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Leading the Flop and the Relationships to Continuation Betting

Leading the flop when you were not the pre-flop aggressor is very similar to continuation betting. You have a range, your opponent has a range, and you have now made a bet that your opponent will have to react to. However, there is another relationship that leading on the flop has to continuation betting that is a little less obvious and that can have a pretty serious impact on your bottom line. We’re going to take a look at both relationships to give you some ideas to think about on your own when it comes to leading the flop.

Warning: You’re Always Out of Position When You Lead

An important point that needs to be made before anything else is that you are always out of position relative to the pre-flop raiser when you lead. This means that you have to take care when leading with medium-strength hands because you’re starting to build a pot with a natural disadvantage when your hand can’t take a lot of heat. Don’t take this to mean that you should be scared of leading, but you just have to stay alert and be aware of your positional disadvantage.

People Play Worse Against Flop Leads

Generally speaking, people tend to play worse against flop leads than continuation bets. The reason for this is that they have spent a lot more time working on continuation betting and facing continuation bets. Because less time is spent on leading and facing leads, it gives you a chance to catch your opponents in a situation where you are more familiar with what’s going on than they are.

Because players spend less time looking at how to face leads, they will often play in extremely exploitable ways. A fair number of players will raise flop leads with a very wide range of hands, and others will fold an incredible amount of the time. Since most players don’t face these situations as often as facing continuation bets, they will be less likely to try to balance their ranges or play in some way that makes life difficult for you.

All of this is great news for you since all you’ll have to do to exploit the heck out of some players is get an idea of how they play against flop leads. The ideas at work here are very similar to how you would play with a continuation bet out of position. The main difference here is that your opponent’s tendencies will normally be easier to take advantage of because they will be more pronounced. Not only that, but your opponents will be slower to adjust since they won’t be used to people trying to exploit their ranges in this way.

Thinking Deeper About Leading the Flop

If you read last week’s article, then you’ll know that we talked about breaking your range into two pieces when you are the pre-flop aggressor: the continuation betting range and the checking range. We talked about how making one of those ranges weaker made the other stronger and vice versa. A similar thing happens with leading the flop when you find yourself out of position and you are not the pre-flop aggressor.

Suppose a player raises pre-flop, you call from the small blind and everyone else folds. The flop comes, and now you’re out of position in a heads-up spot. You have two ranges here. On one hand is the range that you lead, and on the other hand is the range that you’ll hold when you give your opponent the opportunity to make a continuation bet.

Let’s say that you have decided to lead with a weak range for whatever reason. Something that you need to realize is that this makes your checking range stronger. On a similar line of thought, if you decide to lead with a strong range, it’s going to make your checking range weaker. You have to be mindful of how a change in one of your ranges will affect the other.

For a quick example of how this could work, suppose you’re against an opponent who continuation bets often. In general, you wouldn’t want an overly-weak checking range against this opponent because you would have to fold very often to his bets. One way to adjust would be to make your checking range stronger by leading with some of your weak hands.

Combining Different Factors to Form a Strategy

What you need to see here is that your opponent’s tendencies for facing a lead and your opponent’s tendencies for continuation betting both have to be taken into consideration when you’re trying to form a strategy in these types of spots. Just like before, you want to try to create situations where your opponents often put in money against your strong ranges and don’t often put in money against your weak ranges.

Does your opponent continuation bet a lot? That’s an indicator that you should have a strong checking range. Does your opponent raise flop leads a lot? Then you should probably have a strong leading range. Does your opponent fold to flop leads a lot? This means that you should have a weak leading range.

These types of reads on an opponent help to make your play in these spots very easy to figure out. All you have to do to exploit your opponents using these ideas is get a read on them and line up your ranges in a way that will take advantage of how they play.

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