I feel a little uncomfortable writing up anything on postflop strategy since as a relatively new player I still get put in tough spots a lot where I don’t know what the best play is. That being said, I have seen enough in these full ring games to at least give my take on what plays are good to use in certain circumstances, and at the very least this section will stimulate some discussion that will improve all our games.
The format which I am taking here hopefully is somewhat easy to follow. I am going to first bring up some common postflop concepts which will make the language I use later easier to follow. Then I will run through specific frequent situations that occur. Then I will take those situations and rethink them in four scenarios: Heads up in position, heads up out of position, multiway in position, and multiway out of position.
First there are some concepts you must know. Do a search on FTR and read up on the following elementary concepts and other basics before reading this guide:
-Fold Equity: Learn what fold equity is and when you have it. Understanding it is key to positionally aggressive play.
-Expected value: Learn how to calculate the EV for situations. This can get a bit complicated, but if you read Theory of Poker, Harrington on Hold’em, or various FTR posts on the subject then you will learn it.
-Pot odds: You must be able to calculate pot odds on the spot in order to play draws and in order to bluff and call bluffs in NLHE. Once again, the prior mention texts outline this in detail.
What will follow is a randomly assorted series of important cash-game concepts. Its probably the most important content in this three-part article. Read it and reread it, and then practice each concept thoroughly and you will have a very big edge at the small stakes games.
Relative hand strength- Hand strength is not absolute. A flush isn’t always a good hand. A top pair and top kicker is sometimes a monster. It depends on the circumstances. These are: board texture, preflop action, number of players in pot, and of course, our opponents’ ranges.
Here’s an example. You raise in EP with AA and get 4 (!) callers behind. The flop is T J Q with two diamonds. You don’t have a very strong hand, and probably should check the flop and see what happens.
Let’s change it. You raise in EP with AA and it folds to the small blind, a fairly tight player, who reraises to 3x your raise. You just call and the flop is 367 rainbow. You have a monster hand. You should pretty much play this like the nuts, because the range of hands your villain would reraise with could not have presumably hit this flop, and you had the nuts preflop.
Another example. You limp on the button with T8 of diamonds behind three limpers and by the river the board is 3d 6d Ks 2c 9d making your flush. You have a very strong hand.
Let’s change it. Someone raises in EP and two full stacks called him, you decided to call behind on the button with T8 of diamonds. The board by the river is Kd Ks Jd 2c 4d, making your flush. The flop and turn action went: the preflop raiser bet ½ pot on the flop and you and another called. On the turn he bet ½ pot again and you called along with the player in the middle. On the river there’s still a lot of money behind and you are facing a ½ pot bet. There’s still a lot of money behind to be bet. You don’t have a very strong hand. A board multiway raised pot with a pair of kings on the flop makes it very likely that your flush is beat. You shouldn’t have chased this flush in the first place.
Say the board is Kd Ks Jd Jc 4d instead. Your hand is obviously extremely weak now, because any connection with this board has a flush beat. The only decent hand you beat is AA. Always analyze relative hand strength before betting or calling a bet. You would be surprised how often this kind of analytical thinking will allow you to lay down strong hands like trips without even thinking twice.
Relative draw strength- The same thinking applies to draws. You should be less likely to chase a flush draw on a paired board, particularly when the pair is of big cards like tens or queens. You shouldn’t always assume that you are drawing dead to a full house when there’s a pair on the board, but you have to know that it devalues your draw. This is the same with straight draws on a paired board, and even more be wary of straight draws on a flush board. Don’t call big bets on the flop with an open ended straight draw unless it’s a rainbow board, so you can at least be assured that your hand is good when you hit it.
Play vs. loose players- Don’t bluff unless you have at least 6 outs. When you make a strong hand (top pair good kicker on a non-scary board, or better) value bet every street. If the loose player is aggressive, mix in checkraises and river checkcalls (for when they bluff the river). Try to lower the amount of continuation bets you make vs. these players, because they will call you with anything. Whenever you have a good hand, BET! There’s no sense in slowplaying a big hand vs. these players because they’ll call with nothing.
Play vs. tight players- Bluff these players whenever you have outs and they have shown weakness. Continuation bet these players almost every time. When you are almost sure you have them beat on the flop, go for a checkraise on the turn a lot of the time. These are aggressive players sometimes, and when you check turns with missed hands they will try to steal it from you. Exploit this by checking turns with great hands. Some are so aggressive that you can check raise the river with the nuts and win a lot more from them than you would otherwise.
Continuation bets- The standard play when you raised preflop and the flop is heads up. The idea is to make a fair sized bet (2/3 the pot is common) with the intention of folding your opponent or having him call and hitting a pair on the turn. If it works 40% of the time, then it’s a +EV bet. There’re no rules on when to do this, but here’re my guidelines:
- Be more willing to c-bet when you are in position.
- Be more willing to c-bet when the flop is heads up. In fact you should be c-betting in most cases here, except against loose players whom you know will call.
- Be less willing to c-bet when the flop is multiway. I rarely bet 3 way flops when I miss, except on flops like TT8 where it was unlikely to have hit any one. Even in these cases the ev is marginal.
- Be less willing to c-bet flops with a lot of draws. I almost always check a JsTsXc flop when I miss 77, having raised before the flop.
- Be more willing to c-bet when you have outs, (like AK on a QJx board where you have at least a gutshot and tainted overcards).
Donk bets- There’s a special scenario that happens sometimes. We call this the donk lead. This is when someone who played passively (checking/calling) preflop makes a lead bet from out of position into the raiser of the previous street. It’s sometimes very difficult to interpret this bet, but there are a few commonalities:
- Somewhat aggressive player leads into you from out of position for 2/3 to full pot after you raised preflop on a dry board such as 479 rainbow. This is usually a bluff, thinking that you have large unpaired cards that missed the flop. If villain is capable of laying down a hand, I usually raise to 3x his bet with any two cards, but I am much more likely to do this when I have a few outs, like a gutshot. Obviously I will raise if I hit the flop as well. Sometimes I will just call, if I think he will bet the turn again and the board doesn’t have any obvious draws.
- Somewhat aggressive player leads into you from out of position for 2/3 to full pot after you raised preflop on a heavy board such as AJ8 rainbow. This is almost never a bluff, and it usually means they hit the flop. Don’t proceed without at least top pair or a draw.
- Very weak player bets minimum every street. He has nothing 90% of the time. Just raise. If he reraises, make a note that he minbets with strength and move on.
- Weak player leads for <1/2 the pot on a flop with obvious draws. This is usually just a draw. Fold missed hands, its not really worth it since most people can’t release draws and since their pair outs might make them a favorite over your missed hand. If you have a strong hand then put in a big raise (3-4 times their bet) to shut down their pot odds. They will usually call and play a big pot with you with a draw.
- Strong player leads strongly on a flop with few or no obvious draws when you showed strength preflop. Watch out! You can’t put them squarely on it till the turn, but you have to entertain the likelihood that our villain has a made hand like a set. With an overpair or top pair in this spot sometimes I will just call and reevaluate on the turn. Doing so allows me to try to preserve most of my stack and make a decision on the turn without the pot being bloated out of proportion as opposed to how it would be if I raised the flop.
- Villain checks/calls the flop and then leads into you on the turn. This is usually not a bluff, but a feeler bet to see where they stand in the hand. Sometimes you can give them the information they need to fold by raising this bet, only try this against weak and tight players though. Turn bets usually mean business.