In part one then we looked at flopping a very powerful hand with top set in several different scenarios. Here in part two then we will take that to the other extreme and look at us raising with a mediocre hand and flopping absolutely nothing. Once again the game is no limit Texas hold’em and we will assume that is has been folded around to us in the cut-off and we open raise with Jc-10d. The big blind calls us and the flop comes Qh-5s-2c and the big blind checks.
In this instance then we have a lot of advantages in our favour that point towards betting. Although our own hand is weak, the flop has very few draws and especially draws that could have hit our opponents range as he certainly would not have called with 4-3. So the mere fact that they only called our raise pre-flop and then checked to us on the flop is pretty much a green light to assume that our opponent is weak. So the flop texture coupled with the betting action so far indicates that a c-bet will take this pot down a fair percentage of the time.
Adding more poker opponents makes bluffing trickier
Now let us change the scenario slightly and add one more player which in this instance could be the small blind calling your raise as well. This creates an extra problem with regards to c-betting for profit. Even though the flop is dry, the combination of us having very little equity in the hand and the fact that we now have two opponents and not just one makes this situation marginal. So betting and checking are roughly equal in terms of EV. Change the scenario once again to having three callers like if we were in the cut-off and the button and both blinds called the raise then I would simply check the hand back even if both blinds checked the flop.
Three opponents is simply too many to launch a pure bluff with little or no equity to fall back on. If we alter the board to say Ah-Qh-6s then I would check 100% of the time as betting would clearly be –EV with so many key factors working against us.
Understanding your objectives in the hand
It is important to know what your objectives are in the hand before you make your action. In this hand then when you open raised with the J-10 then you should know in advance that you are doing more than just “steal blinds”. Players who go into situations like these in deep stacked no limit hold’em cash games with that kind of objective often get themselves into trouble on later streets. Simply blasting or trying to blast other players out of the pot that merely began with you trying to “steal” 1.5bb is not good poker. This kind of strategy will leave you too exposed on far too many occasions. You should in theory be raising for other reasons like to escalate the stakes of the game so that your opponents make bigger post flop errors and to be able to stack your opponent more easily. You should also be looking to raise to take the initiative in the hand as well and so raising just to steal blinds is not as powerful a concept in cash games as it is in tournament poker. Look for part three of this series on betting strategy coming shortly.