This article is based on an episode of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by poker pro and coach Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood and Upswing VP Mike Brady. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.
Mike: Welcome to Upswing Poker Level-Up, the show that helps you become a more profitable poker player fast.
My name is Mike Brady and I’m back for Season 2 along with everyone’s favorite Scottish poker pro, Gary Blackwood.
Gary: What’s up guys and girls, and welcome to Season 2 of the Level-Up Podcast.
Mike: If you play 1/2, 1/3 or 2/5 live cash, this episode is for you. The topic on the table is splashy live games.
Have you ever been at a table with players that are super loose preflop and sticky postflop? You know the ones. There’s a limper or two almost every hand. It seems like multiple players see every flop, even when the preflop raise size is huge. Postflop, players show a major willingness to commit a lot of chips with marginal hands. Pairs are rarely folded, draws are always chased.
Games like this are incredibly profitable to play in if you know how to adjust your strategy properly. But they can be very frustrating if you don’t.
Live players ask us about how to best approach these games all the time, and that’s why we’re making it our topic today.
Preflop Strategy In Splashy Live Games
Mike: Let’s start with preflop. Gary, suppose you sit at a live table and after a few hands or orbits, you realize you’re in a splashy game. How do you start adjusting your raise sizing before the flop?
Gary: So when you’re in a super splashy game where people aren’t aware of your adjustments, you can go slightly bigger with your stronger hands.
Very quick tangent here, but live poker is just like online poker, you want to be opening smaller when you’re UTG/UTG+1. You’re much more likely to be out of position when opening in these positions so you want to keep the pot smaller and therefore raise smaller, I even know some very good live pros who min-raise open UTG and UTG+1, so we want to keep our size small from early positions, but overall we want to bump up our raise size slightly with our strong hands, and keep our average hands the same open size.
It’s really important that you don’t go TOO big with your monsters, you don’t want to de-incentivize the splashy players from 3-betting. Say you are playing 2/5 and you pick up aces in hijack, and your normal open size would be $15. You want to go something like $20 or $25 here and not $40 or $45, because when you go mega-huge, people will 3-bet less and you cost yourself some EV.
One last thing I want to say – when you make that raise size bigger, you want to do it at a table where no one will exploit you. They won’t realize what’s happening. It’s really important that you do this against players that aren’t going to adjust to your slightly larger open size with strong hands.
Mike: I think even if there are one or two good players in the game, who might notice such a thing, you should probably stay away from it. With that said, if they’ve already folded, you can kind of act like they don’t exist.
As Gary suggested, you can really get away with this strategy in a lot of live games. Most people at live tables are not going to notice that you even changed your raise size, let alone notice the hands that you’re changing your raise size with.
One follow-up question on that Gary, do you not change your raise size with the less strong hands in your range? Like JTs, 87s, A5s?
Gary: I’ll keep my raise size consistent with medium-strength hands like that. And I’ll make it ever so slightly bigger with the QQ, KK, AA, AK, AQs, those kinds of hands.
Mike: Do you make any hand selection changes in conjunction with those bigger sizes? For example, do you raise less often with speculative hands like low suited connectors?
Gary: So I think the best piece of advice I’ll give out today is the following – when you’re in really loose splashy games, you actually want to tighten up a little with your opening ranges, and when you’re in really tight, nitty games, you want to open wider.
I used to make the opposite mistake when I was a younger man and play super loose in loose splashy games, and by God is it the wrong way to go about things. You don’t want to be a super nit, but you tighten up your opening ranges, and you don’t defend too wide multiway from the big blind.
Think about it like this – if you’re in a loose splashy game full of fun players, going six ways to the flop, etc., why would you ever open 76s UTG? You’re going five, six, seven ways to the flop most times. So in really loose splashy games, tighten up your opening ranges from early position.
On the flip side, when you’re in later position, and it’s folded around to you, you can open as wide as you normally would. You can even open a little wider if there is a very special type of player in the big blind.
But overall, you really want to be quite ABC with your opening ranges, and kind of tighten them up a little bit from earlier position. Because you don’t want to be opening hands that are not going to play very well five or six ways to the flop.
Mike: Another thing about suited connectors specifically, and maybe even some low pocket pairs from some positions; those hands kind of thrive when they’re able to steal the blinds. If you steal the blinds with a hand like 76s, that’s a good result.
In these splashy live games, you know you’re going to be going postflop. If you know you’re not going to steal the blinds, you obviously have to open the speculative hands less often, because you’re going to face a lot of resistance, even in the form of calls.
Weaker speculative hands actually don’t play as good multiway as you might think. You’re going to be overflushed a lot when you make a flush when it goes five, six, seven ways. You’re going to be overstraighted. If you have 76s and the flop comes T98, remember that your opponents are probably playing all QJ offsuit combos.
Can You Limp Preflop In Splashy Live Games?
Mike: If you think you’re at a table where you can get away with limping, how do you approach doing so?
Gary: This isn’t something I’d recommend often, but I guess if you are at the right type of game, with super loose passive players who can’t fold postflop, you could start limping from early position with some hands which can be devastating postflop.
Hands like 22, 33, 44, A2s, that really narrow range that can either flop a set or make the nut flush. Again this really isn’t a strategy I’d recommend but you can for sure have some limps in those really nice loose/passive games.
One thing I absolutely would recommend is having an OVERLIMPING range (calling after someone in front of you limps), and again, it’s the same type of hands. Low pocket pairs, A2/A3s, those types of hands.
I want to put a big massive disclaimer out there for everyone listening, do not ever limp or overlimp pocket aces or kings. You want to play big pots with those hands.
Playing vs Raises In A Splashy Live Game
Mike: Let’s talk about playing versus a raise. You’ll often be facing much bigger raise sizes in these games, and pots are more likely to go multiway. How are you adjusting your strategy versus a raise when you’re in position as well as in the big blind?
Gary: First things first, if we have got very big fun players raising, even to the larger sizes, it’s really important we are aggressive and isolate these guys with 3-bets with the right types of hands. Flatting hands like QJs or AQo or pocket tens might be appealable or feel safe vs a larger raise size, but we must continue to isolate.
3-bet pots in position are very profitable, and 3-bet pots IP versus aggressive loose spewy fun players is unbelievably profitable.
Remember even if these guys are using larger raise sizes, they are players we have identified as loose and splashy, so their ranges are gonna be pretty wide! In terms of flatting, again, really important that we aren’t flatting with hands that are dominated or do poorly multiway, so let’s not call a UTG open in MP with 65s or QJo when we have five or six guys behind who hate to fold preflop.
We can mix in hands like KQo, A9s, these types of hands that are maybe a tiny bit looser than our normal strategy but do really well vs multiple loose players who are in there with the QJo, the 65s, the T4s, that we are now good enough to just let go.
Mike: You have to set yourself up for success with your preflop strategy in these games. Think about the specifics of your game; what you can get away with, what you estimate the ranges of the other players to be. Then base your counter-strategy on some of the tenets that we’re coming up with today.
Postflop Strategy In Splashy Live Games
Mike: Alright, I think it’s postflop strategy time. We obviously can’t cover every postflop scenario without making this a 5+ hour podcast, so let’s start by narrowing the scope. What are the most common and critical postflop adjustments in splashy live games?
Gary: I’ve got four specific adjustments that want to talk about:
- Disregard balance – bet big with your strong hands and medium-sized with your marginal/weaker hands.
- Bluff smarter – i.e. don’t just bluff relentlessly versus guys that hate to fold, use your blockers for bluffs and keep them smart.
- Check-raise with your nutted hands when OOP vs several players.
- Bet extremely thinly for value, block bets everywhere on the river! Betting second pair, third pair, even fourth pair.
Mike: Let’s spend a little bit of time fleshing each of these out a little bit.
The first one you said to disregard balance. Bet big with your strong hands and medium-sized with your marginal and weaker hands. So that’s kind of building off this concept of inelastic ranges. In other words, a player will call with the same range versus a big bet as they will versus a small bet.
When that’s the case, which is often in these splashy games, you can get away with just betting what your specific hand wants to bet. So when you have that good hand, you bet bigger, build the pot, get them to call more.
When you have one of those bluffs, maybe a straight draw, or you’re betting a hand like middle pair that just wants protection, you can go smaller. Because your opponent will probably play the same against that bet as they would versus the big bet.
Gary: Let’s say you open from the button with K9, and a very loose, splashy player calls from the big blind. The flop comes down K-8-2, you c-bet the flop, and they call.
The turn is a 7. As we mentioned in a previous episode of the podcast (When To Barrel The Turn), you’re supposed to check your K9 there at a reasonable frequency, and it’s to balance your range. But versus these very select player types, you want to just bet with K9, just throw GTO out the window and maximize your profit.
Mike: Your next one was bluff smarter, can you elaborate on that?
Gary: As we’ve mentioned, you don’t want to be bluffing relentlessly against these guys that hate to fold. Against this player type, you want to be bluffing with your high-equity draws, your straight draws with the two overcards as opposed to the two undercards.
If you’re betting the flop and turn against someone that’s going to call you down a lot, you want to bet with the ability to improve, as opposed to just having queen-high on a king-high board for example.
Mike: Another way to put this bluff smarter concept – you want to bluff less. Some of your lower-equity bluffs just don’t have enough going on against someone who’s probably going to call you.
That doesn’t mean you’re not going to bluff at all – just be smarter about it.
Your next adjustment – check-raise with your nutted hands when OOP against several players. Fast play a lot, build the pot. don’t slow play your strong hands.
I think that’s pretty self-explanatory – people aren’t folding that often, people are inelastic to bet sizes. So you should bet and raise with your good hands. You want to build the pot.
I don’t even think I need to kick it back to Gary for this one – this one is just so simple. Fast play your hands!
Gary: One or two things I want to add. Let’s say three other players limp, and you overlimp with 44. The flop comes J42. You never want to check-call there. The pot is really small. Say you’re playing 1/2; there’s like $12 in there. You want to be check-raising always with a hand like 44.
On the flip side, there are some instances where you don’t want to fast play super aggressively. Say you open the cutoff, the small blind 3-bets, and you call with 77. The flop comes down K72. You’re playing a bigger pot, and you’re in position, so you can dictate the pace of play. So if your opponent c-bets the flop, you don’t always have to raise there.
Mike: Your fourth adjustment was bet thinly for value. Block betting for thin value with small sizes, with your second, third, fourth pair type hands.
Gary: There’s a good chance if you’re watching this podcast right now, you’re not value betting thinly enough. Even if you think that you are.
In certain nodes in the solver, if the flop and turn go check-check, you get to bet really wide for value with your third and fourth pair on the river. Make sure to aim for the maximum amount you think can get called by weaker hands! With a very wide range of value hands.
Multiway Strategy In Splashy Live Games
Mike: I want to continue talking about postflop, but I want to really hone the discussion on mutliway strategy. This is one of the most important topics in the splashy live games arena. Gary and I both jotted down some general thoughts on multiway play, Gary, do you want to start off with your first one?
Gary: The first thought is that you can’t bet that much multiway because there are lots of players in the pot and thus you have less equity. There’s only 100% equity that’s able to be split among all the players. So when you’re multiway your range has less equity, and you’re betting range goes down. The value of your strong hands goes down.
For example, if you have T9 and the flop is T53, that’s usually a pretty strong hand. But multiway it’s not nearly as strong as it would be if you’re heads up.
Mike: That brings me to one of my notes, and this is a rule that I have for myself in all live games, and especially live splashy games. Just don’t bluff the flop multiway from OOP. Even with solid draws. You flop an open-ender five ways, just check. Combo draws might be an exception. But generally speaking, just don’t bluff the flop. Just check and see what develops.
Gary: Good stuff. The next note I want to talk about: if you’ve made the preflop changes we have suggested, your top pairs will dominate your opponents’ top pairs, so be aggressive with those hands. There are exceptions, like the T9 on T53 flop we talked about.
But if you have KQ and the flop comes K-high, you’re going to really dominate your opponents. Remember these are loose splashy games we’re talking about here. Games where people are in with K9 offsuit and K4 suited. So when we have top pair with a really good kicker on a disconnected board, we want to be in there building the pot as quickly as possbile.
Mike: That brings me to my next notes. It’s crucial to remember the following things when you’re up against opponents with wide ranges:
- They’ll have more whiffs on the flop.
- They’ll have more random two pairs with hands like J4s.
- They’ll have more flush combos with hands like J4s.
- They’ll have more potential bluffing hands on certain runouts because of all the weird trash in their range.
- It’s helpful to figure out ASAP if your opponent is someone who finds the river bluffs.
Gary, I know you have one more thought on multiway play.
Gary: I cannot stress this enough: don’t bluff with no equity. If you are multiway and the flop is Q62, you don’t want to bet with T9. You want to have solid equity, even a hand like 54 is ambitious. It’s really important that we’re not just bloating the pot with absolutely nothing, particularly in these loose splashy games where people don’t like to fold.
Mike: I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work Gary. They just don’t fold.
I have one more note before we wrap up: you can often over-call wider than usual because your opponents/ ranges are wider than usual. For example, you normally have to be pretty tight multiway postflop when it goes bet, call, and the action is on you. One guy has shown a willingness to bet, and another player has shown a willingness to call. So you have to kind of be tight, in theory.
But when one guy will stab with a bunch of random hands, and another player will call with a wide range of marginal hands, you get to loosen up.
Mike: This wraps up Level-Up Season 2 Episode 1.
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