In this episode I discuss the cbet defense shenanigans your opponents could utilize: check-raises, IP raises, floats and slow playing… oh, my.
In episode 136 I discussed how to implement game tape in your poker studies. This is the most beneficial yet neglected study technique, so you’ve got to do it.
You’ve made the Cbet, now what? (3:15)
That all depends on how your opponent reacts. They may check-raise, check-call, calling IP or just raise IP. We must have a plan in place against these often expected cbet defense strategies before we make the cbet.
Let’s look at some example plans for before you cbet bluff:
- If that ultra-LAG check-raises you on this hard to hit board, you know he’s likely bluffing so you can come back over the top to 3bet him off his hand.
- If that NIT raises your pot-sized cbet IP, well, being a foldy NIT he’s prolly got you crushed and you can just fold your 2nd pair hand.
- In case that TAG player just calls your cbet IP, and you’ve seen her bet every time it’s checked to her, this is prolly just another planned turn bluff, so you’re firing the double-barrel no matter what.
- If that other TAG player just calls your cbet IP, and you know he’s flop honest so you suspect a slow-play, then you shouldn’t barrel the turn unless it really hits your range and not his.
In each of these examples you cbet for a good reason, and you knew ahead of time how you’ll react to each of their possible defenses.
Let’s get into each of these defenses in turn and I’ll discuss the following 3 aspects of each:
- Why they are making this play?
- How to anticipate it
- What your plan should be
Cbet Defense: Check-Raises (5:30)
Why do players check-raise?
- To build the pot w/set+ hands, sometimes 2p+
- To bluff you off early in the hand before the pot gets too big. Waiting for the turn to bluff might be scarier and more likely to succeed, but it’s often more costly.
How can you anticipate the check-raise?
Take note of every player who makes check-raise bluffs. Try to record the circumstances, the board and the player type that they check-raised. The more info you have the better you’ll be able to anticipate and respond to check-raises.
You must also look at their check/raise stat before you cbet. Make sure it’s in one of your popups, preferably your Fold to Cbet popup. If their check-raise stat is high, like over 10% and definitely over 15%, they check-raise bluff quite often so you’ve got to plan for it. The lower the %, the more likely they do so for value.
You can also anticipate the check-raise by considering how well their pre-flop range hits the flop as soon as the dealer flops the cards. Let’s assume they called your pre-flop 2bet. Are they calling you with a wide or narrow pre-flop range? How does this range hit the K76 or the TT2 or the AKQ board? The harder their range hits, the more often you’ll see a check-raise for value.
Your Plan Against the Expected Check-raise
- If you feel their check-raise is likely a bluff, then you’ve got to re-bluff them. Don’t go passive and just call in hopes that they don’t fire the turn. Put the pressure back on them with a flop 3bet.
- If you don’t want to re-bluff vs the check-raise, then you should either fold or not cbet in the first place. Remember: If you hate the future, don’t continue. If you think you’ll be check-raised and will throw up in your mouth when it happens, don’t cbet. Just check-behind and get to the turn for free.
- If they’re only making the check-raise for value, then ditch your hand unless you’re ahead of their value range.
Cbet Defense: IP Cbet Raises (8:00)
Why do players raise your Cbet IP?
This is closely related to the check-raise, they’re just IP this time.
Being IP, these cbet raises are more likely to work. They’ve seen your action and your sizing and can gauge if you’re on a weak or a strong cbetting hand. If they suspect weakness, this is the perfect time to pounce because you’ll often fold all of your bluffs due to the prospect of being OOP for the rest of the hand. Nobody likes to continue their bluffing from OOP vs a raise on the flop, so this is a very profitable bluffing strategy.
How can you anticipate the IP raise?
Just like with check-raises, take note of players who are capable of doing this and the sizing they use. There might be a difference in their bluff raise sizing and value raise sizing. Paying attention to bet sizing w/SD’s is super valuable.
You also want to look at their Raise Cbet stat for the flop/turn/river in your Fold to Cbet popup, and you should have this stat as a total, IP and OOP.
Your Plan Against the IP Cbet Raise
Your plan vs the IP raise is the same as vs check-raises. Either fold to the raise if you believe them to be stronger and you can’t compete, or re-raise their bluff. Don’t play it passively and go to the turn OOP after just calling, this makes turn pots bigger and your decisions even tougher. Also, if you barf after facing the IP raise, then you prolly shouldn’t have cbet in the first place.
Cbet Defense: Flop Floats (9:50)
What is a float?
A float is when you call a cbet, either IP or OOP, with the intent to bluff on a later street after the opponent shows weakness. This is most often a flop call IP, then when the cbettor checks the turn, they throw out a bluff.
Why do players float the flop?
They float the flop b/c they know most players are turn honest and don’t double-barrel often enough. Turn honest players check or fold a lot on the turn, so they’re easy to play against.
Floating can be done IP or OOP, but mostly IP because it’s easier to bluff you on the turn when you’re OOP. Flop floaters are generally unbelieving players who see this as a great opportunity to bluff you off later.
How can you anticipate the float?
Once again, taking note on players who call a lot of flops then bet a lot of turns is key. It’s important to note if they’re doing this as a bluff or for value. So, pay attention to SD’s as well as watch to see if they fold after betting the turn.
There are a couple of stats that can help you here, and this might be a little confusing, so bear with me. PokerTracker 4 uses some poker terms differently than we use colloquially:
- One important set of stats are the Float Bets, so Float Flop/Turn/River. These stats tell you how often your opponent bets IP when the cbettor checks instead of cbetting.
- The other one is the Probe bet. These are called Probe Turn/River, and they show the % of the time that your opponent bets OOP after the cbettor checked-behind on the prior street.
Your Plan Against the Floats and Probe Bets
If you know your opponent is capable of either, then you’ve got to double-barrel or just DO NOT throw out the initial Cbet. Capable players are waiting for you to show weakness, so if you’re going to show weakness, do it on the flop before you build the pot and lose even more money with an ineffectual cbet bluff.
And if you’ve got a value hand vs a floater or a prober, then check the next street in order to get value from their bluffs.
Cbet Defense: Slow Plays (12:45)
Why do players slow play their hand?
We’ve all done it; slow played the flopped nut flush or the top set or the sneaky straight with QT on the KJ9 board. I think the reason I do it is to lull my opponent into a false sense of security. Either getting them to bluff when they think we can’t have it, or getting them to value own themselves by betting a strong yet inferior hand. Or, even allowing them to catch up a little vs our unbeatable hand so we get value.
How can you anticipate the slow-play?
As always, take note of slow-players. If you see somebody check-call the flop and turn with the flopped full house or the nut flush then they suddenly donk bet the river for full pot and show their hand, you’ve got to record this. Once again, the more you know about your opponent’s tendencies the better you’ll be able to respond to plays like this and have the ability to see them coming.
And, you need to gauge how well their range interacts with the board and judge by their plays how likely they’ve got a strong hand. If the flop smacks their range and they call, but they’re normally flop honest, then be suspicious. If the turn also hits their range and they call a larger bet, be even more suspicious.
Pay attention to those key stats: Fold to Flop Cbet and Fold to Turn Cbet.
Your Plan Against the Slow Play
Determine ahead of time how many streets of value your hand can normally get. If you flop an overpair, depending on the board, that might be only worth two or just one street of value. If your opponent is committing a ton of money, they’ve often got one pair beat.
Also, if you’re bluffing and they normally fold the flop and the turn, then don’t bluff the river. When your play isn’t likely to lead to the outcome you want, don’t make the play.
Cbet Video from ExceptionalPoker.com: Cbetting as a Function of Pot and Fold-Equities (15:50)
Mark Warner over there at ExceptionalPoker.com created a great video about making profitable cbets. It’s a very interesting concept he discusses and I’d like to share it with you here.
Mark puts forth an idea that any bet you make is a function of combining Pot Equity and Fold Equity.
Pot equity is the percentage chance that you’ll win the pot at SD. Fold equity is how likely your opponent is to fold to a bet.
In every cbet situation, you have an amount of Pot Equity and Fold Equity. To determine whether you should cbet or not depends on how much of either you have.
- For PE, we need to compare the equity of our hand vs our opp’s range on the flop.
- For FE, we need to consider lots of possible variables within every hand:
- # of opp’s – more opp’s = less FE
- Types of opp’s – calling stations = less FE
- Board texture – wetter texture = less FE
- Stack and Pot Sizes – smaller stacks and a lower SPR = less FE
- Cbet size – smaller sizing = less FE
- Your image – if you’re bluffy = less FE
- Your position – if you’re OOP = less FE
In the video Mark discusses all of this and then he unveils his Cbetting Graph. The graph is an XY axis graph w/FE on the X-axis and PE on the Y-axis.
- Pot equity tells you where you are up and down on the graph
- Fold equity tells you where you are from left to right on the graph
You can see the large diagonal line in the center going down from the top left to the bottom right. The top of this line is where you’ve got lots of PE (ex. flopping the nuts) and little FE (ex. the opponent’s got a great hand that’s not folding). At the other on the bottom right, you’ve got very little PE (ex. you’re on a stone cold bluff) but you’ve got tons of FE (ex. the opponent is giving up 99% of the time).
The Cbetting Line
- If you’re anywhere along this diagonal, you should be cbetting.
- If you’re outside this line in the “Check and Fold Zone” (no FE and no PE), then you shouldn’t cbet (because they won’t fold and you’ve got 0 chance of winning at SD)
- In the other “Slow Play Zone”, where you flop the nuts for example and your opp is going to fold a ton, you shouldn’t cbet and just slow play to let them catch something on the next street.
Within this graph, you can see that the Cbet line down the middle takes up about 75% of the graph. So, you should cbetting on average 75% of the time and the other 25% is made up of your slow-plays and your check-folds.
To use this graph properly, it’s key to estimate your PE and FE with every cbet opportunity. I really like Mark’s take on the cbet, and you can actually use this with any type of value bet or bluff bet on any street.
It’s truly worth your time to check out Mark’s graph on and ideas on better cbets. Please visit Mark’s blog by going to www.exceptionalpoker.com. He sends out valuable weekly emails and he’s got plenty of great poker content there for you to learn from. Please like and subscribe to his YT channel as well.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Visit ExceptionalPoker.com to learn from Mark and his Cbetting video. I guarantee this will open up a new way for you to view your cbets and if you follow what he discusses, you’ll be all the more powerful for it. Print the graph for yourself and use it in your next session. Estimate your situational PE and your FE, and if you fall within that central Cbet line, make the cbet!
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
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In episode episode #138, I’ll hit the first class in Minimum Effective Dose #7; Poker Math. We’ll talk Expected Value, Fold Equity, Break-even math, outs and odds, Pot Equity… basically everything mathematical in the upcoming 4 episodes, so stay tuned.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
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