Hand 12. Pocket Pair below Top Pair – Hero IP/With the Lead/Wet Board – Loose-Passive Villain Checks to the Pre-flop Raiser – Exploitative Poker

Hero is In Position/With the Lead/Wet Board

How do you play against a calling station, when you have a showdown value hand and the flop has draws on it? 

The most profitable way to play this hand is to get to showdown for one bet.  Usually, this one bet will be on the turn. If your opponent is likely to bluff busted draws on the river, you may want the flop and turn to be checked through. Then, you can pick up a bluff on the river.

This article explains how you should decide which line you should take.

Hero is in position with 99♠.  The flop comes K8♠7.  Therefore, hero has a weak showdown value hand and the board is very wet. 

So, how do we play this hand?  In this post, I will look at the most common situation, which is when villain checks to the pre-flop raiser on the flop. 

1. Should we c-Bet on this Flop?

The first decision is whether we should c-bet when villain checks to us. We need to compare this line with checking back the flop.

We first need to look at how the hand plays out when we c-bet on the flop.

How often does the 100% Range Hit this Flop?

I’m not suggesting that a calling station plays a range that included 100% of combos.  Often, examining different ranges helps to identify a pattern.  Therefore, I am using the 100% range to illustrate an important pattern. 

In the screenshot below, you will see the 100% range.

Range 1:  The 100% Range against 99♠ on a K8♠7 flop.

If we bet against this range, villain will fold 76% of the time.  We can work this out because we can see that 24% of hands will call.  This number is theoretical because, it depends on how much you bet, and which weak hands villain will call with. 

So, at first sight, it might look as though betting is a no-brainer.  A fold to a bet percentage of 76% is high.

However, let’s have a look at what happens after you bet.

Range 2:  The 100% Range against 99♠ on a K8♠7 flop after villain has folded to a bet.

When we bet, villain will either fold, call or raise.  For current purposes, I have assumed that villain will either fold or call.

I haven’t put a turn card in. 

If you compare our equity now and at showdown between range 1 (ie before we bet on the flop) and range 2 (ie after we bet on the flop and villain calls), you will find that c-betting on the flop results in the following:

1.  Our 99♠ has gone from favourite before the bet to underdog after the bet is called. 

2.  We don’t have much fold equity because so many of the combos that are winning against us are Kx combos.  A loose-passive player is not going to fold a top pair combo easily.  You shouldn’t even try to make this type of villain fold top pair.  This means that we can’t bet on the turn or the river if we are called on the flop. 

3.  We will be in a difficult spot if villain bets on the river after the turn checks through.  If the river card is a heart, we definitely can’t call a bet.  If the turn and river cards are low non-hearts, we probably still have to fold to a bet. 

In Range 3 below, I have excluded villain’s combos that are better than top pair.  This is because villain would be aggressive with these hands on a draw-heavy flop texture.  As this example assumes that villain check-calls the flop and checks the turn, it is unlikely that we has a super-strong made hand.

Range 3:  The 100% Range on the River (after Hero c-bet and Villain Called on the flop and the turn checked through).  Villain’s flop raising range is removed.

Range 3 shows that, with all those flush draws that have missed, we still would not be able to call a ¾ pot bet on the river.  This is because villain has so many combos of Kx compared to combos of hearts.  Remember, each Kx hand represents 12 combos, whereas each suited connector only represents one combo.

To call a ¾ pot bet, we need a 30% chance of winning the pot.  Our equity on the river is around 28.5%. 

You might be thinking that villain may not value bet on the river with all of his combos.  For example, he isn’t likely to value bet with JJ or TT.  However, he might not bluff with all of his combos either.  In any case, we would be left in a guessing game, where we are not sure whether calling a river bet would be profitable.

Blocking Bets on the River

Villain might put in a small blocking bet with combos, such as QQ or JJ.  We shouldn’t call or raise a blocking bet.  We can’t call because we know that we are beaten.  If the third heart doesn’t hit the board, we can’t raise because villain is unlikely to believe that we have a strong hand after we bet the flop and check the turn.

Therefore, if you are in the situation, where you have QQ on a king-high wet flop and an opponent has bet the flop and checked the turn, a blocking bet can get you thin value.  Most opponents will call these bets and kid themselves that they had the odds to call.  They don’t seem to realise that most players don’t bluff with a ¼ pot bet on the river.

Playing 99 against the 30% Range

The 100% range isn’t realistic.  However, any wide range produces a similar result.

Let’s look at the 30% range (see Range 4 below).

Range 4:  The 30% Range on the River.  (Hero has bet the flop and villain called or raised.  The turn checked through).

In the above situation, can you call a ¾ pot bet on the river?   I’ve calculated that villain has to bluff over 51% of the time with missed draws, for your call to be profitable.

Although betting the flop may be profitable, there are 3 main problems with this betting line against a calling station on a wet flop.

1.   If villain calls, you will not always realise your equity.  Villain can call on the flop and bet on the river with his missed draws.  Often, you won’t know villain’s exact range.  Therefore, you won’t know whether to call or fold.  You can get reads after playing at a table with this villain for a long time.  However, you need a lot of reads to be able to accurately call or fold on the river.

2.   If you bet on the flop and villain is on a draw, he might raise you off your hand.  A lot of calling stations don’t mind going all-in on the flop with draws.  You would have to fold in this situation because villain would use the same betting action on this board if he had a set or 2 pair.

Range 5:  The 100% range raises all-in with flush draws, 2 pair and sets.

You are an underdog against this range.  If villain plays a range of less than 100%, you will be a bigger underdog.  This is because players are more likely to play all pocket pairs than all suited hands.

Notice, the hand in the above screenshot isn’t 99.  It is AA against the range!

3.  You will seldom get your flop bet called by a weaker hand.  Even calling stations know that a K8♠7 flop is dangerous.  They are likely to fold their garbage hands easily on this flop.

So, is there a better way of playing the hand than betting on the flop when villain checks?

Let’s look at checking back on the flop.

2. Checking the Hand Down

For the rest of this article, I will assume that villain has a 30% range. 

When we check the hand down, villain’s range stays weak. 

Range 6:  The 30% range against 99♠ on a K8♠7 flop

Compared to Betting the Flop, We Win More Money if We Can Check the Hand Down

Our equity at showdown is 55.53%.  This means that we win the 7BB, that is already in the pot 55.53% of the time, if the hand is checked to showdown. 

On average, we would win 3.89BB/hand if we could check this hand to showdown.

Let’s compare this amount of profit with betting on the flop.  The percent of combos that would call or raise if we bet our 99♠ on the flop is 40.5%.  This means that we could win the pot now 59.5% of the time by betting. 

However, let’s say that, when villain calls or raises, we always lose our bet.  This assumes that he will bet the river will all hands.  I explained earlier that we usually can’t call a river bet once villain’s range gets stronger.

This means that, if we bet ½ pot on the flop, we would win an average of 2.75BB/hand. 

Therefore, we win 1.14BB/hand more when the hand is checked down compared to c-betting on the flop.

Obviously, there can be problems checking the hand down.  For example, not all villains will co-operate an let us get to showdown for free.

So, let’s look at how we can deal with such problems.

What if Villain Bets on the Turn?

What if villain bets on the turn after check-check on the flop?  If we think villain will bet just because we checked, we should consider calling the turn bet.  However, if we think villain will only bet with top pair or better, we should fold.

If we don’t know anything about this villain, we should usually call the turn bet and fold to a river bet.  At least, this will help us to find out what may be going on for future hands.  By definition, a loose passive player would not bluff on 2 consecutive streets.  He might just take one stab at the pot.

We can also take base our decision whether to call or fold on the turn card (see Table 1).

Table 1.  How the Turn Card affects the Equity of 99♠ at Showdown

Table 1 shows that the only cards that knock our equity below 50% are the Q, J, T and any ace.   That’s just 7 cards in the deck.  Therefore, we could fold to these turn cards if villain bets and call a bet on any other turn card.

However, you should look for reads, while you are playing.  Some villains never bluff in this spot, while others always bluff. 

Remember, if you call on the turn and villain bets again on the river, you have to believe him and fold.

Facing a bet on the turn, is not as simple as betting on the flop.  However, you have a chance to make money when villain bluffs on the turn.  When you bet on the flop with a weak hand, you have a bigger chance of losing that bet than winning an equal-sized bet.

3. The Delayed C-Bet

The “delayed c-bet” is a term used when the pre-flop raiser bets on the turn, after the flop has been checked around. 

The Turn Card is a Non-heart

If the turn card is not a heart and villain doesn’t bet on the flop or the turn, he is denying a strong made hand.  Just about anyone would bet top pair or better in this situation.

Should we bet on the turn or just allow the turn to check through?

By betting on the turn, we avoid getting bluffed on the river.  However, is betting the turn a value bet with a pair of 99s?

Because we checked on the flop, villain might not believe that we have a made hand.  Therefore, he may call a turn bet with weaker hands, such as middle pair. 

We want to compare the range where we are on the river after betting the turn (Range 8) with the range on the river after allowing the turn to check through (Range 7).    The idea is to work out which strategy is likely to be the most profitable.

Range 7:  Equity of 99♠ at Showdown if we don’t bet on the turn (villain’s top pair+ range has been removed because we assume that he would bet these hands on the turn)

In this example, the 4 fell on the turn. 

In the above Flopzilla screenshot, the filters are turned off for the flop and turn.  This means that the whole of villain’s range will go through to the river.  I’ve removed all villain’s made hand combos from the range that are top pair or better.   This is because villain would almost always bet on the flop or turn with these hands.  Since he didn’t, we can legitimately exclude strong made hands from his range.

Our percent equity at showdown is 78.139%.

We want to compare this equity with the equity that would call a turn bet (Range 8).  We need to compare these equities in combination with how much money goes into the pot and the likelihood of villain bluffing on the river.

Range 8:  Equity of 99♠ at showdown if we bet on the turn and villain calls (villain’s top pair+ range has been removed because we assume that he would bet these hands on the turn)

In the above, the filter has been turned on for the turn.  This means only the hands that villain will call with, will go through to the river.

We have 78.139% equity on the river if we don’t bet the turn.  We have 43.478% equity on the river, if we do bet the turn and villain calls.

What should we do?

I created a calculator to compare betting the turn and checking the turn.  You can find the calculator under “Calculators” in the main menu of my website.  You are welcome to use it for your own research.

Below you will see the results for this analysis.

These are the results if the turn card is a low card. 

The calculator shows that Bet Turn and Check/Fold River is the most profitable option. This betting line earns you 6.09BB/hand on average.

In the analysis, I assume that villain will not bluff.  However, you can put in villain’s estimated bluff percentages into the calculator. 

I have also done the analysis for different turn cards.  If the turn card is a non-heart, the best line is usually to Bet Turn and Check/Fold to a River Bet.

Villain’s Bluff Percentages

Let’s say villain’s bluff percentage is zero when you bet the turn and 50% when you check the turn.

We will assume that villain doesn’t bluff on the river, if you bet the turn.

How often and how much does villain need to bluff on the river before the result changes from Bet Turn and Check/Fold to a River Bet to Check Turn and Call a River Bet?

Villain has to bluff around 50% of the pot, 50% of the time for there to be no difference between Check/Fold to a River Bet to Check Turn and Call a River Bet.

Whether you should check the turn and call a river bet depends on the following 3 factors:

How often would villain bluff on the river?

What percentage of the pot does villain bluff on the river?

What is your equity on the river?

You would have to play around with the calculator to get a feel for how the above factors interact with each other. 

Of course, if villain has a bet size tell between his value bets and bluffs on the river, you should check the turn and fold to his value bets and call his bluffs.

So, the above analysis is when the turn card is a non-heart.  Let’s look at how the situation differs when the turn card is a heart.

The turn card is a heart,

When the turn card is a heart, all villain’s strong hands could still be in his range.  Villain may not necessarily bet Kx, 2 pair and sets, when he sees the third heart on the board.  So, we need to put all the strong made hand combos back in villain’s range.  Therefore, we are back to working with Range 6 in this article. 

Against Range 6, do we bet on the turn?  Villain hasn’t folded any combos.  Therefore, his whole range is still in play, which means that our hand still has some equity.  We don’t want to waste that equity unnecessarily.

The worst possible turn card is the A.  This leaves our hand with around 33% equity on the river. 

The Bet or Check the Turn Calculator says that the best line is to bet on the turn and fold to any raises or river bets.

Conclusion

When you have a weak showdown value hand on a wet board against a loose passive player, your best strategy is usually to check on the flop, bet the turn and check/fold the river

However, if villain bluffs frequently, it can be more profitable to check the flop and turn and call a river bet.

We’ve looked at the situation when villain checks to the pre-flop raiser on the flop.  However, he could also donk bet on the flop.  I address this situation in Reference Hand 13.

It’s worth working out hands, such as these.  Intuitively, we think that we should be aggressive or protect our hand against draws when we are playing against loose-passive players.  When you have a weak showdown value hand, you usually want to find a way of getting a cheap showdown against these players. 

When I discussed the same type of hands against tight players, it was all about barrelling the off their stronger showdown value hands. 

Generally, it’s not worth barrelling loose-passive players in an attempt to get them to fold their stronger showdown value hands (eg QQ-99, when the top card on the board is an A or a K).  Some of these players can be barrelled off their showdown value hands.  However, it’s better to wait until you have that read, before trying and barrel them off their showdown value hands.

If you find one, who won’t fold his showdown value hands, you can bet for value when you have top pair.

Author: Vera Snyder