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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Mar 18, 2015


January 25 — Waiting until a later street to raise a nut hand is not always the best line

A lot of players, especially at the lower levels, get overly excited when they flop a big hand and, as a reflex, always want to slowplay. Not only is slowplaying generally a bad idea because of lost value, but more importantly, slowplaying can backfire if our opponent does not continue the betting lead, which is most of the reason why we would just call on the flop with a big hand. Also when we wait until the turn or the river to raise, our hand looks very strong and the action actually may let our opponents off the hook.

Let’s take a look at an example from one of the podcasts on, Crush Live Call-ins which streams live on every Sunday at 4:45 p.m. PT. In this hand, a caller named Frank said that he was in early position in a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em game and flat called a raise of $7 with 5-5 from the under the gun player.

Two players to Frank’s left also called. The flop came out 6Club Suit 5Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit, giving Frank middle set. The preflop raiser led out into the field for $22 and Frank just called, stating that he was not really scared of anything and that he wanted to allow the players behind to tag along. He did note that he thought the preflop raiser had something, however, as he never would have bet out so much on this type of board against three other players without some sort of hand. Although, Frank went on to say, since the preflop raiser’s preflop sizing was sort of small, it indicated to Frank that it would not be A-A or K-K, so most likely he would have a hand like 77-JJ, given the total action.

I think that Frank’s analysis is spot on if he has seen the under the gun player raise larger with big hands. I seriously doubt that this guy would make a continuation bet with A-Q in this spot, so he does most likely have something, and it is pretty logical to conclude that it is an overpair. Since playing no-limit hold’em is all about playing off of your opponents’ ranges, not your own, we should, in fact, be more concerned about what he has, not the fact that we have middle set. It is also very difficult to just call and “tag along” our opponents behind us with bad hands, because the mere flat of that sized continuation bet is very strong. We block a lot of the combinations of pair plus straight draws, so the only real hands they could have behind us that might call are 6-4, A-4, A-3, and so on. But more importantly, there is the fact that we think the preflop raiser is strong. You see, it would be an absolute disaster to just call if the preflop raiser is willing to call a raise and commit himself to the pot now.

Frank’s plan was to wait for the turn, then raise there. There are a couple of problems that I have with this logic. Number one is the fact that if we do put the preflop aggressor on 77-JJ, there are many cards where he actually might shut it down and not bet again. Even though an ace, king, or queen coming on the turn does not really change the nature of the hand, I’ve seen tons of guys check when overcards come to their overpairs.

So we have those overcards that might induce a check, both of the cards that bring in one-liner straights (fours and treys), quite possibly a six, which would pair the top card on board, and maybe a nine if the preflop raiser is scared of us having a straight draw with 8-7. That’s a full 27 cards that can kill our action and cause the preflop raiser to not continue with the betting lead. So this board is not really all that “safe” to flat.

The other flaw in Frank’s logic is the fact that raising on the turn actually looks much more strong than raising on the flop. At the lower levels of no-limit, later street raises almost always are indicative of better than one pair hands. If we raise small on the flop there is almost no chance that this player would ever fold an overpair and, with these stack sizes, we can easily get all of the money in by the end of the hand. I think it would have been ideal to raise the flop to maybe $50-$55, which is just over a min-raise. After he called, the pot would then be about $130 and we would have $220 left in our stack. At that point, we could bet about $75 on the turn leading to a half-pot sized shove on the river. If we instead just flatted the bet on the flop and our opponent checked to us on the turn, now we are looking at having a pot of $72 with $260 left in our stack. This would cause us to have to bet almost full pot on each street in order to get the money in. And, again, it would be an absolute disaster if our preflop raiser bet-folded after a turn like a seven or a jack.

One of the other things that small flop raises can do is make you seem to be overplaying a weaker hand. We have all seen the situations before on the flop when a guy raises a $25 bet to $55 with 8-8 on a 6-5-2 flop to “protect” their hand. We can use this play to disguise the strength of our hand. In fact, if I was in a spot with an overpair and got min-raised on a raggedy dry board like 10-7-2, I would never in a million years fold my hand because I would think that my opponent would be overplaying weaker. That is why I am such a strong advocate of the play. Inherently, we are being more deceptive by actually playing our hand hard because so few people do it in the rest of the player pool.

Lastly, whenever I am sure that someone is not bluffing due to the action in a particular spot, I see no real reason to slowplay, especially if they are not capable of laying down hands. You can make the case, however, of allowing your opponent to “continue” bluffing you. However, most of the time when a continuation bet is made by the preflop raiser on a board that typically would not hit their range and it is in to multiple opponents, that usually indicates that they are not bluffing unless they are a complete maniac with no fundamental idea of how to play the game. These types of “LAGtard” maniacs are rare at the low levels of live no-limit, as usually people are bad players in the way of being much too loose-passive. ♠

Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on Twitter @CrushLivePoker and @BartHanson. Check out his poker training site exclusively made for live cash game play at where he produces weekly podcasts and live training videos.