Building a Pot and Taking it Down

I played this hand earlier today in a 100K 9-handed SnG. It shows the value of building a pot on early streets with moderate bet sizing when you have a draw so that you can play for stacks (or close to it) on the river, either for value when your draw comes in, or as a bluff when it doesn’t.

To start, we’re 8-handed with 30-60 blinds. The action folds to V in the cutoff with a stack of 2535. He flats, then it folds to me in the big blind.

Instead of checking my option here, I decide to bump it up to 200 holding KhTh. This is probably a bit loose, but with suited broadways, I want to put pressure on some of the low-to-mid pocket pairs that may have a difficult time continuing on most boards, not to mention unmade preflop hands. V calls, and we go heads up to the flop.

The flop comes 6d8hJh, giving me the second nut flush draw. I c-bet 180 into a pot of 430 given my second nut flush draw and range advantage. V calls.

The turn is (6d8hJh)As, giving me a backdoor Broadway draw to go along with my second nut flush draw. I bet 350 into a pot of 790, and get called.

Old Man River gives me the card I was looking for - (6d8hJhAs)9h. I lead out for 950 into a pot of 1490; V has 1805 and decides to jam. With the second nut flush and blocking any potential straight flush, I insta-call and scoop a pot of 5100, knocking V, who had A9o, out of the tournament.

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On this site, that’s a futile gesture. I just played QT against 44, losing the hand, missing the board (1 card off a straight, at least), and they called every big bet I fired off until I was all-in.

https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/527036782

The only thing that matters is if you hit the best hand. No one folds anything. Every hand is 9-way all-in every time, and whoever holds the weakest preflop rivers a beast. That’s replay.

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I think you played this well Mr. coder, But I would like to say, that V here is 15k plus ranking, and that your scary players (Taberry & Crosby) folded early, had either or both stayed in I am sure you would have been much tighter or possibly passive with checking, you caught a great river & he caught a river that made him miss the flush possibility (tunnel vision no doubt) I might have played it tighter than you, but it is a great display of pot building in the technical sense.

I do feel that Puggy is being critical with his critique of this, by summarizing the whole site, rather than the generalization of the tables he plays, maybe he is going thru a bad spell, I know I went through one a few months back that soured me for a while, but I took some down time (other than 2 games per day for a month) and I have recovered my more positive attitude and paid closer attention to other peoples hands because of it.
I might be able to pull a helpful posting out of this. hmm. What do you think about info on other players hand possibility’s and how to read them, as a topic?

I meant to go into a bit more depth in the original post about how taking an aggressive line on early streets resulted in the all-in situation. Better late than never, I suppose…

What if V had opened to 180 (3BB) from the cutoff? In that case, I probably call to close the action preflop rather than 3-betting and having to fold to a 4-bet, or call and play a bloated pot with a relatively weak hand out of position postflop. Then, on the flop, I’d check my option, and if V checked behind (as he should, since this flop completely missed him), we’d start the action on the turn with a pot of 390 - roughly half as large as the 790 that was in the pot as it played out. The rest of the action likely would have proceeded similarly, though his raise on the river may not have put himself all-in owing to the smaller pot size. V’s decision to limp preflop instead of raising resulted in an early exit from this tournament. Moral of the story here: Open your hands preflop instead of limping them.

What if I had taken a more passive line and checked my option preflop? Once the flop falls, although I have a very strong draw, I dislike leading out here. I’d rather play this as a check-raise… but considering the flop missed V, it would probably end up getting checked behind as well. We’d head to the turn with a pot of only 150 - less than 20% of the actual 790-chip turn. Moral of the story here: By opening strong hands preflop, we begin the process of building an attractive pot.

Thinking about this more, I like my decision to open it up to 200 (a bit over 3BB) with KTs here. I’ll be able to c-bet a lot of flops. If my hand pairs, I’ll likely have top or middle pair. Otherwise, most boards will give me a straight draw, a flush draw, or backdoor draws for both. If I completely whiff, I can check-fold, and maybe balance that with check-raises when I catch top two pair. Yes, it sucks to be out of position postflop. However, by taking this aggressive line preflop, it gives me more control of the action postflop, even when I’m up against a calling station. Moral of the story here: Opening hands instead of limping/checking gives you better control of the action, even when you’re out of position.

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Puggy, your hand selection and bet sizing on every street is pretty awful here.

7-handed, QTo is a fold UTG. If you decide to get frisky and open it up, you need to use a larger size, closer to 3BB, since you (should) have a very strong range and you want to get value from players who decide to call/3-bet.

You can’t get much more disconnected a board than K72 rainbow. If you c-bet here, it should be small. You’re clearly continuing with (nearly?) your entire open range, so a smaller size will help protect you when you’re bluffing. Also, you need to consider the effective stack size. When you bet the pot here, it sets up a situation where your turn jam is only about half the pot. By betting smaller on the flop on this disconnected board, it gives you way more leverage on later streets. A quarter-pot bet would have resulted in a turn pot of around 600, and you would have had about 1000 left behind. That jam would have been much tougher for your opponent to call off.

Sure, we could argue that mmp shouldn’t have called. Maybe next time you’ll take the same line with AK and double-up. However, bet sizing seems to be a big hole in your game. Betting with appropriate sizing makes puts our competitors to the test and maximizes EV.

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Right, it’s an air bluff all the way, and by the river I was content to lose the hand and the game… to a pair of Kings. Instead, 44 called a pot sized bet on the flop and didn’t care that I was all-in with three overcards on the board. It’s utterly ridiculous. Never mind that I shouldn’t have been playing here, I know that. But getting beat by a pair of 4s is sick.

From here, I go on to lose a million chips over my next 12 games, throwing away chips any time I lose a hand I felt like I should have won, because I’m immediately disgusted at the game and stop wanting to play, and the quickest way to do it is to throw away the chips. What’s the point of building a 11k stack when you get set up and beat for 2/3 of it in one hand when it’s still 5-up, and you’re left with no chance of still getting into the money again and again? Because someone made a stupid call and ends up rivering their 4-outer?

Do you think I need someone to point out that I’m playing terrible? I think I know that.

I’m taking a break again, except for league play, and I’ll come back to the game when I feel like I can play with detachment instead of anger.

I don’t know anything about bet sizing, or strategy, or good ranges. I’m only as good as the hand I’m dealt, nothing more. And that’s the way it is in a game where no one ever folds, you can’t hit the flop more than 1-in-8, your draws miss 6/7 of the time, and the river always favors the weaker hand.

Nevermind that you shouldn’t have been in the hand? Nevermind? That’s the lesson here, and one you would do well to mind.

Those 4s were the best hand preflop, flop, turn, river and at showdown.

You bet small when you connect and big when you don’t.

You continue to blame your mistakes on everyone else and on the RNG. You will never get better if you keep doing that.

You are playing bad and running bad, but don’t have the sense to stop and regroup. Ten more games in a row you play that way? Ten? Not one, then call it a day, not two, trying something else to turn it around, but ten?

Why do you bluff at people who won’t fold? It’s their fault you read the table, then ignore your own reads? Then you post it here and complain when someone tries to help. Pug, I love ya man, but that’s beyond pathetic.

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The advice doesn’t help. It’s not advice.

Telling me that my bet sizing is exploitable, without explaining why, how, and what to do about it doesn’t help. It’s just the same thing I’ve heard off and on for months. I guess it’s up to me to figure out what it means and what to do.

I did step away from the game, and I went right back to it, night after night, until tonight, when I decided to take an extended break.

Walk me through the hand from the perspective of 44, and explain to me why it was right to call each street. Maybe he was ahead from preflop to river, but HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT playing 44 on a board with three overcards and someone betting like they have at least one of them?

I get low pairs, see a flop, and if no one bets I might bet if I don’t hit a set, but usually someone bets and I dump the hand.

If they bet small maybe I call, and about 1 in 20 maybe I hit a set by the river and win. 1 in 4, they hit a monster flop and didn’t want to scare anyone while building a bigger pot. One in 100 I call someone bluffing two high cards and get lucky when the board misses them. Usually not though. Usually someone hits, and that’s it for my chances of taking the hand.

I see people who won’t let go of bottom pair all the time, it’s some kind of great secret that bottom pair wins half of the time because 50% of all hands are high card. Right? Which is why you should always call with bottom pair, no matter what, when you’re not multi way?

What’s enraging about it isn’t just that I get beat by someone making calls they shouldn’t make, it’s that when I go and do the same thing, I also lose.

And then it happens for 3-4 days in a row, until the RNG starts deciding to let some of my hole cards match the board, and then I go back to winning again.

Wow, i have a pair, and pairs are good! That flop didn’t help me, but I have a pair and pairs are good! I might make quads, and boy, are those good! What does Pug have? How would I know, I’m not a mind reader. All I know is that I have a pair, and pairs are good. Or…

Why would he bet so much on the flop if he had a king or better? His line makes no sense, I’m probably good here. I’ve seen him bet big when he blanks, he usually bets less when he hits the flop. I’m not folding what’s probably the best hand to an obvious bluff.

You show clear and easy to read betting patterns. If you have identified someone who won’t fold, stuff bluffing at them.

Yes, it’s clearly the RNG’s fault. It’s the people who refuse to lay down the best hand when faced with an obvious bluff’s fault. Maybe it’s Trump’s fault! It couldn’t possibly be something you are doing wrong.

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Or you could say, “I don’t understand what, specifically, was wrong about it. Could you please explain it in more detail for me?”

And, by the way, it was explained to you. Your big bet on the flop (relative to your stack) didn’t leave you enough to make a meaningful shove on the turn.

Here’s your basic problem: me and others give you advice. You say, Thanks, that will help my game a lot." And it does. You then go on a rampage and have a great month.

All of a sudden, you get what Dayman called a “Superman Complex.” You can do no wrong, you’re a poker god. Only the other players didn’t get the memo. You play too many hands, and when you get beat, it’s because the RNG hates you or people don’t know when to fold, or whatever.

You abandon what works and think everything you do will work, in any situation, against any opponent. And when it doesn’t, you melt down and start playing like, well, like you play when you lose a lot. Think about it.

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Accurate.

Sometimes I do bet big when I hit the flop, though. I thought I was a little less transparent than that.
I don’t have reads on the small pairs who call anything, and I usually don’t bluff three barrels, if I’m going to bluff, which I rarely do anymore. This hand was an exception, and I knew by the end I had played a loser, it just got to me that it was 44 that called. That really turned my crank.

I dunno if they had notes on me or what, maybe that would explain it if they did. It sure put me on tilt though, and went straight into a 3- or 4-day run of missing just about every flop I paid to see. that’s what I meant by complaining about the RNG. Statistically, you’re supposed to hit a flop about 1-in-3, and I know that doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to it, but when I go 0-for-Big on 6-7 consecutive games, it sure seems like something’s up.

That, and a couple of come from behinds that knocked me out of games where I thought I was going to see some chips back, really hacked me off.

It cost about 1M chips again to ride out the slide. I’ll get it back. I just needed to win 1-2 games this week and it wouldn’t have gotten to me.

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I’ll take a crack at this. Please note: I am truly trying to help, as I enjoy watching your game (and results) continue to improve, so these criticisms are meant to be constructive. If you’re not ready to hear them, by all means, step away for a few days and clear your head. With that metaphorical throat clearing out of the way…

Pug, I recognize you are often going to continuation-bet the flop after you open and I call preflop. As a result, I’ll only call preflop if I’m prepared to call at least one street, even if I don’t significantly improve.

Holding pocket fours, I might flat you preflop, and with the logic outlined in the previous paragraph, insta-call your flop bet. Facing a half-pot turn bet, I need to ask myself whether you’re bluffing more than 1/4 of the time. Since you probably are, my turn call is probably +cEV.

To counteract this, c-bet smaller on flops where you’ll c-bet with more of your range. Also, figure out what type of boards you WOULDN’T c-bet… and don’t c-bet them! Show that you’re playing a more balanced game, and players will respect your actions and give you more leeway, which you can then exploit.

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I concur with this, but think this needs to be added: It takes a LONG TIME for people to both NOTICE and REACT to any changes you make in your “standard operating procedures.” The regulars you play against will sort of notice that “something is different,” but not really be sure what it is at first. It may take a month or two for them to isolate and adjust their responses to your actions. The players you see less often will take longer to notice and react. How long does it take? I have player notes on a bit over 7300 players, about one third of whom I haven’t seen on a table since 2017. If even a few of them have notes on me, their notes–like my notes on them–are probably outdated and no longer completely valid. But, they’re better than no notes at all. Expect your opponents to react and adjust to your new, improved style over a several month period of time. The good news is that will give you an advantage while they are still behind the curve. Once they catch up,things will level off again, but at a higher “current average.”

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Thanks… and I’m sorry for being cranky in my previous responses in this thread. I’m in a better mood from winning my last game. I need to re-focus on keeping my cool during skids.

(As an aside, in that game I won, my game turned around on a hand I’ve seen all too many times – first hand after the hour break, I get dealt A9s, the stack-to-blinds ratio demands I muck or shove, I choose to shove. Last to act holds QQ (I have an uncanny knack for shoving into big pairs, it is sick, and starting to feel like a curse, and I don’t believe in curses, although I scream them frequently.) Of course they call. Flop gave me trip 9s, I end up 9s full of 6s, and took nearly the entire stack away from the villain, and for the first time all game (it seemed) I finally had a stack significantly bigger than the starting stack. Time and time again I’ve had hands like that where I got killed running something playable into a pocket monster when the situation demanded that I open-shove due to the blinds being so big.)

So I need to ask a few things about your advice, if I’m going to make sense of it:

Are you saying “you” as a generic you, or me specifically?

I think it makes pretty good sense to only play hands that you’re willing to call at least one street even if your hand doesn’t improve.

I don’t play that way, myself. I re-evaluate every street, and don’t decide to automatically call no matter what.

Not as a general rule, at least. Maybe situationally, or with certain hands, but even then I’ll have to think hard about folding good hands where the flop is terrible for me, wrong-suited, paired boards that hit my opponent’s range for trips or quads, straight flops, etc.

Regardless, I don’t consider 44 such a hand, and I don’t think it should be for most people. 44 is a “hope you see a cheap flop, and dump if you don’t hit a set if someone bets big” type of hand for me, and I think for most players.

In that hand, I was fully resigned to be up against a weak King and lose, and I didn’t care if I lost the hand that way. That would have made sense, and I would have thought “yeah, you picked a bad hand to bluff on, oh well, and moved on.”

I’m having a hard time understanding what you’re saying here.

First, I want to make sure I understand the concept of continuation betting. As I use the term, it means betting on the next street after opening/raising; normally on the flop, after raising or opening the preflop action.

I think about a continuation bet as a representation of your confidence that your hand is still good after gaining the information provided by the next card dealt to the board, and this representation may be justified by the cards you’re holding, OR it may be a bluff.

What I’m not sure about is whether people generally allow that a c-bet may be a bluff, a semi-bluff, or a value bet. Do they? Or are some situations where you bet again after you opened/raise not considered continuation bets, because you hit a legitimate hand and now it’s considered a value bet? Or can a bet be both a continuation bet and a value bet?

@SunPowerGuru pointed out that he sees that I tend to bet bigger when I’m bluffing, and smaller when I have a hand, and that’s exploitable. That’s somewhat true, but it’s not the whole story. I also bet bigger to hopefully make it too expensive for draw hands to continue. So it depends on the board texture. I don’t think I want to say much more than that, but I think anyone who has a decent grasp of the game has an idea of what I’m getting at.

It also depends on how late in the game it is. My bet sizing in the early game is not the same as in the late game.

It also depends on the size of my stack, my opponents stack(s), and the size of the blinds. In the early game, the small sizing of the blinds and the relatively large stack-to-blinds ratio gives you the most leeway to adjust bet sizing; as the blinds come up, I feel more constrained in how I can bet, unless I have a dominating stack advantage.

It also depends on my opponent, if I’m familiar with the way they play.

I try to vary this up, too. Sometimes I’ll bet small with my stronger hands, and bigger with my marginal hands, including bluffs. But sometimes I’ll bet my big hands bigger, too. I tend to vary this mostly according to how I read my opponents, though, and not so much randomly, and maybe that’s why SPG sees the tendency in my game that he’s seeing.

So I need to understand why I should c-bet smaller. Is it:

  • To limit my loss when I end up losing the showdown, or have to give up the hand in the face of a raise?
  • To increase the likelihood that opponents will fold, reading the small bet as me having a better hand?
  • To disguise my hand strength in all situations, because I should bet the same in every situation so that my opponents can’t tell what I actually have?
  • Some other reason I haven’t considered?

Well, OK what’s your actual recommendation there? I take it here, you’re referring to any c-bet as a bluff, or semi-bluff, and not a value bet.

Either, tell me an example range/board texture that I shouldn’t be c-betting, OR tell me how to figure this out, depending on (I dunno, I guess whatever factors play in to the style of game I want to play?).

I can see a situation like: On AA, preflop raise big, get a call, flop comes up with KK7. Should I c-bet with the Aces? Or give my opponent credit for probably having a King, now trips, and just check? Or should I go ahead and bet it, because now I have AAKK, which is pretty strong after all, and maybe rep that I have the trip or quad Kings? Should I c-bet AA into a wrong-suited flop?

I don’t take you to mean “never bluff when c-betting”. Bluffs are a part of the game, and you should bluff. And maybe you’re saying c-bet is a class of bluff, and a bet when you have a hand is not a c-bet by definition?

But you should bluff effectively, and that means bluffing selectively.

So… probably good advice on bluffing:

  • Make sure the story you’re telling with your betting makes sense, in order to be credible. Don’t bluff the flop, check the turn, then come back and try to bluff the river just because your opponent checked. If you actually hit the river, and it’s good enough that it could win the hand, then value bet it. What does a good betting story look like?
  • Infrequently. Unless the table is very soft and you can get away with frequent bluffing. But be sure to re-set your expectations when tables change.
  • With fewer players in the pot. Bluffing is a bad move in most multi-way hands. Even if there’s no betting on 2 consecutive streets, it’s very common for someone to have an underpair, and will call even though they’re afraid to bet. You can fold one or two players, but three or more… well, you still can, sometimes, but it’s a lot less likely.
  • Don’t bluff against calling stations.
  • Give up if your opponent raises.
  • Give up most of the time if your opponent calls on two consecutive streets… and if you do two- or three-barrel bluff, size so that final barrel isn’t an automatic call.
  • Bluff from later position, to no action ahead of you. But not every time, because that invites check-raisers to trap you.
  • But recognize that some players will read a last-to-act bet as a bluff and call it no matter what, and strong players will often sleep strong hands so they can check-raise.
  • Heads-up, you can often take the hand by preemptively betting from the early position, on the theory that the opponent will miss 2/3 of flops, and will have to fold enough of the time to make this play profitable. So early position can be advantageous.
  • Bluff scary boards (paired boards, suited boards, sequenced boards) sometimes
  • Think twice about bluffing players who’s stacks have yours covered, or dominated. Bluff more (bully) when you have the bigger stack, and when you’re roughly even.
  • Bluff more near the bubble in a tournament, since players are often playing tighter here, trying to keep their chips so they can survive and win chips out of the tournament.
  • Don’t bluff shove very often, if ever. Preflop shoves aren’t bluffs, they’re straight-up gambles, unless you’re on a big pair, late in the game. If your game strategy depends on shoving a lot with big hands pre-flop, it might get you more value to bluff shove junk early, and show it, to encourage opponents to call when you have it. This move really can annoy someone who layed down a good hand, and lead them to make mistakes later This is high variance play, but can be effective for risk-friendly styles of play.
  • Figure out the bet size your opponent is likely to give credit to. Do they read big bets as bluffs? Bet smaller. Do they call anything small since they can afford to and maybe hit a draw? Do they tend to play too tight/conservative, folding to bigger bets? Bluff big.
  • Big bets are usually harder to call, all things being equal, but of course this is balanced by the increased risk when you do get called.
  • It’s often better to build the pot before you make your hand, because once you do, if it’s obvious that you’ve filled your draw, or just improved, it’s harder to get calls. But pot-building isn’t bluffing. The goal of a bluff is to end the hand, avoiding a showdown. That’s the opposite of betting on a draw. Betting on draws is profitable if A) you hit the draw, B) your opponent folds to the bet enough that it works functionally like a bluff.
  • Size the bet so that you can get out of the hand if you have to, and so you can get all-in and make it require a lot of thought to call if you need to.
  • Risky, but can be effective to raise action ahead of you if it’s soft. But it’s best to raise legitimate strong hands. But… if you do that, you might freeze the action when you really want your opponents throwing in more chips, not folding. So maybe raise into weak betting with marginal hands? If you’re sensing a timid, tentative opponent is fishing for information, tell them you’re very interested in the pot.

What else?

Puggy, if you’re actually doing all that, my hat’s off to the Duke. The only thing I see missing is emotional control so you don’t melt down when running bad. Great start!

I was referring to you specifically, commenting on tendencies I’ve observed from you that could lead to V taking this line.

The comment about taking each street as it comes is actually a DEFECT in your strategy, not a strength. Good players have a plan for later streets based on the actions they’ve already taken. I allude to this in an earlier post:

Here, I’m already anticipating the types of flops that I should c-bet, and where I should check, when I bet with this hand preflop. Sure, I can reevaluate this plan depending on what falls, but it helps to proactively visualize the actions you’ll take based on potential runouts. This is actually much easier postflop, since the board is already well defined; preflop ranges are designed to capture this information to guide you towards appropriate preflop actions.

Let’s use the hand that started this thread as an example. The flop brings me the second nut flush draw and back door straight draw. What potential turns/rivers are good for me at this point in the hand? Obviously, Ah would give me the nuts, but that’s only one of the 47 cards I haven’t yet seen. Any of the 8 other hearts would give me a flush, though I might be wary of 6h which would pair the board and make boats possible. The three tens would give me second pair/second kicker and the three kings would give me top pair/third kicker. An offsuit 7, 9, Q, or A (12 cards) would give me an inside straight draw and more outs against a made hand. That’s a total of 27 potential turns that would be decent for my hand - more than half the remaining unseen cards. Because so much of the deck is good for me, I want to bet the flop and build the pot. Understanding potential runouts is key to my decision to c-bet here.

Now that I’ve decided to bet this flop, it’s fair to ask what other hands I would have that would also bet this flop. We can ignore all the hands that wouldn’t have raised preflop to 200, so that will cut down on my work. T9s has an OESD, so that’s good. Any combo with a J - maybe QJo, JTs, AJ - has top pair. QQ, KK, AA have overpairs. TT and 99 might be ahead of V and will want to deny equity from overcards. Suited Broadways with hearts and diamonds are good to continue for the reasons outlined above. Everything else can check - and will be balanced by my ultra-strong JJ and 88, which have made top and middle set.

The vast majority of my range here is continuing with hands much stronger than my opponent’s range. There are a few draws out there (T9, 97, heart flush), but not many, particularly since I block many of the flush combos he could have. Using a roughly half-pot bet should fold out the weaker draws while keeping most of the made hands in that I can then target on later streets.

On more-connected and higher boards, you’ll want to use a larger sizing when you decide to continue. For example, if the flop had come QhJhTs, I’d bet closer to pot with bottom pair and OESFD. There are a huge number of draws out there and I’ll have a lot of value (Broadway, all sets, TPTK) here compared to my opponent.

A big reason to c-bet that I didn’t see you list (apologies if I missed it) is to deny equity from drawing hands. You don’t want opponents to catch their draws for free. On dry boards, draws will be much more sparse - low-equity backdoor stuff - so you can effectively deny equity and put those draws in a tough position with a much smaller bet. You don’t want to be in a spot where you only get called by better hands, while folding out everything weaker.

There’s a world of difference between knowing what to do, doing it, and doing it well, and in the right situation. But I’m trying.

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This morning I played the 100K bounty tournament. En route to a first place finish, I collected 14 of the 28 bounties, including my own. While I certainly caught a lot of good cards, building a pot through aggressive action on early streets was key to my win.

Knowing how to size your bets appropriately (with an eye toward stack sizes) is probably more important in bounty tournaments than any other structure. The presence of the bounties makes it more difficult to bluff when short-stacked due to ICM considerations. As a result, you’ll want to size down your bets when you’re covered by active villains on early streets so that turn/river jams are closer to the size of the pot, or overbets. It also makes large-stack decisions trickier - calls that are -cEV may be +$EV. As a result, chip leaders tend to fluctuate fairly rapidly compared to other tournament styles.

All in all, I enjoy the format. It just sucks having to wake up at 3:30AM in order to play a bounty tournament at my stake level.

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