Chapter 33: Getting Tricky in Online Poker
Double and triple barreling
After a continuation bet you will often get called. Sometimes the same player is calling them so much you think he can’t have a hand that often. You’re right.
Sometimes a player will call a continuation bet and a turn card comes that doesn’t make you a better hand but you think is a scare card to your opponent and that he can’t call another bet. You’re right.
Betting without a hand on the turn after continuation betting is called double-barreling. Knowing when to double barrel can be tough, but if you pick the right spots you’ll be making money off it. You’ll also be discouraging your opponents from calling your continuation bets with weaker hands and you’ll build an image of an aggressive player so your big bets with big hands will get called later on.
You should usually double-barrel when a scare card comes off. When my opponent calls my continuation bet on a low flop and an overcard such as an A, K, Q or J comes on the turn, I almost always bet it. Usually your opponent will have called the low flop with a one pair type of hand that is small and a big card on the turn will be make it tough for him to continue with the hand if you bet. I would bet at least 2/3 of the pot or more. You want to make it tough for them to call.
You should usually double-barrel when you pick up a good draw, such as a flush draw or open-ended straight draw. When my continuation bet gets called on the flop and I pick up a flush draw, I’m almost always betting the turn. There’s a chance he’ll fold to the double-barrel and even if he doesn’t, I have cards that can win me the pot and that can win me a big river bet. This added equity makes the double-barrel a good bet: I have two ways to win.
If I didn’t have the draw, he usually wouldn’t fold the turn enough to make it a profitable double-barrel on its own. You need that extra 15-20% chance to win the pot to make it worth it.
If you never triple-barrel, you’re not doing much wrong. I don’t like triple-barreling (betting the river with nothing after you have bet the flop and turn and been called). I find once someone decides to call the turn, they are going to feel pot-committed and call the river. Only under rare circumstances where I have a hand like a busted 6-high flush draw and I think he has a bigger flush draw that he’s going to have to fold would I triple-barrel. I might triple-barrel if a card like an ace hit the river, also.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to triple-barrels. It’s very easy to spew in these spots and end up losing a lot of money.
Dealing with the donk bet
A donk bet is when an out-of-position opponent leads into you after you raise preflop. This term famously came from online poker forums when winning players kept facing this kind of bet from the weaker players in their fixed-limit games. It’s by no means just a play done by fish today.
It’s an interesting situation because the donk bet can mean many different things depending on the player. The donk bet from a fish is much different than a donk bet from a TAG or LAG. We’ll examine dealing with the bet from all three typical opponents.
When a fish donk bets. I am constantly getting donk betted by fish. I am usually raising these fish donk bets. I find the fish donk bet to be nothing or a weak hand enough of the time to make bluff raising nearly any of these profitable.
For example, say we are playing $.10/$.25 on Cake Poker. Our opponent, who I’ve tagged as a big fish, is generally playing like he has no clue. We raise KsTc on the button and our fish calls in the BB.
The flop is Jc7h3d. Our opponent bets the minimum (they love to do this) into a pot of $2. You should raise this minimum bet every time, to about what the pot size is. They almost always fold.
If you have a good or great hand you should always raise a fish donk bet for value. If your hand is an OK but not good hand, you should usually call and see what happens on the turn.
Usually if a fish donks the full pot into me, I won’t bluff it. Sometimes fish bet the minimum as a donk bet. This is an automatic raise every single time.
Once a fish calls a raise after his donk bet, give up. He actually has a hand this time and isn’t planning on folding.
When a TAG donk bets. This is a tougher spot. You can bluff raise these but use discretion. A TAG’s donk betting range can mean a lot of things depending on the player and it’s hard to define all those things here.
Depending on the TAG, it can be a hand like middle pair trying to feel you out, or it can be a set trying to get maximum value from you. Some TAGs know you are going to attempt to bluff their donk bet and will donk bet a strong draw into you so they can 3-bet all-in after you raise.
For the most part, only start playing back at a TAGs donk bets when you notice them doing it a few times. Then you can assume their hand range is wide enough to donk bet that they will have to fold to your raises.
If you have a good or decent hand like a medium overpair or top pair good kicker, I would usually just call a TAG donk bet and reevaluate based on how he bets the turn. Generally if a TAG leads strong again you can get away from these type of strength hands but there are many instances where I would continue with the hand.
When a LAG donk bets. This is a tougher and trickier spot that has the ability to drive you crazy if a LAG likes to donk bet and play back if you raise. I feel that I can’t really say much here, since each and every LAG can play so many hands differently in this spot.
As usual with a LAG, you’ll need to be prepared to put a lot of money in with marginal hands. I would recommend just calling most of your good hands when facing a LAG donk bet and occasionally raising with hands like gutshots, overcards and your great hands.
The trouble when facing a LAG is he might be capable of 3-betting all-in hands like gutshots as well. Also, when we just call the flop, he’ll put us on a vulnerable hand and can bet the turn and river as well.
Experience will help you the most in these spots.
Should you donk bet?
As you can see, the donk bet can put people in some tough spots. As a whole, you won’t be calling out of the blinds very much to be put into these situations, but there are some hands that aren’t good enough to 3-bet out-of-position and you’ll have to call these versus a CO or button raiser.
A donk bet can help you define a hand like middle pair, especially if you are up against a straightforward, tight player. You can also donk bet as a semibluff if you don’t flop much but feel it’s unlikely that your opponent has hit the flop. Donk betting into an aggressive TAG or a LAG is dangerous because they will often interpret this as weakness and raise.
Of course, if you feel that is the case, you can donk bet your strong draws and sets into them and get more value out of them.
Let’s try an example of where I feel a donk bet will be the best play. At $.50/$1, a straightforward 18/15/2 TAG raises on the CO to $3. We see this TAG playing every day and we know he plays a lot of tables. He’s most likely playing liking a robot and not paying great attention. We have 8h8d in the SB and elect to just call. If we 3-bet it will just get the TAG to fold all his worse hands and call with his better hands.
The flop comes Tc9d2d. Given how many hands are in the CO’s range, he most likely missed this flop. We have the best hand the majority of the time. Check-calling isn’t a good play, because he most likely has a few outs with his overcard hands and we’re going to have to play out-of-position with a marginal hand on the turn or river and can be easily bluffed off the best hand.
Check-raising to find out where we are in the hand is going to be expensive. Given the fact he’s straight-forward, I don’t expect him to bluff our donk bet, so I lead into him for $5. It will give us the same information as a check-raise and we are putting in much less money to find out.
Experiment with the donk bet and see if you like the play in your game. It is a cheaper way to find out where you are if you are against opponents who won’t play back at it without a hand.
Keep your opponents guessing
As you’ve seen in the hand ranges chapter, if someone has a pretty good idea what your hand is, they’re going to play pretty well against you. In the online poker world, you’ll be playing against many tough opponents, often the same ones day in and day out. They’re doing the same thing you’re doing, making a good living playing online poker.
They’re going to notice how we’re playing. They’re going to have PokerAce Hud telling them how tight or how loose we are. If we play a hand the same way every time, they’ll start taking advantage of us and start taking our money.
That’s why we have to start playing “tricky.” By being tricky, you are always keeping your opponents off guard. They won’t be able to put you on a hand, or they’ll have to put you on such a wide range of hands it will be nearly impossible for them to play correctly against you.
A little warning before we proceed. Don’t play tricky against fish or at the lower stakes ($.50/$1 and below). Your opponents will just not be thinking that deeply about what you have for a hand, and what hand they are representing themselves. Your goal against these players is to play tight, solid and aggressive at all times, and to value bet them to death.
Dealing with getting 3-bet and using the 4-bet bluff
When you reach the medium and higher limits, preflop aggression picks up in all directions. Your opponents will begin to 3-bet you preflop much more. They know you are raising in late position with a wider range and will take advantage of that by putting the pressure on.
Sometimes you are getting 3-bet so much you need to play back. There are two ways to play back: start calling their 3-bets more and playing a flop or 4-betting.
Calling the 3-bet. When you notice your opponent is 3-betting you with a wider range than just his great hands, you can start calling the 3-bets with a wider range. This can be a tricky situation, since the pot will be large and you will be faced with a lot of decisions with one pair type hands.
I usually only try to call 3-bets when I’m in position. It is such a huge advantage because when playing out-of-position, you will have to define your hand so much more to your opponent and in such a large pot he’ll usually outplay you.
I start calling with weaker hands such as ATs and 76s when I’m raising the button and a player in the blinds is a constant 3-bettor. To play these hands postflop, I generally call a bet if I flop a pair, and raise (which is usually an all-in at this point) with good draws and two pair or better. This is very general, though, and you will need to gain some experience to understand all these circumstantial scenarios.
4-bet bluffing starts to occur frequently at $2/$4 and above. It is 4-betting a marginal hand against an opponent who 3-bet you.
You should only 4-bet bluff if you have good reason to do so. Some opponents will 3-bet you virtually anytime you open in late position. You must make a stand against these opponents and sometimes I prefer to 4-bet all-in with a marginal hand like T9s or 66. This happens rarely, however, and I only do it versus opponents who are getting out of line.
You may have noticed I said all-in. For example, let’s say I and my opponent are 100 BB’s deep. I raise A6s on the button to $14 at a $2/$4 game. My opponent 3-bets to $52. He does this to me constantly and I’ve been playing tightly against the 3-bets for the session.
Instead of making a reraise such as three times his 3-bet to $156, it’s better to push. By pushing, you force him to make a tougher decision and force him to call off a lot of money. It’s just so rare he has a hand big enough to call, since he likes to 3-bet us so much.
Again, use extreme discretion when making this play. It can be very easy to spew in this situation.
Trapping with AA and KK
One thing I notice my students not doing enough is trapping with AA and KK. By trapping, I mean just calling an opponent’s 3-bet when he reraises your opening raise. It’s also possible to flat call an opening raise with these two hands, but that is very circumstantial and outside the scope of this book.
When you 4-bet an opponent, you are showing a lot of strength. Many of the tighter opponents you face can fold a hand like QQ or JJ to a 4-bet. Against these opponents, it’s better to just call their 3-bet preflop and try to get it all in on any flop. Your opponent will have a much harder time folding a hand like QQ, JJ and TT when it flops an overpair in a big pot.
I usually only do this versus my tighter opponents. Against fish, I just go ahead and 4-bet since they are not good at folding. Against opponents who are tough aggressive players, I 4-bet sometimes since they expect me to 4-bet bluff with weaker hands.
Squeezing becomes a fairly common move at $2/$4 and above but can be effective at the lower limits when used correctly. Squeezing means to 3-bet when there is an open raise and at least one call.
For example, a TAG opponent raises to $6 at a $1/$2 game on the CO. The button, a tight and passive regular calls. You’re in the big blind with T8s and reraise to $24, and everyone folds.
Squeezing can apply to 3-betting any of your hands in this spot, though generally when referred to in the online poker world it means 3-betting a marginal or decent hand.
You should 3-bet big in this spot. I would make it at least four times the opener’s raise and usually a little more if he has two or more callers.
This move is effective because your opponents fold a lot in this spot. You’re showing a lot of strength and you’re making it expensive for them to see a flop. Think of it this way: the original raiser, who is showing the most strength, is now trapped in between you and the original caller. If he decides to continue he’s going to be in a tough spot. The caller(s) would usually 3-bet themselves if they had a big hand, so they are playing their marginal hands. They can’t call such a large bet in this spot.
This move works best when you are facing tight players raising and calling in late position. Against fish, be wary of squeezing hands like suited connectors because they are less apt to fold and you’ll be playing a large pot out of position with seven high. It’s much better to call those hands and see a flop.
Start experimenting with squeezing. You’ll get a feel for the best combination of table dynamics, image and who you are up against to make this move with. Used with the right amount of discretion, it will be a very profitable play.
Floating is another play that your trickier and tougher opponents will start using when you get to $1/$2 and above. It refers to when your opponent calls your continuation bet on the flop with absolutely nothing or a very weak hand like a gutshot or bottom pair with the intention on stealing the pot away on the turn. Preflop floating was referenced in the understanding position chapter as part of the abusing CO openers section.
This is a technique that shows the power of position. An opponent can sometimes call with absolutely nothing and still be doing a profitable play.
I’m playing $5/$10 on Full Tilt. I have AcQd on the button in a $5/$10 game. UTG+1, a standard 18/15 TAG who I’ve played a few hundred hands with, opens for $40. I call.
The flop is Jc5h4h. UTG+1 bets $60. I just call.
The reason I’m calling this flop is because there’s a decent chance either UTG+1 has missed the flop with overcards or has an underpair to the board. Since UTG+1 is straightforward I expect him to usually give up if he has less than top pair. I usually raise this continuation bet but it’s good to mix it up with floats. By calling, I can also represent a flush if a third heart hits.
The turn is the 7h. UTG+1 checks. I bet $180 into the $200 pot. UTG+1 calls.
Ok, my float didn’t work there. But I’m not done yet. I put UTG+1 on an overpair or a good jack like AJ or KJ. In the hands we’ve played together, I think he views me as tight, so I can represent the flush by firing a big river bet.
I rarely do bluffs like this, but when facing the right mix of a tight opponent, who thinks you are tight and an ugly board for your opponent’s hand, it’s worth a shot.
The river is the 2d. UTG+1 checks, and I bet $480 into the $560 pot. UTG+1 runs down his time bank but eventually folds.
It’s a ballsy bluff, given that I put UTG+1 on a pretty good hand, but in his mind I have the flush way too often for him to call.
It’s possible to float on the flop without a hand that can make something if you really believe your opponent has nothing. This is a tougher play since you have nothing to back you up if your float doesn’t work, so use it sparingly.
It’s better to use the float against tighter opponents who can fold hands and tend to give up easier than others. This move has been known to frustrate players and put them on tilt, which is great for when you have a pocket pair in this spot and flop a set and get your opponent to put his whole stack in with middle pair or a bluff.
Ah, slowplaying, the act of playing a very good hand in a deceptive manner by checking or calling. A favorite move by amateurs, old men and tournament donks, it’s very overrated.
In 6-max no-limit hold ‘em, slowplaying is usually a bad play. The games are aggressive enough that players call you down with any pair. They’re aggressive enough that they will bluff and semibluff you on a variety of boards that you shouldn’t slowplay.
Also, with 100 BB+ effective stacks, it will often take all three streets to get an opponent’s stack in the middle. By slowplaying, you usually cut out a street of betting that is very costly if your opponent was willing to call you down or put in a raise.
Some might say that they get increased action from their opponents when they slowplay. I find that is rarely the case. It’s much better just to bet your hand and hope they have something worth putting a lot of money in the pot with than slowplaying to squeeze out an extra bet or two.
However, there is one scenario where I would slowplay:
When my hand cripples the deck. Let’s say I have AdAs and raise and get called. The flop is Ah7d3c. My opponent checks. There is absolutely nothing out there that can call me. Sometimes a pair of sevens will call and on rare occasion they’ll bluff me here, but 95% of the time they’re folding. This is a spot where there’s more value to be made by checking and hoping to get a bluff or two from your opponent who might put you on a weak hand. If my opponent has a hand like 77 or 33, we’re getting all the money in anyways.
Defending the blinds: The check-raise bluff
When you’re playing the medium to higher limits, you’ll face more TAGs who know what they’re doing. They’ll start abusing the button and raising very lightly.
These TAGs will be good players preflop and postflop and take advantage when you start 3-betting them with a wider range. In fact, you’ll just end up putting a lot of money in out-of-position and the TAG will be getting the better of you.
When I notice this dynamic start to happen, I change my blind defense strategy: I start calling their late position raises sometimes and 3-bet sometimes. When I start calling, I call hands like KQ, KJ and AT. These hands can flop overcards and gutshots, which will help me with my next play: the flop check-raise bluff.
Anytime I flop overcards or a gutshot with these hands when calling in the blinds, I will check-raise a TAG late position raiser. Many TAGs at higher limits are good at playing back at 3-bets but not at check-raises on the flop. You’ll take down the pot often and when you don’t, you have a chance to win the pot by hitting your gutshot or overcard.
It’s important to not continue your bluff when you are called unless you have built up enough history of check-raise bluffing here that you think they are calling the check-raise with some marginal hands. Usually by calling, they are telling you they have a good hand. If you get the feeling they are calling with marginal hands, start firing the turn with a big bet.
In these spots, if I flop a hand like an open-ended straight draw or top pair, I will usually just check and call with it. These hands are worth more than just a flop check-raise bluff and are tough to play against a flop 3-bet.
An example of a check-raise bluff is from a session I just played. It was $2/$4 on Poker Stars and I was up against a regular, a TAG player with stats of 19/15/3. We’ve played together a little bit, and he knows I can make some moves but that I am generally tight. He raises the button (as he often does) to $16. I’m in the BB with KcJs and elect to call, as by 3-betting I may get myself into a big pot out-of-position with a dominated hand, and I don’t want to fold since he has attempts to steal the blinds at 33%. KJo is too strong of a hand to fold to 33% stealer.
The flop is 7s6c5d. I check and the button bets $30. I make it $80 and he calls.
The turn is the Ts. I check and the button bets $160 and I fold.
Ok, it didn’t work that time and that’s poker. But think about it this way – he’s raising so many hands that can’t continue on that flop that he has to give up so much of the time. Hands like any two broadway cards can’t continue. Most suited aces have to give up, as well. He’d be hard pressed to continue with A6.
And I’m not doing a pure bluff; it’s more of a semibluff. If he calls, I might hit a K or J and have the best hand. Hitting top pair on the turn might lead to some tough situations but more often than not we’ll be winning the pot.
Also, next time he raises my blind he’ll think twice about it. He knows I can play back at him lightly and that my blinds are not going to come without a fight.
 Please never limp AA and KK. It will get you in very tough situations postflop and will rarely get you more action from a worse hand. Just raise it and hope someone makes a hand.
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