Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Betting Lines

Man ever since yesterday's post when I was talking about the line I preferred to take with my 85s on the J75 + flush draw flop, that's all I've been thinking about -- betting lines. As far as I can recall among all the poker books I have read, there are only a couple that really include an exploration of specific lines and what types of hands they tend to be good for and what they tend to represent in your opponents. One of them was Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You About Winning Hold'em Poker by Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, a book that doesn't get much pub at least in my circles but which I thought actually was pretty decent as far as playing holdem for a living, and the other I think was Winning in Tough Hold'em Games by successful online players stoxtrader and zobags. Otherwise, though, the Sklansky's and Harrington's and Hellmuth's and Brunson's and Cloutier's of the world don't seem to spend too much time with more than a reference here and there to taking a particular line with a particular type of hand.

Anyways so the only poker I've been thinking about the past 24 hours or so has been the different betting lines I tend to use with different hands, and how each one works with each type of hand. For example, here is a quick "synopsis" style summation of the rule I was discussing yesterday with that early-tournament hand I had started with last week:

The "check-call the flop, check-raise the turn" line is one that I like to use best with a monster hand on the flop and with me not the preflop aggressor. "Very strong" meaning at least two pair, probably even top two pair, and mostly better than that. Not just a drawing hand but a made hand already on the flop. Flopped sets from out of position are a perfect candidate for this line on the flop with the way I play. A flopped straight or flopflush is another one, although some people tend to have difficulty winning with flopped straight as I hear. But as I discussed yesterday, I prefer the checkraise on the turn in the hands where I know already on the flop that I want to make a large pot, but check raising the turn is a large-pot move.

In contrast, the move I went for in the hand from last week that I finshed up with yesterday is the "call preflop, checkraise the flop" line. Unlike the previous example where I just check-call the flop and then checkraise on the turn, in this instance I go for the checkraise right on the flop, when the pot is smaller and when there are still two cards to come. For me as I mentioned yesterday, I like to checkraise on the flop when I have strong equity on the flop but one that will either be less strong on the turn or more obvious if I hit, both making it less likely that I can take down a big pot once the turn card falls. The quintessential case for this line for me would be flopping a big draw like the hand yesterday, or sometimes even some kinds of top pair hands on the flop. In the previous example above, I have flopped something big already, so I can wait till the turn to checkraise because I am already 100% positive that I will have a big hand on that street and I know the turn checkraise will create a huge pot. Here, in contrast, I do not know if my hand will be big on the turn, so I would rather get the money in now on the flop, keep the pot small if possible, and I still know if I get called that I have a bunch of outs to win a smallish pot.

What other betting lines are there out there? Of course there is the standard aggressive "raise preflop, bet the flop" line, which is the standard c-bet situation. You can also tack on an additional step to bet the turn as well, which is when you fire a second bullet after having your c-bet called. In that situation I typically need to have some kind of a strong draw or some chance that I might be best to fire that second bullet once my opponent has already called me before the flop and again on the flop, indicating that he has something and is not likely going away.

Another popular move in particular in middle- and short-stack tournament play is the stop and go, which is basically "call preflop, push allin on the flop". Of course especially if the stacks are small, this can be as much desperation as anything else, but sometimes if you can pick up a decently strong hand you can use that image to win a quick double-up if things go your way.

Another interesting line is "reraise preflop, bet the flop". This one is typically only for starting hand monsters, or at least for people who want to represent a big pocket pair or AK. The preflop reraise tends to narrow hands down IMO to AA-TT and maybe AK, and the flop bet pretty much backs that story up well.

A related line I like to take, again usually only with my strongest starting hand monsters, is the "raise and smooth call a reraise preflop, checkraise the flop" line. This can be combined as well with a check-call on the flop and the turn checkraise, but in this case with pocket Aces or Kings or sometimes AK, having a raise and a reraise preflop already tends to make a big enough pot that a checkraise on the flop can get you the large pot you are looking for without the need to wait until the turn. My favorite part of this is the not re-reraising before the flop. Without a doubt the preflop action that tends to lead to me winning my largest pots when I am dealt pocket Aces is for me to raise with them, and then if I get re-raised, I just flat call. Re-reraising here basically telegraphs that you have Aces, maybe Kings sometimes, while just smooth calling the preflop reraise lets your opponent believe his AK or QQ might be ahead, and then when the flop comes all rags, you can get all his chips in a pot that is already fairly large on the flop, often by letting him bet first and then checkraising allin in a tournament context.

Of course, with all of these lines, as well as the countless others there are out there, the trick is to mix up your play appropriately enough such that your opponents can never really tell what you hold by just the way you play your hand. Sometimes with the flopped monster you check it on the flop and don't checkraise until the turn, while other times when you do the check-call and then checkraise the turn, it is with a big draw. As with most of poker, you only need to mix in a little bit of deception to keep your opponents honest. In my view if I can vary my play of when I use a particular poker move in only as little or 15 or 20% of cases, that should be more than enough to make your opponents unsure at all times of exactly what I have or exactly how strong my hand is.

That's it on betting lines for today. Tonight I plan to use the call preflop, call the flop and then suckout allin on the turn as often as possible early in the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt. Password as always is "vegas1". See you there for the grandpappy of all the blogger tournaments these days.

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Blogger columbo (at eifco dot org) said...

I love this thread. I am going to start listing some of mine on my blog. Betting Lines. Did YOU coin that phrase.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Got it from some poker book, I think it is pretty common poker parlance. But you can credit me with it if you like, Ray.

1:16 AM  
Blogger SimpleStyle said...

What's your plan when you check-raise the flop with a draw and brick the turn? I always go into 'deer-in-headlights' mode when I see my equity cut in half like that. The turn decision will obviously depend on the opponent, stack sizes, etc. but I'm just wondering what your approach is in this spot.

As an example let's say the blinds are 30/60 you're in the BB with 76ss and 3,000 in chips and a loose player who has you covered raises it 180 from the CO. You call and see the 5s 8c Ks flop heads-up. You check to the CO who bets 280 into the 390 pot.

What size check raise do you make and, assuming the CO calls it, what do you do when the turn bricks?

2:47 AM  

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