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Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em (more discussion of range)

 
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MessagePosté le: Dim 18 Oct - 01:20 (2009)    Sujet du message: Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em (more discussion of range) Répondre en citant

Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em
Playing Flush DrawsA check-raise with a flush draw is a standard play in tournament poker, but can the same be said for cash games?
By Alex Martin
February 2009

Flush draws in hold'em are the classic semi-bluff, normally played very aggressively. The majority of post-Harrington poker literature regarding tournament poker advocates a check-raise with a flush draw at nearly all stages, when the stack sizes are right. In theory, this is pretty sound – you want to extract value from continuation bets and because opponents so rarely hit a flop hard in no-limit hold’em you can force them to fold. But that’s in tournaments and this is about cash.

Today’s game has moved on somewhat, with players expecting a check-raise from a flush draw. Add to that deep stacks and multiple opponents who can normally hand-read pretty well and you have a very different problem to the archetypal tournament flush draw with 15-50 big blinds.

The reason that flush draws are normally played with a check-raise stems from solid players in the early years of hold’em. In the formative era, a check-raise was generally indicative of a really powerful hand; trapping was the name of the game and could be relied upon to trap the fish in a pot. The beauty of it was you had good/ great equity if called and you put your opponent into difficult spots. Typically with a live overcard and flush draw you had 12 outs, which gave you 48% equity; combined with pot odds makes this +EV. But are there better plays?

Lets imagine that you are in a small- stakes cash game situation against average opponents. Your image is tight-aggressive.

An aggressive opponent opens from the cut-off playing a full stack. You elect to defend by flat-calling with A-J, planning to outplay your super-tight opponent, combined with a decent hand. On a flop of K♠-2-3 you check-raise his continuation bet. Some opponents (auto-piloting an A-K high board) will c-bet 100% of their range here.
DANGER OF A NARROW RANGE
Put yourself in your opponent’s shoes in this spot. Compare his c-bet range to his calling range and the gulf is vast. Let’s say he is opening an incredibly tight range – all pairs 8-8+, A-K and A-Q.

Even against this tight range you fare extremely well. An average opponent will generally put you on a King or a flush draw, but there is still little he can do about it. In my experience few intermediate players can make the call here with an underpair and/or have a plan for your turn shove. Without showing all the maths let’s assume he calls with A-A/K-K and K-K.

He calls with 40 combinations and folds out 76 combinations of hands. 65% of the time you are hoovering up 6-12 big blinds from your opponent’s stack, obviously a profitable play and the staple mechanics of a profitable semi-bluff check-raise.

The downside is that unless you balance this accordingly (which 90% of small- stakes no-limit/mid-stakes no-limit players don’t) you are narrowing your range and becoming exploitable. A smart player will recognise that you normally three-bet A-A, K-K, A-K and K-Q pre-flop and would check/call (or fold) K-J/K-10 pre-flop. So you are representing 2-2, 3-3, bluffs and heart draws.

Against players that play so predictably and have such narrow check-raising ranges, a good opponent will simply call and try and get the money in on a non-heart turn, often forcing you to fold. If you find this happening, you don’t have a wide enough range and aren’t balancing well enough. You need to flat-call more often with A-A, K-K and A-K pre-flop, and also bluff check-raise/slow-play this flop more often. Having a narrow range makes you predictable and exploitable.


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MessagePosté le: Dim 18 Oct - 01:21 (2009)    Sujet du message: Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em (more discussion of range) Répondre en citant

KEY POINT
Maintain a wide range and mix up your play to prevent your opponents exploiting you
EXAMPLE 1
You are in a lively six-max $ 100 no-limit game with a wide mixture of stack sizes. You complete after several limpers with 7-8 in the small blind. The flop is A♣-5-6. You check and see a weak-tight, but otherwise reasonable, player lead out from under the gun playing a $ 60 stack. He bets $ 2 into a $ 6.50 pot. You then see two calling stations do what comes naturally from middle position. Then a super-aggressive short-stack button with $ 30 raises a small amount to $ 6. The pot is now $ 16.50 and the action is on you.

Although I would never advocate it normally as bet-sizing tells are so crucial, a tiny check-raise could be the best play here. By check-raising a small amount you open up the betting again and allow yourself to trap some more dead money. Now you check-raise to $ 12, under-the- gun folds and both the full-stacked calling stations call. With the action back on the short-stack button, he pushes all-in and now you push all-in, forcing the others to fold after juicing the pot. With an open-ended straight flush draw you almost always want to get the money in on the flop with 100 big blinds, unless you have some other post-flop edge. Out of position and against a good player, I’d recommend playing it very fast.
KEY POINT
With an open-ended straight flush draw you almost always want to get the money in on the flop with 100 big blinds
EXAMPLE 2
You are in a deep $ 400 no-limit game with A-Q. The game has been playing for several hours, has several fish in it and everyone is deep with 200+ big blinds. Yes, the waiting list is huge. A solid but LAG under-the-gun player opens and another solid TAG player calls from middle position. Both of the blinds are fish and are sitting deep. You elect to call to try and get the fish involved. In six-max no-limit, the majority of your money comes from bad players, never forget that. Three-betting here would be a reasonable option on a tough table, but here, with two fish present, don’t freeze them out of the pot, let them come in. They both call.

On the flop of 4-6-10 the under-the-gun player leads out after the blinds check and the TAG folds. Given this board texture, with 100 big blinds you could definitely get it all-in on the flop. But with fish present, getting it in here is most definitely not optimal.

Here is a prime example where you should just flat-call. Your hand is huge and dominates other draws heavily. Flush over flush happens only occasionally; fish cannot usually fold two-pair on three-flush boards. Don’t freeze the marks out, let them in. Let them hit, hit it harder and extract value when deep. If you raise the flop and the under-the-gun wants to get all-in, there is a huge chance he has either a set or a big over-pair – A-A or K-K. Given very loose players you can assume he most definitely has a hand. Against that range you are a significant dog in a big pot. Avoid these situations and keep the pot manageable. Always try to play your hand in a way that maximises your return on investment. Don’t be continually raising with draws unless you are fully prepared to stack off with them and realise what your opponents range is at all stages.


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MessagePosté le: Dim 18 Oct - 01:22 (2009)    Sujet du message: Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em (more discussion of range) Répondre en citant

KEY POINT
Always play your hand in a way that maximises your return on investment
EXAMPLE THREE
Let’s look at some trickier spots against good players. You are playing a $ 400 no-limit game against a mix of players, with one fish present and sat deep (the reason you are there). You are playing slightly deep (200 big blinds) and have a solid clean image. A TAG opens the cut-off and you three-bet with J♠-9♠ in position. The villain now elects to small four-bet out of position and you call purely because you know his four-bet range is tiny. The pot is now $ 180 and you both have $ 710 back. A flop of 7♠-8♠-4 gets you excited.

This is exactly the right spot for you to play this hand super-aggressively, but ensure you get your bet-sizing and theory right. When you just flat-call his four-bet he will normally put you on a pocket pair of 6-6 to J-J and middling suited- connectors which have obviously smacked this board. If your opponent bets, raise a substantial amount, effectively committing you to the pot. In his shoes, with K-K, it is honestly a marginal decision if he leads and get raised. Your better opponents will very often check this spot, recognising your position will allow you to outplay them later on streets. Don’t make the mistake of letting them play small-ball. Bet the turn.

So with $ 710 stacks and $ 180 in the middle, if you bet slightly less than the pot ($ 160-$ 180 in this case) on the turn the pot will be roughly equivalent to your remaining stack size. As his hand will rarely improve, if he elects to call the flop-bet he will often fold to a turn-shove. This play works as you are representing a range of hands that combined have your opponent crushed.

Let’s vary the example and assume you called with 4♠-5♠ suited and the board came A♠-K-3♠. Playing your hand fast here is criminal in a deep spot. Deep, your opponent will realise you will be four-betting A-A, K-K and A-K a lot more than if you were shallow and/or in position. Your range is skewed towards 3-3 and flush-draws. Good opponents will simply call your check-raise, raise or bet and get the money in on a good turn card, when your equity will be (normally) halved and you will be unable to continue.
KEY POINT
When playing super-aggressively make sure you have your bet-sizing and theory is correct
EXAMPLE FOUR
Once more, you are playing in a six-handed no-limit hold’em cash game against a mix of tricky opponents and fish. You have a 200 big blind stack as do two of your opponents. This time when you picked up J♠-9♠ and opened in late position you were three-bet small by a loose-agressive player who was called by both the blinds and yourself. The flop came 6♠-7♠-9, giving you top pair, a gutshot and a Jack-high flush draw. But despite having a seemingly huge amount of outs you should be wary about getting the money in on the flop.

You are playing deep-stacked here against some good players. There are plenty of flush draws that dominate you, and against a lot of hands you only have the flush draw outs, as one of your opponents will have either a set or a straight a lot of the time. This is a spot where you need to exercise caution and be willing to flat-call or even fold on the flop if you are facing a lot of heat.

If the pot was heads-up and you both had the standard 100 big blinds, this is a scenario where you should be much more comfortable in playing for stacks with a powerful hand. In most cases when playing with shallower stacks than in this example you want to be getting money in on the flop, provided you can realistically represent a strong range.

If you realise that your opponents will narrow your range down too easily in this spot, then floating and raising good turn cards is more effective. Let’s look at another example where you call pre-flop with 10♠-9♠ and call on a 4♠-5♠-7 board in position against a poor player.

Against weak-tight robotic players you are better off flat calling as there are a lot of cards you can win with on the turn. Any 3, 6, 7, 8 are all fine bluffing cards and any spade gets you there. With 24 combined outs and bluffing-outs, then versus a nit you can just call and see the turn.


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MessagePosté le: Dim 18 Oct - 01:27 (2009)    Sujet du message: Flush Draws in No-Limit Hold'em (more discussion of range) Répondre en citant

KEEPING STACKS SIZES IN MIND Playing flush draws correctly isn’t just about the cards

Bear in mind that all these examples differ according to the number of players in the pot, the stack sizes, image and position. Always see how your opponent’s range varies with their state of mind, position, image and the relative stack sizes.

Be wary of making non-nut hands when deep-stacked, but be happy to stack-off lighter with a standard buy-in. For 100 big blinds you should happily get most combo draws with a flush-draw on the flop. Players are so aggressive in today’s game they will often be forced to fold. In deeper spots and especially against good hand-readers, be careful about making power plays without a good plan for later streets or having enough of a read to enable you to outplay your opponents.


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