If you’ve ever looked down at a low flop and been unsure how to proceed, this is the article for you.
Today we’re going to focus on how to play on low boards out of position after raising before the flop. This can be an intimidating spot because the stack-to-pot ratio is high (making it tougher to play out of position) and it’s easy to make a mistake.
Our goal today is to make this spot feel less intimidating. Let’s jump in!
General Strategy on Low Boards Out of Position
Let’s cover the three most common situations you’ll find yourself in as the out of position preflop aggressor:
- Choosing which hands to c-bet.
- Playing versus float bet (in other words, when you check and face a bet on the flop).
- Playing on the turn after the flop action checked through.
Each players’ range is the most important factor to consider in these situations. There are many different ways to approach cold-calling in position preflop. Some cold-call with a wide range, some never cold-call, and the rest are in between. These shifts in the in position player’s range will drastically change what the optimal strategy will look like for the out of position player.
Generally speaking, the preflop raiser should check the majority of his range on raggy flops because he is out of position with a range disadvantage. This range disadvantage exists because the preflop raiser will have many more missed high-card hands relative to his range than the in position preflop caller.
The preflop raiser’s c-betting range should consist of hands that can bet 3 streets for value (like top pair top kicker and better) and hands that either have a draw or a backdoor draw. He shouldn’t c-bet every time with all hands that meet that criteria, though, as we will see in the following section.
Versus Float Bet Strategy
When the preflop raiser checks and is faced with a float bet, he will need to defend aggressively by check-calling and check-raising often while check-folding rarely, depending on the size of the bet size. If the preflop raiser doesn’t defend aggressively like this, the in position player can float bet with her entire range in a profitable manner.
The check-raising part is especially important. If the preflop raiser doesn’t check-raise aggressively enough, the in position player can bet small with her entire range and get to realize all of her equity for a very cheap price.
By now you’re probably starting to see why it’s so difficult to play this spot perfectly: we need to work strong hands and semi-bluffs into both our betting and checking ranges.
Delayed C-betting Strategy
The hands with which the preflop raiser should delayed c-bet depend on the way he approached c-betting on the flop. He will generally want to check again with A-high hands, trying to get to showdown with them.
He should also lower his requirements for value-betting now that his opponent has shown weakness and bluff with any semi-bluffs that he included in his flop checking range. If your range contains few semi-bluffs, you’re going to have to get creative and bluff some Q-high or K-high type hands.
Now that’s we discussed the general strategy, let’s dive into an of example to see how we build our strategy. As with every situation in poker, there are many ways to build a winning strategy — the following is just one of them.
Low Board Example
We’re going to look at a middle position versus button battle because it’s in-between button versus cutoff and button versus UTG in terms of preflop ranges, thus you can more easily extrapolate for those positions.
Online $0.25/$0.50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $50.
Hero is dealt two cards in middle position
UTG folds. Hero raises to $1.25. CO folds. BU calls. 2 folds.
Flop ($17.50): 8♦ 3♠ 2♥
We will use the preflop charts in the Upswing Lab to estimate each players’ range for this spot. Here is our range from middle position next to the button’s cold-calling range versus a middle position raise:
This is how we could build our c-betting range:
- 99-QQ and A8s for value
- All 2 overcard hands that are worse than king-high, 76s with backdoor flush draw and 65s as semi-bluffs
Let’s dissect this range a bit with a few questions and answers.
Q: Why do we bet with 99-QQ and not 99-AA?
A: In this spot QQ and AA beat the same number of hands, but AA has one additional attribute: it can’t become middle pair on the turn, which means we’re less worried about giving our opponent a free card. KK is similar, though there is a small chance it becomes middle pair on an ace turn. This is why we can use AA and KK to balance out our check-raising range without giving away much equity at all.
Q: Why don’t we bet with the king-high overcards?
A: King-high still has some showdown value, doesn’t mind getting a free card, and we can use them to check-raise if we face a bet, which balances out our value check-raises.
Q: Why do we check with all ace-high hands?
A: Similarly to king-high, ace-highs have showdown value and don’t mind getting a free chance to hit top pair on the turn. Additionally, most ace-highs are strong enough to check-call most bet sizes (below 66% pot) and we can even use the gutshot Ax hands (A5s and A4s) to check-raise.
If we check and face a float bet, we could:
- Check-call with all pairs and ace-highs that have a backdoor flush draw.
- Check-raise with AA, KK, 88, 33, and 22 for value.
- Check-raise with A5s-A4s and king-highs that have a backdoor flush draw as semi-bluffs
This way we end up with a very tricky but decently well-balanced strategy that is tough to play against.
As for our delayed c-bet strategy, it will be heavily dependent on the card that comes. You will need to asses on a case-by-case basis. Just keep in mind that once your opponent has checked his range is very weak and you can probably attack him aggressively as a bluff, especially if he’s the type to float bet too much on the flop. You can learn more about delayed c-betting here.
You should now have a pretty good idea how to play on these low flops out of position. Since we only covered one board today, you’d be wise to practice range building on other boards while keeping in mind the concepts that you’ve read here. You can use pen and paper, advanced software, or anything in between, as long as you’re advancing your knowledge.
I hope you guys enjoyed this article! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback don’t hesitate to use the comment section down below.
Want to learn how to approach another type of board? Read 5 Expert Strategies for Monotone Flops.
Good luck out there, grinders!
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