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How to Make Actual Adjustments While Playing

In one of the very first editions of this weekly strategy column, I discussed the importance of being able to break down situations to a basic level to look at how they work. We’ve looked at a lot of theory-heavy material since then, and as I mentioned in last week’s edition, we’re going to start leaning more towards applications and practical usage. This week, we’re going to be looking at a basic example that uses relatively small ranges to show what an adjustment looks like while you’re playing. While you won’t be able to go into this level of detail when you’re at the table, working through examples like these in a lot of detail will help you to make better decisions in the moment when you’re at the table.

The Range is Strong With This One

In a full ring game, we raise from early position and are called by a tight-aggressive 14/12 on the button. To give a frame of reference, in a six-max game, this player would be around 19/16. We see the flop of AJ7 rainbow heads-up. Our range probably resembles {77+, AQ+, KQ, QJs-T9s} while our opponent’s range is probably close to {AQ+, QQ-66, KQs-65s}. Each of these ranges are about eight percent of starting hands, and though they consist of different hands, they actually hit the flop in similar ways. If we break down the ranges, here’s what we find.

  • Hero top pair or better: 35 percent.
  • Hero second or third pair: 39 percent.
  • Hero high-card hands: 26 percent.

Now let’s compare that to the following:

  • Villain top pair or better: 34 percent.
  • Villain second or third pair: 41 percent.
  • Villain fourth pair or worse: 25 percent.

From this point we have to decide how we’re going to play the flop. To do that, we have to decide how we think our opponent is going to play his or her range when we bet compared to when we check.

How Does Our Opponent Play?

At this point, we need to make some educated guesses as to how we would expect our opponent to play. Our opponent probably perceives that this flop has hit our range pretty well (which it has), and for that reason, he’ll probably elect to fold to one bet with hands as strong as third pair. For what it’s worth, about 52 percent of his range is third pair or worse. We won’t expect an opponent like this to raise the flop on a bluff too often in this situation because he thinks our range is so strong, so we don’t have to worry about him exploiting a weak betting range.

What is Our Adjustment?

Our opponent folds a lot on the flop and does not raise continuation bets often. If you’ve digested the previous editions of this column, you’ll probably realize that continuation betting with a weak range would be a legitimate adjustment to make here. But let’s take a look at which hands we could make a profitable continuation bet with first so we can figure out which value hands we would check instead of betting.

Checking Out Our Value Range

We think our opponent’s range here is about {AQ+, QQ-66, KQs-65s}, and we expect him to continue with second pair or better on AJ7r. In this scenario, he’s folding everything but {JJ, 77, AQ+, KK, QQ, QJs, JTs}. Let’s see how different hands from our range stand up against this continuing range:

  • AKo has about 66 percent equity.
  • AQs has about 50 percent equity.
  • AQo has about 49 percent equity.

From this point, it’s clear to see that continuation betting with AK and higher will be profitable, betting with AQ will be optional, and value betting with worse will not be a great idea. If we wanted to make our range weaker, then we’d need to remove hands from the bottom of our value range (ie: AQo, AQs, AKo, in that order) while adding hands to the top of our bluffing range if necessary.

This is the key point in thinking about our value range while considering the adjustment of making our betting range weaker: We want to figure out which hands we could be checking that we would normally bet for value. These hands will almost always come off of the bottom of our value range. A reasonable adjustment at this point would be to always check AQ and to sometimes check AK based on some random factor (say the last two digits of the hand history number).

Thinking About Our Bluffing Range

Remember that our adjustment is to make our betting range weaker. We can do that by value betting less and bluffing more. We’ve figured out when we’re going to value bet less already, so now we have to figure out when to bluff more.

It’s pretty obvious that betting with any high-card hand is going to be profitable in this situation, so we’re taking for granted that we would already be bluffing with all of those. If we want to bluff more often, then we’re going to have to start doing it with paired hands since all of the high card hands are already being bet. Our worst paired hands are TT-88, so we need to decide if we would be comfortable bluffing with these hands. We can decide this by looking at how these hands stack up with our opponent’s folding range. You can follow a similar process of checking their equity against our opponent’s folding range to see if we’re actually getting him to fold enough worse hands for it to be worth it, and I’ll leave that much up to the reader as a homework-type assignment.

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