Editor’s note: This is Lesson #12 in our weekly “Strategy with Stas” series. Stas Tishkevich, founder of the Poker Fighter Training App, brings you a new lesson in article + video format. We hope you enjoy this feature from the Poker Fighter School, and would be happy for you to share these posts — as well as your feedback — on social media.
Action is folded to us and we see ace-four suited in the dealer position. We will open-raise from this position at least 42% of possible starting hands, and ace-four suited is at the top of our opening range, so we should always open-raise this hand in this spot.
If one of the blinds were to re-raise, we would probably call versus most player types except against those who use a very tight 3-bet range (QQ+, AK for example).
Happily for us, only the small blind calls, and now our mission is to think about his possible range of hands, meaning “what hands will he play like this?”
If we think the opponent is a loose-passive player type, as the majority of players at low stakes are, we can assume he is playing mostly pocket-pairs (22-TT), suited aces (A2s-AJs), broadway cards (JT-AT, QJ-AJ, KQ), and maybe suited connectors (32s-T9s). Looser players can also call with low suited kings (K2s-K9s), suited one-gappers (42s-T8s), and offsuit hands like T9o, Q9o, J9o, etc.
We should assume his range is capped from having hands like Jacks and above or ace-king, as most players would re-raise (3-bet) with these hands versus a dealer’s open-raise.
We are ahead of this range with our ace-four suited, and feeling pretty good about this spot given our initiative and positional advantage.
Check or Bet on the Flop?
The flop comes QcTd8c and we’ve got the nut flush draw! The small blind checks to us and we need to decide between betting our hand or checking behind. If we want to bet we need to find a good reason, in this case betting as a semi-bluff.
Betting as a semi-bluff means we think that stronger hands will fold to our bet. We want to fold hands like pocket pairs below eights (22-77), or bottom pair (A8 for example). If the opponent will not fold, we still will have many helpful turn and river cards that will improve our hand into a winning hand (any club and maybe an ace).
We choose to bet 3/4 of the pot as it is a draw-heavy flop, and face a raise from the small-blind. Now it’s a whole different story.
VS. a Flop Check-Raise
Folding is not an option as we have a lot of potential to improve and we are drawing to the nuts. We need to choose between calling for direct and implied pot odds, or re-raising as a semi-bluff.
Calling for direct pot odds means that the amount we need to call compared to the pot is less than our chances of improving to a winning hand.
Calling for implied pot odds means that when we hit our outs, we can win more chips from the opponent.
It’s again one of those times where we should really think about our opponent’s range.
Normally when playing low-stakes poker, most of our opponents are on the passive side, meaning they rarely bluff-raise, and most of the time tend to just call with their draws. These opponents will check-raise this flop with two-pair (QT for example), sets (88 for example), or straights (J9s for example).
Versus this strong range we should just call because we get sufficient direct & implied pot odds.
If we play versus aggressive player types who can bluff-raise this flop with weaker flush draws (65cc for example), a pair and gutshot (JT for example), or even made hands such as King-Queen, then we seriously think about re-raising as a semi-bluff, and then probably going all-in as we will be pot committed most of the time.
We choose to re-raise, and make it 3x the opponent’s raise, bringing him to a leverage point, meaning that he now needs to make a decision for his entire stack.
VS. a Flop All-In
Unfortunately the small blind chooses to go all-in, and we now need to call ~$120 into a pot that will be $400 if we call, thus giving us ~30% pot odds. Even versus very strong made hands such as two-pair, a set, or straight, we still have a ~32% chance to improve into a made flush (9 outs for the turn & river), so calling here would be a +EV move.
We choose to call the all-in and from there it’s all up to “the poker gods.”
The main point we need to understand here on the flop is that when facing a check-raise, the most important thing to take into consideration is the opponent’s range, especially if he’s capable of bluff-raising or not.
Another important thing we need to remember is that strong draws play best on the flop where they have a lot of equity, so the best street to apply pressure with them is on the flop.