Last week, we looked at a very specific question that gets asked a lot about 3-bet pots: How to Play AK When You Miss the Flop. We discussed a number of topics briefly, and there was a good response to the article, so we’re going to parlay that into a series specifically tailored towards missing the flop in general. We’re going to start with a general overview of a number of important topics that we’re going to cover in more detail later in the series.

Fold Percentages

On the most basic level, you’re going to be making an evaluation between the option of checking and the option of bluffing. Along these lines, you have to be able to figure out what the value of bluffing will be and if it will even be profitable. A lot of this is determined by the folding percentage that your opponent will have to different bet sizes.

Putting Your Opponent on a Range

One major part of this is figuring out what your opponent’s range looks like in connection with the board. However, just approximating this range isn’t enough. You also need to have an idea of how you can expect your opponent to play. In a six-max game, a player who is 37/9 is going to play a lot differently than a player who is 19/17 even if they arrive to some spot with the same range on the same board for some reason.

Elastic vs. Inelastic Folding Ranges

Another interesting part of dealing with fold percentages is that sometimes they can drastically change based on your bet sizes while sometimes they won’t change at all. In a situation where the size of your bet will drastically change the number of hands your opponent calls with, their range would be called elastic. Along similar lines, if changing your bet size will not change their folding range so much, then their range is inelastic. With all else being equal, you should choose lower bet sizes when your opponent has an inelastic range.

The Second Barrel

A lot of the time, you’re going to have opportunities to fire a second barrel on the turn as a bluff. There are specific conditions where this can be very good, and there are some conditions where it can be very bad. While a lot of it still depends on your opponent’s range and tendencies, there are two specific characteristics of the turn card that you should be looking for.

Increased Fold Equity

Sometimes the turn card will really help your fold equity. This happens a lot when a scare card or a card that’s higher than all of the flop cards comes that you could very easily have. For example, if you c-bet on Q86r and an ace comes on the turn, it’s very plausible that you could have an ace in your hand. However, if you c-bet on 974r and the turn comes a ten, it’s not going to hold nearly as much weight because it’s usually harder for you to have a ten there that you would be comfortable building a big pot with.

Increased Pot Equity

Another indicator that firing a second barrel could be a good idea is that you pick up a good bit of equity on the turn. You could pick up a straight draw or a flush draw or any amount of outs on the turn that you didn’t have on the flop, and that can really make a turn semi-bluff profitable. You have to be careful with this, especially when you’re in position, because catching outs also makes the value of checking go up as well which brings us into our next topic.

The Value of Checking

In part 3 of the Applications of EV Calculations series I did in September and October, we looked at the idea of the relative value of checking and bluffing. We used math to come to a number of conclusions there, but since this new series is more geared towards beginners and people who might not be as familiar with poker math, we’re going to look at things in more general terms.

Positional Factors

If all else is equal, then checking in position is better than checking out of position. The reason for this is that checking in position guarantees you a free look at the next card while checking out of position does not. Logically, that means that checking will be better than bluffing when you’re in position more often than when you’re out of position. This means you should lean more towards bluffing when you’re the first player to act and more towards checking when you’re the second player to act.

The Free Card Play

If you have outs on the flop and you’re in position, a really interesting play is to bluff the flop intending to check on the turn when your opponent checks to you. This combines the semi-bluffing power of having outs on the flop with the power of checking in position to really give you a lot of value. The only thing you have to look out for with this play is that getting raised on the flop can really kill the value of your hand. If you’re against an opponent who particularly loves raising c-bets, then check when you have outs instead.

Moving Forward

All of this can seem a bit overwhelming. It can seem like there is so much information that goes into making such a basic and routine decision that it’s hopeless to try to figure it all out. Bear with us through this series, and we’ll make a lot more sense of a lot of these scenarios because one of the main things we’re going to look at is deciding which pieces of information are the most important in any given scenario.

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Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE
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