07-14-06, LearnTexasHoldem:

Postflop Play After Missing Flop

Question: I was recently in a tight 3/6 limit ring game online. Only 2, possibly 3 players out of ten were seeing the flop. I was dealt AQs, AQos twice, KQs and KJos in the first 12 hands or so. Not once did I get any help from the flop.

I bet the turn once with 2 overcards, but folded the rest instead of chasing my lone overcard. I lost the equivalent of 14 small bets but felt I could have lost 2-3 times as much if I bet/called to the river.

My opponents, none pre-flop raisers had no problem betting into me, as I had raised pre-flop in 4 of the 5 hands. All were heads-up scenarios.

My question is: Did I do the right thing by folding rather than "gambling to see the outcome of all 5 board cards? I didn't feel I was going to push any of them off their hands and not knowing anything else about these players, I was in the dark. I would imagine I lost to cards like J9 and Ace/rag; who knows.

Any thoughts?

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As a side question - Do you hold any positive views on tools like Poker Indicator and Holdem Pirate? While I don't feel like I need them for calculating pot-odds and outs, possibly the "aggression meter" features they include might have help me determine wether to fold or play on in the above referenced situation.

I read your site all the time and feel you are providing a unique service to players like myself who take the game seriously but have a long way to develop. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks.

Answer:

Somethings to keep in mind in a limit game when you raise preflop with solid cards, like AK, AQ, AJ, etc and miss the flop against one opponent are:

1. What are the chances of him folding if you bet again? Most of the time online, if the guy has anything, he will call. Say you raise preflop with a hand like AK and the flop is T94. If the guy even has a weak nine, he will most likely call you down. That isn't good play on his part, but most of them still do it. I'm not a big fan of putting in too much money without a hand. AK unimproved isn't nothing, yet it isn't much either. If possible I don't play my overcards very aggressively like that. Most players online, after raising preflop, push every hand to the river. That's a weakness and you are rewarding people who play badly and just limp in and call. This is why you'll sometimes see a horrible player sit down and play every hand and go up a ton. No one at the table adjusts. If you know a bad player will call you with any pair when you don't have a pair, there is no point in betting -- just take the free card on the turn.

2. If you would call his bet, then it is almost always better to bet yourself. Let me give you an example. Say you have one opponent and the flop is JT4 and you have AK. You'll call his turn bet if you check and he bets, so it is better to bet yourself. The bet may win the pot against a small pair, a ten, etc, but you'll have to improve on the river if you just call.

3. What are the odds? Did it get capped preflop? That's different than if it was just two bets preflop. In limit game if it gets capped preflop and I have AK, I'll usually go to the river with it (unless it's raised postflop a lot). Likewise if I think that the person who capped the hand with me may have a hand weaker than mine, I'll also go to the river, not because I think I have to catch something to win, but because my AK may be good one its own.

4. It is better to bet the turn and check the river than it is to do the opposite. Many players in limit games like to call the flop bet regardless of what they have. If they miss the turn, they just muck. What you want to avoid doing is giving free cards that may come back to bite you in the ass. Say the guy has a hand like QT and the flop is J-8-4. He may call just once on the flop and then fold on the turn if you bet again. On the other hand if you check, now he has 10 outs that can beat your AK. This can lead you to playing really badly and checking a lot of turns but calling down on the river with AK or AQ because you think the guy is just betting into because you checked. In your situation above, it is a little different because the player is leading out and betting. When someone leads out and bets, it means they have something. In this case, I would just call the flop bet and then fold the on the turn if I missed.

5. How good are your opponents? There isn't any point in betting without a hand if they will pay you off when you do have one. Part of the reason you bet the turn in a tougher game when you miss the flop with the big cards is because you don't want to allow your opponents to know when you have something and when you don't. (Also, good players are capable of folding, making the pressure of betting effective.) In heads up play that makes it hard to win. The key point here is that if you know they will call when you do have something, then there is no reason to try and semi-bluff when you don't.

The best way to beat the lower limit games is to just play straight forward. Raise and bet when you have stuff, fold when you don't. The temptation you'll be faced with is frustration -- the frustration of missing flop after flop and having some idiot beating you. That's part of it though. That alone won't be enough to beat you in the long run. The only thing that will ensure you lose is if you overplay a lot of your hands into players who you know will call. Just give them their little pots and take big ones. Remember too, that winning is a lot more than just making hands hold up, it's also saving money in situations where you aren't going to win. Other players will not play as well here and you'll gain.

Also, I'm not familiar with either of those two programs. You could try them out. Maybe a more helpful thing to do would be to watch for patterns in the opponent's play. How many times does the guy call on the flop only to fold on the turn? The more he does that, the more you'll want to bet the turn then. How many times does he call down with really weak hands? Against that guy, I wouldn't keep firing away.

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