No-limit holdem: Hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror.
A great way to strike terror into your opponents is by having a well thought out overbetting strategy.
Even though overbetting has become prevalent in modern day poker games, I have found that not enough people work the tactic into their game. Or, they overbet in the wrong situations, costing them heaps of EV.
So, let’s learn how to overbet better.
To learn how and when to overbet, let’s run through 3 real hand examples from the brand new and equally hot “A Fresh Look at Overbets” module from the Upswing Lab training course. The module is basically a 4 hour and 15 minute lesson featuring a top pro (Fried “mynameiskarl” Meulders) showing you how to pile your chips in properly.
But before jumping into the hands, it’s important that you understand the concept of nut advantage, which is a major theme throughout the examples.
What is Nut Advantage?
A player has a nut advantage when he has more combinations of super strong hands (two-pair or better) than his opponent.
Considering which player has the nut advantage (and how drastic that advantage is) is extremely important when looking for spots to overbet. You can and should want to bet really big in situations where you have many of the strongest hands from the board, while our opponent has only some (or even none) of them.
With that in mind, let’s cue the hands!
Hand 1 – Ripping it in with Queen-high!
500NL 6-Max Zoom. $500 Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Q♠ 9♠ on the button.
3 folds. Hero raises to $11.55. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop ($25.60): T♥ 8♠ 3♣
BB checks. Hero $15.32. BB calls.
Turn ($56.24): 2♥
BB checks. Hero bets $70.50. BB calls.
River ($197.24): 4♠
BB checks. Hero bets $402.63.
Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
Let’s use this hand to learn some general rules regarding overbetting that we can apply to other examples later on.
When it comes to our flop c-bet strategy, there are multiple viable options that are similar in value, but Fried decides to start the postflop action with a larger sizing. By not 3-betting preflop, Villain has removed TT+ (and some 88) from his range, handing us the range advantage and, more significantly, the nut advantage.
The turn is a great card for us to start overbetting. The 2♥ improves barely any of the opponent’s flop calls. Plus, because he would check-raise some of his T8s, 88 and 33 hands on the flop, our nut advantage has gotten even bigger.
Our turn overbet for value range will include a mixture of:
- Two pairs
- Strong top pairs
- Occasionally weaker top pairs with a flush draw
We will balance this range by barreling a number of bluffs, and on this board there are many to choose from. Way too many, actually. Here’s what Fried says about this:
If we were to bluff all our straight draws, flush draws and overcards with a heart, we would end up drastically over-bluffing. Keep that in mind and use these hands only at some frequency.
But I feel like Q9s fits well into our overbetting range and I think we should actually go bigger than $70.50 – more like $80 or even more.
Generally, the bigger your nut advantage is, the larger you can go with the sizing. There really is No Limit.
Once our turn bet is called, the 4♠ on the river is even better than the deuce turn. This card, again, improves very few of our opponent’s possible holdings, but we definitely could have played A5 or 65s this way, both of which are now straights.
As a great rule of thumb, you will often want to use overbets on cards that complete straights which our opponent just cannot have. In this example, we are talking about up to 20 combos of nutted hands in our favor, which is a massive difference.
Therefore, with twice the pot left in effective stacks, we can now easily bluff jam this river. Note that the value of this spot does not really come from the bluff itself. Having bluffs like these gives our opponent an incentive to call when we actually do have one of those nutted hands. And that, as we have shown above, is going to happen a lot.
BB calls and wins $1002.50 with 3♥ 4♥ (bottom pair on the flop that turned a flush draw and rivered two-pair).
Our opponent looked us up with two pair this time, which is quite standard. It is a sad ending to a fun hand, but remember that these situations will be more than compensated for by all those times we get to show him better two pair, sets and straights.
This is a great way to sum up why we want to be overbetting: whenever we run into a “cooler” (meaning that the top part of our range meets the top part of our opponent’s range), we are almost always going to win. This is simply because the top of our range is better than the top pair of his range.
Here, let me show you in hand #2.
Hand 2 – Say hello to my little nizzles!
500NL 6-Max Zoom. $500 Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt J♣ T♠ in the cutoff.
2 folds. Hero raises to $11.15. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop ($24.80): Q♦ K♣ 9♠
BB checks. Hero $7.75. BB calls.
Turn ($40.30): 5♥
BB checks. Hero bets $51.20. BB calls.
River ($142.70): 2♣
BB checks. Hero bets $434.02.
This is an interesting example of a flop that gives us a slight nut advantage. We do outperform our opponent in the number of sets. However, he has almost all of the two-pair and straight combinations, while we should have folded preflop with at least some of the offsuit combinations (such as Q9o) from the cutoff.
Notice how Fried skillfully “widens” his nut advantage for later streets with his flop bet. By betting only one-third of the pot with his entire range, he gives his opponent a good reason to check-raise at least some of his strongest hands to build the pot. Something that he would do much less of if Fried bet, let’s say, two-thirds of the pot.
Now that our range advantage is clear, Fried starts overbetting on the turn. He would balance his value bets with semi-bluffing hands like AJ, AT, J8s and T8s, which both block the opponent’s strongest hands (JT) and draw to a straight themselves.
(I mean, just imagine overbetting on the turn with AT and seeing that jack peel on the river. It’s the stuff I dream of.)
The river is not a Jack, though. It is a deuce, and the deuce on the river does what deuces on the river usually do – change nothing.
With our JT we are looking to play for all the chips with an overbet of three times the pot. With that said, Fried points out that there are multiple sizings you can and should choose on both turn and river. A hand like KQ, for instance, may not be good enough to shove on the river with, but might still want to overbet to a smaller degree.
BB calls and shows K♥ 9♥. Hero wins $1001.00.
Nevertheless, we get called by K9, a hand that nears the top of opponent’s range, and we reap the fruits of nut advantage to the fullest.
Hand 3 – The most amazing runout!
500NL 6-Max Zoom. $505 Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt 8♥ T♣ on the button.
3 folds. Hero raises to $11.55. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop ($25.60): 9♦ 6♥ A♥
BB checks. Hero $8.00. BB calls.
Turn ($41.60): K♠
BB checks. Hero bets $58.09. BB calls.
River ($157.78): Q♦
BB checks. Hero bets $427.09.
We start with another c-bet, which we can do with our entire range (or close to it) on the flop. When our opponent just calls, our nut advantage strengthens once again.
Unlike in the previous two examples, this time the turn brings a significant card.
The K♠ is fantastic for us, improving AK and KK to two-pair and a set respectively. We are, of course, the only player in the pot who can have these hands. “Classic overbet spot,” claims Fried as we put the opponent to the test for almost 150% of the pot.
He calls and the river Q♦ is another beauty. While we wouldn’t overbet QQ on the turn, we definitely have AQ and JT in our range. That is a bucketload of value, to the point where we are actually going to struggle to find enough bluffs to balance this out. To quote Fried:
We have so many strong hands that Villain does not have that we really have the incentive to jam a lot of our range. In general, you do not want to overbet hands that block a missed flush draw, but because this was such an amazing runout for us, I figured I have to bluff my T-8 here even though we hold the eight of hearts.
BB folds and Hero wins $157.78.
So, you can see that on occasion the nut advantage can be so significant that we get to bluff jam what would normally be a terrible bluffing hand. In this case, T♣ 8♥ barely blocks any of our opponent’s calls and blocks some of his folds, yet we still get to leverage our nut advantage and shove the chips in.
Overbetting is a fantastic way to maximize your winnings with really strong hands and put your opponents in truly hideous situations. It’s playing the No Limit to the fullest, really.
- You want to consider overbetting anytime you have the nut advantage,
- The nut advantage mainly occurs when one player chooses a passive action instead of betting or check-raising (or re-raising preflop),
- Best spots for overbets are situations where the next street brings a card that increases the amount of nutted hands we can have, while our opponent cannot really have them.
- Cards completing off-suit straights are the créme de la créme of this, because we are talking about up to 16 combos of nutted hands.
- The bigger the nut advantage, the bigger sizing you can use.
- Choose your bluffs wisely on boards where you can have a lot of them. Pick hands that block the best hands your opponent can call with. Remember that if he cannot have a certain hand, there is not point in blocking it.
Here’s what I recommend reading next: Set vs Set vs Flush for (At Least) a $224,000 Pot (Hand Analysis). The hand features a couple of interesting overbets.
Have fun shoving your stack in!
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