Monday, October 12, 2009

Analyzing NLHE:TAP Concept 17

From No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller.

Concept No. 17: If your preflop raise is called behind you, check a lot of flops.

The standard play is to continuation-bet in these situations, in order to maintain the initiative and keep the pressure on your opponent(s). I think this standard c-bet is probably overused, so in this sense Sklansky and Miller's advice to check a lot of flops is good. Still, I disagree with the reasoning they offer in their discussion of this concept. They focus too much on your hand and on randomizing your play, and not enough on the texture of the flop. I think better advice would be, "... often check on certain types of flops." This is mostly based on my intuition, and I won't be presenting any quantitative evidence.

I often do like to continuation bet even if I miss a flop because many players like to call preflop raises with small pocket pairs or suited connectors, hoping to catch a set, two pair, or a big draw and win a big pot against the preflop raiser. Usually, these hands will miss the flop, and they will fold to a continuation bet. For example, if I have AT and the flop comes Q43, I have a decent chance to win with a continuation bet even though my opponents often have a small pair or a healthy six outs. On this flop it's also a good idea to bet with many of your other likely preflop raising hands for similar reasons. With a good hand like KK, you can bet for value to balance all your weaker hands. However, there are certain types of flops where the continuation bet seems counter-productive. Generally, the flops where you don't want to bet are ones where there's a good chance you have the best hand and not too much risk of being outdrawn. For example, I think KK on a board of A92 rainbow is often better off just checking. On this flop, you're probably okay checking lots of your other likely hands, too. This includes strong hands such as AT. By waiting until the turn to bet with these hands, you are probably more likely to get called by a small pocket pair.

There are also more extreme examples of flops that don't have many draws, such as AA6 rainbow, or, to a lesser extent, 66T. On paired flop such as these I will often make a small bet. If my opponent has something, they'll call or raise, and I can react according to the strength of my hand. Often, my opponents will have completely missed these flops and just fold.

This seems like it could make for a bigger project if I want to come back to it later and do more quantitative analysis. For example, I'd like to test whether it's better to just alter my bet-sizes based on the texture of a flop rather than changing my betting frequency.

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