Sizing Down on Soaking Flops
Today we move on to the sort of board that ruins your day when you started with a pre-flop monster.
What are Soaking Flops?
Soaking flops have something in common with static flops: they ruin the strength of some very strong starting hands. Just as KK became much weaker as soon as the flop came Axx or QQx (static), it doesn’t much care for very wet boards like 10♣9♣8♦ either. Strangely, the most static and most soaking flops have a similar effect on the pre-flop raiser’s big pocket pairs. Contrast this to the dynamic flops we looked at last time, for example 10♠4♠2♥. These flops preserved the strength of KK because they were lower and/or less paired than the static flops and less wet than the soaking flops.
Three-straight flops and three-flush (monotone) flops, are soaking. Lots of hands that beat the best one-pair hands are possible; and they’re possible now. Contrast this to the dynamic flop where we had to use big bets, while we still could. On a soaking flop, the damage is already done and most of the pre-flop raiser’s range is very uncomfortable building a big pot.
The AA Test
If AA is hating life on an unpaired flop, then that flop is soaking. Remember, ‘hating life’ means: could very easily already be dead; and not: is worried about some possible turn cards. On soaking flops much of the damage is already done! Fearing the third flush card on the turn is very different to already staring it on the face on the flop.
A flop is soaking, if and only if, it offers many combinations of made hands that beat AA.
What does Our Range Want?
In a typical in position, heads-up pot on soaking flops, we still have to c-bet sometimes. For one, we want to start pot building when we have the nuts, and secondly, we need to get some protection. Let’s take a flop of 9♦8♥7♣ as an example. We opened UTG and only the BB called.
Let’s think about our JTs and 99 first. Of course, these hands want to bet, and while in isolation, they might want to make a big pot, they are very much on their own in this respect. Even sets and two pair here are not as great as they might seem. Not only do they lose to straights; they also unblock them, meaning they contain no cards that make Villain’s straights less likely. Meanwhile 99 and 98s block one-pair and two-pair hands, making it harder to get called by worse. You might think that 99 is desperate to bet big, but it’s not. Some people get too obsessed about the times that Villain holds exactly AT or some other drawing hand, that they forget about the hands that already smash us and the weak made hands we want value from.
Now what of our Tier-2 hands – the fallen giants of JJ-AA? These hands would like to bet some of the time at least as they are vulnerable. If they are going to get any value, it is a case of now or never on many run outs. Many soaking boards are also wet meaning that the turn and river are likely to be bad for one-pair quite often. Since these hands are betting for very thin value on this flop (they need to get called by quite poor hands to value-bet), they want to use exclusively a small-sizing. Going huge with these hands through a narrowminded fear of being outdrawn is the most common beginner leak in these spots.
We want to check bad showdown value hands like A♠8♠ here and will want to do the same thing with hopeless trash like AQo.
We will want some c-bet bluffing range and are happy enough starting with a small bet with these hands. We can always size up later to apply more pressure, when we are no longer also betting many of our a thin one-pair hands for value and protection.
Losing Nut Advantage
The main point about soaking flops is that we have lost the big nut advantage we held before the flop came down. This was the main factor that pushed us to use big bets on the dynamic flops in Part 5 of the series. When we lose this nut advantage die to many very strong hands now beating our pre-flop nuts, we have little to gain by sizing big and everything to lose. There is now a pressing need for pot control. No one wants to throw out a massive bet on a soaking flop when their opponent’s range is still very much uncapped (can contain lots of nutted hands.)
This is the theory. There are always exceptions to it.
In exploitative reality, we might come across a calling-station opponent – someone who doesn’t quite appreciate the frailty of having just a pair on this flop. Against someone like that, we might want to bet our nutted hands bigger than the rest of our range, accepting that being unbalanced is worth it in order to make more money from his bad calls.
- Soaking flops are ones that make one-pair a fiarly bad hand.
- If AA is hating life on an unpaired flop, then that flop is soaking.
- Most of our range wants to bet smaller on a soaking flop as many of our value bets are thin value bets.
- We normally want to keep our nutted hands in our small betting range for balance reasons but might forgo this against weaker opponents who call down too wide.