Last week's article laid out the theory of continuation betting; the mathematical reasons that make the play profitable. I also gave you a check-list to work through when considering a c-bet with a weak hand. Among the reasons given for the likely success of a c-bet bluff was the fold equity you have when the board hits your perceived range but misses villain's range, and that's what this week's article is all about. I'll go into more detail about how flops connect with perceived ranges below, and also give you some quick short-cuts to hand-ranging, but first I want to describe flop textures in general.

 

Flops break down into two main categories:
A wet flop is one that connects with many holecard combinations.
A dry flop is one that doesn't connect with many hands.

Flops can vary from super-dry to soaking wet. On a dry flop, very few starting hand combinations (“combos”) will have a made hand or a strong draw. Dry flops are, as we say, “hard to hit”. Wet flops connect with many more combos. Indeed, on very wet flops, it's possible for someone to have flopped a straight. Consider this flop, for example:

On a flop of 976, someone holding T8s flopped the nut straight, whilst 85 also has a straight. (85 a less common holding than T8s for sure, but 2NL villains call pre-flop with all kinds of junk, especially in multiway pots). Other made hands on a flop of 976 include sets (99, 77, 66), overpairs (TT+) and two pairs (97, 76), but there are also several combos that have a pair plus a draw. (98 has top pair + OESD, 88 and 87 have a pair + OESD, TT has an overpair + gutshot, 55 has an underpair + gutshot etc).
On 976, there are several more combos that didn't make a pair, but flopped a straight draw. Any hand containing an 8 (e.g. A8s) has an open-ended straight draw, and hands like JT have two overcards and a gutshot to the nuts. Since this flop connects with so many made hands and draws, it is considered a wet flop. If the board was two-toned, a flush draw would be possible, meaning yet more starting hand combinations connect with it, making the flop very wet indeed.

A dry flop, by contrast, doesn't connect with many hole card combinations. Take for example, this very dry flop:

This is one of the driest flops imaginable. Along with rainbow flops of K83, K82 and K72, this is one of the few flops containing three cards of different rank with which it will be impossible to make a straight or flush even when you see a turn card. The ranks of the cards on this flop are stretched far apart. Not only are there no open-ended straight draws on a Q72 flop, there aren't even any gutshots! This dry flop therefore doesn't connect with many starting hands. If you were to bet this draw-less flop, you'll usually only get action from made hands, such as sets, top pair, middle pair with an ace kicker, or perhaps a medium pocket pair.

Another type of dry flop is a paired board, like this one:

As with the flops above, there is no flush draw. The large gap in rank between 9 and 3 means there is also no straight draw. The only hands that hit this flop hard are those that contain a 9 or a 3, but you don't play many hands that contain those cards, apart from pocket nines, pocket threes, and occasionally T9s, 98s and A3s.

Not all paired flops are super-dry, however. Take a look at this one:

This flop only contains cards of two ranks, but the jack and ten are connected. If someone has KQ or 98, they have an open-ended straight draw. There's also a flush draw, which means anyone holding two diamonds will like this flop. It should be pointed out, however, that on a paired board, a flush/straight chaser should be wary of full houses. Naturally, a player holding JTs (the favourite hand of many a player) loves this dream of a flop.

Now you've seen some example wet and dry flops, I'll talk more about hand ranges and how they connect with flops. I'll also give you some short-cuts to help you determine if a flop connects to a hand-range, with the general principle being that a c-bet bluff stands more chance of success on a dry flop that your opponent probably missed.

You may have heard the expression “I put you on ace king”, and this usually crops up when someone makes a hero-call with a weak pair on a board containing medium-low cards. Putting someone on ace king is an example of “ranging”, although it's a little extreme to narrow a villain's range to one exact hand when his range is clearly wider than that. Having said that, in a 3-bet pot in particular, ace king actually is the most likely holding for a TAG villain, because there are 16 ways of making AK (including 4 of AK suited), but only 6 combos of each pocket pair. If a villain only ever 3-bets with AA, KK, or AK, then ace-king makes up 16/28 = 57% of his 3-betting range. He's literally more likely to have AK than aces or kings. QQ is another hand near the top of a pre-flop raiser's range, so if you want a short-cut to ranging a pre-flop raiser - even in single-raised pots - you won't be far wrong if you assign him a range of AK and QQ, especially if he opened in early position. Since the pre-flop raiser is likely to have “top pair” hands in his range, flops that are good for AK and QQ are generally good flops for his range as a whole. On ace- or king-high boards, AK obviously has TPTK. On queen-high boards, QQ has top set. (Since KK and AA are also in a pre-flop raiser's range, he could also have an overpair on Qxx). It should follow that boards where the highest card is an ace, king or queen are good boards for the pre-flop raiser. He'll usually make a continuation bet and it's often a value-bet, because he actually hit the flop. When you are the pre-flop raiser, you should therefore often be c-betting on Axx, Kxx, and Qxx. If you miss the flop, then you still have fold equity, because your opponent will put you on AK or a big pair.

So a short-cut to ranging the pre-flop aggressor is to put them on AK/QQ, but how do we range a pre-flop caller, when we're trying to work out if they connect with a flop? If you recall my article about pre-flop calling ranges, you'll remember that the charts mostly contained pocket pairs, suited connectors and suited aces. Although 2NL villains will make terrible calls pre-flop with random garbage if you raise in early-middle position, the hands they are most likely to call with are in the range JJ-22, KQs-65s, AQs-A2s. It's hard to visualise all those hands at once, but there's a quick way to establish how this range connects to a flop, and that's to think of each group of speculative hands as one particular hand. The clever thing about this trick is that almost any flop that connects with one hand in each group will also connect with other hands in the group. It works like this: For suited connectors, just think of JTs. For pocket pairs, think of 88. For suited aces, think of A5s. It works in the same way as the “I put you on AK” example. Ranging a pre-flop raiser on AK/QQ will serve you quite well, and putting a pre-flop caller on JTs/88/A5s should prove to be fairly accurate too, for the flop at least.

Now using these simplified ranges of AK/QQ for the pre-flop raiser, and JTs/88/A5s for the caller, I'll give provide some example flops, describe how wet/dry they are, and explain whether they are good flops to c-bet (they hit the pre-flop raiser's range) or they are not good flops to c-bet (they hit the caller's range harder).

K83tt - This flop is a great one to c-bet, because it's pretty dry. There is a flush draw, but no straight draws. The pre-flop raiser (PFR) can represent he hit the king with AK (even if he actually has something much weaker) and be fairly confident in taking down the pot. Now think about those “short-cut hands” I used to represent calling ranges. Apart from when they are suited in hearts, JTs and A5s completely miss. Pocket 8s flopped a set, so is certainly at least calling, but similar hands like 99 and 77 will often peel off a card too, just to see if the PFR also bets the turn. Note that 88 and 33 are obviously loving this flop, so if you c-bet here and get raised, it's a clear fold in most circumstances. So few hands actually hit this board that a villain pretty much has to have a set to raise for value here.
If you ticked all the other boxes on the check-list from the previous article (you're heads up in position, you have little SDV, villain has a FOLD button etc), it's a no-brainer to c-bet bluff this K83 flop, because you have a high amount of fold equity.

Q75m - Some beginners would look at this monotone flop and think “I can't c-bet that flop, it's so wet”. As with most of their poker thoughts, the newbies are wrong. This board is not wet at all. It's scary, maybe, but not wet as such. I am c-betting this flop almost always and the reason is quite simple. A villain cannot make a profitable call unless he has a strong made hand (TPTK, a set, or flush) or a strong flush draw, by which I mean he has to hold the  or . If villain has something like , he hates this flop, but will usually call anyway. He made top pair, but he's got to be worried that you flopped the flush and he's virtually drawing dead. You have lots of fold equity on this flop because so few hands can call. Think of the calling range short-cuts again. JTs in any suit but clubs is snap-folding here. Likewise with A5s, even though it made a pair. 88 is folding too. Even with the  in his hand, a villain is rarely going to call, as a turned or rivered 8-high flush will be far from the nuts when there are four clubs on the board. Monotone boards typically have a high c-bet success rate. In short, a Q75 monotone is a GOOD flop to c-bet.

A98tt - Generally speaking, ace-high flops are good flops to c-bet, because the ace scares worse pairs, but the problems with bluffing on a board like this are several. Firstly, 2NL villains love playing ragged aces, and they are never folding top pair on the flop. Secondly, there is a flush draw, although I think many players over-estimate the probability that a villain has one on a flop like this. After all, if villain called pre-flop with JTs, then - of the 4 different combinations of JTs that are possible - he only has a flush draw on this flop a quarter of the time. In fact, he'll have it less often than that, because if he has two cards of one suit in his hand, then the board is less likely to contain cards of that suit. Flushes are fairly rare, which is why they are valued higher in the hand rankings than straights. That being said, there are a lot of 2NL players that have an ASAP mentality (“Anything Suited, Any Position”), so the flush draw is certainly something to consider. More concerning is that the flop contains connected cards. With a 9 and 8 on the flop, JT and 76 are open-ended. A villain who called pre with JTs is always calling here, and if he has it in diamonds, he's probably raising, because he has so many outs with his open-ended straight-flush draw that he's actually a favourite to beat any one pair hand. With a set, pocket 8s (or 99) is crushing here, and I'd always be raising big if I called pre with 88 and saw this flop. If a villain c-bets here, I'm happily putting him on TPTK and printing money when he stacks off against my set, because he has less than 1% equity.
With top pair, hands like A5s are always calling, and probably going all the way to showdown if blanks come on later streets. If A5 is suited in diamonds, it's probably raising and stacking off on the flop, because 2NL players seem to think the flush is always coming (clue: it's not), and completely forget they have no kicker for their top pair. Note that if the ace on the flop is part of a flush draw (e.g. ) then there are fewer flush draws in the caller's range, because he can't have the NFD with Axs if the ace is on the flop.
In conclusion, the A98tt is pretty close, so I might not bet if I have a hand like KQ, although I think you can usually get a nitty set-miner off an underpair on this board. If the flop was drier, like , I'd definitely go for the dead money grab, as most Broadways, SCs and pocket pairs miss that one completely.

Q66r - This paired flop is pretty dry, but it doesn't offer as much fold equity as you might expect. Although you can certainly represent hands like AQ and QQ+, I find that villains usually call c-bets on flops like this if they have any pocket pair higher than 66, and occasionally they float with underpairs too. The problem with this board for the PFR is not that it connects well with a pre-flop caller's range. It's that it's not a very scary flop for the caller. Medium pocket pairs are still beating ace high (including AK) and are only losing to the few queens that might be in your range, along with bigger pocket pairs. I've also found that many players will float this flop with ace high, which actually isn't a bad idea considering they have some showdown value. On a Q66 rainbow, villain could also pick up some equity if he has a suited hand in any of the three suits on the board, as he could turn a backdoor flush draw. On the whole, I'd usually c-bet this flop, because most of villain's range misses it, so there's still some fold equity. If the cards on a paired board are lower, I might be less inclined to c-bet, as more pocket pairs and overcards are likely to call my bluff. Evaluating this specific flop in relation to my calling range short-cuts, I think it goes like this:
JTs and other suited connectors: Probably folding, due to lack of overcards or an immediate draw.
88: Usually calling, but will fold to a second barrel if a face card comes on the turn.
A5s: Sometimes calling, sometimes folding, depending on the villain's tendencies. (Calling stations usually call here, because they certainly aren't giving you credit for a 6, and they probably think that they have outs against top pair).

852r - This is a ragged board, so I'm usually c-betting. It's pretty dry with no flush draw and only a couple of straight draws. The only open-ended straight draw is for 76. With two baby cards, a villain might have a gutshot to the wheel straight. Of more concern to the pre-flop raiser are the multiple small and medium pocket pairs that like this flop. Hands like TT and 99 have overpairs, so they aren't going anywhere, 88, 55 and 22 have sets, and 77, 66, 44, 33 won't be intimidated either. They are, after all, beating AK (and indeed any two Broadways that the PFR could be holding). Nevertheless, I'd usually be c-betting this board, because I nearly always have outs if I'm currently behind. On a low board, I can credibly rep a big overpair. Indeed, if I had QQ+ I'd be betting big for value here, hoping to take 99/77 to Valuetown. If a tight player raised a c-bet on this flop, I'd usually give him credit for a set, but bad players will often go crazy with a medium pair and stack off, because they completely disregard the fact that you could have JJ+.
JTs and other suited connectors are mostly folding on this flop, but it depends if they have a draw. A5s is always calling here with middle pair and top kicker. Indeed any small suited ace will usually look you up, as it either made a pair or has a gutshot to the A-5 straight.

JT7tt - This flop might initially look pretty good to the pre-flop raiser. If he has AK, he has two overcards and a gutshot to Broadway, so he has pretty good equity, right? WRONG! This flop might not look quite as ugly to the PFR as a 987tt, but this kind of flop is a TERRIBLE flop to semi-bluff. Flops that contain a jack and a ten as the highest cards lead to the lowest c-bet success rate of all. The reason is quite simple. Most of the cards that villains call with pre-flop completely smash JTx flops. KQ is a popular holding, and that has an OESD and two overcards. 98s is open-ended too. Indeed, on JT7, 98 flops the nuts. All the medium pairs from JJ to 77 hit this flop, either with a set, or a pair+draw. There's also an old saying in poker: “In a multiway pot, someone always has a jack”. If you find yourself religiously betting JTx flops when you have AK/AQ, you are burning money.
If you actually connected with this flop (with TPTK+) you should go for maximum value-extraction, because you'll nearly always get action. If you happen to have JJ or 98s, I'd even consider overbettting the pot at some point, because villains will pay you off. To go through the short-cuts once more...
JTs: Hello, I flopped top two pairs. See you at the river!
88: Pair + gutter. Nearly always calling at least one street. Likewise with nines. 77 obviously made a set and is usually raising.
A5s: Usually folding, unless it has the nut flush draw.

I think I need to really emphasise this: Flops containing a jack and a ten are dangerous. Do not try bluffing someone off a JTx flop. In fact, if the flop contains three cards between J and 7, you have very little fold equity. You have even less fold equity if the board is two-toned, so don't c-bet bluff on boards like JT8 or T87tt. All the medium pairs and suited connectors hit Jack-to-Seven flops. If someone called pre, there's a very good chance he out-flopped you, or has a good chance to improve to the best hand on the next street.
I'll show you a couple of screengrabs from Equilab (a turbo-charged version of Pokerstove) that illustrate just how hard a villain can hit a flop like the one above.

I've assigned the pre-flop aggressor  in MP3, and for the caller on the button I've given the range from my second chart on the calling ranges blog.
Hands that the button would usually 3-bet pre-flop have been removed, meaning he calls with JJ-22, AQs-ATs, A5s-A2s, KQs, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s.
Pre-flop, AKs is beating that range, and will win at showdown about 56% of the time if all the money goes in pre. But what happens once the flop comes down?

Equity of AK vs Calling rainge

Now it's the caller that is the favourite with 56% equity, and that's before the PFR makes his c-bet. If the PFR chooses to bet, then the caller will fold all the hands that missed (the underpairs like 55-22, suited aces that have no flush draw etc) leaving AK in a pot where he's completely crushed by villain's continuance range.
By clicking the little pie-chart icon next to the range, I can find out exactly how hard the caller's range hits this flop.

Made hands for calling range on JT7

In the last article I mentioned that you'll typically only make a pair on the flop about 30% of the time. But if you call pre with a range that is heavily weighted to pocket pairs and suited connectors, then you're much more likely to have a pair (or better) on a flop like JT7. From the chart above, I can tell you that the pre-flop caller has at least one pair (including underpairs) on this flop 77% of the time, but has a monster like a set, two pairs or a straight about 17% of the time. That's so scary that I think it bears repeating. On a JT7 flop, a typical TAG that called on the button has at least 2 pairs 17% of the time! That AK (or even QQ) doesn't seem so pretty now, does it? If the pre-flop caller has a tighter range that doesn't include suited aces, his flop range is even stronger. He never has ace high, and the only hand in his range that doesn't have at least a pair or OESD is 65s. I've not included the full chart here, but the caller also has a ton of draws (and pair+draw combos) too. Knowing that the pre-flop caller completely smashes the JT7 flop should help you understand why you have so little fold equity on it, so shouldn't often be c-betting if you missed.

A final point I want to make about c-betting flops like the ones I've detailed above is that it doesn't really matter what your actual hand is when making a c-bet bluff with air. What's more important is your perceived range. So if you raised 77 in the HJ or 76s in the CO, and the flop comes K95, then put the fact you have third pair (or no pair) out of your mind for a second. Villain expects you to have something like AK. You should therefore bet a king-high flop as if you have AK. If your c-bet with 76s gets hands like 88 or JTs to fold, that's a good result.

Next week, I'll provide some realistic situations in which I describe the pre-flop action, the cards I'm holding, and the actual flop. I'll summarise why I c-bet (or not) in each spot, and also give you guidance on the bet-sizing to choose.

Till then, steer clear of the JT8s and the 987s, and try and rep top pair on drier boards.

Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome as usual. Please post in my blog thread on the forum. Catch ya later!