Something that not all players aware of is just how often they should be playing back at the pre-flop raiser on the flop when facing a continuation bet. If you take the example of a heads-up pot where the pre-raiser bets 2/3 of the pot on the flop, then he only needs to win the pot 40% of the time for that bet to show an immediate profit. What that means for you, as cold caller pre-flop is that you need to be continuing 60% of the time in order for your opponent not to automatically profit by continuation betting any 2 cards.
Breaking Down Your Continuing Range
The fact that the turn will sometimes help your opponent on occasions where you just call his continuation bet actually means that you need to be continuing more than 60% of the time in order to avoid being exploited. When you consider the fact that most players’ fold to continuation bet statistic is usually in the high 40s at the very minimum, you realize that almost no one is continuing often enough to satisfy optimal game theory.
In order to further understand how to play the flop, you need to break down your continuing range into four categories. These categories are:
- Value Raising Range
- Calling Range
- Bluff Raising Range
- Folding Range
The first category is your very strong hands that will typically have 45% or more equity on average versus the range that your opponent wants to get all-in on the flop with; hands like sets, straights, nut-flush draws, and so on.
The second category is hands where you want to call your opponent’s flop bet. These hands usually have something like 30-45% equity against the range with which your opponent wants to get all-in with. You want to avoid raising with this type of hand, as you’ll typically be in a spot where it will be very close between 4-betting all-in and folding if your opponent should 3-bet your raise. The type of hands in this range are top-pair with a medium kicker, weak flush-draws, some middle pairs etc.
The next category is hands with which you want to bluff raise the flop. If you consider the average equity your opponent will have against you when you raise on the flop, the optimal ratio of value hands to bluff hands on the flop is 3:2 in favour of bluffs. This means that you should be bluff raising flops 50% more often than you are raising for value. In today’s games, very few players have their ratio of bluffs to value raises in this range. Bluff raising hands usually have about 10-30% equity against our opponent’s 3-bet/calling range, and should include hands that you consider too weak to call a continuation bet such as bottom pair with an overcard, a back door flush draw with an overcard, or a gutshot straight draw.
Lastly, your folding range is all other hands.
Let’s take a sample hand and breakdown our range in terms of combinations and what we should be doing with each part of our range in order to be playing optimally.
Imagine you are playing 200nl 6-max and your opponent, a relatively loose but straightforward regular player opens under-the-gun and you call on the button, and go heads-up to the flop.
In this situation your calling range on the button might look something the following:
22-JJ, ATs-AQs, KJs+, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s which equates to 108 total combinations of hands.
Now the flop comes down:
How should you break down your range as we detailed above?
Your value raising range should include the following hands: ATs, 22, JJ, KcQc, QcJc, KcJc for a total of 12 combos.
Your calling range will be: AJs, AQs, JTs, T9s, 9c8c, 8c7c, 7c6c, 5c6c, JJ, 99, 88, and 77 for a total of 40 combos.
For your bluff raising range, you need to have about 18 combos to give yourself a ratio of 3:2 bluffs vs. value raises in this spot, so you would use something like: KQs, KJs, QJs, 98s, 87s, 76s (non clubs) for a total of 18 combos. As you can see, this is quite a wide range of bluff raising hands.
In total in this spot, you will be continuing with 70 combos of the 108 which you had pre-flop, which equates to about 65% of the time. Managing your range in this way creates a situation where it is not immediately profitable for your opponents to continuation bet with any two cards.
The main point to take away from this article is that optimal flop play is probably much more aggressive than you thought, and that your raise c-bet stat in Holdem Manager should ideally be in excess of 20%, with your fold to c-bet no higher than about 40%.