Examples of when not to do so
This is the third column in a series that highlights some of the hands discussed in the new book Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time, Volume II by Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Jon “PearlJammer” Turner, and Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet. In this book, each author chose one tournament, and discussed the key hands from once he made the money all the way down to heads-up play. In this column, I’ve chosen a couple of hands from Apestyles, in which he illustrates examples of when he decided not to continuation-bet.
Seat 4 123,107 (Apestyles) Small Blind
Seat 6 30,330 Big Blind
Seat 1 53,758
Seat 3 28,270 Button
500-1,000 Blinds, 125 Ante
Setup: There are 19 players left, and we’re four-handed (this is a six-max tourney). My image is very aggressive, but so far, no one has played back at me.
Preflop (2,000 pot) A 4: The action is folded to me in the small blind with an ace-rag hand. A-4 offsuit actually has around 57 percent equity against a random hand, so it’s definitely worth considering a raise. However, the big blind has a stack of around 30,000 (30 big blinds), and my hand isn’t strong enough to play for his entire stack, since it plays very poorly against his approximate three-bet range.
My plan here, as it is against most players, is to raise, but fold to a reraise. I generally make a bigger raise from the small blind than from other positions, since the big blind is getting such a good price to call and has position for the remainder of the hand. Thus, I opt to raise three times the big blind to 3,000. In retrospect, I think it might have been optimal to raise slightly less, maybe to around 2,700 or 2,800. A smaller raise would’ve made it awkward to resteal light, given his stack size. Generally, when people go all in over a raise, anything more than 10 times the raise is considered an over-shove. The big blind calls my raise.
Flop (6,500 pot) J 10 2: This coordinated flop is one of the worst possible flops for my hand. It gives me no pair and no draw, and hits many hands with which players would call a raise from the big blind. The jack and the 10 hit both high and middle straight draws, there’s a flush draw, and he hits the flop with Q-J, J-9, J-8, 10-9, 10-8, and so on. Even if he was calling with 100 percent of hands preflop (he’s not) on this board, A-4 offsuit has only 46 percent equity against a random hand. All of these factors make for a straightforward check-and-fold-to-a-bet scenario, especially when it’s blind versus blind, as players are much more likely to call multiple bets or raise flops with marginal holdings.
It’s important to note that some players believe that you should always be aggressive. They make the mistake of continuation-betting on every flop after raising preflop, even if the board is quite coordinated. If you make a continuation-bet every time, good opponents will exploit this tendency. Also, if your opponents see you check only one flop, your future continuation-bets will have greater credibility. With all of this in mind, it’s a good time to show my opponents that I’m not betting everything.
I check, he quickly fires out 3,850, and I fold.
Seat 1 72,701 Small Blind
Seat 2 119,044 Big Blind
Seat 3 90,824
Seat 4 107,173 (Apestyles)
Seat 5 122,578
Seat 6 40,764 Button
800-1,600 Blinds, 200 Ante
Setup: I am no longer the chip leader at the table, but I still have a big stack. There are 12 players remaining.
Preflop (3,600 pot) A J: I have a strong starting hand in the hijack seat. There really isn’t anything else to do but raise. Even though I have close to the top of my opening range here, I will fold to any player’s reraise behind me, because the stack sizes are awkward. I would probably call a 20-25 big blind all-in bet or less, but almost everyone at the table has more chips than that. I raise to 4,100, and Seat 2 calls. I’ve seen Seat 2 show down garbage hands (4-3 suited and A-7 offsuit) after calling a raise from the big blind, so his call isn’t unexpected.
Flop (10,200 pot) 8 6 5: The flop comes low, coordinated, and with a heart draw. Seat 2 checks. He has hit this type of board a good percentage of the time. My impression of him is that he’s a thinking, aggressive player, capable of making moves but with preflop leaks and errors in logic. If I decide to bet, he’ll call or raise most of the time, and I’ll probably have to continue betting a lot of turns and rivers. I’d rather stay away from low-percentage plays, so I decide to check this board and fold to a bet on any turn that isn’t a heart, ace, or jack.
Turn (10,200 pot) 7: The turn gives me an ace-high flush draw. Seat 2 bets 6,375, a little less than two-thirds of the pot. To be honest, I’m not sure what his betting range is here, and how heavily it’s weighted toward air. I think most players would check with all one-pair hands, and some would even check with two-pair hands on a board with four to a straight and three to a flush. If I was in his spot, I would be betting 9-X, 4-X, possibly two pair and sets, made flushes and any heart, and a decent number of my air hands.
His bet is relatively small compared to his previous bets, and I suspect that if he had a straight, he would bet bigger for protection. I infer that he has a hand that can’t continue if I raise here, and if he does call, I almost definitely have outs. Even if he has two pair, he’s not going to put another raise in on the turn, and may not even put in another raise with a straight. The only drawback to raising is that if he reraises (depending on the amount of his reraise), I may be forced to fold.
I decide that raising is superior to calling, although calling is certainly OK. I raise to 19,000, around three times the size of his bet, with the intention of bluffing most river cards that do not pair the board if he just calls.
Seat 2 quickly folds to my raise, and I win a nice pot.
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