NLHE 6-max: The Flop (2)

  • In the second part we will take a look at situations where we are faced with a bet or a raise/check-raise of our opponent on the flop after we have made a continuation bet (see part 1).

The donk bet

In many pots, where we were the pre-flop aggressor and in position, it will happen every once in a while that one of our opponents bets into us. This will primarily happen on safe boards, such as , according to the principle: "My opponent raised, the board only contains small cards so let's make him lay down ." Betting into the pre-flop aggressor is also know as donk bet. This kind of bet is almost always a sign of weakness and uncertainty. Somebody …

  • … wants to try to buy the pot straight away, without having hit anything and thereby assumes that the pre-flop raiser hasn't hit as well.
  • … has hit the flop, but is out of position and not sure, if his middle pair or top pair with weak kicker is the best hand.
  • … wants to see the next card cheaply by making a small bet, if the preflop raiser just calls the donk bet instead of raising. This special bet is also known as "blocking bet". In this situation it would be a small blocking bet and since we can't make a continuation bet, which would be significantly bigger, the player who is on a draw can determine the price he is willing to pay for his draw. A blocking bet can of course only be made by an opponent who is first to act (due to his position or because it is checked to him). It doesn't make sense, if we are last to act.

Only in very rare cases the player who is making the donk bet is that strong he pretends to be. So how do we respond to a donk or blocking bet?

  • Raise

    There is an easy answer to this question, we raise. At least in the majority of cases and on the most boards. It can make sense to call as well as to fold to donk bets depending on the situation and the type of opponent, but more on that later. First of all here are a few example hands on this particular topic:
    • Example 1:

We have in the cutoff and raise after a player in front of us limped in. He calls and bets the minimum (1BB) in the next round of betting. This can mean one of the following things:

    • He has a , a or hasn't hit anything at all.
    • He has a weak .
    • He has a straight draw.
    • He is holding a strong made hand (set, two pair) and wants to get raised.

All three points speak in favour of raising in this situation. Because only in one of the possible cases he is really holding a strong hand and we possibly have to revaluate the situation in case he will call or reraise. Thus, everything speaks in favour of a raise. We want a weaker as well as a or to stay in the hand, in order to generate more value for our top pair/top kicker. Furthermore we want to make the straight draws pay the maximum amount possible to see the next card. Last but not least we want to get information how much the opponent actually likes his hand if he has flopped a monster.

We can obtain the desired information by raising. The size of the raise must be big enough to force hands that currently beat us (bottom pair, middle pair, top pair) to fold as well as to offer draws unfavourable pot odds, so that they can't call profitably.

    • Beispiel 2:

We raise on the button with and the big blind calls. The flop is and the big blind immediately bets a third of the pot. Here we can analyse the situation as follows: The big blind has …

    • … a small pocket pair , or similar and doesn't know where he stands.
    • … a flush draw or straight draw and either is trying to draw cheaply on an inconsiderable flop or possibly wants to force us to fold straight away (semi-bluff).
    • … nothing at all and is trying to steal the pot, because we were the preflop raiser and he puts us on overcards (bluff).

In this situation we always respond with a raise, since our hand initially is very strong on this flop: We have the second nut flush draw with overcards. On the flop we are even a small favourite against any pair except for and all bigger pairs. In addition we are possibly dominating the other, smaller flush draws. Combined with the above points we have to raise here. We can end the hand by raising, even if our opponent is ahead on the flop e.g. with a pair. Maybe he will lay his hand down by now. If he still calls we have a lot of outs and will win a nice pot in case we hit.
If our opponent has a smaller flush draw we can hope to stack him (to win his entire stack) if another heart appears on the turn or river. Moreover, we can hope that he will fold the nut flush draw, which would dominate us, against a hefty raise. This would also prevent us from having to make difficult decisions on the turn or river if indeed another heart appears. Thus, everything speaks in favour of a raise. 

  • Fold

On a lot of flops it is appropriate to fold to a donk bet when only few cards will help us to improve our hand or our outs would at the same time give one of our opponents a better hand. If we raise, like in example 1, with and the flop comes , raising a donk bet is disadvantageous and will get us into trouble, since the probability that we will get called is relatively high and the chance that we will improve our hand is only small.

  • Call

In most cases raising a donk bet should be our number one choice, especially when we have flopped a playable draw. You not only take advantage of the opportunity to play a big pot, if we hit our draw, but also increase our fold equity. If we, however, play against an opponent who always calls a raise on the flop, it can sometimes make sense to just call a donk bet with the intention to attempt to win the hand on one of the later streets by means of a semi-bluff. The same applies to a situation where we have a draw and know that we won't increase our fold equity against a specific opponent by raising.

Donk bet multiway

If we are either sitting behind two or more player or one or more players are still to act behind us and a player makes a donk bet it is in principle a sign of much more strength than when we are heads-up. We should in most cases respect the bet and only raise when we want to protect our good made hand already on the flop.

Getting raised

  • Out of Position

    We were the preflop aggressor and make our standard continuation bet, but are raised by a player. The following applies here again: In a multiway pot such a raise is a sign of great strength, as the player makes such a raise with the knowledge that more players are in the hand. We should only seriously consider if and above all how we should continue playing when we have a strong or even very strong made hand (at least top pair/top kicker), otherwise we should fold. Heads-up we often have to make a decision that depends on the type of opponent we are up against. Does he bluff a lot? Or is he playing tight and solid? In the first case it often makes sense to just call the raise, to make the decision how to build the pot or whether we should prefer folding, because we are beaten on later streets. It seldom is of advantage to reraise: We scare away most opponents, which we are ahead of and are only called by hands where we are way behind. It only makes sense to reraise if we have a strong made hand and want to protect us from the draws of our opponents:

Beispiel 3:

We have under the gun and raise to 3,5 BBs and are called by a loose player on the button, who plays too many hands very aggressively. The flop comes:

We bet two-thirds of the pot which contains 6BBs and get raised to 16 BBs. It is recommended here to respond to the raise of an opponent with a reraise of at least 50 BBs or even with an all-in, since the opponent, due to our characterisation and reads, can raise here much too often with only a draw. He could also have top pair and a draw, e.g. a hand against which we would have to protect our overpair. If we only call the raise and the turn is a , , , , or a heart, we could already be beaten and now have to decide out of position if our overpair is still the best hand. In addition we also have the and therefore also a backdoor flush draw. Thus, we are only a big underdog against and a set, but in our opinion these hands are not part of the possible hand range of our opponent, since he would raise. We should rather tend to fold, when a tight and solid player raises us.

If the board was , it is recommended to just call the raise and then decide on the turn how to extract the most money from a or a bluff. The other way around we don't want to build the pot unnecessarily and don't want to commit us with our overpair in case we are already beaten.

  • In Position

    A move that is often made online in shorthanded games is the minimum check-raise. Such a check-raise has the same size as our own continuation bet. Generally we shouldn't apply this move. It involves a lot of disadvantages, which I will focus on right now.
    Many players use it in order to make it easier to play out of position, because the hand often is over after a minimum check-raise. In general it always looks very strong, but in this case it is often a sign that the opponent isn't sure if we have hit the flop (this is why he only raises the minimum), or sometimes he wants to offer us pot odds that are so favourable that we have to call in with the intention of increasing the size of the pot. The latter isn't the case very often, since the most check-raises are made by players with bottom, middle or top pair, who don't want to see another card and suspect that the preflop aggressor has missed the flop. The move takes advantage of our aggression: The opponents have realised that we often make a continuation bet on the flop and respond with a raise, in order to test us. We can however counter this move with a certain strategy: Firstly, we shouldn't make a continuation bet too often on certain boards (see above) against such opponents. Secondly, we should try to take advantage of our position and place our opponent in the awkward situation that he has to continue playing the hand out of position on the turn. If he has only bluffed on the flop or made a move with small or middle pair, we can hope that he will bluff again on the turn in order to get more money into the pot when we have a made hand or that he will check his weak hands and we therefore have a chance to catch up.

Beispiel 4:

We have pocket rockets under the gun and are called by the small blind. The flop is safe for us, since we are way ahead against a set. The flop is of a structure that is prone to minimum check-raises, as the opponent almost always first puts us on overcards and not on an overpair. He therefore makes a minimum check-raise to test us. We just call, since there are only few dangerous turn cards for our hand and we would force any bluff to fold with another reraise. We want the opponent to bluff again on the turn. If he bets big on the turn we have to figure out if we could be beaten, without having build the pot early on.

Another advantage of a minimum check-raise is that we get the right odds in order to continue playing when we are on a draw. We are automatically offered pot odds of at least 3 to 1 and even better pot odds on a call. If our draw arrives on the turn there is a very high probability that we will get paid off since the pot is already big due to the check-raise. Furthermore we still have position on our opponent.

A check-raise is usually a sign of great strength and in case we don't know our opponent we should fold all mediocre made hands (top pair with a weak or medium kicker) as well as draws where we don't get the right odds and only continue playing in case we have a strong made hand. It often makes sense to just call with our strong hands, as all weaker hands fold too often against another reraise and we want to keep them in the pot. The only situation where we should reraise would be a draw heavy board, where we don't want to give our opponent a free card.

Unraised Pots

This section seems to stand in opposition to the rule in our preflop article: "If we want to play a hand we should raise", but this isn't really the case. We limp very often when we are in the big blind and the players in front of us just called. Every once in a while we also complete the small blind, so that we also have to play the hand out of position when we are in the blinds. Two disadvantages at a time.

An oft-cited rule in no-limit hold'em says: "Never go broke in unraised pots". It is also applied very often, because again and again we see players lose their entire stack in unraised pots with hands such as top pair against the nuts or near nuts.
The following applies in general: you have to be very careful in unraised pots. You  already want to take these small pots down on the flop by betting. Taking down these small pots by betting out will increase or win rate. By contrast, our win rate will decrease when we continue to play limped pots after the flop without having a strong hand. We should usually give up our hand when several opponents are interested or even show great interest in an unraised pot (for example by raising). Here is an example:

  • Example 5:

We get to see a free flop with and flop trip jacks, a very nice hand. Unfortunately, a limper shows great interest in the hand and we get raised on the turn. A call is mandatory, since we have enough outs to make a full house and besides that we can hope for a cheap showdown. However, after the turn the player indicates that he really likes his hand by making a remarkably big bet in relation to the pot. We therefore have to fold here, since we can only beat a bluff. We split the pot with a few other combinations that contain a jack, but are beaten by far too many jacks with a better kicker. In addition to that we are way behind against any full house. It would be a huge mistake to risk our entire stack in this situation.

The following applies here: If we flop top or middle pair and/or a strong draw, we should bet between two-thirds and the size of the pot. In case we are called we should tend to give up the hand on the turn. If we bet our draw here we will not only win the pot often enough already on the flop. but also build the pot in case we're called and hit our draw on the turn.