4-straight and 4-flush boards are among the trickiest boards to play.
You will find yourself playing these boards in a variety of situations, from single raised pots to 4-bet pots and everything in between.
Since the topic is so broad, I will be sharing with you 3 general tips for each one that will guide you towards making the right decision more often.
Understanding relative hand strength is one of the cornerstones of a good poker player.
When a 4-straight completes, hands like two pairs and sets are (obviously) now much weaker than before. This is especially true after firing a bet on the previous street, but it still holds true even if you didn’t.
The correct course of action, in this case, is usually to start pot controlling.
Take a look here at how passive a solver approaches such a scenario (big blind vs button in a single raised pot after a flop c-bet):
On the board of J♠ 9♥ 7♦ 8♥, the solver only bets 16% of the time in this spot.
If you look closely, you will see that most of the straights (JT, T9, T8, etc) are actually checking back. That is because the button doesn’t have any nut advantage. By betting, he would mostly get called by the same hand. But he would also miss out on the value he gains from the big blind having a chance to bluff on the river.
Depending on the exact board on a 4-straight turn, there will usually be a lot of straight draws that your opponent can conceivably bluff with. For this reason, you shouldn’t be fixated only on the straight part of your opponent’s range, and remember that it’s usually very easy for him to over-bluff.
This is especially true after you’ve checked back on the flop and then the 4-straight comes in on the turn.
Take a look at this range distribution for the big blind against a button check-back in a single raised pot on the same J♠ 9♥ 7♦ 8♥ board:
If there are loads of potential semi-bluffs in your opponent’s betting range, be willing to make some calls with your strongest non-straight hands. Don’t focus only on the strong hands that your opponent can have! (Unless they’re a huge nit.)
Tip #3 – If your opponent hasn’t shown interest in the pot, widen your value-betting range a little bit
If your opponent plays the hand passively, either by checking back in position or checking to you twice out of position, you can open up your value betting range to include more than just straights.
This is especially true in big blind vs button battles in single raised pots. Try going for some thin value bets with two pairs and sets after your opponent checks back on the flop or turn or checks to you twice.
For example, suppose your opponent checks to you twice on a board of A-Q-T-J and you have a turned two pair with QJ. Even though there are 4 cards to a straight, your hand may be worth a value bet (if not now, then at least on the river).
I don’t suggest going thinner for value than two pair, though, since you will be hard-pressed to get called by a weaker hand more than 50% of the time.
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A 4th flush card coming on the turn has an immense impact on the range vs range equity distribution. In other words, hands that are normally very strong (such as sets, two pairs, and even straights) lose a lot of value.
If you’ve fired a continuation bet on the previous street, you need to start pot controlling with these hands after the 4-flush comes in. Your bets simply won’t get called by a worse hand often enough to profit.
Take a look at how passively a solver plays when the board becomes a 4-flush after c-betting on the flop (big blind vs button in a single raised pot):
The solver only fires a second barrel 28% of the time! This makes sense when you consider that even sets have just above 50% equity against the entirety of big blind’s entire range, which is certainly not strong enough to value bet.
Say you’ve opened on the button and the big blind called. You c-bet on a monotone flop, get called, the turn brings the 4-flush, and you check back.
Now, suppose your opponent bets on the river and you have a pure bluff-catcher (you do not beat any value bets, but can beat bluffs).
In these scenarios, you need to understand that your opponent either has a flush or nothing and that there are few good blockers to drive his bluffs. When blockers are all but out of the picture, it becomes almost completely arbitrary which hands to bluff.
In these cases, your opponent’s bluffing tendencies are much more important compared to the average scenario, in which blockers heavily influence bluffing frequencies. If your opponent is a maniac who likes to bluff, consider a light call. If their mantra is “tight is right,” you can make some relatively big laydowns.
This is the inverse scenario to tip #2. This time, suppose you’re the big blind caller against a button raise. You call a c-bet on a monotone flop and the turn action checks through.
When you play these river spots as the aggressor, you will be free to choose your bluffs however you want to because blockers aren’t particularly relevant.
As a result, your opponent’s tendencies towards over-folding or over-calling in these kinds of scenarios will be paramount in your decision-making process. If they seem to fold versus aggression often, go for an aggressive bluffing strategy. If they’re sticky, don’t bluff so much.
4-straight and 4-flush boards truly are some of the trickiest to play. Choosing bluffs can be challenging, and knowing your opponents’ tendencies is even more valuable than usual.
There are a lot of factors that can influence things, but I hope these 6 tips will make it easier for you.
If you want to learn more about bluffing on the river, read 3 River Bluffing Tips That Will Help You Smash Cash Games.
That’s it for today. Good luck at the tables!
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