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Equity: A Tough Lesson To Learn

educationOne of the key areas of my game that I had to improve on, some years ago, was in how I thought about equity in No-Limit Hold’em.

Raising from the button with a hand like J-7o may take down the blinds but what happens when the flop comes 10-6-2 and they check-call your c-bet? Then what happens on the turn when the Qh comes and they check-call your turn barrel? You either have to give up on the river or make an even bigger and riskier bluff with no pot equity at all.

This isn’t really smart poker and you are better off having the safety net of at least being able to have the best hand at showdown. If there is no chance that you can have the best hand at showdown then you probably shouldn’t have launched the bluff in the first place.

Many players will say that J-7o is too weak to consider raising with. This is only half correct because if the blinds are super tight then the play can be profitable. If the blinds fold for example 70% of the time then you are making seven lots of 1.5bb which is 10.5bb. If you raise to say 3bb then the play is clearly profitable as long as you don’t spew the money back by making large post-flop errors.

If you choose to raise widely with J-7o then you should be doing so if the blinds are both very tight and very passive on the whole. If you get called then there is nothing wrong with giving up post-flop because your profits are coming from the pre-flop folds from your opponents and winning the blinds and post-flop when you hit the board hard. So, in this instance, you simply have no need to c-bet on a 10-6-2 board.

In fact, checking the hand back can often confuse some opponents that expect you to c-bet with your total range. If the turn card was a queen and your opponent bets you could simply fold. If they check then two consecutive checks is far more of an indication that your opponent is very weak and a bluff would carry far more weight on the turn even though your pot equity is the same. The increased fold equity makes the bluff viable now.

Many players realise that they need to be aggressive as soon as they advance past the novice stage of their poker progression. However, if you take aggression too far then you will simply spew money both to weaker players that will not fold their one pair type hands and strong players that are good enough to realise that your range is polarised.

Just because you raise pre-flop and the hand is heads-up, it doesn’t mean that you have to automatically c-bet when checked to. This was a lesson that took me a long time and an awful large number of lost buy-ins to learn.

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