PokerPAL: AGGRRRRRRession and Range Balancing
Thursday, 1 December 2011
By Phil Wise from Badbeat.com.
Previous articles detailed the wide range of hands you need to play pre-flop and explained how to play them aggressively. To reiterate, these included both strong hands and bluff hands from late position. It’s important to carry on this aggression post-flop. Many average players only continue with the hand if they hit post-flop and this becomes a major leak. The lack of aggression will result in a low flop C-bet and low turn C-bet.
The majority of winning online players have high aggression and bet frequency post-flop. They achieve this by playing a balanced range. Their high bluff rate enables them to win pots uncontested and also makes them harder to read.
Regardless of position, you are looking to C-bet the majority of the time that you were the pre-flop aggressor. Over all you are looking for a bet percentage of between 65% and 80%. You should only deviate from this if the circumstances dictate, such as in a multi-way pot, on a wet board that connects with your opponent’s range or against an opponent that exploits your frequent C-bet.
In heads up pots, you should be aiming to bet your strong hands together with your weaker/bluff hands. Rather than stone-cold bluffs, start with hands that have significant equity, such as flush draws, straight draws and over-cards, and hands that can improve equity-wise on the turn, such as back-door flush draws and back-door straight draws. It’s worth noting that you’re still betting the flop as a bluff and ultimately hoping your opponent will fold most of the time but the extra equity allows you to apply pressure on later streets.
To balance your bluffing you should bet for value with a wide range of hands where you expect your opponent to call with worse. This could include any pair and upwards and also two over-cards. For example, you’re holding AhKs on a 2s2d5s board and your opponent might call with KsQs. Some players might even call with two over-cards here without the flush draw.
You should be looking to avoid C-betting in heads up pots when you have medium strength hands and the board has likely hit your opponents range. An example would be where you have attempted a steal from the button with 5h6h versus an opponent that has a tendency to call from the blinds with broadway cards. If the flop comes KsJh5c and your opponent checks, you should be looking to improve your hand before betting again. The simple reason for this is that you are unlikely to get a better hand to fold and a worse hand could quite easily attempt a check-raise and bluff you off a better hand.
Aggressive post- when calling pre-
Not only should you be aggressive on the flop when you’re the pre-flop raiser but you should also aim to bet and raise on flops when you have only called pre-. This may be by check-raising or donk-betting when you’ve called from the blinds. In position it can be by betting out at a missed C-bet from your opponent or by raising his C-bet. The latter is useful against opponents that C-bet a lot of the time. You can get away with a lot of bluffs in this spot.
Deciding when to donk-bet and check-raise can be slightly trickier. The first tip is to make sure you’re making these plays against an opponent that will understand your calling range pre-flop. There’s not much point check-raising a fish as a bluff when they will call with any pair, regardless of the board. However, if you are faced with a regular that will C-bet almost all the time in position, then it will be a big leak if you call pre- and fold every time you miss the flop.
The best way to confuse your opponents is to balance your hand strength so it’s polarised between very strong hands and bluffs. A good example is if you flop a set when calling from the blinds and lead out at the flop hoping for a raise. Your opponent will be more inclined to raise you here if he sees you doing this a lot, so donk-betting as a bluff will balance this. You’ll get a feel for which flops to lead into quite quickly, but first try low connected boards and go from there. If you’re faced with an opponent that will call with two overcards, you may have to double barrel.
Check-raising is a riskier play as you’re putting more money in the pot, but it appears like a move of real strength. Paired boards are good to try this on as a bluff and semi-bluffs on flushing boards can also be effective against the right players.
Winning players usually have a flop aggression percentage of between 35% and 50%. Aggressive plays are obviously counted as betting or raising. If you check, call or fold, this will reduce your aggression percentage.
How many of you only ever raise the turn with a strong hand? The tendency for most average players is to see their flop bluff get called and then give up on the pot, fearing their opponent has a monster. The reverse is usually true and opponents are uncertain about their relative hand strength, hence they don’t raise and only call. This weakness should be pounced upon. Highlight opponents that have a high “fold-to-turn C-bet percentage” (most heads-up displays [HUDs] should have this stat, although it may be called “fold-to-double-barrel”). Vice versa, when your opponent fails to double-barrel on the turn, then it’s usually a great spot to bluff in position.
Turn aggression should be in the region of 30% to 35%, with turn C-bet percentage around 40% to 50%. To reach these figures you will need to raise as a bluff and not just wait for near nut hands. As mentioned above, pick hands that improve, equity-wise, on the turn to semi bluff. You can also target players that frequently double-barrel and raise them fairly light. If you are in position, the raise doesn’t have to be too large; anything between 2x and 2.5x their bet is sufficient. Should your opponent call, then use your reading skills to determine whether to bluff the river or not. River play will be covered in future articles.
In summary, it’s important to play with a balanced range so that opponents are kept guessing. In the long run, this will make them pay you off in the bigger pots while you pick up more of the smaller pots through bluffing.
If you think you are losing money on the flop and turn, or would like specific examples of the above, then please contact us at . We will analyse your leaks and send you the full report. Some excerpts maybe used in forthcoming issues. Also, visit www.badbeat.com and sign up for the tutorials and poker grading software. The players with the highest scores will receive a ticket for a $5,000 freeroll.