Exploiting Weak Players and Bet Sizing

Dave Roemer | Cash Games

The following hand was posted for feedback in the #school_handreviews channel of the PokerStars Discord. As the hand has some interesting layers, I thought it would make for a good instructional article.

The hand is from a $0.02/$0.05 6-max cash game. Our hero is in the big blind with TT. The UTG player who is on a 37 big blind stack limps in, the small blind completes, and our hero elects to raise to $0.30. The UTG limper calls the raise to 6x the big blind, and the small blind player folds leaving hero heads up with the limp/caller. There is $0.65 in the pot and $1.56 behind in UTG’s stack.

The flop comes 3♦ 4♣ 5♥, and both players check. The turn is the 3♠ and now our hero bets $0.41, with UTG calling. The pot is now $1.47 with $1.15 behind. The river is the A♣, making the board 3♦ 4♣ 5♥ 3♠ A♣. Our hero checks, the UTG player bets about half his remaining stack, $0.65 into $1.47, and hero makes the call.

There is a lot to unpack here in what otherwise looks like a fairly routine hand. For starters, preflop looks good, I like 5-6x here as well. We can expect the weak short stacked limper to give us good value with calls that are way too lose, and while perhaps isolating them by removing the small blind. We already know the small blind does not have a good hand, or they likely would have raised to isolate the limper themselves.

I certainly am going to bet this flop. I don’t know why the hero checked, but there are many worse hands to give us value, worse 1 pairs and maybe some draws. If we want to work on having balanced ranges (not necessary at 5nl as no one is exploiting us when we’re unbalanced, but good in practice) then I do like having a few overpairs in my flop checking range… but I think we can reserve a few combos of the AA/KK for that. TT is way too vulnerable to overcards, there’s no reason to give a hand like QJ a free look at the turn. Additionally the stack to pot ratio is under 3 as villain is so short… so I’d like to size up my flop bet and make it around $0.50:

  1. I expect a weak player to call that too liberally with weaker hands, giving us good value (and make no mistake, a short stacker limp/calling a 6x pre is in this category).
  2. It sets us up for a reasonable turn shove, which again will be for value, of $1 into a pot of $1.65. So my line here would be bet flop large, get it in if villain raises, and if we are called, jam the turn if it’s not an ace.

Also of note, if we size up on the flop, we will often protect against those overcard peels from the broadway combos. QJ just folds to our larger continuation bet mostly, KQ just folds mostly… so when an overcard then hits the turn, it’s not really scary. We are still going to get value from a weak player holding a pair, especially if they have a straight draw with it. The ace is the only scary card because players are more likely to peel with ace high (they may still fold to the larger flop sizing though) and if they are playing Ax they will continue with the pairs/ace kicker and straight draws/ace kicker hands, which improve on an ace turn.

As played however, given that our hero checked the flop, and bet the turn, I think this river card check/calling makes sense. It’s a really scary card for villain when it doesn’t improve them, although a deuce got there the higher straight draws have missed, it’s just harder to get paid by worse on this river if we bet again, but you can induce some bluffs.

Our hero did check/call as stated earlier, and the villain tabled a stone bluff, Q♠10♠.

I have no idea what the villain is doing here, given the preflop limp/call, the stack size, and the seemingly random post flop play. They just seem wildly inexperienced, good to make some notes. Calling the turn bet with QT high and no draw is ludicrous, I don’t know if they are trying to hit their hand or hoping to set up an aggressive river bluff should you check, but if they are crafting such a bluff line, why not simply bet the flop when hero fails to c-bet? Or just jam turn which our hero can’t really call with no pair hands? And hero’s range seems weighted to no pair hands when we don’t c-bet this flop.

There can be a lot to learn even from seemingly simple hands. The big takeaways here imo were how to go about extracting value from a weak player, and how our bet sizing choices can impact our opponents ranges… like pushing the SB’s weak range out preflop, effectively isolating us with the fishes weak range, or a flop sizing that makes it difficult for overcards to our pair to continue, so when the villain does call and a Q comes off on the turn, it’s more of a blank than anything else and we can comfortable continue going for value.

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