We’re back with another episode you’ll want to listen to more than once, as Adam “W34z3l” Jones shares four questions that you should be asking before c-betting. We’ve done a few c-betting episodes in the past, so what’s new this week? C-betting is a major part of poker and you can never know enough, but this week, you can take these four questions to the poker room this weekend and notice an immediate change in your game.
Adam Jones: So this is what we should be focusing on basic C-betting principles. This is going to be a very, very simple list, there’s only going to be four things on this list. So if every single time we’re in a C-betting scenario we consider these four principles before we C-bet we’re much more likely to make the best decision.
Okay principle number one, how vulnerable is our holding? The basic idea is if a holding is vulnerable for example it’s susceptible to being outdrawn by other cards, flush draws or straight draws, then it’s much more important that we fire a continuation bet. We should feel increased pressure to C-bet because there are a number of negative consequences associated with checking back. Our opponent can improve to a better hand, assuming a hand is vulnerable there’ll be a number of scare cards on the turn card where our opponent can effectively bluff against us. So we can avoid these negative consequences by firing a C-bet ourselves.
Assuming our hand is none vulnerable, just to give a quick example, the board texture is ace, king, two, rainbow and we have king, jack, off suit, there’s not really any real need to C-bet in that spot. Doesn’t matter really if we give a free card, there aren’t too many turn cards that can come where we’d want to fold. In fact in most cases there are no turn cards, which would come where we’d suddenly decide to fold our second pair, a good kicker, against a turn lead. That’s of course assuming that we check back in position and face a lead from our opponent on the turn. But the same thing happens if we’re out of position, it’s a very easy hand to check call. There is basically no chance of the turn card completely destroying our hand, and force us to fold against a second barrel.
The next question we should ask our ourselves, this is probably one of the most important ones, in fact all of these are important but this is probably where my primary focus lies in any C-betting situation. The principle is, which barreling opportunities will we have? We really do not want to just go around C-betting random cards. The first thing we should look at is do we have any good back doors with our holding? Do we have a number of back door flushes that we can barrel? Do we have already a made draw, for example something like a flush draw, or a gut shot, or an open ended straight draw (OESD)? Because if we do have these hands we can basically just go ahead and fire any turn card in the majority of situations. But if we don’t have a direct draw we at least need a hand that can improve to a draw with a decent frequency on the turn. Ideally this is going to be a nut draw, or a second nut draw, it’s not going to be a really, really bad draw.
Again if you’d like more information on this there’s a previous video, which was made for Red Chip, which is called flop connection nuances. So in general back door draws are good, but not every back door draw is good, there are some really bad back door draws, which are probably better off going in our check folding range. We don’t want to be too much in the situation where we C-bet the flop, we turn a draw, we fire again, we make our draw on the river, we bet, we get shoved on by our opponent and he just has a better draw. Sometimes this will be a cooler situation, especially if we have something like the second nut flush for example. But in other situations if we are just C-betting and barreling really bad draws and we’re consistently getting stacked when our opponent has our draw dominated then this is not really a cooler anymore, this is just us not barrelling very good hands to barrel.
While were primarily talking about the flop in this podcast many of the same principles are going to apply to the turn. So let’s say we’re on the flop, we have something like a good back door flush draw, we fire the flop and unfortunately the turn does not give us our back door flush draw. In that situation it’s now okay to be check folding, so in the same way that we don’t want to just barrel garbage hands on the flop with no potential we don’t want to double barrel garbage hands on the turn either. Obviously it feels a little bit sick to invest a bunch of money with our pre flop raise and then C-bet the flop and then just check fold the turn, it doesn’t feel good to do that, but it is the correct play. We should in fact have some hands that fire the flop and check fold the turn. In fact if we never check fold any hands on the turn, and we just double barrel everything then that’s an exploitable tendency also. Because our turn barrelling rates going to be way to wide, we’re going to become susceptible to raises etc, or double floats.
Principle number three is how many streets of value is a hand worth? Hopefully at some point in your poker career you’ve already picked up the ability to estimate roughly how much value flop hands are worth. So when you see a hand you should be able to say, well I can normally get three streets out of this, or I can normally get two streets but not three. Or this is a one street of value hand, we have to be able to do this. Now if this is something you’re not used to keep in mind that it’s something that is dynamic and it’s going to change based on the exact board textures. So it’s impossible to state exactly how much different hands are worth in terms of streets of value, also it’s going to depend on our opponent because if our opponent is a calling station then a hands worth more value then if he’s a nit, as we don’t get as much value.
But it’s a very, very rough guide, top pair, top kicker plus. Not always top pair top kicker actually, in many cases it’s always two pair plus, is worth three streets of value. Top pairs and very good second pairs are worth two streets of value. Weak second pairs are lower, sometimes worth one street of value. A pair is typically worth one street of value but not worth anymore than that, especially if it’s something like third pair. Now obviously this is just a super rough guide, because we might have something as strong as a straight for example. But if the board has run out in such a way that there are four cards to a flush on the board, then our straight is not worth a value bet on the river. So the hand is only going to be worth two streets because of the board run out. So it’s really somewhat dependent on the board texture.
So how does this apply to C-betting? Well the general idea is this, if we have hand that are only worth two streets of value and this includes possible draws that we have, which would be only worth two streets of value if they hit. Then we don’t need to feel a large necessity to fire the flop, if a hand is only worth two streets of value anyway, there’s not a huge negative consequence associated with just checking the flop. We can get our value on the turn and river. If we have a weak draw and it hits on the turn we can get our value with these hand as well, on the turn and river. The exception of course is that we have a vulnerable holding, if we have a hand that’s worth two streets but is also extremely vulnerable then we should feel a necessity to C-bet the flop. Because there are a ton of negative consequences associated with giving that free turn card with a vulnerable holding.
So if we assume for a minute we have a hand that’s only worth two streets of value, and is not especially vulnerable, or we have a weakish draw, which is worth two streets of value if it hits. Now we have a hand where we don’t really need to C-bet the flop. However if we have a hand that is worth three streets of value, unless we have some kind of sick read on our opponent, he’s going to start launching huge bluffs against us if we slow play the flop, then it’s very important that we fire the flop ourselves. Because if we have a hand that’s worth three streets of value and we check the flop, now there’s a very good chance that we’re only going to get two streets of value with a hand that should have been worth three streets of value. That’s a big problem, so the idea is if we have a hand that’s worth three streets we should show a strong tendency towards betting the flop, baring some kind of read on our opponent. Sometimes we’ll maybe check like the flop and our opponents going to start launching huge over bet bluffs on the turn and river, that’s fine, in that case the EV of actually checking the flop with a hand worth three streets of value is going to be higher than the EV of C-betting.
But against most players, especially if you play low limit games against passive opponents who are not going to bluff you on the later streets, if you have a hand that’s worth three streets of value on the flop then it’s probably not a very good idea to slow play. Okay principle number four, opponents tendencies, hopefully this one is relatively straightforward and obvious, if we play online we want to look at our opponents HUD stats. So the first place we’re obviously going to look is our opponents fold to C-bet frequency. Now as a rough guide if our opponent folds more than 40% to a two thirds pot bet, we are generating automatic profit. However this does not mean that just because our opponent is folding 41% that we should instantly jump to a strategy where we just C-bet any two cards because we’re generating automatic profit.
We still have to compare the EV of C-betting with the EV of checking back, there are some situations where yes, we have a plus EV C-bet because you make automatic profit but it’s not necessarily the highest EV line. So as a rough guide if our opponents folding about 45% to C- bets, okay yes, he’s slightly over folding but that doesn’t mean we should C-bet like crazy necessarily. We’re probably still going to be playing a reasonably balanced strategy in that spot because despite the fact that we can C-bet everything profitably it does not automatically mean that, that’s the max EV line. However the higher that opponents fold to C-bet flop stack gets the more we should adjust our own strategy to be completely unbalanced. So by the time our opponents folding about 60% to flop C-bets, now we really just do not care because there’s a very good chance that C-betting anything is going to be the highest EV. In fact even some of our value hands, the amount of folds we get on the flop is just so valuable that unless our opponents going to start bluffing the turn a ton, we should just basically C-bet everything and just take our automatic profit. Even more the case when our opponent starts folding 80% to flop C-bets or something like this.
While folding to flop C-bets is going to be one of the more useful stats we check, it’s not the only stat you should check in this situation. Other important stats to look at are how much does our opponent raise against a C-bet? We’ll find that if he raises very aggressively then we actually have an argument for checking back some mid strength showdown and value hands, even if they’re vulnerable. Because when we bet and we get check raised, that’s probably worse than checking back and giving a free card. The other thing we’re interested in is our opponents fold to C-bet stats on the turn and river. A common mistake players make is they just look at their opponents fold to flop C-bet stat. So they’ll have something like a back door flush draw, which would ordinarily make a very good bluff, then they look at their opponents fold to C-bet stat and they see that he only folds 10% to C-bets. So they say, well okay I’m looking to bluff this guy, I just check. But what they didn’t see was that this guy was folding 80% to turn barrels.
So what that basically means is rather than check the flop the best play is probably to C-bet the flop, because we know that we can basically barrel any turn card regardless of whether we improve or not, and we’re going to be making profit for the hand. So we should always be looking ahead, and we should even be looking ahead to the river stats. Sometimes we don’t know what the best exploitative flop play is until we’ve considered our opponents tendencies on the turn and river. This is why we should actually be going through in our mind, river scenarios, before we even C-bet the flop. So there is your check list.