably flat against him and then all of the hands that I would consider value hands against him. I don’t consider this hand to be a value hand. I would consider A-J off or better and then pocket tens or better. A-2 suited through A-9 suited make up a lot of the other types of hands that are too weak to call. I wouldn’t necessarily be three-betting small suited connectors because I think he will be calling a lot so I want some high card value to my hand. I’m definitely not doing this with like 9-5 or total trash.
SS: A-4 suited flops reasonably well. Did you ever consider flatting and trying to play the hand multi-way?
GC: Not particularly, because I’m not close to the button at all. I’m in early position at a full ring table and I just think the hand is too weak to flat. If I had like A-10 suited then I might be more comfortable flatting. I’m definitely flatting hands like J-10 suited and pocket eights and other hands like that.
SS: Can you explain why you decided to check back on a flop that gave you the nut flush draw? Would you have bet this flop if you were just heads-up with the tourist?
GC: I think I would have. I expected a few things to happen if I were heads-up against him. One of them being I think that he will check-raise and fold when I put in another raise. I also think that he will check-raise and call with worse draws. This is obviously a little less common, but I think it still happens enough where it’s profitable for me.
Three ways however, the board is really connected to their ranges. I have the nut flush draw, which is obviously very strong, but if the woman has a hand like 22-77, I can get that hand to fold at any time. I don’t need to get that hand to fold now. If she has any kind of a high card hand, she is never folding on the flop and sometimes she is going to be check-raising. I also think he is going to be kind of sticky here as well so I would be betting without much fold equity. If you don’t have much fold equity, you should really consider checking back semi-bluff hands.
SS: Like you said, this flop texture is pretty connected. What kind of board texture would you consider betting three-ways?
GC: Paired boards like 6-6-5 are a good example of a texture that I will always be betting. I think I will be getting enough folds and I won’t have any real equity in the hand. The ace-high texture is pretty interesting. If it’s like an ace with another Broadway card, I’ll bet for value because I expect the tourist to call me with any pair or any draw. If it’s like A-2-2, I’d probably just check back. There are lots of monotone boards that I would be betting and also some low, raggy boards like 8-6-3 I’d also be betting. There aren’t going to be a ton of boards that I do bet, but the ones that I do, will be completely profitable.
SS: The turn was a complete brick. The woman bets and is called by the tourist. What is going through your mind and what kind of hands are you putting them on at this point?
GC: I think the thing to take away from his range at this point is that he can’t have a very strong hand or he would have raised the turn against the woman. Her range is much narrower by comparison. I think her range is made up more of one pair hands with good kickers, or pairs with gut shots like Q-10, K-Q, or A-J. I’m getting way too good of a price at this point and I decided to just call.
SS: So now when the river bricks, putting a four card straight on board, they both check. You move all in. You are basically representing a nine. Do you worry about them trying to think about what nine you could have in your three-betting range?
GC: I think that’s a great question because I think it points out the fundamental problem with my play. If they ever get to the answer of that question, they are going to realize “hey, he can’t have many nines, if any.” That is certainly the main concern with making the play.
I’m counting on them having capped ranges, meaning that neither of them can ever have a nine since both of them would have bet the river if they had it. That is the main thing going for me. Sometimes when you are playing against non-thinking opponents you have to hit them over the head with the story that you have a strong hand, but you have to make sure that they can’t have a strong hand first. Given their skill level, I think I’ll be able to get away with this play a majority of the time.
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