1. Introduction
This is Part 10 of the article series "PLO From Scratch". The target audience is micro and low limit players with some experience from limit or no-limit Hold'em, but little or no PLO experience. My goal with this series is to teach basic PLO strategy in a systematic and structured manner.

Part 10 will revolve around two topics:

1. A discussion of c-betting on the flop
2. Illustrating systematic postflop planning along the way

The original plan for Part 10 was to start with a series of examples of postflop planning, but I decided to merge this with the discussion of c-betting. We remember that we defined a simple model of postflop planning in Part 8 and Part 9. Using this model we start every postflop decision making process by assessing the following factors:

- The number of opponents
- Position
- Equity (estimated from the cards that we see + assumptions about opponent ranges)

The point of going through this list before we make our first decision on the flop is that we can avoid many obvious mistakes by thinking through these important situational factors. We can also say a lot about what kind of hand we need to continue from the flop, without even looking at the cards. For example:

  • Do I have steal equity, or should I base my decisions mainly on my showdown equity?
  • If I play my hand for showdown equity, what kind of hand do I need to continue from the flop?
  • Given my actual cards, can I bet for value, or am I playing for pot odds + implied odds?
  • Given my actual cards, do I want to play a big pot or a small pot?

We'll now start using the model for postflop planning to aid our postflop decision making process, and in this article we'll see how c-bet decisions vary as a function of the 4 factors. For simplicity, we'll split the discussion of c-betting into three main scenarios:

1. Singly raised pots
2. 3-bet pots
3. 4-bet pots (a formality, but included for completeness)

For each scenario, we'll discuss what to think about when making a c-bet decision, and we'll clearly see how pot size (e.g. the SPR value) influences our hand strength requirements (the bigger the preflop pot, the less hand strength we need to continue past the flop). In addition to the 4 factors in the postflop planning model, we'll look at how different types of opponents (loose/tight, passive/aggressive) influence our decisions.

Part 10 will be about c-betting in singly raised pots. Then we continue with 3-bet and 4-bet pots in Part 11. The rest of Part 11 will also discuss c-betting and topics related to c-betting. For example, donk-betting the flop (e.g. betting into the preflop raiser), playing against a c-bet, and double-barreling (c-betting both flop and turn).

We'll try to view our c-bet decisions as part of an integrated strategy. In other words, we won't be terribly concerned with the specific cards we hold, but rather talk about how to think and play with various types of hands in various scenarios. We'll also think about exploitative strategies (we're trying to exploit our opponents' mistakes maximally) versus balanced strategies (we're trying to avoid creating opportunities for our opponents to exploit us).

All examples in this article are taken from hands I have played as part of the bankroll building project for the article series ($5PLO to $200PLO). At every decision point I describe my thoughts at the time the and was played. In addition to our model for postflop planning, we'll also make frequent use of the concept "Good Poker" (described in Part 8):

1. Make explicit assumptions
2. Find the best line based on these assumptions

I hope these examples will show that it's always possible to make rational decisions, based on the available information. Of course, analysis at the table can't be as structured and thorough as analysis on paper after the session, but a structured and completely rational thought process is still an ideal that we're always striving for when we're making a poker decision.

2. Principles for c-betting the flop
C-bet decisions are among the most important decisions in PLO. This is because:

- They occur frequently
- A good flop c-betting strategy leads to simpler decisions on later streets
- C-betting mistakes on the flop can lead to expensive mistakes on later streets

Whenever you have a c-bet/check decision to make on the flop, it's important to think about how the hand is likely to play out on later streets after you choose one or the other. C-betting too aggressively is a common novice mistake, and it can develop into a major leak. For example, if you:
  • C-bet bluff too often with poor fold equity (we spew chips on the flop)
  • C-bet too often with marginal/non-nutty hands out of position (we're setting ourselves up for difficult decisions on later streets, out of position with a weak hand in a big pot)
  • C-bet too often in position with marginal hands that would have benefited from a free card (we spew chips on the flop, and/or set ourselves up for getting checkraised out of the pot with hands that have some equity, and would have benefited from seeing a turn card)

A good strategy for c-betting on the flop starts with assessing the flop texture. We will therefore start our discussion of c-betting by learning a "language" for analyzing flop texture in a structured manner. Then we'll talk about c-betting in singly raised pots, and we'll look at heads-up pots and multiway pots separately. We'll use plenty of examples along the way to illustrate important principles, and nuances of these.

When the cases 3-bet pot and 4-bet pot have been discussed in Part 11, we'll end the topic of c-betting with a summary of the most important principles.

2.1 Assessing flop texture
I'm assuming everybody is familiar with the concepts "dry flop" and "wet flop" that we use to describe flops with few or many possible draws, respectively. Here we'll refine these descriptions, and use a system for flop texture characterization defined by Tom "LearnedFromTV" Chambers in his recent Cardrunners PLO video series "PLO Postflop Theory" (a series I highly recommend).

Chambers uses a two-axis system to describe flop texture:

1. Wet/dry =How many draws are possible
2. Heavy/light =How hard the flop has hit the players' ranges

And using these two descriptions, we're trying to get an idea about:

3. Static/dynamic =How likely is it that the relative strength between the players will change from flop to turn to river (static =unlikely, dynamic =likely)

The concepts "wet/dry" and "heavy/light" might at first seem to describe the same thing, but they are distinct. To see this, consider the two flops below:

Flop 1: J T 6
Flop 2: 7 6 2

Both flops have the same structure (a connector + a low card that connects somewhat with the connector + a 2-flush), but Flop 1 hits players' ranges harder than Flop 2. The reason is that people's ranges will be weighted more towards high card combinations A/K/Q/J/T/9/8 than low card combinations 9/8/7/6/5/4/ (since people play high cards more often than low cards).

So even if both flops have approximately the same number of possible draws, people are less likely to actually have these draws on Flop 2. Therefore it will be easier to play marginal hands (e.g. AAxx heads-up in a 3-bet pot without a strong backup draw) on Flop 2, since there is less reason to think someone has flopped a strong draw.

We can classify Flop 1 as wet/heavy (coordinated and likely to hit people's ranges), and Flop 2 as wet/medium heavy (coordinated but less likely to hit people's ranges). The precise nuances of wet/dry/heavy/light that we use aren't all that important. We're not after very precise categorizations, but qualitative assessments that can help us to think correctly when evaluating our options on different flop textures.

Below are a few examples of how to categorize flop textures:

- A K 2

A very dry/very heavy flop. No monster draws are possible (a QJT 9 out inside wrap is the strongest possible draw), but it's a flop that will hit people's ranges hard, since AAxx, KKxx, Axxx are hands that are frequently played.

- 7 7 2

An extremely dry/extremely light flop. No draws are possible, and it's unlikely anyone has 77xx/72xx/22xx/7xxx.

- 8 6 2

A medium wet/medium light flop. Many draws are possible, but not as many as on an extremely wet/heavy J T 6 flop, , and it's also less likely anyone has these draws.

- K Q 7

A medium dry/heavy flop. Two high cards often hit people's ranges, so the flop is heavy. But the absence of flush draws gives it fewer strong draws, and this flop isn't very wet.

- K 8 5

A medium wet/medium light flop. A texture with a king + two low and mostly uncoordinated cards doesn't hammer people's ranges, so it's not a heavy flop. There are some possible draws, but few very strong draws, so it's not a very wet flop either.

- Q 6 2

A dry/light flop. To hit this texture hard, you need two hearts. This doesn't happen all that often (but the likelihood someone has a flush is of course a function of the number of players that saw the flop), so the flop isn't heavy. There are no draws here, except draws to a full house or quads, and it's unlikely people have a lot of 66/22/Q6/Q2/62 combinations in their ranges, so this is also a very dry flop.

- Q J 8

A very wet/very heavy flop. Straights and a plethora of strong draws are possible, and it's also likely that people actually have these.

What we're most interested in when we classify a flop according to the wet/dry + heavy/light system is how likely is the relative strength between players to change from the flop to the river?

In other words:

- How static/dynamic is the flop?

On a static flop it's difficult for a 2nd best hand to draw out on a better hand (or represent having drawn out on a better hand). On a dynamic flop, we expect the nuts to change often from flop to turn to river. Dynamic textures provide lots of opportunities to draw out on better hands, or credibly represent having done so (and try to win the pot by bluffing).

Here are a few flops, categorized as static or dynamic:

- A K 2

This is a very static flop (that we previously labeled "dry/heavy"). If anyone has AAxx/KKxx/AKxx (and these are frequently played hands), it's impossible for a worse hand to have a strong draw against it. So if you're sitting with AKxx or better, you expect to have the best hand on the flop, and you also expect to often have the best hand on the river.

- K 7 2

A very static flop (that we previously labeled "dry/light"). If anyone has the nut flush, all other hands are crushed. Only sets/two pair hands have significant chances to draw out, and there aren't many combinations of KK/77/22/K7/K2/72 in people's ranges.

- J T 6

A very dynamic flop. It's easy to draw out on the current nuts (=wet flop), and it's likely that many of the possible draws are actually in people's hands (=heavy flop), since people play a lot of starting hands that connect well with the cards on the board.

What the flop categorizations static/dynamic mean for postflop planning
Static flops give us more opportunities to have or represent hands our opponents rarely have good equity against, also when the pot is multiway. So a bet on a static flop carries a lot of leverage, and our opponents will realize early that it will be expensive to get involved with a 2nd best hand.

For example, let's assume you c-bet on a A K 4 flop in a HU pot where Villain has A J 9 8 . If you have the range AAxx/KKxx/AKxx (which you are representing credibly with your c-bet), Villain is drawing close to dead, as shown below:

In fact, he is drawing just as dead, even if you only have top two pair with AK:

So a c-bet on this flop texture carries a lot of weight, since it forces Villain to either fold, or invest chips in a scenario where he could be drawing dead. He has serious negative implied odds if he decides to call us down, since we can stop betting worse hands whenever we want, but he has decided to go all the way those times we're ahead of him. This means we can make sure a lot more chips go in when we have the goods than when we're bluffing.

And if Villain calls a flop bet, planning to reevaluate on the turn, and we follow up with a big turn bet, we have extreme leverage. A turn bet is equivalent to saying to Villain: I assume you often have at least top pair when you call the flop, and I'm betting the turn anyway. Are you willing to risk your stack with top pair, drawing dead when you're behind, to see if I'm bluffing?

We'll talk more about the concept of leverage in Part 11, where we'll look at 2-barreling in more detail. Until then, know that static flop textures, where strong flopped hands often will stay strong on the turn and river, create a postflop dynamic where we can put a lot of pressure on marginal hands (like top pair) by c-betting and sometimes continuing to bet on the turn.

Dynamic flops create a different postflop dynamic. Since many turn and river cards can change the relative strength between players, it's difficult for flopped strong hands to survive to the river with their relative strength intact. Therefore it's difficult to represent strength all the way after betting the flop, and it's easy for someone else to jump in at any time and represent a strong hand.

The art of navigating on dynamic flop textures lies in being selective with the hands we take past the flop. We start by c-betting less often when we're weak. We also make sure that the range we continue with past the flop contains made hands and draws of all types (so that it's always a possibility we have improved, regardless of what the turn and river cards are).

For example, let's say we call a raise from the blinds. We flop top set, and we checkraise the flop. Checkraising the flop with top set is of course good in isolation, but of we never bet out with very strong hands, we create an imbalance in our betting range. Let's say we have made a about out of leading into the raiser with various draws as a cheap semibluff, and we checkraise our strongest hands for value. If we never can have sets and other monster hands when we bet, this makes our flop betting range heavily weighted towards draws. As a consequence, it will be harder for us to credibly represent strength (against an observant opponent) those times the board pairs.

We have now learned concepts for describing and thinking about flop textures, so let's move on to c-bet decisions in raised, 3-bet and 4-bet pots. We're assuming 100 BB starting stacks unless mentioned otherwise, and we'll illustrate c-betting and postflop planning in general with some thorough examples from actual play at microlimit PLO.

2.2. About c-betting in singly raised pots in general
Singly raised pots usually have middle to high SPR (i.e. above 4), and this makes it necessary to fulfill certain minimum hand strength requirements before we build a big pot for value postflop.

For example, assume we raise pot (4.5 BB) in position behind a limper, the blinds fold, and the limper calls. We see the flop heads-up with 10.5 BB in the pot and 95.5 BB behind. The SPR is 95.5/10.5 =9.1 (medium/high).

Or assume we open-raise pot (3.5 BB), get called by the button, and the blinds fold. We see the flop heads-up with 8.5 BB in the pot, and 96.5 BB behind. The SPR is 11.3 (high)

Or assume we raise pot (4.5 BB) on the button behind a limper, and the big blind and the limper call. We see the flop 3-way with 14 BB in the pot and 95.5 BB behind. The SPR is 6.8 (medium/low).

So we are usually operating in the SPR region 6-11 with 100 BB stacks. This means we need more than 2 pot-sized bets to get all-in (since SPR is higher than 4), which means the risk/reward ratio on the flop isn't all that great. Therefore, big pots that get built postflop in singly raised pots revolve around the strongest part of people's ranges (nuts, near nuts, and strong nut draws).

This means an aggressive c-bet strategy in singly raised pots has to include a certain amount of bet-folding of hands that are good-but-not-great (for example, two pair). If not, we will get value-raised to death by nutty hands and nutty draws.

Another consequence of playing with high SPR in singly raised pots is that position gets more important than in 3-bet and 4-bet pots. The deeper the stacks, the more postflop decisions we get to make, and the more we get to use position. High SPR makes it more important to avoid non-nutty hands/draws out of position, since these set us up for difficult decisions, which can lead to big mistakes when the stacks are deep.

It will often be correct to check-fold seemingly OK (but non-nutty) hands on the flop, out of position with high SPR, even if we have a decent chance of winning a showdown if we get to see both the turn and river cards. And the more opponents we have, the more correct check-folding becomes. By playing marginal/non-nutty hands out of position with deep stacks, we're putting ourselves in scenarios where:
  • We're generally giving our opponents more information about our range than they give us about their ranges
  • We have poor control over the pot size
  • We have negative implied odds (since our opponents have better control over the pot size than we do)
  • We are easy to bluff when scare cards fall

In other words, we set ourselves up for problems on later streets. Being picky about which hands to take past the flop, is an area where many PLO novices struggle, and we'll see examples of such decisions later in this article.

We start with c-bet decisions in heads-up singly raised pots:

2.3 C-betting heads-up in a singly raised pot
Heads-up we can get away with a lot of c-betting especially against passive opponents. No matter how coordinated the flop is, you range will usually be just as threatening to Villain as his range is to you, and you can credibly represent almost anything (since you will raise a wide range of hands preflop). Therefore you can c-bet almost any flop texture with all of your range against a fit-or-fold player who never (check)raises you without the goods. Especially when you have position and Villain checks to you (which indicates weakness)

But against an aggressive and competent player we have to be more cautious. This player type will not let us run over him on the flop, and if you c-bet too much, he will play back at you when he suspects your range is weak. This depends on the flop texture and how he reads your range.

Here are a handful of examples to illustrate different ways of thinking and planning when we c-bet heads-up against passive and aggressive opponents:

Example 2.3.1: C-bet decision heads-up on a dry flop against a passive Villain

You ($10) open-raise to $0.35 with A A J 7 from UTG, button ($7.65) calls. Button is loose-passive, and you don't expect him to make any moves postflop without a hand.

Flop: K 8 2 ($0.85)
You have $9.65 in your stack, and button has $7.30. What is your plan?

We start with our list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • Out of position
  • SPR =7.30/0.75 =8.6 (medium/high)
  • Equity: We don't have a monster, but we do OK against Villain's range. We are usually ahead on the flop, and we probably have decent equity against the range that calls us. Villain is loose-passive, so we expect him to call with a wide range, and there aren't many strong hands possible on this dry/light flop.

It's obvious to c-bet this dry/light flop against a loose-passive player, and we will bet again on a lot of turns. If we get raised at any point, we can fold our marginal hand. Villain is passive, so we don't expect him to raise us with anything we have good equity against.

Flop: K 8 2 ($0.85)
We ($9.65) bet $0.50, Villain ($7.30) calls.

Note the bet sizing. We don't have to bet pot here, since there aren't any strong draws possible on this flop. Also, this is an either-or type or flop where Villain usually either flopped something good enough to continue (e.g. top pair) or he has nothing. If he folds to a big bet on this flop, he probably also folds to a moderate bet. And if he calls a moderate bet, he would probably also have called a big bet.

On the other hand, when we are out of position with a marginal hand and we very much would like Villain to fold, this is an argument for betting a bit more than we would have done in position. When we have position and initiative, the pressure is on Villain when he has a marginal hand. And if his marginal hand calls our marginal hand, this is not a big problem, since future streets are easy to play when we have position. But out of position, we have to act first on the turn and river, which means we often have to reveal weakness first. So out of position it's extra nice for us if Villain folds on the flop, those times we have a marginal hand.

At any rate, here I elected to bet a bit more than 1/2 pot on this flop texture:

Turn: K 8 2 K ($1.85)
We ($9.15) check, button ($6.80) checks.

A standard turn check when an either-or card like this falls. If Villain flopped top pair, we are drawing almost dead. If he flopped something weaker, we have good equity and a good chance of winning a showdown, but there aren't any worse hands Villain can (reasonably) call us with. So we check and hope to check the hand down.

If Villain makes a decently sized turn bet, we will check-fold. Yes, he could be bluffing, but he is passive, so the odds are against it. Regardless, we don't have enough hand to check-call two streets to get to a showdown. So it's best to give up right away and avoid guesswork on the river in a big pot. At any rate, button checks behind and doesn't put us to a decision.

River: K 8 2 K Q ($1.85)
We ($9.15) check, button ($6.80) checks and wins with K 7 6 4 .

I didn't see any value in a river bet, and I didn't have to bluff to win, so I checked and was happy to get a free showdown. I expect to be good most of the time after button's turn check, but this is not sufficient reason to bet a blank river. To bet for value, we have to be ahead more than 50% of the time Villain calls our bet, and here I expect Villain to fold most hands we beat.

I was a bit surprised by Villain's hand, but let's try to understand his logic:
  • Preflop: His hand looks nice (to him), so he calls
  • Flop: He has top pair + a couple of backdoor draws, so he definitely isn't folding on the flop
  • Turn: He has trips, but he's probably concerned about me slowplaying a better hand. If he had started with a coordinated hand, he would have had better kickers, but here he has ha hand he isn't comfortable betting for value (or he is slowplaying and hoping to trap me, who knows)
  • River He now knows that he almost always has the best hand, but he checks it down. I interpret this as fear of getting checkraised by a slowplayed better hand, since I don't expect him to be thinking abut whether or not he is more than 50% favorite when he bets and gets called.

At any rate, Villain won the pot, but he didn't put us to any decisions after drawing out, so we are happy about how things went. This hand illustrates a big problem for loose-passive players. They splash around with weak hands preflop, and they therefore end up with a lot of weak hands postflop. This makes it difficult for them to maximize profit when ahead (they're afraid to bet their so-so hands for value), while they loose a lot when behind (since they pay of better hands a lot).

Example 2.3.2: C-bet decision heads-up on a dry flop against a passive Villain

You ($17.30) open-raise to $0.35 with J J 9 9 on the button, big blind ($11.15) calls. Big blind is a loose-passive player who only folds 50% to a steal raise, and you don't expect him to show aggression without a hand postflop.

Flop: 8 3 8 ($0.75)
Big blind ($10.80) checks, what is your plan?

We start with our list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • In position
  • SPR =10.80/0.75 =14 (high)
  • Equity: Often ahead on the flop, but we are crushed by the hands Villain checkraise us with, and it's easy for Villain to draw out

So we have a marginal hand on a very dry/light flop where Villain usually has nothing (and his flop check is consistent with that). Here it's important to realize the following:

Even if we have an overpair, this is not a situation where we should check behind for pot control/to induce bluffs with a marginal showdown-able hand. We are not way ahead/way behind here, and many turn cards can beat us. Furthermore, a loose-passive player will seldom bet the turn with hands we can call down profitably against. If we'd had AAxx against an aggressive Villain, we might have considered a flop check, planning to call at least one bet if Villain then bet the turn, but that plan doesn't do anything for us here.

So we have a scenario where c-betting seems immediately profitable, regardless of our cards, because this is a flop texture where we have good fold equity. And since checking doesn't seem to be more profitable than betting, we should simply bet. Note that by betting we're basically turning our hand into a bluff, since we don't plan to call a checkraise or put another chip into the pot if Villain calls (if he calls, we're hoping he lets us check the hand down). Also, note that our cards really don't matter much.

We c-bet because this is a very dry and light flop, and we expect to pick up the pot with a c-bet the majority of the time. Against a passive player, this is a flop where we can bet our whole range, and never check behind, since we expect him to play fit or fold (and this flop is hard to hit), and never checkraise bluff.

Flop: 8 3 8 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($10.80) checks, you ($16.95) bet $0.40, big blind folds.

As expected. Note the bet sizing. This is a static flop where we have excellent fold equity, and we want to bet our whole range here, simply because it's an excellent flop to bluff at. So we bet small, both when bluffing and when betting for value (e.g. we would have bet the same amount with trips or better). If we're bluffing (and we usually are), we're getting a good price on our bluff. And by using the same bet size when value betting, it' impossible for Villain to know when we have it and when we don't.

Note that a bigger bet probably won't increase our success rate at all, but it will get more expensive when Villain has a hand. So we win the same amount (we steal the pot) when he has nothing, but lose more when he has something, and our c-bet becomes less profitable. And those times both we and Villain have flopped a big hand, it will usually be easy to get the stacks in, regardless of our bet sizing on the flop. So we don't have to worry about losing value with our monster hands by c-betting small.

This is a flop where we'll also bluff a lot against an aggressive player. But as we'll see later, we have to make some adjustments on this type of flop texture against an aggressive and competent player who will fight back against aggressive c-betting on dry flops.

Example 2.3.3: C-bet decision heads-up on a wet flop against a passive Villain

You ($10) open-raise to $0.35 with A T 9 7 on the button, Big Blind ($11.45) calls. Big Blind is loose-passive.

Flop: Q 8 7 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($11.10) checks, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • In position
  • SPR =9.65/0.75 =13 (high)
  • Equity: We never have enormous equity here against the range Villain called our raised with, but we have decent equity with a low pair + open-ended + backdoor nutflush draw. We also have some equity against the hands that checkraise is, but not enough to continue, should that happen

This is an example of a flop where both checking and c-betting are alternatives, and where Villain's aggression level becomes an important factor. We have flopped decent-but-not-great equity on a medium dry/medium light type of flop. The flop is rainbow, but there are some possible straight draws, and we expect it to have hit Villain's range fairly well.

Here is an important principle:

Since we have decent-but-not-great equity, this is a situation where would hate to get checkraised and have to fold. Note that we aren't strong enough to call a checkraise, since we have poor equity against a range of good made hands and good draws. So against aggressive players, who we expect will checkraise a fair amount on this type of flop, we should often take a free card and preserve our equity. Note that we have a pair + 8 outs to the nuts + a nutty backdoor draw, so we will be able to continue on a lot of turn cards, should Villain try to bet us out of the pot on the turn, after our flop check.

The last sentence I wrote is very important. By checking behind against an aggressive player, we are revealing weakness that he will often try to exploit. But it's not weakness he can exploit hard, if we make sure our checking range contains many medium strong hands that can develop into big hands on some turn cards. The important point here is that the free card we give ourselves often gives us the nuts or a strong draw. So if Villain tries to exploit us by betting any turn card, he will sometimes bet into the nuts, and sometimes he will get called when we pick up additional equity (e.g. the nutflush draw or trips).

So against an aggressive player, who won't let us get away with c-betting our whole range without getting punished, we have to check more flops with hands that can't continue against a checkraise. And this type of medium-strong-but-nutty draw is a fine hand to check back. We preserve our equity, and we ensure our flop checking range has balance, so that Villain can't get away with bluffing any turn after we check. So what do we do here, against a passive player?

Well, a passive player rarely checkraises, and he definitely doesn't checkraise light, so we're not setting ourselves up for losing equity by c-betting. So if the risk of having to bet-fold away decent equity is low, it's mostly about how often we get called, and our equity against the hands that call us. This is a flop where we'll get called a fair amount, since it connects fairly well with high/medium hands (which are often played). But getting called by a passive player isn't all that bad. He will often check the turn, and we get to choose between taking a free card or betting again.

If we elect to c-bet, and we get called, we will of course bet again if we turn the nuts, and we can also bet trips for value. If we pick up the nutflush draw, we can bet as a strong semibluff. If an ace falls, we can bet our marginal two pair + marginal draw hand for value/protection and fold to a checkraise.

But both c-betting and checking are fine here against a passive player. So you can mix it up as you want. I elected to check behind this time, planning to make a delayed c-bet on a lot of turn cards (all cards that improve us, and perhaps a few more) if Villain checked again.

Flop: Q 8 7 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($9.65) checks, you ($9.65) check behind.

Turn: Q 8 7 4 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($9.65) checks, what is your plan?

We picked up extra equity, and we now have 15 outs to the nut flush or a nut straight. The turn card made a straight possible, and Villain checks again. We can assume he never has the nuts here, since even a passive player would have bet out with a straight to protect a vulnerable hand.

So Villain probably has nothing, and we can bet the turn as a strong semibluff. If we get called, we of course bet the river for value with all our nut hands, but we can check behind with trips and two pair if he checks again. Villain will often have a busted draw in that case, and it's difficult for him to call us with something we beat. So even if we will often have the best hand with rivered trips/two pair, it's doubtful whether we have the best hand more than 50% those times Villain calls a river bet. At any rate, this is a matter of judgment, and also a "luxury problem" (since we can always take a free showdown after Villain checks).

If the river is a blank, and Villain checks again, we have the choice between checking down our low pair (and often losing a showdown) or bluffing. We should often bluff a busted draw in a situation where Villain has indicated nothing but weakness, and we're very certain he doesn't have a strong hand (but we could very well have one). We will not continue this thought here, but we will talk more about river bluffing in a future article.

At any rate, we semibluff the turn:

Turn: Q 8 7 4 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($9.65) checks, you ($9.65) bet $0.75, Villain folds.

As expected. Here we bet pot to represent a straight that we want to protect against draws. We want to give Villain every reason to fold, so there is no need for subtlety.

Example 2.3.4: C-bet decision heads-up on dry flop against aggressive Villain (part 1)

You ($12.75) open-raise to $0.35 with 8 8 7 5 on the button, Big Blind ($23.60) calls. Big Blind is tight-aggressive, but he seems to be trying very hard to steal heads-up pots postflop. He seems to understand flop textures, and how they connect with ranges. You have previously seen him checkraise a few ace high flop textures heads-up, and win all of these without a showdown. This is consistent with him understanding that these are good textures to bluff at. But he might be overdoing it a bit (since we have noticed it).

Flop: A 4 2 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($23.25) checks, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • In position
  • SPR =12.40/0.75 =17 (high)
  • Equity: Poor. We often have the best hand (but still a poor hand) with our low pair, but starting a betting process on the flop is equivalent to bluffing. We have very poor equity against all hands that call or checkraise for value, and many turn cards can beat us

This is a dry/medium light flop, and we have a more or less worthless hand, so our choice is simple: C-bet as a bluff, or check and give up.

Against a passive player, this would be an OK spot for c-betting our whole range. We often pick up the pot, and we don't expect him to re-bluff us, even if he knows we are often bluffing. But against an aggressive player, we have to be more cautious.

We suspect Villain is capable of checkraising light on dry flops, but we don't know whether he is doing this for value (e.g. if he thinks he should checkraise any top pair/overpair for value on these flops), or if he is bluffing. But what we do know is that he doesn't seem to play only fit-or-fold on these flops. He seems to be willing to splash around a bit against what he perceives to be a weak range.

And he is right, of course. We have a wide range for open-raising on the button, so when the flop comes dry/light it's impossible for us to be strong on average. An opportunistic bluff checkraise is therefore a smart move by Villain, unless he does it so much that we can fight back by bluffing him back.

At the moment this hand was played, I was aware of the risk of getting checkraised, but I elected to c-bet anyway, planning to give up if called or raised.

Flop: A 4 2 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($23.25) checks, we bet $0.40, Big Blind checkraises to $1.50, we fold.

Fair enough, but now we have gotten our read confirmed once more. Villain appears to be checkraising far more than a reasonable amount on dry flops, and we store this information for future use. Later in the session this hand occurred:

Example 2.3.5: C-bet decision heads-up on a dry flop against an aggressive Villain (part 2)

You ($15.05) open-raise to $0.35 with J 8 7 6 on the button, Big Blind ($19.30) calls. Big Blind is the aggressive player from the previous example. Based on what happened there, plus other hands we have observed, we are now convinced his checkraises on dry flops are often bluffs.

Flop: Q Q 7 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($18.95) checks, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • In position
  • SPR =14.7/0.75 =20 (high)
  • Equity: Poor. We have a low pair, which amounts to nothing on this flop, and we have little chance of improvement

Another dry/light flop, and we have a hand without showdown equity. So our choices are c-betting as a bluff, or checking and giving up.

But since we now know (or at least are strongly convinced) that this is a flop where Villain will often re-bluff us with a bluff checkraise, it's important that we think through risk/reward before betting. Against a Villain who often attack a weak range (ours), bluffing becomes less profitable, especially if we never re-re-bluff against Villain's re-bluffing

Let's phrase this in simpler terms:

If we often c-bet dry flops with "air", an observant opponent will know that most of our bets are bluffs. So he can fight back by sometimes checkraising us as a re-bluff with no hand. This is a proper adjustment on his part. But let's say he does it so often that we want to adjust to his adjustment. We now have two alternatives:

- C-bet less "air"
- Be more willing to re-re-bluff against his re-bluffing

This should be obvious. If we keep pounding away with aggressive c-betting on these flops (like we would against a passive player), we're opening ourselves up for getting exploited by a thinking, aggressive opponent who is willing to re-bluff. So even if our ego would like us to continue, we have to use rational thinking and realize we're being exploited if we do. So we have to put less money into the pot with worthless hands, or be more willing to fight back against Villain's bluff check-raises. In practice we usually employ a combination of these two adjustments.

My philosophy for these situations (which I carried over from LHE to PLO) is: Splash around early, make good decisions later. This means I like to test my opponents early in the session, in order to learn about them and their ways. If I have a suspicion about a tendency in a player, I try to test my hypotheses early, particularly when it's cheap to do so.

Information "bought" early in a session can pay for itself many times over. This is particularly true against opponents who are quick to adjust to your game (or more correctly, their perception of your game), but who then are not willing or capable to adjust further, after you have adjusted to them.

A lot of talk about a single decision, but it's important that you understand how to play against opponents who are capable of bluffing on dry flops, as these become more common as you move up from the micros. Here I assumed Villain's flop bluffing frequency was high enough to be exploitable, and I c-bet as a bluff, planning to bluff 3-bet if I got checkraised:

Flop: Q Q 7 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($18.95) checks, we ($14.70) bet $0.40, Big Blind check-raises til $1.50, we 3-bet to $3.50 (a little more than 1/2 pot), Villain folds quickly.

Bingo. Note the bet sizing. If we believe Villain is usually re-bluffing against our bluffy c-bet-range, we don't have to re-re-bluff big. Note that it helps to have the low pair and the ace of clubs, since these work as blockers (it's less likely Villain hit the board).

After this hand, Villain became noticeably less frisky, and there was more folding and calling in our button-vs-blind battles, and less check-raising. One shouldn't get too proud after successfully pulling off an advanced move, but it's always nice to pacify an aggressive player (it makes life easier).

NB! For this strategy to work well in the long run, it's important that you also sometimes 3-bet with trips or better, even if it's tempting to always slowplay against an aggressive opponent. Mix up your play with monster hands, and don't' fall back on standard lines. If you do, you risk having lines in your arsenal that are completely without nut hands, and that's something an observant opponent can exploit.

Before we finish this example, I want to mention that in this type of scenario we should also call checkraises more often with medium strong hand, for example aces or kings, if we elect to c-bet them. Let's return to the flop, but this time we have AAxx:

Flop: Q Q 7 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($18.95) checks, we ($14.70) have A A 4 4 . How should we think here?

If we assume Villain is the same aggressive player, we have to look ahead and think abut how we want to deal with an eventual check-raise. Here it seems reasonable to choose between two alternatives:

- We can call more checkraises
- We can avoid them by checking and inducing bluffs on later streets

So we can choose between:

- C-betting and calling a check-raise, planning to fold to further betting
- Checking behind on the flop, planning to call a turn bet (but not necessarily a second bet on the river)

We know that Villain is often checkraise-bluffing, so automatically folding to a checkraise is too tight. But we're not necessarily committed to calling down either. So let's make some reasonable assumptions:

- Checking the flop might tempt Villain to bluff, but if he bets big on both the turn and the river, we're most likely beat
- If we call a checkraise, Villain will rarely keep bluffing on the turn

We can't be sure these are good assumptions, but they are reasonable. If you don't like them, change them to your liking. So we plug these assumptions into our "Good Poker" model for decision making, and we conclude that the two proposed lines are OK

Before we move on to multiway singly raises pots, here is a heads-up example against an aggressive Villain on a coordinated flop:

Example 2.3.6: C-bet decision on wet/heavy flop against aggressive Villain

You ($10) open-raise to $0.35 with A T 7 6 on the button, Big Blind ($14) calls. He is loose-aggressive, and calls a lot preflop, but he shows restraint out of position. He plays loose-aggressive postflop, and isn't afraid to splash around with debatable equity.

Flop: K Q 9 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($18.95) checks, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • Heads-up
  • In position
  • SPR =9.65/0.75 =13 (high)
  • Equity: Poor. We have a gutshot + backdoor flushdraw, though.

A very wet/very heavy flop that we must assume have hit Villain's range pretty hard. This is a scenario where it seems best to forgo all steal equity and simply take a free card. We have poor equity and probably poor steal equity, so betting isn't going to do much for us, especially against an aggressive Villain who is likely to punish overly aggressive c-betting. Against a passive player we will often get to see a turn card even if we c-bet, but with poor equity and presumed poor fold equity it's perfectly fine to take a free card also against a passive opponent. We don't have to try and steal every pot on the flop.

So we check behind and hope to improve, and/or getting checked to again (in which case we might go for a delayed c-bet):

Flop: K Q 9 ($0.75)
Big Blind ($13.65) checks, we ($9.65) check.

Turn: K Q 9 Q ($0.75)
Big Blind ($13.65) bets $0.75, we ($9.65) fold.

We pick up a nutflush draw, but the board pairs and Villain bets pot, so we simply fold. We can't draw to a flush + gutshot anyway, with only 2 : 1 in pot odds, and we could be drawing dead on a paired board. Villain could be bluffing, but we don't even have a bluffcatcher, so there is no need to get fancy. Can't win them all.

Now over to c-betting in multiway, singly raised pots:

2.4 C-betting multiway in singly-raised pots
Previously in this article we stated that we can c-bet aggressively heads-up, although with some restraint on coordinated flops and/or against aggressive opponents. And if it's a mistake to c-bet heads-up in a singly raised pot, it's rarely a big mistake. We always have decent fold equity, after all.

But multiway we have to be much more picky about the flop textures we c-bet, and now it's rarely correct to c-bet our whole range (meaning: all hands we could possibly hold after having raised preflop) after missing the flop, even if the texture is both dry and light. There are exceptions, for example if we have blockers, or we have position and everybody has checked to us at least once. But we will stick closely to the following rules of thumb:
  • Don't c-bet with very poor equity and very few outs in a multiway pot, regardless of flop texture
  • But you can consider c-betting (as a bluff/semibluff) without a hand if you have a handful of outs/blockers/information that indicate a c-bet is profitable. You also very much prefer position.

So, simply phrased:

When you have absolutely nothing, usually don't start a betting process on the flop in a multiway pot. Check and give up, and move on to the next hand. But if you have a little something, like position and/or reason to believe everyone is weak and/or some outs, it might be correct to c-bet anyway. But we avoid bluffing on wet/heavy flops where we expect action, and we prefer to do our bluffing on dry/light flops. So in a multiway pot, our c-bet range will be heavily weighted towards value hands, plus an occasional opportunistic and well-timed steal. There will not be much naked bluffing.

And when we bet for value, we remember that being out of position is an argument for sticking to nutty hands. Both because the nuts are more important with many opponents, and because non-nutty hands are difficult to play well from out of position.

We start with an example of a non-nutty hand out of position in a multiway pot. Then we look at an example of a c-bet decision with a draw in position, and then we end the article with a straightforward bet-fold scenario with a marginal hand.

Example 2.3.7: C-bet decision in a multiway pot with a non-nutty hand out of position

You ($10) raise to $0.35 with J T 6 5 in MP, CO ($7.55) calls, button ($11.80) calls, BB ($13.15) calls. CO is very loose-passive, button is moderately loose and moderately aggressive, and BB is unknown.

Note that this open-raise is a tad loose from MP when I have two loose players behind me. The structure of this hand is very gappy and non-nutty, and this bad when I'll often be sitting out of position postflop. But I was double-suited, so I elected to play. As we shall see, I got what I deserved:

Flop: J 8 7 ($1.45)
BB ($12.80) checks, you have $9.65 in your stack. Now what?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • 4-way
  • Out of position
  • SPR: From 5.0 (against CO) to 8.8 (against button), so medium
  • Equity: Difficult to estimate. We have lots of outs, but none are to the nuts, and we have a draw that is hard to play out of position

Hmmmmm .... we hit something half-decent in multiple directions, and we have top pair + open-ended straight draw + backdoor flushdraw on a pretty wet/heavy flop. We have a lot of outs that improve us, but exactly zero outs to the nuts. Is this a hand good enough to c-bet?

I say no, being out of position against two loose players. To begin with, we don't have good equity against the hands that will call us. This is a flop that should connect fairly well with their ranges, and we don't have any nut outs. And even if they haven't hit the flop hard, they will often call a flop bet anyway.

So by c-betting this non-nutty hand into two loose players, we're just building a big pot where we have insufficient equity and no clear idea about what to do on most turn card. Note that the latter will be a problem for us both when we hit and when we miss, since we don't have any outs that give us a hand good enough to bet confidently for value.

So we fall back on the general principle that out of position, we want to build nutty ranges. This means we will give up on the flop with a lot of non-nutty hand to avoid difficulties out of position on later streets, even if we have some equity. This hand is precisely one of scenarios where we remove a non-nutty hand from our postflop range.

Flop: J 8 7 ($1.45)
BB ($12.80) checks, we ($9.65) check, CO ($7.20) checks, button ($11.45) checks.

Turn: J 8 7 K ($1.45)
BB ($12.80) checks, we ($9.65) check, CO ($7.20) checks, button ($11.45) bets $1, and everybody folds.

No improvement on the turn, and we stick to the plan and give up the pot. You don't win the war by fighting only, but also by avoiding battles you can't win.

Example 2.3.8: C-bet decision in multiway pot with a medium strong draw in position

UTG ($4.40) limps, MP ($8.10) limps, you ($37.90) raise to $0.55 with K K Q T on the button, SB ($11) calls, BB ($7.80) calls, UTG calls, MP calls. UTG, MP and SB are loose-passive, BB is unknown.

A standard preflop raise for value behind two limpers. We end up in a 4-way pot, so we have to be picky about the flops we c-bet.

Flop: A 9 7 ($1.50)
SB ($10.45) checks, UTG ($3.85) checks, MP ($7.55) checks, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • 4-way
  • In position
  • SPR: From 2.9 (against UTG) to 7.0 (against button), so low to middle
  • Equity: Of the type good-but-not-great. We have a nutflush draw + two outs to a set, but this is not enough to want to get all-in on the flop. For example, we only have 43% against a random top pair, and we need more than that, unless we get all-in against the smallest stack (we need 42% equity to profitably get all-in against UTG when there's $1.50 in the pot)

We flop a draw of the type good-but-not-great in a 4-way pot, and this is a scenario where it's great to get a free card. When the flop comes ace high and somewhat coordinated, we need a small miracle to pick up the pot with a c-bet against 3 opponents. So if we rarely win the pot on the flop, and if we don't have enough equity to get all-in on the flop (so we would hate to get checkraised), we don't gain anything from betting, compared to seeing the turn for free. On this flop I would have started with a check regardless of my position, and I'm happy about getting a free card.

Flop: A 9 7 ($1.50)
SB ($10.45) checks, UTG ($3.85) checks, MP ($7.55) checks, we ($37.35) check.

Turn: A 9 7 J ($1.50)
SB ($10.45) bets $1.50, UTG folds, MP folds, we ($37.35) raise to $6, UTG pushes all-in, we call.

A standard raise for value. UTG should have a strong hand to bet pot into 3 opponents, and we raise to go for his stack now, while he's still enthusiastic. No subtleties necessary with respect to bet size either, we simply pot it and hope he overvalues his non-nut hand. If your reflexes tell you to slowplay, keep in mind that when a loose-passive player bets in a multiway pot, he is strong. And his looseness usually prevents him from folding when he meets a better hand.

River: A 9 7 J A ($22.40)
UTG wins with J T 9 9 and a rivered full house. He flopped middle set + flushdraw + gutshot, so he had solid equity (68%) on the flop:

And we had 75% equity when the stacks went in:

An unfortunate result, but we played the hand well, and there is also something to learn here. Our prudent flop check threw a wrench in Villains plan to trap us on the flop and get a checkraise in with huge equity. He undoubtedly assumed that we (or someone else) would bet the flop for him, but instead we took a valuable free card, turned the tables on him, and forced him all-in as a big underdog on the turn.

Villain should not have automatically checked the flop, since he can't rely on anyone betting the flop light in a 4-way pot. With that many players there is (or should be) little correlation between who raised preflop and who bets the flop. In a very multiway pot, the preflop pecking order is history, and the responsibility for betting the flop belongs to those who have flopped good equity.

So Villain made a debatable decision to check on the flop, and we made a good decision to check behind. His choice lead to a tricky situation for him on the turn, and our choice lead to beautiful situation for us. This hand provides a good illustration of how a good c-betting strategy avoids tricky spots and makes future decisions easier.

Example 2.3.9: C-bet decision in multiway pot with a marginal made hand on a dry flop

You ($10) raise to $0.35 with A 9 8 6 from UTG , MP ($6.75) calls, button ($10) calls, the blinds fold. MP is loose-passive, button is TAG.

Flop: A Q 6 ($1.20)
You have $9.65 in your stack, what is your plan?

We start with the list of postflop parameters:
  • 3-way
  • Out of position
  • SPR: From 5.3 (against MP) to 8.0 (against button), so medium/low
  • Equity: Of the type good-but-not-great. We have top + bottom two pair on a dry/heavy rainbow flop without strong draw possibilities. We often have the best hand, but if we are behind, we are far behind.

An obvious spot for c-betting, planning to fold to a raise. We often have the best hand on the flop, but many turn cards can beat us. An opponent with top pair + high kickers can have up to 12 outs to a better two pair (9 kicker outs + 3 queens that counterfeit our two pair) and there are also Broadway gutshot possibilities.

So we should bet for value/protection, and we don't mind worse hands folding on the flop. There are many turn cards (first and foremost K, Q, J, T) that will make future streets difficult to play from out of position, and we would very much like to end the hand on the flop.

Flop: A Q 6 ($1.20)
You ($9.65) bet $1, MP ($6.40) folds, button ($9.65) raises to $4.20, now what?

Here we bet-fold without much regret. The c-bet was obvious, and when we get raised by a presumed rational player on a very dry/heavy =static flop, folding is just as obvious. If he has at least top two pair, and this is what he is representing, we are crushed:

Marginal hands of this type often have to be bet-folded in PLO. It's generally correct to bet them when we believe we are ahead, because we don't want to give free cards when many cards can beat us. Also, when we bet a marginal hand, people will often fold hands they should have called with if they knew what we had. But when we get notified that we are behind, and we don't have reason to suspect trickery, it is a straightforward fold. Because we have poor equity against the hands we are now up against, even if we had decent equity against people's ranges before any betting occurred on the flop.

Note that we're not giving up much equity when we fold a hand with few outs. Unlike situations where we have a good-but-not-great draw (e.g. a naked nutflush draw in a multiway pot) where we are too weak to call a checkraise, but where we would hate to have to fold away a decent chunk of equity.

Therefore it makes perfect sense to bet-fold marginal hands without outs, but try to see more turns with marginal hands that have outs. This is the logic behind checking behind on the button with weak/medium nutty draws when the risk of getting checkraised is big. With those hands a free card will often help us, but a free cards will rarely improve a marginal hand without outs. On the contrary, a free card will help the opposition more than us, and the board will usually only get uglier for us.

3. Summary
We have discussed c-betting in singly raised pots, and we have illustrated important principles with thorough examples. We will continue with this topic in Part 11, and there we will move on to 3-bet and 4-bet pots.

The rest of Part 11 will be about topics related to c-betting the flop, for example donk betting, playing against a c-bet, and 2-barreling.

Good luck!