All of the world’s top poker players have something in common: they play extremely aggressively.
Playing aggressively allows you to put tremendous pressure on your opponents, which oftentimes forces them to make a mistake. And you, as the aggressor, are the benefactor of these mistakes.
As you might have guessed, aggression is the theme of today’s hand analysis. We’re about to run through a hand played by Fried “mynameiskarl” Meulders in which he flops an open-ender and leverages his hand’s equity to put pressure on his opponent.
This continues our series in which we analyze big pots played by Fried during a recent $2.50/$5 Zoom session. Check out part 1 here. The entire session was recorded and commented on by Fried for members of the Upswing Lab to study. Join the Lab now to watch this and 166 more cash game sessions from top pros.
Let’s jump right into the action!
The hand starts off innocently enough. A regular (J0hn Mcclean) raises from middle position to 2.25 big blinds and Fried calls in the big blind with 6♣ 5♣.
From middle position, John Mcclean should be raising with the top 18-20% of hands, which looks something like this:
Fried’s defending range will be much wider given the very favorable pot odds that he’s getting (3:1). Here is approximately how wide his defending range should be in this scenario:
The 3-betting range is not marked because it’s a bit more subjective (different players approach big blind 3-betting differently), but it should definitely include JJ+ and AJ suited+.
Flop comes: K♥ 7♠ 4♥
Fried makes a procedural check and J0hn fires a small, 33% pot c-bet (1.4 big blinds). Fried proceeds to check-raise to around 55% of the pot (5.4 big blinds) and J0hn calls.
J0hn’s c-bet size is good. Given the board texture and the ranges involved, a smaller c-bet is the preferred option.
As you can see in the PioSolver simulation above, the 33% pot size is used most frequently (the bright orange color).
Now, for Fried’s response. Against a perfectly optimal player, here is the range that PioSolver would use to counter the 33% pot c-bet:
Indeed, 6♣ 5♣ is a very high-frequency check-raise. This makes perfect sense because you want to balance your value raises (74s, K4s, K7s, 77 and 44) with an appropriate amount of bluffs. This hand is an ideal bluff for a couple of reasons:
- No showdown value
- Draw to a very strong made hand
Fried will aim to have a bluff-to-value ratio of around 2:1 here (the approximate optimal ratio on the flop), so he’ll need to include more bluffs in his raising range to balance out those value hands. Other candidates for bluffing are the gutshots (86s, 85s, 53s, 63s), the flush draws, and the combo draws.
Note: Fried won’t bluff with all gutshots, flush draws, and combo draws. He’ll simply add some of them into his range until he reaches that optimal 2:1 bluff-to-value ratio.
The turn comes the Q♣, making the board K♥ 7♠ 4♥ Q♣.
Fried double barrels 80% pot (around 12 big blinds) and J0hn calls.
This turn doesn’t favor Fried’s range since none of his draws have completed, thus his range has weakened. For this reason, he should give up with a lot of his bluffs in order to remain balanced with his value range.
But with which bluffs should he give up? The solver offers a hyper-mixed strategy for this as you can see below:
This complex approach isn’t executable for a human in real-time. For this reason, you will need to use some kind of simplification.
My suggestion is to start by counting your value combos. Then, count bluff combos, beginning with the strongest bluff you have. The goal for turn play is to have around the same number of value combos as bluff combos in your betting range (approximately a 1:1 bluff-to-value ratio).
In this case, you have 13 value combos (74s, K4s, K7s, 77 and 44) which need to be balanced with 13 bluff combos. I would start with some nut flush draws and combo draws, so say A♥ 2♥ through A♥ T♥, plus 6♥ 5♥, 8♥ 6♥, 8♥ 5♥, 6♥ 3♥, and 5♥ 3♥.
This brings us to 12 combos. 6♣ 5♣, 6♦ 5♦, and 6♠ 5♠ have a decent amount of equity and it would be a shame to check-fold with them, so it’s okay to add those 3 combos into the betting range as well (the ratio doesn’t have to be exactly 1:1).
Now you have a total of 13 value combinations and 15 bluff combinations. That’s a well built turn betting range. Let’s take a river.
The river completes the K♥ 7♠ 4♥ Q♣ 9♦ board.
Fried bets 80% of the pot again, 32 big blinds into a 39.5 big blind pot. J0hn tanks a bit and then calls with K♣J♥.
This river is not favorable for Hero’s range. None of his draws hit except J♥ T♥, which means that he, again, needs to give up with some of his bluffs in order to remain balanced.
The first bluffs that Fried will exclude from his betting range are the nut flush draws, as they block the largest portion of J0hn’s folding range on the river. He can’t exclude of his flush draws, however, because that would leave him with a value-heavy betting range.
For an 80% pot-sized bet, Hero needs to have around 30-31% bluffs in his range (see: minimum defense frequency). Fried has 13 value combos (same hands from the turn) so he needs about 5 bluff combos (adjusted for the blockers J0hn’s calling range contains).
The best bluffing hands then become 65s (all 4 of them) and 5♥ 3♥ (the lowest missed flush draw). Both of these hands do the best job of NOT blocking J0hn’s folding range.
Fried may have gotten looked up here, but that doesn’t mean the bluff was incorrect. In fact, his bluffs should be getting called sometimes. If your bluffs never seem to get called, you aren’t bluffing often enough.
In this article I’ve presented a theoretical approach to the situation at hand, but this strategy is far from set in stone. You should always look to shift your default strategy depending on the information you have in front on you.
For further reading, check out “6 Game-Changing Tactics from 500NL Zoom Destroyer Fried Meulders (mynameiskarl)“.
That’s all for now! The third and final installment of this series is coming out next month.
If you have any questions, please ask in the comment section down below.