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Crushing Live Poker With Twitter

by Bart Hanson |  Published: Dec 01, 2013

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September 16 – One of the biggest factors in continuation bet frequency should be the amount of hands you play preflop

When determining whether or not to continuation bet as a bluff there are a number of different considerations. Image, board texture, and number of players in the hand, are all major factors in whether or not your bet will get through. However, one of the most important considerations is often times overlooked — how loose or tight do you play preflop?

Most of the time, the proper style that you should be playing to achieve a maximum winrate at smaller stakes, full ring live games is TAG, that is tight preflop and aggressive postflop. When you are playing nine-handed and especially ten-handed playing over a certain number of hands will definitely lead to unprofitability. The fact of the matter is, no matter how good you are, opening 5-3 offsuit from under-the-gun (UTG) is not going to be a winning play just based upon the sheer fact that you will always be taking way the worst of it versus the rest of the table.

But, there are certainly differences between winning styles. If we were to say that you can be profitable in these games playing anywhere from 10 percent of your hands to 33 percent of your hands, depending on the dynamics of the table, our approach to postflop play should be drastically different, especially with the betting lead. If you pay attention to good loose-aggressive players (LAGs), people that play over 25 percent of hands, you will notice that they know when not to continuation bet. If a LAG opens the pot and three or more people call, most of the time LAGs should not be firing super wet, raggedy boards that they do not hit. The fact of the matter is even the most clueless of players will notice that they are playing and opening a lot of hands. Say for example, a LAG isolation raises with AHeart Suit QHeart Suit two limpers and gets called by both and a guy in the blind. The board comes out 7Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit 5Spade Suit. It gets checked over to the LAG, because players at the lower levels always think that he will fire. What is his best play? He has almost no equity in this pot, all kinds of hands with draws will call him and he is commonly looked up lighter than others because he plays so many hands. A good LAG would check this board and be done with the hand unless he improves.

One of the most pivotal strategy points that has been brought out about no limit in the last few years is when not to continuation bet. But let us turn this example around and say it is a TAG that opens from early position and gets called by three players. The same board appears — but instead of the TAG checking, he bets. Why? He plays so few hands and he opened from up front that his range is super tight, that is it is usually going to be A-Q plus or a high pair. Even though the flop is super wet his opponents are going to have a hard time calling big bets on multiple streets with a hand like 6-5, scared that they are beat. You see, people will play nittier post flop against a good TAG but usually still fall into their loose passive patterns preflop. A hand like 6Club Suit 5Club Suit is too good for them to fold to a single raise no matter what the situation. There is a player that comes to mind at the Bike that plays a lot of $5-$5. He is a very good TAG and people realize that he does not play many hands. He will fire almost any board into three or fewer players because his range is so tight when he opens. So for him, betting A-K on a 7-6-5 board still very well may show a profit whereas for a LAG making the same bet into multiple opponents is just burning money. If you are struggling with your continuation bet bluffs figure out how your player pool sees your style and adjust these postflop bets accordingly.

September 18 – Generally, at the lower levels you should not be trying to bluff people off of hands

One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make at the lower levels is overplaying their draws. The primary reason why we semi-bluff (a bluff with a draw where we can improve) is to get our opponent to fold. If we are up against someone that we know has a strong hand in their own eyes, and that player has a history of not folding these types of holdings is this a spot for us to make a semi-bluff?

We have all seen the “tight” player type, especially in $5 blind games. These guys come to the casino and a lot do not really pay attention to the game. They wait to play very strong hands preflop or pocket pairs. They are not in the business of folding their hands postflop because they play so few hands.

Let us take a look at a spot that I saw go down last week. The game is $5-$5 and both opponents are $800 deep. A player in his mid 60s opens from UTG to $25 and a young, decent player that plays a looser style makes the call from the button. The board runs out JHeart Suit 7Diamond Suit 2Heart Suit. The UTG player continuation bets $50 into the pot and the young guy raises to $250. The older player calls rather quickly. The turn is the 3Spade Suit and the old guy checks. The player in the field now bets $400 and the guy upfront quickly check raises all-in. The young guy calls and the river is the 5Club Suit. The young guy turns over KHeart Suit QHeart Suit and the older guy wins the pot with AClub Suit ASpade Suit. The younger guy shakes his head in disgust and mutters something about how “he has a set there almost always and can’t believe how bad he runs.” Do you think that the young guy made a good play?

I have talked extensively in past articles about how we can determine our opponent’s strength based about their bet sizing. This UTG player was one of the tightest at the table and his raise from up front represents extreme strength. We also know that when he bets close to pot he almost always has something and since he is the type that would most likely limp or fold A-J, he is usually going to have an overpair or two overcards and a flush draw. Since the younger guy had the king and the queen of hearts in his hand, the flush draw part of his range is basically impossible. His most likely holdings are A-A, K-K, Q-Q or J-J, and combination wise it is most likely that he holds A-A because of the board and the younger guy’s hand. Is this a good spot to try and bluff a guy off of A-A?

No matter what the scenario, it is normally never a good approach to bluff a recreational player off of A-A. Higher-level players would also point out that the younger guy is representing a very thin value range because the board is disconnected. He can only have sets that beat A-A because he would not be playing a hand like J-7 suited for a raise. So, what if the board was something like 6Heart Suit 5Heart Suit 4Spade Suit where the young guy could also have sets, two pair and straights? Would it be better for a semi-bluff here? Well, it really depends on your opponent and whether or not he is capable of folding an overpair. The fact of the matter is, against non-thinking players who are only considering their own hand strength, the board makes no difference. If they have an overpair they are not going to fold.

The same can be said when it is obvious that your opponent holds a very strong hand postflop. It is absolute suicide to try and bluff a scare card, like a front-door flush or a one-liner to a straight, when these guys just are not going to fold. Of course you can use this knowledge against them when you actually make your hand and should absolutely bet larger to maximize your value. ♠