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What to Do Versus a Pot Sized Bet From a Fish
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This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan. Facing a pot sized bet can be a difficult spot to play.  We are faced with a big decision, often in marginal situations, and have to decide then and there whether or not to continue and potentially put our entire stack on the line on consecutive streets, or give up right away and relinquish our equity.  The problem becomes even more complicated when the bet we face comes from an erratic and unpredictable opponent, aka the fish. What the hell are they doing this with? Why are they donk betting? Do they have the nuts or complete air?  You want to find out, but it’s expensive to do so. And it’s very difficult to put them on the exact range, let alone narrow it down to a couple of hands. Facing a Pot Sized Bet By a Fish So what do we do in a situation like this? Unfortunately, the answer is all too familiar: it depends. But that’s not really helpful, so let’s break it down in this article. But before providing some answers, let’s first define the questions and narrow it down to make our lives easier. This article will focus on facing a pot sized donk bets in single raised pots and 3-bet pots from recreational players on the flop and turn, because:  A) it’s a spot in which players tend to struggle the most, and... B) because these situations are more common than facing a C-bet against fish, as fish usually call more than they raise. Also, when playing against fish, you should be the preflop aggressor most of the time anyway.  The article was written with cash games in mind, but is applicable to other formats to some extent as well. Definition of a Recreational Poker Player (Fish) For the purpose of this article, a fish is a recreational player that plays too many hands (typically 40% or more). If you play online you can use a HUD to show you this right on your screen. They also play fairly passively both preflop and postflop (with the exception of aggro-fish, more on that below) and makes huge fundamental mistakes and all kinds of crazy nonsense plays.  Or in other words, our most beloved customers.By the way, if you don't know the basic strategies to consistently beat these kinds of players, check out the brand new BlackRain79 video with the best 14 beginner poker tips: A few more quick definitions, so that we are on the same page here: A single raised pot (SRP) is a pot in which there was a raise preflop, and the other player(s) just flat call instead of 3-betting. A 3-bet pot is a pot in which a player re-raised the original raiser and other player(s) call. A 3-bet pot will usually have a much more shallow stack-to-pot ratio (usually 5 or less). By the way, if you need a reminder on SPR and how it affects your preflop strategy, BlackRain79 already has you covered in a recent article. What is a Donk Bet? In a broader sense, a donk bet is a bet made out of position against an earlier street aggressor. For example, you raise preflop on the button, villain calls in the small blind, and fires up a bet on the flop.   It isn’t necessarily a derogatory term, as there are situations where it might be a correct play.  But as this article will hopefully demonstrate, when fish make a pot sized donk bet, it’s rarely an optimal play. We already said that our decision on what to do against a pot sized bet depends on a lot of factors. So let’s break them down, starting with how committed we are to the pot. Make $500+ Per Month in Low Stakes Poker Games With My Free Poker Cheat Sheet Are you having trouble consistently beating low stakes poker games online or live? Are you looking to make a consistent part time income playing these games?  That is why I wrote this free little 50 page poker cheat sheet to give you the exact strategies to start consistently making $500 (or more) per month in low stakes poker games right now. These are the exact poker strategies by the way that I used as a 10+ year poker pro. And I lay them all out for you step by step in this free guide. Enter your details below and I will send my free poker cheat sheet to your inbox right now. SPR and Pot Commitment The smaller the SPR, the more committed we are. If the stack-to-pot ratio is 3 or less, we are committed with a top pair hand or better.  This will happen often either in 3-bet pots, or when fish are playing shortstacked (i.e. their effective stack size is significantly less than 100 bb, because they bought in for a minimum of 40 big blinds, for example).  So when we face a pot-sized bet against a fish on the flop with a made hand, we should be inclined to get all our money in the middle, preferably as soon as possible. Top pair hands go up in value in shallow SPR pots, as opposed to speculative hands that perform better in deeper SPR pots.   The reasons we shouldn't try to slowplay in this situation are abundant. First of all, implied odds are bigger on earlier streets than the later ones, so fish are more likely to call us down with all kinds of crazy draws, like gutshot draws, backdoor flush draws and so on.  They don’t care about the math, and the risk-reward concept is only vaguely familiar to them.   Secondly, the board runout might scare them off. If they have a top pair or second pair on the flop, they might end up with a third or fourth pair by the river, and won’t be as willing to pay us off.  And lastly, fish have extremely wide preflop calling ranges. The wider the range, the harder it is to connect with the flop.  Fish are also notoriously impatient, and if they have little money left behind, they’ll often just roll the dice and try to get lucky with their suited junk, fourth pair, ridiculous draws and so on. So with a top pair hand or better in a small SPR pot, your best bet is just get all the money in as soon as possible and hope your hand holds up against their nonsense.  It won’t always be the case of course, but as long as you’re getting your money in with a mathematical edge, you’re good. You did your job, and the rest is up to the poker gods. Example Hand Effective stack sizes: 80BB. You are dealt K♥Q♥ on the BU. A loose passive fish min-raises to 2x in the CO. You 3-bet to 7x. Blinds fold, fish calls. Pot: 15.5 BB Flop: K♠9♦7♣ Fish bets 16.5 BB You: ???  You should raise. Let’s consider the previous action, the flop texture and villain’s potential range. A fish min-raised in the CO, which means they probably like their hand somewhat, but since they play north of 40% of all hands, we can’t narrow their range too much.  We go for an isolation 3-bet and the fish calls. Their range is capped, meaning we can probably eliminate AA, KK, and AK. We flop top pair decent kicker and face a big bet. We need to make a decision right then and there. Commit or quit. Folding is out of the question, of course.  SPR is 4.7, i.e. on the smallish side of the spectrum. We aren’t necessarily automatically committed, but in this spot against this particular opponent we pretty much are, so we should play for their whole stack. A number of hands that would give us action against which we’re ahead of is through the roof. Any Kx hand, like KJ, KT, a bunch of drawing hands, like QT, QJ, JT, J8, T8, T6, 86, 85, 65, maybe even 9x hands like Q9, J9, T9, 98 and so on.  Remember, we are playing against somebody that plays nearly half of all hands, so they can have ALL of those hands in their range and then some.  Sure, there are some hands that have us beat, but those are just a small part of their overall range.  We are quite comfortably ahead most of the time, and should get our money in and let that edge play out.  We can call here as well, but a lot of turn cards can kill our action. Remember, implied odds are bigger on the flop than on the turn, so we should take advantage of that.  What About Drawing Hands? Having a top pair hand against a fish and facing a pot sized bet in a shallow SPR spot is pretty straightforward, and these hands basically play themselves. There’s not much more to do than get the money in and hold your breath.  But as we know, most hands miss most flops. We don’t have a made hand on the flop more often than we do. We usually either miss or have some sort of a drawing hand. Also, effective stacks can be quite deeper, particularly in cash games.  This is where it gets a little trickier, and we need to rely on math to make an educated guess on how to proceed. When we face any bet on the flop, it can be extremely useful to memorize certain pot odds in relation to the bet size. That way, you don’t need to waste any brain power to calculate the pot odds in every single situation.   Poker is essentially an extremely complex math problem, so it’s useful to use some shortcuts in order to make better in-game decisions. One such shortcut is to remember that when you face any pot sized bet, you are getting 2:1 pot odds on a call, which means you need to win the hand 33% of the time on average for your call to be profitable.  So if your equity is 33% or more against your opponents range, you can continue profitably.   But how the hell can you know if your hand is good 33% of the time? You can’t. In order to know that definitively, you’d have to know your opponent’s exact range, which is virtually impossible.  What’s more, that’s only the part of the equation, because you also need to take into consideration a number of other factors, such as implied odds, action on future streets, board runout etc.  Too many unknown variables, too little time.  To avoid such paralysis by analysis, let’s try to simplify once again and focus on what we actually know. We can’t accurately predict the fish’s range, but we don't really need to. We can rely on our intuition backed up with a little bit of math once more.  If we have a drawing hand, again, it might be worth memorizing how often we’ll hit our outs. The Rule of Four   We can use the rule of four to quickly guesstimate our equity, by simply multiplying our number of outs by 4. This rule becomes less reliable the more outs we have, but it’s accurate enough for most in-game situations. Here are the chances of improving your draws from flop to river you should have memorized: A flush draw completes 35% of the time. An open-ended straight draw completes 32% of the time. A gutshot straight draw completes 17% of the time. So we see that calling a pot sized bet on the flop with a flush and open-ended straight draw can be outright profitable.  Of course, we won’t always be drawing to the nuts, so even if we do improve, it doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily win the hand, so these percentages are only a guideline. There are many other factors that determine whether or not our play is +EV or not, but since a lot of those factors will be unknown, we can always fall…