The check-back range and the float
What follows is an excerpt from Jeff’s books, Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha Volume II: LAG Play and The Short-Handed Workbook.
In past columns on variable-ratio reinforcement and continuation-bet frequency, I have discussed the importance of checking behind with regard to LAG [loose-aggressive] play and deflecting check-raises on the flop. That said, once you have checked behind on the flop, your control of the hand on the turn and river is a function of two things:
- Your check-back range on the flop
- The float
The Check-Back Range
The first part is your check-back range on the flop, which must be wide enough and have enough value in it to make checking back on the flop work.
Let’s say that you open with a raise before the flop, and are heads up with position on the big blind after the flop. Let’s also say that you are continuation-betting whenever you catch any piece of the board, anytime you flop air, or anytime you flop a draw bigger than a gutshot; in other words, you are betting every time, unless you flop a gutshot-straight draw. Obviously, how often that happens depends on what your preflop raising range is, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say that you flop a gutshot 5 percent of the time, and thus are continuation-betting 95 percent of the time.
There are a few problems with this. One is that there is no way you will flop strong often enough to withstand a check-raise on 95 percent of flops, and thus you are going to get check-raised often. Secondly, there is no pot-control element to your play, and you might find yourself having some problems with small-pot hands like A-A-X-X on a paired board, non-nut flushes, undertrips, and so on. But the other main problem — and the point of this particular discussion — is that your opponents will start to recognize how weak your check-back range is, and will begin to pounce on you every time that you check back the flop.
This is a problem because you hit the gutshot only 9 percent of the time on the turn, and unless you are calling on the turn with the bare gutshot (assuming that you don’t pick up anything else), your opponent will win the pot about 91 percent of the time on the turn with a bet.
But what if you include open-end straight draws and flush draws to your check-back range? Well, with these draws, you still hit only about 18 percent and 20 percent of the time on the turn, respectively.
How about checking top pair? Now you are starting to get a little stronger, as you will improve to two pair or trips by the turn about 24 percent of the time, and thus will have enough hand to call a bet on its own merits.
However, if you are calling a turn bet only 24 percent of the time or less after checking the flop, you are still going to get run over. That said, merely checking behind a lot on the flop carries little value unless you also are consistently blocking steal attempts on the turn; otherwise, you pretty much are just giving up the pot when you check back the flop.
The float is the final piece of the puzzle, and the one that holds our LAG approach together like glue, because not only must you deflect check-raise attempts on the flop, you also must discourage steal attempts on the turn, river, or turn and river by blocking them with the float. Moreover, you must block them often enough to raise your opponent’s perceived risk profile of attempting to steal, such that he will stop trying, which will enable you to either take a shot at the pot on the turn yourself or take the free card.
Your opponent has to know that he will have to fire two shots to win the pot, and that your check-back range is wide enough — and has enough value in it — to withstand two shots often enough that trying to steal is futile.
The bottom line is that when you check back the flop, you are going to see the river, almost without fail (almost, as you’d probably check a pivot card like K-Q-10-7 on a J-4-3 flop, but fold unimproved, and you’d probably fold a bare gutshot, as well, and probably bare non-nut flush draws, too). And at this point, it is now quite relevant that you are going to hit that gutshot-straight draw 17 percent of the time by the river, that open-ender 33 percent of the time, and that flush draw 36 percent of the time. Meanwhile, when you check back top pair, you will improve to two pair or trips about 43 percent of the time, assuming that you don’t have another pair in your hand.
In other words, when you check back the flop, you are going to have something legitimate with which to call (or raise) a bet on the river — if not the turn — a healthy
percentage of the time, and we haven’t even taken into account whatever other combinations of draws that you might pick up on the turn. And the threat of that outcome will serve to discourage your opponent from initiating a turn-river steal sequence to begin with, thus giving you greater control of the pot.
That said, in order for this to work, you must consistently make the stopping call — the float — and block your opponent from stealing the pot on the turn.
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