Poker is a bit like American football. It’s important to have a solid offense (playing as the aggressor), but if your defense (playing vs. the aggressor) sucks, you’re going to have a tough time winning.
Perhaps the most crucial defensive situation in poker is playing vs. a flop c-bet after defending your big blind. This article will teach you the basics of this common situation, including:
- 5 quick guidelines for playing versus a flop c-bet.
- How and when to adjust the guidelines.
- Using software to improve your strategy in these spots.
Considering how frequent these situations are, studying them will have a huge impact on your win-rate. Let’s get started!
5 Quick Guidelines for Flop Defense
When you’re not sure how to play against a flop c-bet, following these tips will ensure that your defense strategy is balanced and tough to play against:
#1 – Always continue with bottom pair or better
#2 – Always fold underpairs
#3 – Raise with two-pair or better
#4 – Raise often with open-ended straight draws
#5 – Raise with gutshots that have backdoor flush draws
Keep in mind these are just general guidelines. The presence of certain factors should make you play differently vs. a c-bet, such as:
If the board is very good for your opponent’s range, you should raise less often — disregarding tips 3, 4, and 5. Conversely, you can raise more often if the board is very good for your range.
Read this article to learn about which boards favor which player’s range.
Board texture and relative hand strength
Certain hands can be stronger or weaker depending on the board. Here are a couple of examples:
- An underpair is actually a pretty good hand on an 884 flop, so you should usually disregard tip 2 and call at least one bet.
- You can disregard all of the tips on monotone boards because all your hands change drastically in value making hands. such as third pairs (without a flush draw) too weak to continue, underpairs with flush draws strong enough to call, two-pairs too weak to raise for value, and the open-ended straight draws and gutshots too weak to raise as a bluff.
If you know the tendencies of your opponent, you can adjust these guidelines to exploit them. This is especially true if the tendencies are extreme, such as a super-tight nit or an hyper-aggressive maniac.
For example, against a hyper-aggressive maniac who almost always double barrels, you would be better off check-calling on the flop with your two-pair+ hands (disregarding tip 3). This allows him to continue barreling on the turn with a wide range. Conversely, against a super-tight nit, you will probably want to check-fold some bottom pairs (disregarding tip 1).
Here are a few articles that will help you better understand how to adjust versus extreme tendencies:
- How to Obliterate Calling Stations
- 10 Tactics That Win vs Tight Players (Nits)
- Countering an Aggressive Poker Strategy
The bet size matters because it impacts your pot odds and the range your opponent is representing. We’ll talk more in-depth about this in the next section, but the short explanation is:
- If your opponent bets absurdly small, like a min-bet, then you can disregard tip 2.
- Conversely, if he bets very big, such as a 150% pot overbet, then you can disregard tip 1, 3, 4, and 5.
As you can see, it’s fairly intuitive to figure out how to adjust for other factors. If you’re in a tough spot versus a flop c-bet and the guidelines just don’t seem applicable, they probably aren’t. You’ll just have to play the hand as best you can, note the details, and analyze it after the session to figure out what you should have done.
How to Adjust to Different Bet Sizes
Your opponent’s bet size affects two aspects of your defense strategy:
- How much you call (and conversely fold)
- How much you raise
You need to remember two things here:
1. As your opponent’s bet size increases, you should call and raise with fewer hands.
This happens because, by betting big (66% pot+), he is representing a polarized range of strong value hands and bluffs. Against such a strong value range you cannot raise too wide for value, which means you shouldn’t have a wide bluffing range either.
As for your calling range, it should be tighter simply because your pot odds to call are worse.
2. As your opponent’s bet size decreases, you should call and raise with more hands.
When he bets small (50% pot>), your opponent is likely doing so with a merged range, which consists of strong value hands, medium-strength hands, and bluffs. You should widen your value range against these small bets since you will get called by many of his weaker hands (lest your opponent is playing suboptimally and folding too much against raises). Because you can raise more hands for value, you can also raise more hands as a bluff to balance out that range.
As for the calling range, you will be encouraged to defend with more hands because you will be getting much better pot odds to call.
Best Way to Work on Your Flop Defense
The best way that you can work on your flop defense game is by using a solver. It’s very helpful to see which types of hands the solvers calls, raises, and folds with.
Note: You must be very careful to input the appropriate preflop ranges in order to get accurate results.
If you don’t have the time or cash for a solver, another very good option is Poker Snowie. It’s a great tool to use because it offers accurate flop solutions and you can go through a lot of situations very fast due to the way it’s built.
So, what you would do to improve your flop defense game is:
Step 1. Come up with a list of 10-20 flop textures.
Step 2. Name the worst hand that you think you need to defend with (against a specific bet size).
Step 3. Name 3 hands that you should raise with as a bluff.
Step 4. Check the solver or Poker Snowie to see how close you were.
The idea is that, with practice, you will develop your intuition and start to know the right decision in-game.
Being on the offense is cool. You get to be the person dominating and winning the pot more often than not. But that’s only half the game.
If your defense game is not up to par, then for every point you score on offense, you’re gonna lose one (or more) when you’re on defense. That’s just not a winning strategy. So take what you’ve learned here and apply it the next time you play. Defense! *Clap, clap* Defense!
That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. As usual, if you have any questions, criticism or you just wanna let me know how great this article was for you just leave a comment down below!
Till’ next time, good luck you good looking crusher!
Read more from Upswing Poker:
- 3 Theoretically Winning Calls That Lose in Practice
- Stop Bleeding Money in 3-Bet Pots (Playing Vs Missed Turn C-Bet)
- [Quiz] Can You Beat $0.10/$0.25 on PokerStars in 2019?