When it comes to the big blind, size does matter.
People at different stakes play differently. Because of this, we thought it would be great to bring you some insight into how a higher stakes professional — used to all of those theoretically advanced poker shenanigans — approaches a game like the good ol’ $0.25/$0.50 (aka 50NL).
To do this, Upswing coach David “MissOracle” Yan bravely entered the micro stakes Zoom pools to bring you his brand new Play & Explain series.
For today’s article, I selected three hands from the new 4-part series to give you insight into how a very good player approaches a pool full of mistake-ridden players.
The Bigger Picture
Before we jump into the hand analysis, David wants us to take a little step back for a second and try to see the bigger picture.
If you are striving to become a world class poker player, beating lower limits like NL50 is not the goal. It is merely a step. If you focus too much on beating a particular limit or player pool, you might end up stuck there, struggling to move up and beat the next one.
You see, what the best players at lower limits are typically great at is picking off the most common tendencies in these specific pools and exploiting them to the maximum.
However, as you progress through the stakes, you will notice that these exploitable tendencies gradually diminish. This goes up to the point where, at the highest of limits, there isn’t all that much to exploit anymore. The best players are trying to play the most balanced, most un-exploitable strategy they can.
Therefore, if your goal is to one day reach some of the highest limits available, it is absolutely necessary to learn a good theoretical baseline instead of solely focusing on the exploits.
With that in mind, let’s bring the hands.
Hand 1 – Ranges, protect yourselves!
David Yan is dealt Q♠ 9♦ in the Small Blind.
4 folds. Hero raises to 3 BB. Big Blind calls.
Flop (5.7 BB): 8♠ 5♣ 9♣
Hero checks. Big Blind bets 5 BB. Hero calls.
Turn (15.2 BB): 8♠ 5♣ 9♣ 2♣
Hero checks. Big Blind checks.
River (15.2 BB): 8♠ 5♣ 9♣ 2♣ Q♣
Hero checks. Big Blind bets 7 BB. Hero calls.
Big Blind shows K♣ 7♥ and wins the pot.
We open Q9-offsuit from the small blind and flop top pair on 8♠ 5♣ 9♣. At first, it may seem a bit counter-intuitive to check here. We hold top pair, a hand that can both bet for value and benefit from some protection against random overcards.
While this approach certainly has merit, we should be checking a flop like 8-5-9 a decent percentage of the time. Even hands like our top pair will work their way into our checking range, at least some of the time.
If we compare our range as a whole versus our opponent’s range, you may realize that we are not that far ahead. This is because on a board like this, villain can have a variety of strong combinations, namely sets, straights and two pairs.
When this is the case, we should be looking to check a lot more of our hands in comparison to flops on which our advantage is much clearer (such as 9-3-3). When we bet a hand like one pair and our opponent chooses to raise (which he can do a lot of), we will be put into a bunch of tough decisions for chunks of money.
That’s why it makes more sense to continuation bet these flops with a mix of stronger hands and bluffs — a polarized range that can play more easily against a raise. Most of the rest we can simply check.
Turn & River Analyses
After we check-call the flop, the turn goes check-check.
On the river we now face an interesting decision. Having top two pair on a four-flush board, we check over to the big blind, who fires for just under half of the pot.
Although David does not really like it, he remarks it is important to call with a hand like this anyway:
Yes, it’s easy to have a flush, but this hand is kind of strong in our range. We are going to have a plenty of worse hands, like 9x, 8x, 77 and so on. It’s very important to realize that if we only call with a flush, especially a decent flush, we are going to be really over-folding.
Of course, you can argue whether the villain is actually taking an advantage of that. You know, are they actually bluffing enough? And the answer could be no, but I think our hand is just too strong to fold.
After making the call, David is shown the flush and and loses a small pot. That’s poker, folks.
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Hand 2 – No one folds. Now what?
David Yan is dealt A♠ A♣ in the lojack.
Hero raises to 2.5 BB. Hijack folds. Cutoff calls. Button calls. Small Blind calls. Big Blind folds.
Flop (10.44 BB): T♣ 4♦ 6♠
SB checks. Hero checks. Cutoff bets 5.8 BB. Button folds. SB calls. Hero raises to 17.8 BB. Cutoff folds. Small Blind folds.
Multiway pots are very common at lower stakes. And indeed, David found himself in some 4-way action during his NL50 Play & Explain series. After raising preflop with Aces, he got not one, not two, but three callers.
With a lot of people capable of holding a strong hand, David decides to start the flop action with a check:
In general, when you get called preflop and are an out-of-position player, you should be doing a lot of checking. This is especially true multiway. Versus several players, it is simply too hard to construct such betting range that your checking range then does not become too weak.
You do have some hands that do want to bet. But if you bet them most of the time, your checking range will too often end up being just random high cards or middle pairs.”
But there is more to checking multiway than just pure range protection.
Not too many hands actually do have a super clear preference of betting multiway. For example, even if you have a set, checking has advantages too. Someone might either start bluffing or they may hit a hand to pay you off with.
Like if someone has KJ and K comes on the turn, they are now going to be putting a lot more money into the pot in comparison to folding the flop. So, there are not that many hands that want to bet anyway, so I would recommend to check a lot here.
If you are confident that there are a lot of weaker players in the hand, you can consider betting more often. But even then, if there is someone good in the mix, they may notice that if you bet, you have something decent and if you check, you are gonna be kind of weaker.
Although to be fair, even then they cannot do much to counter that. Because if they want to bluff your weak range, they still need to be betting into two other people that aren’t going to be folding much.
But generally, you have to be a bit more careful in these spots. The smarter the players are, the more I would be checking I would say.
So David does decide to check and he faces a bet from the Cutoff and a call from the Big Blind as the action gets back to him:
Facing a bet and a call, I think these players are mainly going to have a ton of random Tx combos. Caller might also have a lot of 6x combos and 4x combos and more, like A6s, 98s, 75s, 54s, etc. Yes, they might have a set or 64s, but maybe they would have check-raised with a hand that strong. Overall, we have that person’s range crushed.
The first guy betting might have a lot of the hands that I mentioned as well. So while I am not particularly thrilled to get it all in here, I definitely want to raise and get more value. And remember, if they fold, it’s not the end of the world. They probably folded an okay amount of equity.
Everyone does indeed fold and David picks up a nice pot.
Hand 3 – Can this board get any scarier?
David Yan is dealt 7♥ 6♥ in the Big Blind.
3 folds. Button raises to 2.2 BB. Small Blind folds. Hero calls.
Flop (4.66 BB): 9♠ T♦ 8♦
Hero checks. Button bets 3.5 BB. Hero raises to 11.3 BB and Button calls.
Turn (26.16 BB): 9♠ T♦ 8♦ A♦
Hero bets 8.38 BB. Button folds.
After defending his big blind versus a button raise, David flops a very vulnerable straight. He checks over to the villain and faces a 75% pot bet, which he contemplates:
This is actually a bit of a dicey spot. Because if you think about it, there aren’t many clean run-outs for us. Any diamond, jack or a queen are pretty bad for us and I guess six or a seven aren’t that great either.
Some players might be c-betting here pretty tightly and even if they do bet a hand like KK, they might not necessarily be putting in a ton more money. So it’s definitely worth considering just calling, and potentially still raising later depending on the board and the sizing.
Nevertheless, David did decide to raise this time. And after getting called, the turn brings a very interesting card. The ace of diamonds, which completes a flush.
David elects to bet about a third of the pot:
In general, when you check-raise the flop and the turn brings a third flush card, the out-of-position player gets to do a decent amount of betting. A smaller sizing is usually preferred, although not always.
The main reason for this is the fact that we are going to be check-raising the flop with most of our flush draws at some frequency. Thus, flushes end up becoming a bigger part of our range relative to villain.
In addition, we are going to have a number of strong but not super-strong hands like straights, sets, and two pairs. These are the kind of hands that do want to put more money into the pot, but they do not want to be putting too much money into the pot and force calls from mostly better hands.
So, let’s say we’d have a set of 8s on this turn. If we bet like a full pot, villain would probably fold most of his worse hands. That’s why using a block bet of about 33% of the pot works so nicely. It is going to be putting a lot of villain’s mediocre hands like 77 with a diamond or JT into a tough spot.
Villain folds and David remarks that with this scary of a board, this is actually a pretty decent result.
It’s always nice to get a glimpse into the mind of a truly elite poker player.
For more David Yan’s insights and pretty decent results, why don’t you head over to our Upswing Poker Lab and watch the entire series!
If you want to keep learning for free, read 3 Hand Examples That Will Help You Overbet Better next.
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