Randomization is in the cards
What follows is an excerpt from Jeff’s books, Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha Volume II: LAG Play and The Short-Handed Workbook.
You want to discourage your opponents from check-raising you when you have taken the preflop initiative, while encouraging them to bet when they flop strong and check when they don’t. And in order to do so, you reinforce the “no check-raise” and “bet when they have it, check when they don’t” behaviors by checking behind from time to time; how often depends on the opponent.
A 20 percent reinforcement schedule might look like this:
Continuation-Betting: Variable-Ratio Reinforcement Schedule (Illustration Only)
Note that the schedule is for illustration purposes only; I’m not saying that 20 percent is the magic number, but that this is what a 20 percent variable-ratio reinforcement (VRR) schedule might look like. But the question is, how exactly would you go about applying such a schedule in real life?
The answer is in the cards.
VRR in Practice: Built-In Randomization is in the Cards
There’s a key point to be made in all of this, and it is that randomizing your game doesn’t mean that you play randomly. It doesn’t mean that you look at your watch and base your playing decisions on the position of the second hand, or that you bet four times and then check once, or whatever.
The key to randomizing your game is simply that you don’t play every flop the same way every time, while at least giving the appearance that you can hit most any flop hard.
The appearance part is related to starting-hand selection, which I will discuss in a minute. But there is a built-in mechanism for randomizing our play, and it is that flops are inherently random. In other words, the flop is different every time, because that is what happens when you deal three random cards out of a deck. Meanwhile, we have a different answer for every given flop, depending on what we hold in our hand.
Let’s take a 9 7 3 flop, for example. The situation is standard; you open with a raise from the button and only the big blind calls, and the SPR [stack-to-pot ratio] is greater than 8. On the flop, your opponent checks to you. You hold any one of a group of hands with which you might have opened from the button.
What do you do?
|J 10 9 8||?|
|K Q J 10||?|
|10 10 9 9||?|
|A A J 2||?|
|A K Q 9||?|
|K Q J 2||?|
|7 6 5 4||?|
Here’s how I approach it:
|J 10 9 8||Top pair, 13-card nut wrap with flush draw||Bet|
|K Q J 10||Nut gutshot, no flush draw, pivot card, overcards||Check|
|10 10 9 9||Top set||Bet|
|A A J 2||Overpair, nut-flush draw||Bet|
|A K Q 9||Top pair, overcard improvers||Check or Bet|
|K Q J 2||Non-nut flush draw||Check|
|7 6 5 4||Middle pair, sucker wrap||Check or Bet|
Some of the decisions are fairly clear-cut, while some are somewhat player-dependent. For example, I am almost certainly betting the strong hands: J 10 9 8 for top pair with a 13-card nut wrap and a flush draw; 10 10 9 9 for top set; and A A J 2 for an overpair and the nut-flush draw. These are hands that I will not fold to a check-raise.
I am most likely checking K Q J 10 for a nut gutshot but no flush draw, having hit a pivot card (the 9) that could lead to a wrap on the turn, as well as a fistful of overcards. This hand has a lot of potential value that I would lose if I were to bet and get check-raised, in which case I would most likely have to fold. I also am likely checking K Q J 2 for a non-nut flush draw, as it has some value that I would lose if I were to bet and get check-raised, and then most likely have to fold.
The other two hands — A K Q 9 for top pair and overcard improvers, and 7 6 5 4 for middle pair and a sucker wrap — are fairly player-dependent. I would go ahead and bet these hands against weaker, more predictable opponents, but might check them back against trickier opponents for pot-control purposes.
So, you can see how the variable ratio would change depending on the opposition, as I would bet five out of these seven hands against a weaker opponent, but might bet only three and check four against a trickier opponent. You also can see how our play on any given flop is naturally randomized by the cards that we hold in our hands.