In financial day trading then the most experienced traders learn to listen to the pulse and the heartbeat of the market. This can apply to online no limit hold’em as well. Let us say that a player opens from the UTG seat with an effective stack of 100bb……just what is this action telling us? Well firstly it is telling us that their range is highly likely to be very narrow and probably no greater than 7% as a maximum. The fact of the matter is that it could be far less than that but what other clues is this actually giving to us?
Well it tells us that their range is strong and that we cannot and should not expect much by way of fold equity pre-flop and probably on the flop as well. So there would be little point in 3/betting as a bluff because your fold equity would be minute. This should be obvious but this is what the betting is telling us. We know that our opponent doesn’t have a weak hand and we also know that they don’t have a mediocre hand either and so the only hand type that they have left is “strong”.
Now let us look at another situation where it has been folded around to the cut-off that makes it 3.5bb to go. This action has in no way told us anything about our opponents hand strength and so they could easily hold a strong hand, mediocre hand or a weak hand at this stage. The arrival of further board cards and further post flop action will help us to define their true hand strength more accurately. So if we have say the 10d-9d with 100bb effective stacks then we can actually look at calling the raise. If both blinds fold then the pot is 8.5bb if the raise was to 3.5bb.
The flop comes Jh-7c-4s giving us a gutshot draw and our opponent c-bets for 5.5bb. What has this told us about their hand strength? Well surprisingly it still hasn’t told us a lot and now we have two plans in this hand. The first is to use our position to find out just how much our opponent really likes their hand. They could still hold strong hands, mediocre hands or weak hands but the mathematics of the situation dictates that the largest part of their range will either be mediocre or weak.
So we can call the c-bet comfortably because we do not need to make our straight to win the pot. We can simply look to move our opponent away from the pot when we know what their general hand strength is. Once we call the flop then the pot becomes around 19.5bb. This makes it much more difficult for our opponent to fire a second barrel with nothing and many players will give up with their weak hands and check. You can then step in and bet the turn.
If your opponent calls that bet then they have basically told us that they have gone into pot control with a mediocre hand or improved on the turn. Most of the time we can use a big river bet to prize them away from marginal holdings.
Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at 888poker