The Upswing Digest is a monthly publication containing the best strategy questions of the month submitted by our Lab subscribers. Doug Polk and Ryan Fee provide their thorough answers and then they’re all compiled into one easy to navigate package.
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News & Announcements
Doug’s $100 to $10k Bankroll Challenge is on break for September. He has played 16 days of the challenge and the bankroll has had more swings than a Kindergarten playground. Catch up with challenge highlights, recaps and more on the official challenge page!
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Live $2/$5, $1k Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Qx Qx in the LJ
Hero raises to $20, only BTN calls
Flop ($42) Ax 7x 4x
Hero checks, BTN bets $30, Hero calls
Turn ($102) 9x
Hero checks, BTN checks
River ($102) Qx
[R] I think going for a check-raise here is pretty good. It’s possible that he’s made two pair with AQ or Q9 which he’ll definitely bet/call. He also could have checked the Turn with an Ace, which live players sometimes do arbitrarily, so you’ll usually get at least one bet out of hands like that as well.
Hero (LJ): 32 BB
HJ: 55 BB
Hero is dealt Th Td in the LJ
Hero raises to 2.5 BB, only HJ calls
Flop (7 BB) 8c 7d 2c
Hero bets 5.5 BB, HJ calls
Turn (18 BB) Ad
Hero checks, HJ bets 12 BB, Hero calls
River (42 BB) 2h
Hero checks, HJ bets 20 BB, Hero calls
[F] I check Flop here with the Tens. There are so many runsouts where you won’t get to triple-barrel and get paid with your Tens.
[R] It’s a tough spot. You beat a couple of hands, but they can easily have an Ace they floated with, the nut-flush draw or a set. It;s ‘What is he bluffing with?‘ It’s basically gotta be something like 55 or KQ. Despite our really good pot odds, I’m ok letting them take this one.
50nl on the Merge Network, $52 Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Ah 7h in the SB
Hero raises to $1.50, Big Blind calls
Flop ($3) 9d 6h 5h
Hero checks, Big Blind checks
Turn ($3) Tc
Hero checks, Big Blind bets $2.25, Hero raises to $6.50, Big Blind folds
[F] The Flop check is standard. The board is coordinated enough to definitely check with Ace-high and a combo draw.
[T] I think we should check-call this because of all the broadway bluff combos, such as QJ and KJ, in the Big Blinds’s range. We have such great equity that we can call.
A better hand to check/raise turn with here would be something like A7 without a flush draw.
9 handed live, 5/5 blinds
Hero (UTG1): $800
Hero is dealt Ax Ax as UTG1
Hero raises to $20, LJ calls, HJ squeezes to $50, Hero 4bets to $175, LJ folds, HJ calls
Flop ($375) Kx Qx 5x
Hero bets $200, HJ raises to $625 all in
[FEES] You have Aces but so much money has gone in, and if your opponent has flopped a set you’re just going to have to get stacked. I think you just have to bet and go with your Aces here and then just try to Turn an Ace. That’s like the best plan.
[F] This kind of sucks, but too much money has gone in the pot to fold. If your opponent has flopped a set you’re just going to have to get stacked. I think you just have to bet and go with your Aces here.
[T] Try to turn an Ace if you can, that’s the best plan. 😀
$44 Bounty Builder on PokerStars
Hero (BB): 5,638
Hero is dealt 6s 4c in the Big Blind
CO raises to 642, Hero defends
Flop (1,884) Ac 6c 5c
Hero checks, CO bets 869, Hero raises to 5,026 all in
[FEES] My man, what up Veerab!
[P] The defend is fine.
[F] I think this Flop play is fine, but it’s probably better with a straight draw + flush draw like 73 with a club or 87 with a club.
It’s okay to do it with a made hand, but it puts your opponent in a more difficult situation should you call the Flop because then they’re forced navigate the Turn with their weaker hands, which is not always so easy.
It should be pretty straight-forward to play your hand on most Turns so I would just call the Flop. If you have like 1k less chips, the shove is probably fine. With 2k less chips it’s definitely fine. The situation you’ve presented is close.
10nl, 96 BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt 4s 4d as UTG
Hero raises to 3 BB, CO calls, BTN calls, SB calls
Flop ($1.30) Ts 4c 2c
SB checks, Hero bets 9.3 BB, only BTN calls
Turn ($3.16) 5h
Hero bets 22.6 BB, BTN calls
River ($7.68) 8c
[R] I’m gonna start by saying your options are: check/fold or jam. Don’t check-call this river.
Your opponent has got a lot of Tens, and he’s also going to have a lot of Clubs. I would lean towards check-fold, but if he’s a fish I lean towards jam.
A fish I would gamble a bit by jamming for value whereas a regular would fold most of the the worse hands and only call with better hands, so I would check-fold versus a reg and jam versus a fish.
100NL, 137 BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Qc Jc in the SB
CO raises to 3 BB, Hero 3bets to 10BB, CO 4bets to 26BB, Hero calls
Flop (53 BB) Kd Tc 7s
Hero checks, CO bets 23.6 BB, Hero calls
Turn (100.25 BB) 3c
Hero checks, CO checks
Hero bets 87 BB all in, CO calls
[P] His flop bet is enormous. I guess you have to call, but I might fold 98s to this larger sizing.
[R] This is one of the worst hands you can ever have here so you just have to bet.
You could maybe try to bet half-pot because there’s a chance your opponent checks his entire range on the Turn, and betting half-pot could put him in a tougher spot with Ax.
I like that better actually. I think you should bet half-pot here with a range of like Kx and sets.
I like jamming with 98s but then betting half-pot with QcJc here. Jamming puts Queens and Jacks in a tough spot so we’d rather not block those combos when we jam. If 98s is out of our range because of the flop sizing, I would jam QcJc.
BB: 138 BB
Hero (BTN): 100 BB
Hero is dealt Qh Th on the BTN
Hero raises to 2.2 BB, BB defends
Flop (4.8 BB): Kd Jh 5s
BB checks, Hero bets 2.8 BB, BB calls 2.8 BB
Turn (10.4 BB): 4s
BB checks, Hero bets 6.6 BB, BB calls 6.6 BB
River (23.6 BB): As
BB donks 19 BB, Hero raises to 50.2 BB, BB reraises to 127 BB all in
[DOUG] River is close between raise and call. I think I like to raise, but given he flatted the BB pre, he sort of has to have a flush or a bluff.
When he comes in over the top, you will have plenty of flushes to call with. You are actually near the bottom of your value raise range, so this makes me fine folding to the jam.
As a general rule, when you are at the bottom of your value raise range, you can fold to reraises.
[R] River is close between raise and call. I think I like the raise, but given he flatted the BB pre, he sort of has to have a flush or a bluff.
When he comes in over the top, you will have plenty of flushes in your range to call with. You are actually near the bottom of your value raise range, so this makes me fine folding to the jam.
As a general rule, when you are at the bottom of your value raise range, you can fold to re-raises.
Bovada 100nl Zone, 104 BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Kd Qd in the SB
CO limps, Hero raises to $4, CO calls
Flop ($9) 9d 6d Ks
Hero bets $5, CO calls
Turn ($19) Js
Hero bets $12, CO raises to $55. Hero has $83 behind.
[FEES] This is such a f******* absurd hand.
[T] Our pot odds are just way too good. We need about 36% equity to call this Turn bet. It looks like he has two pair but technically I’d call versus two pair.
We just simply can’t fold. We have too much equity.
[R] Probably just call down because then your pot odds on the River will be crazy good.
Hero (MP): 101 BB
CO: 100 BB
Hero is dealt Th Tc in MP
Hero raises to 3 BB, CO 3bets to 10 BB, Hero calls
Flop (21.4 BB) 6h 5h 6d
Hero checks, CO checks
Turn (21.4 BB) 9s
Hero checks, CO bets 16 BB, Hero calls 16 BB
River (53.4 BB) Td
Hero checks, CO checks
[T] I’d probably just bet Turn and barrel River.
That said, check/call is good, too. It would depend on your opponent. There’s not an obvious way to play this spot.
Bovada 100nl Zone, $100 Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Jc Js in the Big Blind
CO raises to $3, Hero 3bets to $10, CO calls
Flop ($20) 7c 4c 7s
Hero bets $11.25, CO calls
Turn ($42.5) 5c
Hero checks, CO checks
River ($42.5) 8s
Hero bets $24.50, CO raises to $97 all in
[F] I’d size my flop bet bigger here.
[T] Even when the flush completes I would still probably just bet and plan on jamming River. The only thing you lose to is a flush or a boat. He doesn’t have very many bare 7x hands so I would just go for it.
[R] I probably wouldn’t bet this particular River to begin with but I guess I call because I don’t think you lose to enough hands and it’s really easy for him to find a bluff here, especially if he has the Ac.
888 Poker 5nl, 100 BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Th Tc in the Big Blind
BTN raises to 2.2 BB, SB 3bets to 7.6 BB, Hero cold calls, BTN calls
Flop (22.8 BB) 8h 3s 2d
All players check
Turn (22.8 BB) 5s
SB checks, Hero bets 12 BB, only BTN calls
River (46.8 BB) 5c
Hero bets 30 BB, BTN raises to 83 BB all in
[F] Betting the flop is a solid option here.
[T] I’d bet bigger on the Turn.
[R] You can’t really fold Tens here. I mean other than Eights this is probably the best hand you can have. You would need a lock-down read to fold.
I don’t think it’s particularly likely your opponent is bluffing here, but I don’t see him getting you to fold this.
25nl on the Winning Network
Hero (CO): 126 BB
SB: 144 BB
Hero is dealt Ks Ts in the CO
Hero raises to 3.6 BB, SB 3bets to 9 BB, Hero calls
Flop (19 BB) Kd Js 2c
SB checks, Hero bets 12 BB, SB calls
Turn (43 BB) 7s
SB checks, Hero bets 28 BB, SB calls
River (99 BB) 6h
SB checks, Hero bets 77 BB all in
[F] I would probably check the flop here. It’s close though so I definitely don’t hate the bet.
[R] Well played the rest of the way.
Big $33 on PokerStars, Blinds 350/700
23k Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt Jh Ts in the LJ
Hero opens to 1428, only CO calls
Flop (4,626) Td 9c 8h
Hero checks, CO bets 2100, Hero calls
Turn (8,826) Ad
Hero checks, CO bets 4900, Hero calls
River (18,626) Tc
Hero checks, CO bets 15k all in
[FEES] JFC this hand is insane!
[T] It’s funny. I mean you’re probably going to be pretty conservative about calling the Turn. Like the only Tens you’re really going to have are like JT or AT. And otherwise you’ll probably have like two pair or a set.
[R] You sort of have like an impossibly strong hand on the River. The stupid part about this is people are just so rarely gonna show up with bluffs here.
Go with your gut. Probably call. It’s really hard to have a better hand that JT there.
5/10 Live, 350 BB Effective Stacks
Button is a young regular
Hero is dealt 9♦️ 9♥️ in the LJ
Hero opens to $35, BTN calls, BB calls
Flop ($115) 8♦️5♠️3♦️
BB checks, Hero checks, BTN bets 75, BB folds, Hero calls
Hero checks, BTN bets $125, Hero call.
Hero checks, BTN bets $245
[R] I would fold Nines. You make a ton of Ax on the Turn that you can use to call down, so yeah I would just fold with the Nines.
General & Theoretical Questions
Message from Doug
I want to make a quick post to clear something up that I have been seeing in some hands, specifically regarding bet sizing.
When picking a bet size on each street, remember that you want to keep that size fairly consistent across all streets. If things change and now you need to use a bigger size that is fine, but on brick runouts you will generally be keeping the same size that you use to bet on the flop.
The main thing I wanted to address however, is betting large on the river. I am seeing a bunch of hands lately where players are betting HUGE on the river when they are bluffing. The following sentence is probably the most important thing I can tell you when deciding what to bet on the river.
“Bet a size that lets you continue to valuebet with your most common valuebets!”
So for example, on 732TJ, pick a size that lets you bet QQ (So something like 65% pot.)
Don’t just be full potting and/or overbetting rivers because you saw me do it and you want to do it too. If your opponent has a capped range, and you have a bunch of VERY strong hands, then you can overbet. But your standard bet size should absolutely be in the 2/3-3/4 pot range.
From the SB, a lot of Villians I play against have a 3bet% of between 12% and 18% with no flatting range. Should we be 4betting more or less vs a range that never flats?
Should our 4bet range be more linear or polar?
How does our position as the opener change things?
[FEES] Against a player in the Small Blind with these numbers, it’s generally best to open to a smaller size and potentially open a tighter range (depending on how much they 3bet).
4bet more often versus this range. You’re going to want to 4bet thinner for value and also include some bluffs in your 4betting range.
The standard Upswing ranges are actually kind of prepared for this. They have a ton of bluffs sort of specifically for this situation.
The position of the opener matters a lot, because if you open UTG they’re going to 3bet with a tighter range than if you open from the Button.
If you open the Button your opponent is going to 3bet as wide as Tens and AQs, whereas if you open UTG you’re probably only getting 3bet by QQ+ and AK. You can then 4bet more or less to reflect that.
The hands you choose to bluff will change depending on position. It’s a lot of suited Aces from the earlier and mid positions and then from theButton it’s a lot more suited junk hands or off-suit Aces.
Despite doing well in the MTT/STT, SNG/Jackpot realm, I struggle in cash. It occurs to me that it may be that I fundamentally don’t grasp deep stack play and am not valuing my holdings properly. Do you have any tips that will help a winning MTT/SNG player transition to cash?
[FEES] First off, great observation. Cash games are much tougher than tournaments, especially Sit & Gos because those formats are very short and a lot of your decisions there are centered around Preflop play. Do I call? Do I shove? It doesn’t get too much more complex than that.
In cash games, the hand has just begun once the preflop action has ended. All of the sudden you have to play post-flop. It’s a dramatically different game, so in terms of like what “Tips” I have:
- Realize that you’re playing an almost completely different game and approach it as such
- Try to go through the Upswing stuff and try to nail down our strategy for preflop cash games
- Whenever you reach the flop, approach it by thinking “The hand is just getting started. Now there’s a flop and we have to rank all of our hands in all sorts of different ways.”
- Remember you have to “fight” for these pots, even the small ones.
- Figuring out what and how your opponents think is much more crucial.
Again, Sit & Gos really are a preflop game whereas in cash games it’s really about post-flop. The only real answer is to play a lot. You’ll improve more and more until you have a good idea of what you’re trying to do.
How does open sizing change from online to live?
What are some of the most common adjustments I should be making when it comes to preflop sizing?
And when someone tries to talk to you in the middle of a pot, do you ignore them?
[FEES] You’re generally going to raise smaller online because people are going to 3bet more and call opens less.
Live is the exact opposite, there’s a lot more calling and a lot less 3betting, so in order to make calling less profitable for your live opponents you can do two things: Raise tighter or raise bigger.
There’s sort of a sneaky, unspoken rule that a lot of people don’t talk about; you don’t have to raise tighter live. In fact sometimes you can raise looser, but you’re also raising bigger. Your edge relative to your opponent is huge live, so you’re just going to realize more equity with those hands.
A5s versus a button flat online might have 40% equity in a heads-up pot, whereas live it might have 60% because of how weak/wide your opponent’s calling range is and just how poorly they play.
To reduce the profitability of those wide calls, raise bigger. Again, let’s say you have 60% equity in that pot; you want the pot to be bigger by making it let’s say, 4x instead of 2x or 3x, because you’re getting 60% equity in what is now a larger pot. After all, we’d obviously rather have 60% equity in a $50 pot than a $30 pot.
I tend to not talk a lot in the middle of hands, but it depends. If I’m in a really good game with a lot of recreational players I definitely mix it up with some chatter.
I’ll never talk to a good pro trying to get information from me, but if it’s a recreational player I want to create a fun atmosphere for them.
Doug, you said on stream that you were going to make some adjustments at the micro stakes tables.
Can you give us any insight on what adjustments were made and how you go about deciding when an adjustment is necessary to your overall strategy at a given limit?
It depends on a variety of factors, including opponent strategies, rake, and game structure.
One thing I realized after week 1 of my challenge was I was playing far too weak of hands vs raises. Not because my opponents had ranges that were too strong, but moreso because of the function of rake. I think that in the cash games I tried to play my normal winning strategy at higher stakes, and that isn’t the best play when rake is just so significant.
I make adjustments all the time. It could be from losing too many hands, realizing a strategy is going badly overall, or by realizing the effect the rake is having on me. A lot of the adjustments were small, play a bit tighter, raise a bit wider in some spots, use specific sizes etc.
One thing that I thought was interesting was that I found it made sense at micros to pick sizes that were JUST below when you would pay rake.
You want to use sizes that get to <20c pots, never 20-25c pots, because rake starts once the pot hits 20c. I adjusted to this by using sizes that resulted in the lowest % of the pot being paid in rake. Everything else I didn’t change too much, I am confident in my long term strategy in these games.
Hi, I don’t know what to do with my C3 hands when I’m faced with a bet.
For instance: MP opens and I call 9h 8h on the Button. MP then cbets heads up to a flop of Jh 7s 2d. Because he bets into me, is my hand strong enough to be a C2 hand instead?
[FEES] Definitely a C3 hand. That said I think in this situation I tend to call this hand and maybe raise like KThh. Just because this hand, or any hand, will eventually bluff when it doesn’t improve that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call. Remember many of the other hands you call with [Jx] will bet at some point and are very strong hands so it makes sense some weak hands can also call and put your opponent to the test later on.
98 of hearts is definitely a Category 3 hand on that Flop. The question is do you raise or call.
It is not mandatory to bet or raise a Category 3 hand on the Flop or on any given street. You can occasionally and circumstantially call with it and then end up turning it into a bluff at a later point in the hand. It depends on what is sensible for your whole range.
On dry boards like this one you’re not going to fast-play that many value hands, so raising with a bluff doesn’t make as much sense as it would on a more coordinated board.
Let’s say we have a set of Sevens here. If your opponent has KJ or Queens, not that many cards are going can come off that are going to discourage them frombetting. When your opponent is likely to continue betting future streets, it’s best to hold off raising until those later streets.
If the board is 8-8-7-5, any card Four-through-Jack changes the board in a meaningful way, so raising a set is a pretty sensible play.
Being in or out of position also matters. I’m more likely to call in position than out of position. When you raise in position you’re really just putting money into the pot with the worst of it and you’re not going to make them fold enough better hands that you wouldn’t win the pot from on later streets anyway.
Is there a kind of rule to follow when it comes to overbetting the river?
[FEES] When you overbet the River the really quick, general rule is that your value bets are very difficult for your opponent to have beat.
For instance: you 3bet and the board runs out A-2-2-7-5. You could double-pot or triple-pot the River with a range like AK and nothing, because your opponent is almost never going to have a hand better than AK.
For the most part if they’ve called two bets, they’re going to have a lot of Ace-X hands. They can sometimes have A7 or A3, but it’s very unlikely they have those hands when compared to all the other Ax hands they can have.
The problem with betting big with a range that has a lot of big hands is that they will only call with a big hand themselves. But if they don’t have any big hands in their entire range you force them to call with hands that aren’t A3+. If they react by only calling A3+ they would be folding too much and would essentially have zero equity in the pot versus your bets.
They would just be giving up nearly 100% of the time and you can respond by bluffing there 100% of the time. They would just rarely/never win the pot. It essentially makes it so your whole range can extract more equity in that pot.
I understand the importance of being balanced and polarized with our 3bets in cash games or at tournament tables that haven’t been broken for awhile, but often in a micro MTT the sample is really small so why not remove your 3bet range entirely and just have a merged RFI range and a merged call 3bet range a la DNegs? Is this a bad idea in tournaments? Obviously at a cash game this would be a big mistake and very exploitable, but in tournaments I understand the benefit to both approaches. Thoughts?
[FEES] You don’t remove your 3bet range entirely because you make more chips by raising than you do like calling.
You’re advocating to never 3bet and to never 4bet, the result of which is less variance and a much smaller average pot size, meaning you will bust less often.
The problem is by doing this you’re giving up a ton of value.
In later stages of the tournaments, there’s a bit of an ICM argument for it but if everyone at the table plays like this, unwilling to push small edges, we can push the small edges. They would fold way too much and we’d collect a lot of chips. There’s not this big difference between cash games and tournaments because everyone knows how you’re playing. The “mechanics” of the game should be the first thing you consider, and that’s the first thing we consider.