Everyone knows how strongly I feel about a general game plan of bet folding at the mid stakes and low levels of live no limit. The simple fact of the matter is that people call down far too much and do not bluff enough, which is why we can continue to use this strategy over and over again for profit. But poker is a game of changing situations and variables and you must be able to adjust on the fly.
The are some players, albeit rare, that will literally “float” you on the flop—that is call with any two cards to try and take it away on the turn. Profitable floats are usually done in the right types of situations, on boards that are wet and with some chance to improve to the best hand. Sometimes, if we are really in tuned to what is going on around us we can sense when someone is about to float or more simply planning to bluff us later on in the hand. It may have been that you have some history with a certain player or that you have observed that he likes to make plays on certain types of boards or situations. So, if this is the case, should we continue our style of bet folding? Remember, that general game plan assumes that our opponents do not bluff all that often at least not enough for us to call down raises and lots of pressure post flop. But if we increase our opponents’ bluffing frequency how do we adjust? Well it is not rocket science. We have two options. We can either bet call or we can check call.
Let us take a look at an example that I played at the Commerce Casino last week at $5-$10. The player in position was a young hotshot, the type that really thinks he is a lot better than he actually is. It would not surprise me if he will be begging for a stake within the next few years. He is pretty well versed with me and has a pretty good understanding of the way I teach how to play. In this particular spot I was UTG and opened A♠ Q♠ to $35 with $1800 effective stacks. An older gentleman from MP2 called and the villain called on the button. The flop came out Q♥ 7♦ 9♥ and I made a $75 continuation bet. The older guy quickly folded and the hotshot kid paused and called. It is tough to put into words what I sensed from the way he put in his chips into the pot but our history over the last four months and the texture of the board made me instinctively think that he was going to try and make a move on me on certain turn cards. I think that he also thinks that I will continue to bet if I have something on blank turns because of the nature of the wet board. So if I check that would give him the green light to try and work his float. The turn came a pretty meaningless 2♦. In a normal situation if I were playing in a vacuum against a total unknown I would bet this card 99.99% of the time. But, I was not playing in a vacuum and had these other factors to consider. At the time I thought that the best way for me to make money was to actually check and let him fire, which is what I did, and called his $150 bet. The river brought out an innocuous 3♣ and I decided to check once again. This time the villain bet $350, I instantly called and he sheepishly turned over Kc Tc.
I was pretty happy with the way I adapted to the situation but wondered how I would play with certain scare cards that could have come on the turn. You see, if I had bet that 2♦ on the turn I do not think that he would have bluff raised me with a high frequency because I have shown a lot of strength by betting twice and the turn does not really help a drawing, non made flop hand. However let us say that the turn was a T♦, what then? In this spot I think that bet calling against this villain very well might have been the best play. It certainly is higher variance and you may end up playing large pot with just one pair. The reason why I might not check there is because a lot of other people do. Whenever a draw comes in they fall into check-call mode for kind of a reverse pot control line. However you would rarely see them check a blank deuce because they want to protect their hand against a “bad beat”.
Another reason why I may choose to bet this T is the fact that it does actually pair up my opponent a fair amount or give him additional equity in the hand. I want the value I get from a call on the turn and do not want to allow him to check back—something that he would not do if he had a gutshot and we checked that blank deuce.
Now let us say that you do not having anything and you suspect that someone might be floating you or taking off light and that blank does come on the turn like in the above example but we have KT. We should bet a fair amount to get the guy off of his floats. For the same reason we check to induce a bluff here we bet because we look strong. This can be actually directly applicable to “one and done” continuation bet boards. The boards that I am talking about are usually disconnected, drawless, high card, low low boards like A 7 2 rainbow or K 8 3 rainbow. These are great boards to continuation bet bluff because it is difficult for your opponent to continue on unless they flopped top pair. When they call you, against most competition, you probably should shut it down, as they are likely to have at least that top pair. However, if you are up against a guy who you think may be floating you or a guy that likes to take off with any piece of the flop you actually should double barrel more. And even though it seems a little backwards if you had a hand like say KQ, you could actually consider checking the turn and inducing a bluff.
The point of this article is that if you want to become a truly great no limit player you always have to be paying attention to your opponents and their tendencies. Use the information and make the proper adjustments. Also recognize that player do not always play the same all of the time. Some might play vastly different when they are winning versus when they are tilting and losing. Usually when they are on the losing side they tend to force the issue and make bad bluffs.