Everyone loves to flop a strong hand. It is one of the most fun things that can happen in poker. And while it is very difficult to misplay monsters, I see players violate the fundamental of building big pots with big hands all the time.
As a short stack, you will have a much lower commitment threshold than full stacked players. Due to this fact, your range of stack-off worthy holdings will almost always include any over pair, top pair, or big draw. When you have one of these hands, it is not a question of whether you want to get all-in, but rather how fast you want the money to go in. The biggest factor governing this decision is board texture.
If the board is dry or not conducive to connecting with your opponent’s pre-flop range, a slower betting strategy is typically warranted. You want to bet the least amount possible to try and get all-in by the river. This is because a smaller flop bet gives the weaker hands in an opponent’s range a chance to come along for the ride. If you always bomb the flop when you have a monster, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
However, if the board is draw heavy and there are many future cards that could cause your hand to lose strength, getting all-in as quickly as possible by betting bigger is usually best. Since wet boards tend to hit more of your opponent’s range, the increased bet size will likely get calls or raises from most of the same part of his range as would a smaller bet.
Now that you understand the principle of betting smaller on dry boards and bigger on wet boards, all you need to figure out is exactly how to size those bets. I have created a simple method for bet sizing that easily lets you bet the right amount to get all-in as quickly or as slowly as you want. If you can determine what 10% and 25% of the effective pre-flop stack is, then you can easily implement this strategy.
Betting To Get All-In On Dry Flops
Dry flops are difficult to connect with, and it is unlikely that the turn will beat you if you flop a very stronghand. Inthesesituations,Ifinditbesttotryandgetall-inslowlyandformaplanthatspreads the betting out over three streets. As a short stack, we have the luxury of being able to bet small and still get all of the money in by the river. An easy method to follow is to bet 10% of the pre-flop effective stack size on the flop, 25% of the pre-flop effective stack size on the turn, and then shove the river. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how this works:
No-Limit Hold’em, $.50 BB (6 handed)
Hero (UTG) ($16.25)
HJ ($101.81) CO ($24.83) Button ($34.04) SB ($49)
Preflop: Hero is UTG with 6♥, 6♦
Hero bets $1,1 fold, CO calls $1,3 folds
Flop: ($2.75) 9♥, 9♠, 6♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.65, CO calls $1.65
The flop is dry, and we are virtually a sure winner by the river no matter what cards come on future streets. Betting big makes no sense here as it will likely shut out the weaker parts of our opponent’s range. Betting smallish instead allows our opponent to call with small pocket pairs, ace highs, weak draws, and overs that he may feel are live. Taking three streets to get all-in seems appropriate, so we bet about 10% of our starting stack($16.25x.10=$1.63).
Turn: ($6.05) 5♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $3.95, CO calls $3.95
The turn brings a very good card as it completes a straight, adds a flush draw to some hands that may have held on, and still allows some very weak holdings to continue. The strength of our hand has not changed, so we want to set up a reasonable river shove with a 1/4 starting stack bet($16.25x.25= $4.06).
Notice how I bet slightly less than 25% of my starting stack, so my bet is under $4.00. I will not get much into the psychology of betting in this book, but you always want to be mindful of how small variations in bet sizing can lend itself to more frequently accomplishing our goals. Had we been bluffing here, a bet of $4.10 might be better as it “looks” scarier to many opponents and may get folds a bit more frequently than a sub-$4.00 bet.
River: ($13.95) A♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $9.65 (All-In), CO calls $9.65
Not the best river in the world unless our opponent has an ace, but you never want to check or bet less than an all-in in this spot. Checking is a mistake as our opponent will not likely bet unless he had a nut hand, in which case he is calling the shove anyway. We had a plan for the river before we bet the flop, and there is no sense in varying from it now.
Total pot: $33.25 | Rake: $1.65
Hero had 6♥, 6♦ (full house, sixes over nines).
CO had 7♠, A♠ (two pair, Aces and nines).
Outcome: Hero won $31.60.
Note that the opponent called with only ace high and a backdoor flush draw on the flop. A reasonable play on his part, but had you bet bigger, say $2.50, you would have been much less likely to get action and see a turn card. Our opponent picked up a flush draw on the turn, allowing him to continue, and then call on the river when he picked up one of his “outs.”
No-Limit Hold’em, $0.20 BB (6 handed)
Hero (CO) ($4.43) Button ($25.65)
SB ($17.40) BB ($11.05)
Preflop: Hero is CO with A♦, A♠
2 folds, Hero bets $0.40, Button calls $0.40, SB calls $0.30, BB calls $0.20 We pick up the nuts in the cutoff and put in our standard raise.
Flop: ($1.60) 10♦, 5♣, 8♠ (4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $0.45,1 fold, SB calls $0..45,1 fold
We get a very favorable flop for our hand. It hits our opponents’ calling ranges very well, but does not likely have us beat right now. There are not many turn cards we are worried about, so three streets of value seem appropriate. We started the hand with only 22 big blinds, so we do not have to bet big on the flop to set ourselves up for a river shove.
Turn: ($2.50) Q♥ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $1.10, SB calls $1.10
We get a turn card that only completes J9 or gives Q10 two-pair. Both of those hands would have often raised a short stack on the flop and are thus unlikely. However, a Queen does connect with a few random floats in one way or another and is not likely to scare off many 10x hands either. We should not be concerned by any card at this point, since we are already committed. Therefore, we continue with the plan and bet 25% of our starting stack. Betting a bit smaller here, like .99, would be okay as well.
River: ($4.70) 3♦ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $2.48(All-In), SB calls $2.48
We get a blank river and have just over a half-pot bet left in our stack. After getting called on the turn, you should expect to almost always get called on the river by an opponent’s entire turn range on such a blank card when the board is dry.
Total pot: $9.66 | Rake: $0.48
SB had 5♥, 6♥ (one pair, fives).
Hero had A♦, A♠ (one pair, Aces).
Outcome: Hero won $9.18.
Our opponent looked us up with 4th pair. By betting small over three streets, we gave him a chance to call us down. It’s unlikely that he would have been willing to call a big bet on the flop and then a turn shove with such a weak holding.
Betting To Get All-In On Wet Flops
If you hold a strong hand on a wet flop, then you usually don’t want to fool around with three streets. You want to be able to shove the turn and give your opponent the chance to stick it in while they either have outs or before a scare card can come and give them a reason not to call. Therefore, an effective method for playing wet boards is to bet 25% of your pre-flop stack size on the flop and then shove the rest in on the turn.
In this scenario, you will be over betting most of the time on the flop and some of the time on the turn. But do not be concerned with pushing out weak hands on the flop that may have called a smaller bet. The times you get more money in against second best hands will more than make up for it.
Besides, on wet boards players tend to stack off a lot lighter anyway. In fact, your bet size might convince an opponent to just go ahead and shove on you with top or second pair thinking that you must be bluffing or semi-bluffing, because who in their right mind would bet that much if they actually wanted action?
Let’s look at an example of wet board play:
No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (6 handed)
Hero (HJ) ($3)
CO ($11.60) Button ($10.37) SB ($8.21)
Preflop: Hero is HJ with 7♦, 7♠
1 fold,Hero bets $0.20,2 folds,SB calls $0.15,1 fold
Flop: ($0.50) Q♥, 10♣, 7♥ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $0.75, SB calls $0.75
A wet board that hits a very wide pre-flop range. There are very few turn cards we want to see. We want the money in as quickly as possible, so we bet 25% of our starting stack.
Turn: ($2) 4♣ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $2.05 (All-In), SB calls $2.05
Since we only have a pot sized bet left, we are shoving any turn card.
River: ($6.10) 2♣ (2 players) Total pot: $6.10 | Rake: $0.40
SB had 5♥, 6♥ (Queen high).
Hero had 7♦, 7♠ (three of a kind, sevens).
Outcome: Hero won $5.70.
The small blind called the flop with a flush draw and then stacked off after picking up an open- ended straight draw on the turn. This example highlights another benefit of betting large on wet boards as it makes opponents pay a very bad price to draw against us.
Now let’s look at an example of playing a flopped over pair on a wet board:
No-Limit Hold’em, $0.20 BB (6 handed)
HJ ($19.98) Hero (CO) ($6) Button ($17.67) SB ($22.36)
Preflop: Hero is CO with J♠, J♥
2 folds,Hero bets $0.40,2 folds,BB calls $0.20
Flop: ($0.90) 2♣, 7♦, 8♦ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $1.60, BB calls $1.60
With an SPR of 6.2, we are certainly committed on this wet flop. There are a lot of hands that connect with this board and plenty of 6 outer hands that might float a small bet. So we bet a little bigger than 25% of our starting stack with plans to shove any turn.
Turn: ($4.10) Q♥ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $4.00 (All-In), BB calls $4.00
An over card comes, but there are plenty of hands still in our opponent’s range that might call a shove.
River: ($12.10) 10♣ (2 players, 1 all-in) Total pot: $12.10 | Rake: $0.60
BB had 8♠, A♠ (one pair, eights).
Hero had J♠, J♥ (one pair, Jacks).
Outcome: Hero won $11.50.
It is possible that the big blind might have folded to a bet-bet-shove line, but since we were able to get all-in on the turn, he never got the chance to fold the river. We also gave all of the 7x, 65, T9, TT, 99, and flush draw hands a chance to commit as well.
Betting To Get All-In With Draws
Strong draws should be played similarly to big made hands. The only difference is that I like to get all the money in by the turn, no matter how dry or wet the board is. Not only does this maximize fold equity with your non-made hand, it also allows you to get it in with some equity on the turn.
Another benefit to playing draws so fast is that it keeps things very simple. It allows you to avoid a difficult river decision on whether or not to bluff should your draw not come in. Until your hand reading improves, it is best to give yourself fewer opportunities to make mistakes.
No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)
Hero (CO) ($20.92)
Button ($50.75) SB ($62.85) BB ($15)
Preflop: Hero is CO with K♠, Q♠
2 folds,Hero bets $1, Button calls $1,2 folds
Flop: ($2.75) 10♦, J♠, 6♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $5.50, Button calls $5.50
We flop a huge draw, and since the board hits so many hands, we decide getting the money in fast is most profitable.
Turn: ($13.75) 3♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $14.42 (All-In), Button calls $14.42
We likely have 40% equity on average when called, making our shove extremely profitable.
River: ($16.53) 5♠ (2 players) Total pot: $42.59 | Rake: $2.10
Button had Q♣ , 9♣ (queen high).
Hero had K♠, Q♠ (king high).
Outcome: Hero won $40.49.
Our opponent flops open ended and then sticks the rest in on the turn with very little equity. ____________________________________________________________
Getting All-In When You Turn A Big Hand
Another situation that you want to use the 25%/shove move is when you turn a nut hand. Take this example:
No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)
Button ($71.18) Hero (SB) ($17.56) BB ($62.86)
Preflop: Hero is SB with 6♣, 6♠
4 folds,Hero bets $1.50, BB calls $1.00
Flop: ($3.00) J♥, Q♦, 7♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $1.50, BB calls $1.50
We c-bet half pot and get called. Our plan is to barrel an ace or a king, but otherwise give up on the turn.
Turn: ($4.51) 6♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $4.39, BB calls $4.39
We bink a 6 and bet 25% of our starting stack to set up a river shove.
River: ($13.29) 9♥ (2 players)
Hero bets $10.17 (All-In), BB calls $10.17
Total pot: $35.37 | Rake: $1.75
BB had 10♣, Q♥ (one pair, Queens).
Hero had 6♣, 6♠ (three of a kind, sixes).
Outcome: Hero won $33.62.
Our opponent pays off with top pair. As a short stack, it is very easy to set up a shove on the next street anytime by simply increasing our bet size on the current street. ____________________________________________________________
Once your hand reading ability improves, you will likely want to abandon this strategy as your sole method for playing wet boards. However, you may want to keep it in your bag of tricks for particular situations. I use it once or twice most sessions when holding very vulnerable strong hands on extremely wet boards.