My current VPIP/PFR stats: UTG: 11/11. MP: 11/11. CO: 22/20. BTN: 30/27. My attempt to steal blinds percentage: 31. The last five numbers used to be even higher when I was playing a higher variance style; Iím sure many good players can provide numbers higher than these. Note how sharply the numbers jump from MP to CO, and from CO to BTN. Winning players generally make most of their money from late position (cutoff and button).
From late position, Iíll often raise with anything suited, anything connected, and if conditions are right, any two cards.
Thereís little reason for me to elaborate much on this; Pokey covered all the details (and more) in his thread. The gist of it is that stealing blinds = $$$; if you check PokerTracker, youíll see that your PTBB/100 skyrockets when you attempt to steal the blinds. If you want to steal the blinds 25, 30, 35 percent of the time that youíre on the button, you have to be willing to raise 25, 30, 35 percent of the hands youíre dealt from this position (actually, the percentages are even higher, because PT only registers a blind steal attempt if there are no limpers to you). If you want to raise 30 percent of your hands from the button, youíre gonna have to raise some absolute junk.
2. Position makes it profitable to play many more hands:
If, in theory, itís profitable to play X% of hands UTG at a 6max game, then it will be profitable to play X+Y% (Y>0) of the hands youíre dealt on the button. Position is a HUGE advantage; obviously, this is not a new concept for SSNL.
3. Table image/metagame (this is less important than the above two reasons, but still worthy of a mention in my opinion):
When weak players see you show down 75o after raising preflop from the button, theyíll think youíre a fish and give you action the next time you raise aces UTG. Stronger players might realize youíre positionally aware, but A) sometimes youíll get aces on the button, B) if they suspect youíre playing a bunch of junk from late position and decide to tangle with you without hands, guess what? In general, neither of you will have hands, and youíll have position after the flop comes, and C) at SSNL, strong players are MUCH less common than weak players.
When To Do It?
1. Use PT stats:
If youíre on the button, use the statistics ďFolds BB to stealĒ and ďFolds SB to stealĒ to evaluate the preflop tendencies of the players in the blinds. It is notable that you can only get these statistics in your hud if you have Poker Ace Hud. This is one of many reasons to upgrade if youíre using GameTime Plus, but thatís an issue that probably deserves its own thread. In general, the more these players are relinquishing their blinds, the better, but this doesnít necessarily mean I wonít steal if I expect to be called. If, say, Iím on the button, the SB is a nit who folds his blind to steals every time, and the bb is a 65/1/1 fish who A) rarely folds his blind and B) rarely folds postflop, Iíll raise to isolate the fish with almost any two cards.
If youíre in the CO, youíll still want to glance at the percentage of time the blinds fold to steals, but youíll also want to look at the percentage of time the button calls a preflop raise. In the past, Iíve been guilty of not paying enough attention to this statistic; if the player on the button is constantly calling raises preflop and has a reasonable postflop game, it makes sense to cut down on the junk youíre playing from the CO.
2. Use non-statistical reads:
Maybe youíre on the button, and the players in the blinds tend to defend their blinds by calling preflop, but tend to shut down if they miss postflop. In a case like this, itís profitable to raise (and continuation bet, of course) with any two cards. Maybe effective stats are deep, and neither of the tags in the blinds likes to fold to steals, but both of them have a tendency to overvalue top pair, overpairs, etc. Iíll be much more likely to raise with junk in a spot like this than with 100bb stacks against players in the blinds whom I respect. I could spend time coming up with more examples; the bottom line is that itís not difficult to find ďexcusesĒ to play more hands if youíre a thinking player and will have position throughout the hand.
But seriously, when I came up with the idea for this post, I intended for this section to be the meat of it. Playing junk from late position is easy when you pop it up preflop, everyone folds, and you get the blinds. But sometimes youíll get a caller or two. What follows is a list of the situations in which youíll find yourself when you raise from late position with a not-so-great hand and get called, and fabricated hands designed to illustrate the written principles. For simplification, Iíll assume that thereís one villain per hand, that the villain wonít 3bet preflop, that he wonít donkbet the flop, and that stacks are always 100 BBs. This is obviously unrealistic, but this article is theoretical in nature. Note that I ordered the three categories in this list in a way that I think proceeds from easiest to hardest to play, and also in a way that I think proceeds from least interesting to most interesting:
1. You hit the flop hard (two pair, trips, set, straight, flush, boat, quads, royal flush, big draw):
You lucked out with your junk, and itís time to get the villainís monies. Slowplaying can be a reasonable option once in a while when A) you have the board crippled and your hand is beastly enough to let the villain catch up without having to worry about being outdrawn, or B) the villain is a thinking player and you want to throw him a curveball for shaniaís sake. But in general, you flopped huge and want to get some money in the pot. Poker at its core is about playing big pots with big hands. You have a big hand, so start building the pot. Bet, bet, bet is usually the play here. If a scare card hits, youíll want to slow down sometimes; this is read-dependent, of course.
One caller. Thatís about the best flop you can ask for. The board has two diamonds, and I didnít provide a read on the villain, so thereís no reason to slowplay. I like a bet of close to the pot because the board is drawy.
When the board is drawless, I tend to continuation bet a bit smaller. Yum, he raised. Youíre not afraid of being outdrawn (he has two outs at most), so call and let him think continue to think his AJ is the best hand or fire another barrel with air. Itís possible that he has something like A6, but when you raise preflop with a 6 in your hand and flop trips with it, youíre not folding the hand when the stacks are this size.
The turn was another diamond and provided air like KQ and AQ with straight draws, so he thereís a small possibility that he has some outs now. I can see just calling anyway -- and Iíd do it fairly often, especially with the right read -- but shoving is a bit safer and perfectly reasonable.
Read: The villain in the following hand is a level one thinker with no handreading skills. He plays at about 25/9/1.5, and has a tendency to call big bets with draws, to go too far with top pair, etc.
You flopped an open-ended straight flush draw, which is a favorite over any hand except a set (and even against a set, it has about 42% equity). Itís possible that the villain has you in bad shape with something like K J, but itís unwise to worry about that; you should think of your hand as an absolute monster. You want to throw out on a continuation bet on the flop because you have an equity advantage over the villainís range and you want to build the pot. If you get raised, youíre shoving. If you get called and hit on the turn, youíre making another big bet. If you get called and miss on the turn, both betting and checking are reasonable; the better the villain, the better an option betting becomes, in my opinion. This is the case because a good player will generally raise a wet flop like this with a big hand, and if a good player doesnít have a big hand, he wonít call a turn bet.
Sidenote -- itís important at this point to clarify what I meant above when I used the phrase ďbig draw.Ē Everyone knows what the terms two pair, trips, set, straight, flush, boat, quads, and royal flush mean, but the phrase ďbig drawĒ is somewhat ambiguous. An OESFD will always be a big draw, but how about an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, a gutshot and two overcards, etc.? A ďbig draw,Ē for the purpose of this article, is just a draw that youíre willing to felt on the flop. This is heavily dependent on reads and flow, of course; itís more of a ďfeelĒ thing than a science.
Turn: Q ($41, 2 players) BB checks, Hero checks.
Our read indicates that checking is probably better than betting in this spot. Weíre not confident that the villain will fold to a bet, and our hand no longer has an equity advantage over a pair. Betting is good because it disguises your hand, but the villain is only thinking on one level and will probably pay off a river bet if you hit anyway. Checking does carry the disadvantage of making it impossible to stack the villain if we hit on the river, but rarely in poker are there flawless plays.
Iím calling this a ďbig drawĒ and including it in the first category of hands because against this villain, youíre willing to reraise all in with it after he check-raises your continuation bet. You have at least eight outs no matter what the villain is holding and against a hand like AQ, youíre less than a 2:1 dog. The villainís range is very wide, and heíll fold often enough to the shove for it to be a good play.
2. You missed the flop entirely (no pair, very little drawing potential):
Your hand is more or less hopeless at this point, and the only way to win the pot is to bet. The play in this spot is generally to make a pure bluff on the flop, and to continue at times on the turn (and I donít make a habit of three-barreling, but sometimes itís +EV with the right board and the right read). Against the 65/1/1 type I described at the beginning of the post, the best play is often just passing up on a continuation bet and shutting down. It might feel strange to raise preflop with a garbage hand and then not even bet the flop, but if heís not folding and you have a minute chance of improving to a real hand, putting more money in the pot might as well be burning it.
Read: The villain in the following hand is a straightforward tag, say 17/13/3.5 or so. He plays solid, but youíve played a ton of hands with him and never seen him make a move or a ďtrickyĒ play postflop.
Bad flop. The club provides our hand with a runner flush draw, but thatís hardly a good draw. You want to bet based on the texture of the flop and not on the strength of your hand, so you make the same bet as you made with the monster hand on the drawy flop above. He calls, which more or less means he has a king, a queen, JT, or diamonds.
The turn is a brick, which is a good thing in this spot. Betting here is a solid option, because A) the villain is straightforward enough that we can assign him a fairly tight range, and B) most of his range will fold to a turn bet. The villain most likely wonít continue to draw against us with these pot odds, and thereís a good chance heíll fold a queen, maybe even the weaker kings in his range. Not a play Iíd make every time, but this is a thinking playerís turn bet.
Read: The villain in the following hand has folded to 7 of 11 continuation bets thus far, but aside from that seems like a donk and Poker Ace Hud shows that he has gone to showdown 28 percent of the time, which is fairly high.
Blinds, position, suited cards, implied odds, etc. You know the big blind has a tendency to pay off. Raising will steal the blinds pretty often, and if you flop big, you might get rewarded with a stack.
Heís folded more than half the time to continuation bets, so theoretically even a full pot cbet should show a profit. You bet a little over two thirds of the pot because the flop is pretty dry and again, consistency is a good thing.
Turn: 5 ($37, 2 players) BB checks, Hero checks
The continuation bet didnít work, the runner flush draw we flopped was eliminated by the turn card, and our read is that this villain likes to go to showdown. We still donít have a pair, so we canít semibluff either. Now is a good time to give up.
River: 2 ($37, 2 players) BB bets $24, Hero folds
J-high is good almost never in this spot, even against this villain, and raising is just asking for it. As Taylor Caby would say, just pitch the hand.
Read: The villain in the following hand is the 65/1/1 megafish described earlier. He has folded to continuation bets only two times out of 15 and gone to showdown 53 percent of the hands heís played.
Heís not folding, so thereís little reason to bet. If youíd flopped top pair (either the queen or the T) youíd be betting this flop with a plan to get three streets of value. The only reason to consider betting now is if you think queen-high is good enough for value, but even thatís illogical because you wonít get three streets of value out of even the biggest fish with a high card hand, and we donít even have an ace.
Time to take this noob to valuetown. Itís not a certainty that your hand is best, but youíre losing major value if you check behind against this guy.
3. You got a piece of the flop (bottom pair, middle pair, low top pair, a mediocre draw):
I left this for last because I think itís the most discussable situation. A ďmediocre drawĒ is any draw that youíre not willing to felt on the flop -- depending on your read of the villain and your feel for the situation, this can mean overcards, a gutshot and an overcard, even a hand as good as an open-ended straight draw or a flush draw.
This category is interesting because itís the only one of the three in which there are usually two reasonable ways to play the flop and the turn:
A) Check behind. If you have a weak pair, your hand might be good but canít stand to play a big pot. A check behind with a hand like middle pair is a ďvalue checkĒ -- it keeps the pot small, induces bluffs, and ensures that you wonít get raised off your hand and that it gets a chance to improve to trips or two pair. A check behind with a mediocre draw like a gutshot and overcards is somewhat tricky, but itís a reasonable option at times because it guarantees that you wonít get raised off a hand that has something like six outs, ten outs, etc.
B) Bet. Bets in spots like these are semibluffs. If you flop middle pair and elect to continuation bet, youíre generally not betting for value. Your goal is to take down the pot, but if that doesnít occur, at least youíve inflated the pot for your five outer (two outs to trips, three outs to two pair). If you have a draw that youíre planning to fold to a raise on the flop, you are betting and hoping the villain folds, but with the knowledge that your hand has some outs if you get called.
You flop middle pair and elect to semibluff with it. It doesnít make much sense to bet your jack for value at this point, because itís going to be pretty tough to bet all three streets with this hand unimproved and see a showdown. You bet $13 because the board is drawy. Unfortunately, the villain calls. You might have the best hand at this point, but that doesnít mean the continuation bet was for value.
Turn: 3 ($41, 2 players) BB checks, Hero checks
You decide not to continue the semibluff this time. If the villain can read hands, heíll know that you donít have a good made hand now, but in this hand the villain is unknown. If the river bricks and the villain makes a reasonable bet, you have little choice but to fold.
River: Q ($41, 2 players) BB bets $30, Hero folds
The villain could be betting missed spades or air, but itís probably more likely that he has a queen or a better jack than we have. Iíll try to pick villains off in these spots in the right situation, but the standard play after semibluffing, checking through a blank turn, and missing on the river is folding if the villain makes a river bet.
Oh my, a very similar flop. Last time, you tried semibluffing with your flopped middle pair, which was perfectly reasonable. This time, youíre going to check behind and try to see a cheap showdown. I tend to be more likely to try this with dryer flops. I changed this flop slightly from the last hand -- this flop was rainbow, the last one was two-tone -- but Iím capable of semibluffing on a dry flop and checking behind on a wet flop, etc. Itís also better to check behind with a pair of jacks or queens than with a pair of fours or fives, of course, because overcards are scare cards when your hand is just one pair.
Turn: 3 ($15, 2 players) BB checks, Hero checks
This is a good turn card. Thereís still not much of a reason to bet, because youíre not getting more than one street of value out of this hand. If the river doesnít scare us and the villain checks again, itís time to think about betting. If the villain bets the river, you have little choice but to call since you induced a bluff.
Thereís a chance the villain has you beat, but Iím not folding after the way we played the hand. Thereís no reason to raise the river (save for very high level thinking against a villain with whom you have a lot of history), so calling is the only option in this spot.
Read: Villain is nitty and bad. He runs at 9/5/4; when he calls a raise preflop, it usually means he has a pocket pair. If he flops an overpair, heís generally felting it. He likes to check-raise continuation bets big with small overpairs, unaware that against good players, this turns his hands into bluffs.
You flop an open-ended straight draw on a rainbow board, but the villainís range consists mostly of overpairs and sets. Given the provided read, the villain will check-raise if you continuation bet. PokerStove says your hand only has a 29.26 percent chance to win against the range of JJ-66 and 22, so if you get check-raised big by the villain, you canít shove and you wonít have the odds to continue with the hand. You decide to check behind and ensure that you get to see a free card, knowing that thereís a good chance of stacking the villain you peel off a 3 or an 8. In addition, if you miss on the turn and the villain bets, you can call the bet knowing that you generally have the implied odds to continue.
The turn doesnít complete your draw, but itís a low enough card that the villain can still have an overpair with JJ or TT (Iím assuming he wouldíve reraised preflop with QQ+), and he could have a set with 99, 77, 66, or 22. Calling is a slam dunk against this villain.
River: 9 ($39, 2 players) BB bets $44, Hero folds
You have close to the nut low, and judging by the villainís tendencies and his overbet, thereís a good chance he just filled up. Itís possible the he just has an overpair, but our read is that he wonít fold that to a shove anyway, and in this case he might even be right to felt it if you pushed because a river push would make your line strange as hell. Just fold this time and stack him when you have a real hand.
Read: Villain is loose preflop and likes to call raises out of position with hands like QJ, KT, etc. Heíll fold to a continuation bet if he misses the flop, though; thus far, Poker Ace Hud indicates that heís folded to 13 of 16 continuation bets.
Against a BB like this, you can probably raise profitably and then continuation bet with any two cards. This analysis ignores the SB, of course, but for the purpose of this article, the SB doesnít exist.
The flop is the same as in the last hand, but the villain is different. Whereas a check-raise loomed against the last villain and implied odds were plentiful if you checked behind, this villain will probably fold to a continuation bet (and a hand like KT or QJ is about even money against our draw at this point), and itís tough to say how much money weíll make if we check behind and make our hand. If the villain makes a big raise, we probably wonít continue, but thatís an unlikely scenario. Against this villain, the play is to continuation bet and try to take the pot down.
Read: Villain is a 44/18/5 lagfish who loves to attack weakness. He folds fairly often to shows of strength -- in fact, he has folded to five of seven continuation bets so far -- but you have seen him fire three barrels with air when he thinks he can steal pots.
You flop top pair and check behind. The flop has two spades and any Q, K or A is a bad card for you, but given your read, checking behind is the play. If the villain fires the turn, youíre calling 100 percent of the time regardless of the turn card. The river is trickier if he bets again, but itís important to keep your read in mind.
The turn was an undercard and didnít scare you. As expected, the villain bet out. This is an easy call against this villain, and thereís little reason to raise.
River: K ($43, 2 players) BB bets $23, Hero calls
The king is a bad card because you no longer have top pair. The villain leads for $23 into a pot of $43, giving you 66:23 odds (a little less than 3:1). Itís possible that the villain hit the river, but you reason that your hand will be good more than 25 percent of the time against his range. This is good reasoning against a villain like this one -- if heíd bet the pot on the river, youíd have a harder decision, but with pot odds this generous, the river bet is a pretty easy call.
Quote: really nice post man, you should cross post w. ssnl.
thanks, much appreciated. do you mean micro nl?
Quote: In Hand 1, the river bet of $78 is stupid.
hero almost always has the best hand in this spot, and i'm pretty sure $78 will get called by worse hands. maybe a smaller bet is better, but the message is "bet, bet, bet," it's not really a lesson on bet sizing.
Quote: The only thing I would add is that IMHO it is wise to keep the "Folds to C-bet" stats of the blinds/limpers in mind before choosing to raise preflop with junk.
very good point, this is a stat i use often. i kind of touched on it in a few of the example hands, but neglected to include it in the section about PT stats.