Three bet, c-bet?

Three bet, c-bet?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dear Dr Tom,

Say I 3-bet with A-K or A-Q, get called and completely miss the flop. It’s checked to me. Should I always c-bet?

Phill, Waterford

Dear Phill,

Only if you have access to a time machine. It brings a salty tear to my eye to remember the days when a c-bet produced a grumble and a fold and that was the end of the pot. Nowadays, people expect you to c-bet when you miss so it has none of the representational value it had back in a more innocent age. If you always c-bet, then the range opponents put you on is exactly the same as your pre-flop 3-bet range and a big ace is going to feature in that at least as often as a big pair.

Because opponent can put you on a range of hands, his response is going to be variable and he may already be planning ahead for the turn. All in all, it’s difficult to predict the sources of gained and lost equity when you start the ball rolling with a c-bet. Rather than telling you to “play the man” or some such content-free advice, let me suggest you simplify the problem by considering the relative probabilities of meeting a check-raise versus a fold. This is because these outcomes have markedly different EV for you. A call is likely to be much closer to EV neutral for your big ace – you could outdraw opponent, you could take it down with the next barrel, you could get nastily trapped – basically a lot of stuff could happen, and assuming you and opponent don’t have appalling leaks on the turn or river, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll get the money after you’re called.

In contrast, the other outcomes have clear equity. If you’re check-raised (assuming you fold – check-raises that you call can be chucked in with the murky scenarios above) you lose your bet. If you’re folded to, you win the pot. A bit of arithmetic shows that if you c-bet the full pot you need opponent to fold more often than he check-raises, if you bet 2/3 pot you need him to fold at least 3/5 of the time and if you c-bet half the pot you need him to fold 1/3 of the time.


Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy,