There’s this moment in a recent Louis CK special where he steps out of his self-abasement and into some very creative sadism. He’s up on a Sunday morning, looking questionable and sitting outside his own apartment building as if he’s a bum. When an upright resident is upset by his presence, Louis recognizes the perfect, lip-smackingly good moment to enjoy upending someone’s expectation. Mwahh, he intones, kissing the air, like a chef enthralled by the perfection of a creation so wonderful he has forgotten it is his own.
This forum thread is creamy deliciousness, too. What a perfect moment to contemplate a little complicated poker theory, and like Louis, disabuse the uptight, wag your finger, Bet/Fold crowd of their notions and wasted bets. Not that I care if they learn or not, because as in Louis' act, sometimes the pleasure is more in being right.
Live poker is often about managing seemingly unmanageable situations. Three people have called! The board is mysterious and shitastic! This is no toy game against some robot we’re going to bludgeon with repeated half pot wagers. We have to evaluate complex criteria and choose actions yielding uneven outcomes.
- How many people called? More than two, the borderline for any reasonable cbetting matrix.
- Do we have range advantage? Obviously not.
- Related, what kinds of hands are likely to see to act against us in this fashion? The very weakest speculative hands. Tiny pockets. Suited connectors. Three players can’t manage a raise, one out of position who can call wide with the blinds discount. Then the misplayed hands: middle pairs, big suited cards. The weirdo with aces.
- How deep are we? Only a hundred deep. We can be wide yet can’t threaten anyone too much.
We could go on, but the point is made. We are never cbetting AK here based on those factors… which means we can’t cbet thin value hands like tens and be playing well… unless we decide we are not betting for thin value but are beating our opponent’s x/r range… which is a cool decision to make.
But wait: Opponent’s or Opponents’?
And there is the problem. We can separate out our betting strategy and decide on a different response for each opponent. That is at least reasonable. We could go to the mat versus loose guy, fold to passive nit, etc. But what we can’t do is make a bet that works as a summary action. Our hand is face up as a pair almost every time we wager, so we expose ourselves to being raised off our equity.
This is where the B/F crowd puts their hands on their hips and says, b-b-but we have to bet or we surrender the pot!
Or the more circumspect among them say, we can “take down the pot” or nebulously “charge a pair,” as if no one can figure out we have an overpair after betting into three people!
All of this is self-refuting. We don’t bet to take down pots. This isn’t a tournament. This isn’t PLO. We want to bet as part of a coordinated strategy where we maximize our value and minimize our loss over time.
Betting with the intention of folding into a board where the coordination of villains' range must be greater than our range is therefore obviously worse than checking, maybe worse than the dreaded and scorned bet/calling. When we bet/fold we are betting for suspiciously informational reasons: Oh, you raise? Well then I surrender. In fact, let’s argue about how big of a bet we want to surrender!
Futile. Now, betting with the intention of folding versus some action and bet/three betting other action has merit. Now we are breaking down our opposition into unique villains, are able put our opponents on draws in the cage they tried to slam us into, and in doing so, repunish them. They do rate to have lots of draws- after all just look at that board. 76ss for One Hundred, Alex.
However maybe we aren’t up to that level of play yet, and we want the sort of summary action that works against all three players, like that Bet/fold default so many cling to dogmatically.
Then here’s what we do:
That’s it. No fuss. We are balanced, we are playing fine. Three villains got involved, we see a board that favors them, and we acknowledge this. We are playing strategically. We will play post flop poker with an overpair and not bloat the pot into the teeth of all those checking to us and looking for a bet. We use position against our opponents, not our chips... which is what Bet/Fold really is when abused as an answer to unclear spots. We already know what cards we don’t want to see- and which will improve our perceived range as well. When the king of clubs comes, what does Mr. 76ss do now that our hand looks like AK? Remind me why we let him win with the world's easiest check raise and remind me why we flushed our precious overpair down the toilet?
This is Hard strategy. Bet/folding is Soft strategy. As I’ve said, both can work, but I like the former, more and more. I like its precision and theoretical soundness. I like how it keeps us from ever using our chips for information and forces us to zero in on our opponents’ ranges and what our hand looks like.
The easy answer of bet folding has its place in NLHE, naturally, but it is called an easy button for a simple reason. And this is not a simple spot.
(And what hands do we bet here? That’s the question of how we configure our range. Can you name them and why?)