Post Flop Range Construction

OK, this will be a bit of a stretch, but I thought I’d try and slowly post some stuff on post flop range construction, and invite any others that would like to do the same. I feel I’m a bit out of my league here, as I’m really an old school player that picked up most of my poker habits a decade ago and more, but hey, this will probably help me, too.

So maybe once a week or so I’ll try to look at what I think is the heart of poker: carving up your range into hands you’ll play different ways. You arrived at a given street with a range of cards the would have been played that way up to that point, and now you need to decide whether to check, bet or fold, and if betting, you need to decide on the right sizing.

In the past, most books examined this question largely in isolation: what hand do I have now, and what is it incentivized to do? I think this is still a fairly optimal approach against players that don’t pay careful attention to the betting patterns of their opponent’s, and especially opponents that are not very good at inferring ranges from lines taken, but if you aspire to play against really strong players, always playing your hands in a manner that is in the best interest of the individual hand makes it much easier to zoom in a bit on your ranges, and also tends to leave you in very unbalanced spots often, which can usually be exploited by stronger players.

So in this thread I’ll try to dive a bit more into what to do with your range in various spots, often considering things like:

  • who’s range does the board generally favor?
  • how many opponents do we have?
  • is either player’s range capped or condensed to any degree?
  • who has the nut advantage?
  • how big are stacks in relation to the pot?

After considering things of that sort, we want to decide on a broad multi-street line. That line should include branches, as opponent actions and subsequent cards can drastically alter all of the bullets above; but we still want to be thinking ahead, and deciding on what the likely plan is on future streets.

Disclaimer: I’m going to make mistakes here. Please feel free to share your opinions on what those mistakes are, and what you think might be a better line of play, and why.

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I’ll start to taking a look at the following hand:

https://www.replaypoker.com/replay/751059857/three-of-a-kind-kings

Some strong players will open really wide from almost any position. I haven’t played against CKEnvoy a huge amount, but I don’t generally put him in that bucket, and think he is reasonably solid with his opening ranges, and so from seat 5 (UG+1) I’d have been expecting him to open a range looking something like the following with stacks of roughly 100 big blinds effective (CK has more than that, but his opponent’s stack is smaller):

image

We end up seeing that CK has a hand outside of that range, KdJh, and so I’ll expand him to a lowjack range, assuming he had reasons to feel opening wider at the table was likely to be profitable.

image

His opponent now calls from the small blind, and the big blind folds. What should the small blind range look like?

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The hands in red are value 3 bets, and the hands in blue bluff 3 bets, for a polarized 3 betting range. The hands in green then are his flatting range, and plzfold’s call with Ts9s is within a standard flatting range here.

Now the flop comes Ks6sKh.

  • paired board: generally leads to the pre-flop raiser betting smaller with a large part of their range
  • two tone board, creating flush draws, and again often leading to smaller bets on the flop, I imagine because it diminishes the equity advantage of the pre-flop raiser somewhat, and also gives the defender some more nutted hands by the turn
  • range advantage: note that the small blind has a pretty strong range here, but that the early raiser still has more combinations of kings, and especially still has KK still in their range, creating both a small equity advantage, and a larger nut advantage

The small blind checks on this flop, which you’d probably expect them to do with 100% of their range here.

What should CK do? If the defender had been the big blind, you’d expect this flop to have completely missed their range most of the time, but the small blind should be defending with a much stronger range that will have a lot more hands that can continue to a bet. So against a big blind defend, I’d be torn between either checking my entire range, or betting very small (around 20% of pot) with my entire range, but against the small blind, I’d either bet slightly larger with my entire range (25% to 30%), or split my range between checks and 40% bets. I don’t have a solver, and so I’m really not sure which it would recommend, or in fact if different solvers would reach the same conclusion here.

CK opts to bet $600 into the $1,600 pot, 37.5% of pot. This is a large enough size that I suspect he is probably not betting 100% of his range here, but still small enough that I also wouldn’t rule that out completely. If he had bet 45% to 60% of pot, I’d be reasonably confident that he was splitting his range between bets and checks. So if splitting, what hands do you bet, and what hands do you check?

  • bet strong hands: any king and AA
  • bet draws: flush draws, including back door
  • include strong hands in checking range: pocket pairs QQ and lower
  • check the trash

CK actually has a hand in the first class, and now bets. He does have one of the weaker kings he might wind up with, but also unblocks the flush draws, making him more likely to want to continue if the small blind gets active. Note of course that his bet is small enough that it is not very polarizing, and so he may be betting much of his trash and middle strength hands here also.

The small blind has an obvious bluffing candidate, and chooses to fire a roughly pot sized raise, and after CK calls, I think it is a good exercise to go back to the starting ranges, and think about what hands likely get played this way so far.

For CK, I think responding to the check raise with a call gets rid of almost all his pure junk, but leaves him with many of his bluff catchers and pretty much all of his strongest value hands. I think it also eliminates most of CK’s bluffs, as the stack to pot ratio is a little over 2 to 1 (8.4 million pot with $18.2 million left behind), limiting his implied odds with draws. So I’d guess his calling range looks something like:

image

What about plzfold? What does he get to the turn with? It feels like he is likely to be bluff heavy, especially as 66 is outside of the normal small blind defend range (though it may well be in his). So that leaves him with all of his kings, most of his flush draws, and possibly some back door flush straight draws.

image

I also wanted to continue briefly on with the flop, considering the check raise at the end: what factors make you want to do this, and what factors are diminishing desire to take this line?

  • It’s the bottom of range, and so benefits most from a bluff
  • AsQs and QsJs have better back door straight outs, but both also have more showdown value (especially the first), so Ts9s seems likely to be the flush draw we would take this check raise line with the highest percentage of the time.
  • The paired board reduces our incentive to bluff by creating large reverse implied odds, where some “outs” leave the opponent with quads or a full house that we lose to anyway (and opens up the possibility that we are already drawing dead or nearly dead against KK or 66).
  • Is the bet we’re facing polarizing? If we assume it is not, then a check raise is more attractive, as we might assume we are up against a lot of weaker hands that are just betting any paired board (think any broadway holding without a king), giving us better fold equity.

The bet sizing is slightly unfavorable, as it opens up the possibility that we are facing a tighter, more polarized range, but it is still small enough that I’d mostly assume there are a reasonably high percentage of hands ahead of us that are still weak enough to fold. The fact that the board is paired would make me want to drop my bluffing frequency with a lot of my flush draws, especially ace high (some showdown value). But on the whole, I think I’d still be making the check raise most of the time with this specific holding.

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Quick revision on the ranges: I think KK specifically likely gets split between betting and checking, probably checking a significant majority of the time, unless we’re going for a smaller flop continuation bet. I’d personally bet 66 for three streets on most run-outs, most of the time, possibly polarizing on the flop with a larger bet (mostly targeting any king or pair that feels sticky), aiming for stacks.

If I decide this is in my construction, then I also want to find some large bluffs, if I want to be balanced in this spot. The truth of course is that I’m not always balanced; so when do I mostly want to be? I think mostly against stronger players that I expect to play a large number of hands with.

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OK, final thoughts on this specific hand. On the flop, what is the multi-street plan for each player?

As the small blind check raises with a fairly polarizing size, I think they are mostly looking to get stacks in when they hit a flush, and to also either over bet jam the turn, or to go for more geometric sizing with a smaller turn bet and then all in on the river, leaving enough behind so that the river bet maintains a fair amount of fold equity (maybe an 80% pot bet). They also should be putting on the breaks some of the time. There are also cards that really reduce the value of the flush draw (think another king, or anything that puts a second pair on the board), so I’d be inclined to check all K and 6 turns most of the time, and to bet the turn roughly 60% of the time on other turns (and maybe 90% or so with a 7 or 8 hitting the board). On the river, if another pair or king has still not appeared, I’d then generally want to bet most of the time I had a flush, and 50% of the time that I had missed. I’d cut back on firing the third bullet when I missed, as I think in general I arrive at the river with too many missed draws, and don’t want to be betting all of them.

For KJo, after calling the check raise, with a middling king, I think I’m mostly inclined to just call down turn and river bets. I’ll be behind to the river bet a fair amount of the time, but I think it is still an easy call. If the small blind hits the breaks at any point, I’m probably going to take the lead again, maybe with about 60% pot on the turn, and a bit smaller than that on the river. It was interesting to see CK check raise the turn all in. Given that he got called by what had to be close to the worst hand in the small blind range, I have to think he made the highest EV play. Often I default to thinking that I don’t want to attack a highly polarized range, the thought being that the bluffs just fold, and you mostly get called by hands that beat you. But here, the pot sizing on the turn chosen by the small blind probably commits them to the pot (if the board was not paired, they would clearly be pot committed, and even with the pair, I think they might be forced to call).

I probably won’t post another hand break down on this thread for a week or so. I invite others to comment on this analysis, or to create an example of their own on how they might approach breaking their post flop range into different lines.

Yikes - this hand is kind of a train wreck technically. IMO no one is considering ranges at all here. What are you trying to do by breaking it down? Looking for more efficient lines if you were to play it from either position?

I actually hadn’t thought this was a train wreck, and so would enjoy your thoughts on the major mistakes. The only thing I really didn’t like was the small blind turn sizing.

But in this thread I’m really less interested in the plays made than in the question of, how will you play your whole range?

  • What hands do you want to bluff with?
  • What hands do you want to value bet?
  • What should you be checking?
  • When should I c-bet 100% of my range?
  • What are good bet sizes?
  • Should I split my range between different sizes?

For those questions, the actual play doesn’t matter, but serves as a way of providing a lively back drop to the range construction question.

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Here’s another recent interesting hand. Happy to have others comment on it. I’ll probably leave it alone until next week.

https://www.replaypoker.com/replay/751299529/two-pair-aces-and-eights

You said you don’t have a solver. Do you have Flopzilla? It would be helpful to have some tool that we can use to show range construction, equity advantage, nut advantage … Some of the questions posed aren’t answerable to any great degree of accuracy without solver work but we can go over generalizations. You can get a free copy of Simple Postflop or Piosolver for turn and river solves and that might be helpful as well - especially if you use a merged strategy on most flops (you can without losing too much EV).

As to the “errors”, there are a bunch. If we assume preflop is ok (meh), and that the x/r on the flop with this hand is appropriate (meh), the size of the raise is massively inefficient. This is compounded on the turn where OOP should be checking 100% of his range given the previous action. When trying to play range v range, you have to be cognizant of relative equities. In the situation above, IP now has the equity advantage which leads to a 100% checking range on the turn for OOP. The x/r contains value and bluffs while the IP call has shed its bluffs.

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Thumbs up on that. I wasn’t really appreciating the size of the equity shift after IP calls the check raise, and thought there should still be some bluffs that continue, though I felt very uncertain about which ones. I’m surprised OOP is 100% checks at equilibrium on the turn.

That said, while I have a lot of respect for CK’s game, I think he is human rather than a bot driven by a massive super computer, and will not be perfectly implementing an equilibrium strategy. If he is over folding, as is typical in the general population, then I think that allows some bluffs to be profitably brought back in. That said, I’d guess CK does not over fold as egregiously as most, and I personally would be hoping to stick to solver play against him as much as I could.

I do use Flopzilla occasionally, but I’m mostly just reading books, watching YouTube bits, or thinking about the game as I go for hikes, remembering some of the horrible plays I’ve recently made in real time.

  1. Bad choice of words by me - all of IP’s air is gone, not all bluffs. This is a board that IP should bet with range for a small size vs SB range. Therefore it is still a 100% range on the flop. Vs the x/r, all the low/no equity hands get dumped.
  2. I only ran the turn solve for this specific card. There could be turns that are not checked 100%. Lots of assumptions go into this but the general point is that an equity shift does occur at equilibrium and it is significant.
  3. If CK is folding more than equilibrium, then the turn bet becomes worse - betting into a an even stronger range. The larger than optimal size of the raise further compounds this.

I find visual representations to be helpful when I’m trying to learn. Whether its through Flopzilla or the FTT range analyzer you used in your posts, I think it would be helpful to lay out the ranges you’d have at each decision point. It is especially important to do on boards where many people would struggle to find enough bluffs (dry, like this one). We can’t just say we’ll semi-bluff all our flush draws because that leaves us screwed when we just call and a flush completing card comes in. We have to balance our actions and are limited by the number of value combos we can have in any situation. IMO, there just aren’t enough value combos to have much of a x/r range on this flop vs EP open.

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This article/video just came out from Upswing Poker - it might be helpful for people who are interested in learning more about thinking in terms of range vs range. It also gives good summaries of playing in position vs out of position and of SPR’s. Gary Blackwood is an awesome coach.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself in Every Postflop Poker Hand - Upswing Poker

If anyone wants to play around with the range v range tool in the video, they can get a 21 day free trial:

The Poker analysis tool for you to excel at Poker (pokerranger.com)

OK, a bit of a delay here. Some other topics felt more interesting, and I didn’t end up having as much time to devote to this. Also, in all honesty, this thread is too hard. I don’t really have any idea what I should do post flop, LOL, and so it is easier to procrastinate a thread like this.

Anyway, here’s a recent hand on a 6 max table, where I’ll hide player identities.

The Low Jack (effectively the under the gun seat on a 6 max table), one of the strongest players on the site, open limps. Yes, I don’t really care for this play, but hey, this player is very strong, the rake here is quite small, and really 3 betting frequencies are just too low to really punish a play like this, so I’m just going to move on.

I’m in the High Jack seat and raise to 4.5 big blinds, and roughly 325 big blinds deep (covering everyone at the table). I’ll do this with a lot of hands… so let’s assume I’m raising a pretty big range, not very tightened by the limp in front of me… so perhaps about 20% of hands, with all pairs down to 66, all suited aces, all broadway, and some other stuff sprinkled in.

Behind me, in the cutoff, another of the strongest players on the site flat calls. This is again a play that the books will usually frown on, but the 3 remaining players have been tight and passive for the most part, and they all fold, with the LJ also calling. Note that both opponents are fairly deep, for effective stacks of about 275 big blinds. The pot is now 15 big blinds.

The flop comes 4d7h2s. The low jack checks, bringing the action to me.

This is not a flop that really favors my range too much. I’ll have pocket fours and pocket twos a small fraction of the time, usually all combinations of 77, various Ax suited that will have hit the board with gut shot draws or weak pairs, and of course a lot of over pairs and over cards. But on the whole, I don’t think I have much range advantage here, being really low on combinations of the strongest drawing hands, especially against two opponents, and would not usually be betting my entire range. That would normally result in a split between checks and slightly larger bets. But I think betting most of my range is possibly an option, and I instead choose a small bet of 1/4 pot, or 3.75 big blinds, which I thought at the time would look like a continuation bet with nearly my entire range, though I suspect in fact there are really not many hands I would play this way. (And so I’m already off the GTO tracks, LOL)

The CO makes a small raise to 9.5 big blinds, just slightly larger than a 7.5 bb min raise.

The high jack now flats the min raise, and I call behind. The pot is 43.5 big blinds. What hands should I have gotten here with? I think most over pairs can take this line, and possibly A7. I think my combinations of draws get somewhat reduced, as I’ll raise some of them here, but my calling range is still relatively wide, as I’m being offered a great price to continue with most draws. I think sets are also reduced, as I’ll raise all of my sets at least some of the time (I’d say most of the time). Hands like 66 and 55 are in a bit of a pickle, but they will often have some drawing outs, and should continue, too.

The turn is 4d7h2s6h, creating a flush draw, and completing some rare straights, along with creating many new, stronger straight draws. The low jack checks, I check, and the cut off slightly over bets the 43.5 bb pot with a bet of 47.5 big blinds. The high jack now calls. This is where it gets really tricky. Some of the rare made straights take this line, as do some of the best straight draws, flush draws and combo draws, along with most of the sets. 76 might take this line also, at least some of the time.

The cut off has a very polarized range. But the flat call from the low jack would usually be very, very value heavy (though this particular player might call and try to bluff steal the river). I’m in a nasty spot against one very polarized range that has a lot of equity with most of its bluffs, and a very strong, value heavy range.

I think at this point some of my over pairs have to fold, along with all of my naked over cards. I’m not really sure what to do with hands like A7 that unblock the flush draws. Without the LJ call I think they can easily continue, but against both ranges it feels kind of bleak, though with the call my pot odds do improve.

At this point, I think I go all in with most of my sets, and some of my nut flush draws. I call, bringing the pot to 186 big blinds.

The river card is a relative blank, 4d7h2s6hQs, though QQ is probably in range with a few combos for everyone (though I have the most combos of this).

LJ checks, I check, and CO goes all in, again over betting the 186 bb pot with an all-in bet of 207 big blinds. LJ folds, and it is me. My only option is to call or fold. What hands do I call, and what do I fold? I think MDF here is perhaps around 45% of my range. All of my sets call. I have full combinations of 77, maybe most sets of queens, and a sprinkling of the others. Pocket pairs JJ down have easy folds, as do my broken draws. Assuming the CO river jam has bluffs like draws that missed on the river (which I think it does), then I was thinking at the time that KK and AA are the bottom of my calling range. Hands like AQ and KQ got folded out on the turn. What’s the worst you would call with here?

I made what felt like a hero call with AA, and was against the bottom of my opponent’s range and won a big pot, but I’m still not really sure if it was a clear call, and also what I should have done with different hands in my range. I’m also wondering about hands like JJ and TT, and suspect a solver might call with JJ and fold TT some of the time. 88 and 99 block some of the bluffs the CO might be making, making folding them that much easier.

MDF was shared by you and the LJ so you needed to call with considerably less than 45% of your range. Interesting hand - multiway pots are just hard to navigate, especially without absolute position.

ADDED: I looked at the hand. I honestly don’t get what CO is doing from start to finish.

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I don’t think many over pairs take that line. With the possible exception of AA and maybe KK, how many over pairs can afford to give their opponents at least 5-1 to continue?

As you said, the board hits your opponents way harder than it hits you. I’m probably folding somewhere along the line with a one pair hand.

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Very good point. I was hyper aware of that on the turn, but then somehow completely forgot about it on the river.

LOL, yes. I regretted the line I started down on the flop almost as soon as I did it. I think I should check or make a larger bet that makes sense with more of my range.

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So preflop, it seems both of your opponents want to see a relatively cheap flop. There were still 3 left to act when the CO called, which pretty much rules out the top of range type hands for LJ and CO.

So what kind of hands do they take a flop with when you’re that deep? To me, this screams mid to smallish suited connectors and one gappers, and a bunch of small pairs.

I don’t get to the turn like this, because I am betting 1/2 to pot on the flop. With that flop, maybe on the smaller end of that, but with 2 in, something like 2/3 pot seems right to me.

As played, the turn is a big decision point for me. I think CO will have 66 or 77 fairly often, and LJ was getting a good enough price pre to take a flop with that plus 44 and maybe even 22 at this depth. 67s is also possible there. It’s just not a great spot to be in.

But, there are plenty of other hands they could have too. Probably lots of draws to straights and some to flushes and some smallish to mediumish pairs. With 2 players in with you, I’m probably folding aces on the turn. Even when you are ahead, you have to dodge a lot of cards on the river.

The Q on the river was good for you though. If I called the turn, I would have to call the river too. But meh, as a tournament player, I can’t afford to get myself into these situations. Then again, I never get to 275 BB effective.

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I agree that the turn is the key point in the hand. I considered folding there. I was certainly not thrilled at my prospects at that point.

With players that are a little more skewed to value, I think it is probably a fold, especially after a 2nd player calls the over bet. Here, I think the over bet from CO is probably pretty well balanced between value and bluffs, and without the LJ call, I think I have an easy call. The call gives me better pot odds, but greatly increases the likelihood that I’m not ahead, and I might not even have two outs.

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When I read posts such as these, I think to myself: “I need a new brain.” It helps if you sing it like the Huey Lewis song:

I need a new brain
One that won’t make me nervous
Wondering what to do

Thankfully, I have my trusty Magic 8-Ball to make my decisions for me.

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