The term “probe bet” describes a bet fired out of the position on the turn or the river when the initial raiser decides to check back the flop instead of firing a continuation bet. It is an approach whereby the player defending from the blinds tries to take control of the betting in the hand by betting themselves, allowing them to potentially win the pot on the turn or river by either bluffing or realizing their equity and winning at showdown.
Probe bets can be quite powerful when used correctly but, like all other strategies, they can also be dangerous if used too often or in spots that are unfavorable to such an approach. In this article, we’ll give you three top tips for how to implement probe betting into your overall poker game-plan.
1. Take advantage of favorable board textures
When considering making a probe bet, look at the board texture and how it corresponds with yours and your opponent’s perceived range. Lower cards and connected boards are usually ones that are favorable for the player in the big blind position to try and take control of the betting by firing on the turn, especially when the turn card doesn’t change the situation too much and is unlikely to help your opponent.
Unlike with flop leads, your opponents will have a much harder time continuing with just overcards on the turn. Since there is just one more card to come and even catching the perfect card is not guaranteed to produce a winner on these low, connected boards, they’ll be forced to fold often enough to make probe bets a very effective tool in these situations.
2. Bet your turn equity
If you have a hand with decent equity on the flop or pick up some equity on the turn, you can go ahead and fire a probe bet even if the turn card might be in your opponent’s range. Your equity combined with the fold equity on the turn as well as bluffing possibilities on the river makes probe betting a very profitable proposition in most cases.
Of course, you need to be aware that sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where your opponents check back with a monster or improve to a big hand on the turn. Since you’re out of the position, these spots can be somewhat difficult to navigate, but overall you will be making money with probe bets here and that will more than compensate for the times when your opponents wake up with big hands.
More often than not, a flop check will indicate a weak range from recreational players, so you should take advantage of that.
3. Watch out for relevant stats
If you’re playing poker online, there are several important stats you’ll want to consider when deciding whether to go for the probe bet or not. These Hold’em Manager or Poker Tracker stats will be quite helpful if you’re up against an opponent that you have a decent sample size on, as you’ll be able to come up with some pretty accurate guesses about their tendencies.
For example, players with a very low c-bet percentage are usually the ones who only continue with made hands, i.e., if the flop helps them or they already have a big pocket pair. When these players check back on the flop, you’ll be able to comfortably fire out a probe bet on the turn and expect to get them to fold a high percentage of the time.
Obviously, if you are playing against really tough competition, you are unlikely to exploit them because they will have quite balanced ranges and will understand frequencies. So, your best bet is to also play a balanced strategy and leave some strong hands in your checking range on the turn so that you can check-raise and apply pressure back on your opponents.
However, if you are up against a weaker player, you can and should make many probe bets. Basically, in almost all cases when you are not sure what to do in these situations, (probe) betting will be a better option because these players will be massively over-folding either on the turn or river in these situations.