1. Introduction
This is Part 11 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.

In Part 11 we'll continue our discussion of continuation betting (c-betting) that we started in Part 10, this time with focus on 3-bet and 4-bet pots. Next we'll talk about defending against c-bets, and then we end the article with a summary of the most important principles regarding c-betting.

The original plan for Part 11 was to then move on to other topics related to c-betting and flop betting in general (delayed c-betting, 2-barreling, identifying good bluffing spots), but these will be moved to Part 12 due to space constraints. The plan for Part 12 is to discuss the aforementioned topics, and then move on to turn play in general. Turn play is strongly correlated with our planning on the flop, and we'll see how good flop planning sets up play on future streets. When we are done with turn play, we'll move on to river play, probably in Part 13.

2. C-betting in 3-bet and 4-bet pots
C-betting in 3-bet and 4-bet pots will mostly occur in heads-up scenarios. For simplicity we'll only consider heads-up pots here, and we're assuming 100bb starting stacks unless otherwise mentioned.

When more then one raise goes in preflop with 100bb starting stacks, the SPR drops to low (below 4) or ultra-low (below 1). In a 3-bet heads-up pot we typically get an SPR between 3 and 4. In a 4-bet heads-up pot we typically get an SPR between 0.8 and 1.2. As discussed in previous articles, a lower SPR value means we have a better risk/reward ratio postflop. It's therefore correct to also lower our stack-off requirements, but this doesn't necessarily mean we can blast away blindly.

For example, we generally want to avoid bet-folding in a 3-bet pot, since this is very costly. So before we c-bet, it's important that we have done a thorough assessment of our equity and fold equity on the flop. If we have little of one of them, we need a lot of the other. Precisely how much we need depends on the risk/reward ratio, namely the effective pot odds we're getting when we c-bet (possibly planning to get all-in when Villain doesn't fold).

In 4-bet pots with 100bb starting stacks it's usually correct to simply push the rest of the stack (about 1 pot-sized bet when all preflop (re)raises were pot-sized) in on the flop. But as we have seen in previous articles, the reason for this is that we chose the right type of hand to 4-bet with (namely hands that often hit the flop). One way to view this is to say that the decision to c-bet any flop after 4-betting preflop was made in the moment you decided to 4-bet. If you choose the right hands to 4-bet preflop, the mathematics of the situation prevents Villain from exploiting you postflop, even if you shove every flop, or close to it.

We usually have AAxx when we 4-bet, but we remember from the previous article about 4-betting (Part 6) that we will 4-bet a wider range against opponents who are 3-betting us with a wide and weak range. At any rate we will 4-bet with premium hands that will hit lots of flops in various ways, and therefore it's generally correct to c-bet any flop all-in with effective pot-odds 1 : 1 or more.

We'll now look at c-betting in 3-bet and 4-bet pots, using some thorough examples. In all examples we use the simple model for postflop planning that we defined in Part 8 and Part 9, and we'll start every postflop decision making process by assessing the situational factors in the model. We'll also use the classification scheme for flop textures (wet/dry and heavy/light) defined in Part 9.

Example 2.1: C-bet decision in 3-bet pot

CO ($12.80) raises to $0.35, you ($10) 3-bet to $1.20 with Q J T 8 , the blinds fold, CO calls. CO likes to see flops, and has been calling lots of raises and 3-bets preflop. He open-raises loosely from late position, but he is passive postflop. He seems to be cautious without a strong hand postflop, and usually has the goods when he continues past the flop. We haven't seen him fold to a 3-bet so far, so we're assuming he's calling with most of his raising range.

Flop: K 7 4 ($2.55)
CO ($11.60) checks, you have $8.80 left, what's your plan?

Postflop parameters:

  • Number of opponents: Heads-up
  • Position: In position
  • SPR: 8.80/2.55 =3.5 (low)
  • Equity: Poor. We basically have no hand/no draw

We flop absolutely nothing after 3-betting preflop, and in these spots it's important to realize that we're not obligated to c-bet every flop. But here we can assume a couple of things:

- The flop is dry/light, and our opponent has often missed it
- We don't have a reason to think he'll try to bluff us

So we can assume Villain most of the time has missed as well, and that he will fold to our c-bet when this is the case. C-betting this flop texture therefore seems like a profitable play, even if we have no equity to speak of against the hands that call or checkraise us. We can credibly represent top set, an overpair, or top pair, since most of our 3-betting range consists of AAxx and good Broadway hands. Therefore, if CO is thinking about our hand, he will know that we often have hit at least top pair on this flop. Of course, CO can have flopped a good hand as well, but the odds are against it since he raises and calls 3-bets with a wide and weak range.

The profitability of c-betting most of our "air" hands as pure bluffs on very dry flop textures is of course intuitively obvious to anyone. But in this article series we're not in the habit of taking all obvious things for granted, so let's estimate how often he has a Kxxx hand on this flop. In other words, we want to know how often he has either top pair, top two pair, top + bottom two pair, or top set, since Kxxx includes all these combos.

From the HUD I saw that CO was raising 30% of his hands from this position. Since he seemed very loose preflop, also in raised and 3-bet pots, we can assume he calls the 3-bet with his whole range (except AAxx, which he would have 4-bet). Let's start by counting the number of combos in his range, given the cards we can see. We're assuming his top 30% of hands follows the hand ranking used by ProPokerTools.

The top 30% range lost some hands, since some cards are either in our hand or on the board. We have also removed all CO's AAxx hands, assuming he would have 4-bet with them. So he now has 35785 combos in his range. Then we calculate how many of these that contain a king:

This gives 13947 combos. So the chance of CO having a K in his hand is 13947/35785 =39%. Note that these are not only top pair hands, but also top set with KKxx and the two pair combinations K7xx/K4xx, since all of these are a subset of Kxxx (however, the number of K7xx/K4xx hands in a top 30% range is probably low). This looks promising, so let's go one step further and calculate the probability of CO having some combination of:
  • Kxxx (top set with KKxx, two pair with K7xx/K4xx, top pair with Kxxx)
  • 77xx, 44xx, 74xx (middle set, bottom set, bottom two pair)
  • 65xx for an open-ended straight draw.

In other words, we count all combinations in CO's top 30% range that now have flopped top pair, two pair, a set, or the only decent draw available. We get 16952 combos as shown below:

We remember that the total number of combos in CO's range is 35785, so the probability of him flopping top pair, two pair, a set, or an open-ended straight draw is 16952/35785 =44%. Thus, we know that if CO has flopped anything worse than top pair or an open-ender on this flop, it can't be anything stronger than a low pair without a strong draw. These are hands we expect him to fold to a c-bet. If this is the case, then CO will fold 100 - 44 =56% of the time.

So should we c-bet? Absolutely. Even if we were to bet full pot, we would get 1 : 1 in effective pot-odds, so we will make money if Villain folds more than 50%. And here we have estimated a 56% chance of him having flopped less than top pair on this dry flop. Also, we don't have to bet full pot on such a dry flop, so we can give ourselves better effective pot odds by c-betting smaller (for example, 3/4 pot).

I elected to bet a little more than 3/4 pot. I might have gotten away with a smaller bet (for example, about 1/2 pot) on such a dry flop texture. But it's a useful rule of thumb at the micro limits to bet slightly more than you think you can get away with. You'll meet lots of opponents who are looking for any excuse to call with various trashy hands, and you don't want to encourage this. Remember, in PLO you generally want your opponents to fold on the flop, even if they have weak hands.

Flop: K 7 4 ($2.55)
CO ($11.60) checks, you ($8.80) bet 2, CO folds.

As expected. With this bet sizing we gave ourselves effective pot odds 2.55 : 2 =1.28 : 1. So we automatically make money if CO folds more than 1/(1.28 + 1) =44%. We have estimated that he has less than top pair or a decent draw 56% of the time, and we expect him to fold when this is the case. And we of course expect him to call or checkraise with top pair, a decent draw, or better.

Since we have already started doing math for this scenario, let's also estimate the EV of the c-bet. We're assuming CO will fold 56% of the time, and we can conservatively assume that our chance of winning is 0% when he calls or checkraises. Under these assumptions, the EV of the c-bet is:

EV =0.56($2.55) + 0.44(-$2) =+$0.55

We can also make a more conservative estimate by assuming CO sometimes calls or checkraises with a hand worse than top pair or an open-ended straight draw. For example, let's assume CO's effective fold percentage is reduced from 56% to 50% because of this. Our EV then becomes:

EV (Conservative) =0.50($2.55) + 0.50(-$2) =+$0.28

So we're still making money from our c-bet, even if CO sometimes calls or checkraises with hands worse than top pair or a decent draw. We (finally) conclude that his must be a profitable situation for a c-bet.

This was an example where we did a detailed analysis of a heads-up c-bet scenario that most of you immediately recognized as profitable, based on the flop texture alone (dry and king high), so why all the work? The point of this analysis was to show you how to systematically estimate the chance of succeeding, and the EV of the bet. We put Villain on a range, and used the ProPokerTools count function to count the number of various types of hands in his range. We were then able to "prove" why it's generally profitable to c-bet a lot on dry/light flops.

Of course we have to make assumptions along the way, so this kind of analysis is never perfect. But if we use a conservative "worst case" mindset, and still end up with profitable c-bet, we can assume our conclusion is reliable. This was the case here. We estimated the EV for a c-bet to be positive even with conservative assumptions, so we c-bet. Winning +$0.28 (or thereabouts) on average isn't a big deal, but keep in mind that c-bet decisions occur often. So these small profits quickly add up over time, and they make up a significant part of your total win rate.

Example 2.2: C-bet decision in 3-bet pot II

Button (14.85) raises to $0.35, you ($11.15) 3-bet to $1.10 with A A 6 4 in the small blind, button calls. Button is a TAG who is raising a fairly wide range (43%) on the button. He folds a decent amount to 3-bets, so we can assume he folds hands like dry pairs and bad Axxx hands. His calling range should therefore be made up of mostly decent suited and coordinated hands.

Flop: Q 9 7 ($2.30).
You have $10.05 left. What is your plan?

Postflop parameters:
  • Number of opponents: Heads-up
  • Position: Out of position
  • SPR: 10.05/2.30 =4.4 (low/medium)
  • Equity: Poor. Our overpair is often the best hand on the flop, but we have poor equity against a range made up of good pair + draw combinations. There are many such possibilities on this flop texture, and we can assume Villain's range has hit this flop pretty hard.

Here we have a situation where we 3-bet a good AAxx hand preflop, planning to c-bet lots of flops and often call a shove. As shown in previous articles (for example the discussion about the difference between 3-betting good and bad AAxx hands in (Part 5) this is a good plan with good AAxx. These hands often flop decent equity, since their coordinated side cards often connect with the flop. Thus, good AAxx hands preflop often become good overpair + draw hands on the flop. 3-betting good AAxx preflop therefore sets us up for lots of profitable c-betting spots on the flop with a hand that is often the best hand, and has some equity to fall back on those times it isn't.

But this is not one of those flops. Even worse, it's a flop we expect have connected well with Villain's range. So let's make a quick estimate and see. We know he raises 43% on the button, and that he folds his weakest hands when 3-bet. We'll assume he calls with the top 30% of hands heads-up on the button, except the AAxx hands (which he would 4-bet). After taking all seen cards into to consideration, there are 37032 combinations left in button's range:

Then we count the number of hands in this range that has flopped a set, two pair, top pair, a straight draw (at least an open-ender), or a flush draw. These are the candidates for Villain's flop shoving range. He probably won't shove all of them (for example, a naked flush draw without a pair), but many of the hands in this range will be of the type pair + draw or better. These are hands good enough to shove over a c-bet heads-up in a 3-bet pot.

Villain's candidates for shoving the flop add up to 28172 combos, which is 28172/37032 =76% of his total range. So ~3/4 of Villain's range has flopped at least some kind of decent made hand and/or a decent draw. Our equity against these hands is 36.53% as shown below:

We are a big underdog against the part of Villain's range that hit the flop at least decently. So what will happen if we decide to c-bet? We can estimate the EV of a c-bet by making some simple assumptions and constructing a model of the situation. First we look at bet-folding, then bet-calling.

We start by tightening up button's shoving range a bit, since it isn't realistic to assume he will shove with all hands in his candidate range of made hands + draws. Some of these hands are too weak (for example, naked flush draws or naked open-ended straight draws). And those times button doesn't have a flush draw, he has to worry about us having one.

So let's simply assume button will shove 50% of the time and not 76%. What our equity is against this "best of the best" part of Villain's range is unknown to us at this point, but it's definitely lower than the 36.53% we had against his 76% shove range. Let's use some judgment and say 33%.

Then we define our model:

- We c-bet pot
- Button raises pot with the best 50% of his total range on the flop, and otherwise he folds

Note that this model does not capture all possible outcomes after a c-bet. Villain could decide to call our bet with some part of his range, but we're assuming he either raises or folds. After all, simplifying reality is what modeling is all about.

C-betting and folding to a shove
We pick up a $2.30 pot 50% of the time, and 50% of the time we fold to button's shove and lose $2.30. The EV for this line is obviously zero:

EV (bet-fold) =0.50(+$2.30) + 0.50(-$2.30) =$0

C-betting and going all-in after a shove
We bet $2.30. Button folds 50% of the time, and otherwise he raises pot to $9.20. Since we're not folding, our only alternative is to shove the rest of the stack in (e.g. we 3-bet to $10.05 total). We then get all-in in a $22.40 total pot where we have invested $10.05 from the moment we c-bet:

The EV is:

EV (bet-call)
=0.50(+$2.30) + 0.50{0.33($22.40) - $10.05} =-$0.18

A c-bet isn't profitable, based on the modeling above. We have made assumptions along the way, but we have definitely established two things:

- Button has hit this flop more often than he has missed it
- When he has hit the flop, we are a big underdog on average

We also estimated that a c-bet was -EV, even if we assumed Villain folded some of his possible shoving candidates (76% is reduced to 50%). If we let him shove the whole 76% range of candidate hands (where our equity is 36.53%), our EVs for bet-folding and bet-calling become -$1.20 and -$1.87, respectively. But this isn't very realistic.

At any rate, even if our c-bet is subsidized by quite a lot of dead money in a 3-bet pot, we can't c-bet profitably here. We don't pick up the pot often enough, and we don't have enough equity when Villain doesn't fold. This was more or less the conclusion I came to (skipping the detailed analysis) when I played the hand. So I checked the flop, planning to give up.

Flop: Q 9 7 ($2.30).
You ($10.05) check, button ($13.75) checks.

We got a free card, which is nice.

Turn: Q 9 7 Q ($2.30).
You ($10.05) check, button ($13.75) checks.

Our situation improved, and our equity has now increased against draws and one pair hands after seeing a blank turn card. But I saw no compelling reasons to bet the turn. I checked again, hoping to get a free showdown, which I expect a tight-aggressive Villain will often give me.

River: Q 9 7 Q 6 ($2.30).
You ($10.05) check, button ($13.75) checks, you win. Button has A K K J .

After such confrontations it's a good habit to analyze Villain's line and try to understand how he thinks, since this will be useful in future hands. He has a solid starting hand, so calling my 3-bet is fine. Especially against a player like me, who 3-bets with a decently wide range (but of course somewhat tighter from the blinds).

I also like his flop check. Button has flopped a hand of the type decent-but-not-great with an overpair + gutshot + backdoor flush nutflush draw on a coordinated flop with a possible flushdraw. He knows I'm often weak here after checking, but he can't be 100% sure.

On the turn he probably uses the same logic as on the flop. He has a hand with showdown value + a weak draw. I seem to be in check-down mode, so button joins the club and decides to check his hand down and see who wins. This is definitely a spot where he can think about betting (basically turning his hand into a bluff) to make me fold whatever I have, especially if he thinks I have AAxx. But a turn check is fine.

On the river he gets checked to for the third time, and now his choice is simple: Bet and turn his hand into a bluff to make me fold my AAxx hands, or check and win against almost everything else in my range. Villain chooses the latter. I'm not sure what his best play is, since this depends on which percentage of my range consists of AAxx hands, and whether or not I call a river bet with AAxx. These things are not constants, but will vary a bit depending on the game flow and my reads on Villain.

I was obviously pleased about getting the hand checked down in a situation where I was prepared to give up. Villain played his hand fine, though. The most interesting postflop decision was the c-bet decision. We had good equity (68%) against Villain's actual hand, but poor equity against is presumed range. By doing the same type of range analysis as in Example 2.1, we estimated that c-betting wasn't profitable.

This was an example where we abstained from c-betting, simply because we didn't want to bet blindly into a strong range as a big underdog. Bet-folding is costly in 3-bet pots, and we generally don't want to put ourselves in situations where we often have to choose between bet-folding or getting our stack in with poor equity. Doing this kind of analysis work is good away-from-the-table practice that will make it easier for you to quickly estimate equity against various ranges on various flops. So do it regularly as a part of your poker "homework".

Example 2.3: C-bet decision in 3-bet pot III

Button (10) raises to $0.35, you ($10) 3-bet to $1.10 with A A Q J in the small blind, button calls. You have only played 2 orbits against button, and from what you have seen he doesn't seem very loose or very aggressive.

Flop: K 9 5 ($2.30).
You have $8.90 left. What is your plan?

Postflop parameters:
  • Number of opponents: Heads-up
  • Position: Out of position
  • SPR: 8.90/2.30 =3.9 (low)
  • Equity: Good against Villain's total range, and probably decent against the hands he will continue with. Our overpair is usually the best hand on the flop, and we have a handful of outs to top set + gutshot + backdoor nutflush draw when behind. Our straight cards also block Villain's straight draws when he has a Broadway hand like KJQT. Note that the best possible straight draws on this flop are QJTx and 876x (9 out inside wraps), so we don't risk running into monster wraps here.

The flop comes medium dry/medium heavy, and we have picked up some weak draws in addition to our overpair. With low SPR in a 3-bet pot this is a flop where we can feel good bout c-betting and getting all-in with our AAxx hand (but not necessarily in a singly raised pot with SPR around 10). So we c-bet, planning to call a raise.

Flop: K 9 5 ($2.30).
You ($8.90) bet $2, button ($8.90) raises to $8.30, you 3-bet all-in to $8.90, button calls.

Turn: K 9 5 2 ($2.30).

River: K 9 5 2 K ($2.30).
Button wins with K Q T 7 for a flopped top pair + gutshot. We had exactly 60% equity on the flop as shown below:

Our EV for getting all-in on the flop against Villain's actual hand in a $2.30 pot was:

EV =0.60($2.30 + 2x$8.90) - $8.90 =+$3.16

To illustrate the importance of having draws to go with an AAxx hand when bet-calling the flop, let's calculate the EV for bet-calling a random AAxx hand on this flop. We are now a small underdog with 48% equity on the flop:

With the dead money in the pot it's of course still correct to get all-in, but our EV drops dramatically:

EV =0.48($2.30 + 2x$8.90) - $8.90 =+$0.75

This is something we have talked about many times throughout this article series. We use preflop play to set up profitable postflop scenarios. When we 3-bet AAxx we want to set up flop scenarios where we can profitably get the rest of the stack in postflop. And we set this up by 3-betting good AAxx hands (especially when we're out of position). Good AAxx often flop "bits and pieces" of equity that allow us to bet-call the flop profitably on average, and this was precisely what happened in this hand.

With trashy AAxx, for example A A 8 4 , it's generally smart to flat preflop and play more fit-or-fold postflop, since this type of hand rarely flops well. When we rarely hit the flop hard, we'll find ourselves in more tricky c-bets spots with weak hands on the flop. For example, with A A 8 4 on this flop, our equity against Villain's actual hand would have been 44%:

Going all-in on the flop in this case wouldn't have done us any good:

EV =0.44($2.30 + 2x$8.90) - $8.90 =-$0.06

So remember: There's a big difference between good and bad AAxx hands. Be cautious about 3-betting the worst AAxx hands, especially from out of position where you are more or less forced to c-bet lots of flops heads-up. When you're forced to c-bet a lot, you want to have the equity to back it up.

Example 2.4: C-bet decision in 3-bet pot IV

Button (19.10) raises to $0.35, you ($10) 3-bet to $1.10 with A K J 9 in the small blind, button calls. Button is unknown.

Flop: Q 7 7 ($2.30).
You have $8.90 left. What's your plan?

Postflop parameters:
  • Number of opponents: Heads-up
  • Position: Out of position
  • SPR: 8.90/2.30 =3.9 (low)
  • Equity: Poor. We have no hand and only a couple of backdoor draws on the flop.

A flop of the dry/light variety where we have flopped nothing, but Villain probably hasn't flopped anything either. It's a good rule to think long and hard before c-betting in a 3-bet pot with no equity, since an observant opponent can exploit overly aggressive c-betting by (semi)bluff-raising us more. So we have to be prepared to check a lot with no hand/no draw on the flop. It's particularly important not to set ourselves up for lots of bet-folding in 3-bet pots, since this is very costly (big pot =we have to c-bet big =we lose a lot when we have to fold, or when we get called with no chance to win the pot).

But this is one of the better flops for bluff c-betting. If we do the same kind of analysis we did in Example 2.1, we'll see that Villain's range is also very weak on this flop, so he should often fold. Note that we can credibly represent AAxx here, and if we have AAxx, Villain's equity will be very bad unless he has trips or better.

So we c-bet here, and on this dry texture we don't have to bet big, both when bluffing and when value betting. If Villain has nothing, we expect him to fold, almost regardless of our bet size. If he has something, we expect him to call or raise, regardless of our bet size.

Flop: Q 7 7 ($2.30).
You ($8.90) bet $1.50, button ($18) calls.

Turn: Q 7 7 5 ($5.30).
You have $7.40 left. What's your plan?

Here we have a relatively simple decision to make. Villain has hit this flop in some way, and we expect him to have a range with many top pair/overpair hands, and sometimes slowplayed trips or better. There are basically two routes open for us:

- We can continue to represent AAxx and bet again as a bluff against his one pair hands
- We can check and give up

In order to continue to bluff we need some reason to believe Villain will fold his top pair/overpair hands to a second bet. Usually this will not be the case in a 3-bet pot at the low limits, so we can scrap that plan. We made a percentage play by c-betting the flop, we got called by a better hand, so we give up.

Turn: Q 7 7 5 ($5.30).
You ($7.40) check, button ($16.50) checks.

Nothing has changed. Button is probably exercising pot control with a top pair/overpair hand, planing to call a river bet. So bluffing the river probably won't do anything for us.

River: Q 7 7 5 T ($5.30).
You ($7.40) check, button ($16.50) checks. Button wins with A Q J 6 . He flopped top pair/top kicker, called a c-bet, and then checked the hand down. His play was fine.

Example 2.5: C-bet decision in 4-bet pot

You ($13.45) raise to $0.35 with A K Q T in CO, Button (9.65) 3-bets to $1.20, you 4-bet to $3.75. button calls. Button is a very loose-aggressive player who has 3-bet us aggressively. Based on previous hands he can have anything from premium AAxx to a raggedy hand like 7 7 5 3 . He hasn't 3-bet us every time, but he seems to know that it's hard to defend against loose 3-betting (which is true). So with a playable hand in position behind a raiser, often tosses in a 3-bet to isolate, and his definition of "playable" is very broad.

We have a premium double-suited Broadway hand that does well against Villain's total 3-betting range. We don't want him to think he can sit behind us and 3- bet semitrash hands at every opportunity, so we can adjust by loosening up our 4-betting range. Instead of 4-betting only AAxx, we can start 4-betting the best AKKx, AQQx and AKxx hands as discussed in Part 6.

If he doesn't 5-bet us, we can assume he doesn't have AAxx, and then we can play our hand like we have AAxx postflop. This is obviously correct when we have made a light 4-bet with AKKx or AQQx, since we then almost always have the best pair. But we plan to c-bet all-in also with AKxx on a wide range of flops in a ultra low SPR scenario. Against a loose 3-bettor we often flop the best hand, and we usually have some outs when he calls us with a better hand.

Flop: 8 4 3 ($7.65).
You have $9.70. What's your plan?

Postflop parameters:
  • Number of opponents:: Heads-up
  • Position: Out of position
  • SPR: 5.9/7.75 =0.8 (ultra low)
  • Equity: Decent against Villain's total range, even if we only have overcards. We expect his preflop calling range to be full of hands that we beat at the moment (dominated Broadway hands, and rundowns that didn't flop a pair). And even if he should have flopped a pair, we have some outs.

A dry/light flop where we have flopped 4 overcards. The SPR is ultra low, and we're getting effective pot odds (7.65 + 5.9) : 5.9 =2.3 : 1 when pushing the rest of the stack in ($5.90). We then need to win 1/(2.30 + 1) =30% of the time to make money. We have some fold equity on this dry flop, and we have some outs when we get called by a better hand.

So this is obviously a flop where we continue with our preflop plan of c-betting most flops all-in. We had hoped to flop a pair or better, but this flop is the next best thing for us. We don't have a pair or a draw, but Villain probably doesn't either, and then we have good equity.

Flop: 8 4 3 ($7.65).
You ($9.70) push, button ($5.90) calls.

Turn: 8 4 3 5 ($19.45).

River: 8 4 3 5 J ($19.45)
Button has A T 6 6 and wins with a pair of sixes. We had 39% equity on the flop as shown below:

The EV for getting all-in on the flop in a $7.65 pot with $5.90 remaining stack and 39% equity was:

EV =0.39($7.65 + 2x$5-90) - $5.90 =+$1.69

So we would have gotten all-in, even if we could see Villain's hand. Add the fact that we often have the best hand on this flop, and that we have some fold equity, and it should be clear that we have a very profitable c-bet. Note that we had the best hand preflop with 57% equity, even if button had a pair. His loose call of our 4-bet confirms our read of him as very loose. Against players like that, it's correct to loosen up our 4-betting range and include premium Broadway hands in addition to AAxx.

4-betting and c-betting heads-up with AAxx hands has been discussed thoroughly in previous articles, so we won't continue this topic further in this article. The example above was included to illustrate c-bet decisions with non-AAxx hands in 4-bet heads-up pots, and we see that the postflop planning is more or less the same when Villain doesn't 5-bet us.

It's important that you see that profitable c-betting in a 4-bet pot is something you set up by choosing the right starting hands to 4-bet preflop. We mostly stick to AAxx and ultra premium non-AAxx hands. In other words, hands that usually flop enough equity to push any flop profitably with ultra low SPR against a loose 3-betting range. But note that this can change when stacks get deeper than 100bb.

3. Playing against a c-bet
We have now discussed some important principles for c-betting and how they are applied in raised, 3-bet and 4-bet pots. Now it's time to "turn the table" and talk about how to play against a c-bet. We'll focus on heads-up scenarios where we are too weak to continue past the flop, based on value.

This choice of focus is natural, since multiway pots and pots where we have a strong hand are relatively straightforward to play. Multiway we usually give up with our weakest hands when someone else has the betting lead. And with a strong hand heads-up, we usually checkraise out of position, and choose between value raising and slowplaying in position. With medium strong hands (e.g. top + bottom two pair) we generally aim at going to showdown in a moderate pot.

When we are heads-up with a weak hand, we have some room to outplay our opponent, since we will often find ourselves in situations where both players are weak. If our opponent then gives us openings where we can attack him profitably, we can fight back by re-bluffing against his bluff c-bets (and they are usually plentiful). Stealing an occasional extra pot by attacking a c-bettors weak range is obviously better than letting him use initiative to steal all pots where both players miss the flop.

But we have to be selective, and not fire blindly every time we suspect our opponent's range is weak. We have to think about his range, how it connects with the flop, and also about how Villain views us and our range.

Here are two important classes of scenarios where we are heads-up with a weak hand on the flop, and elect to play back against a c-bet:

- Bluff (check)raising heads-up
- Floating in position heads-up

We'll now study some detailed examples of these two scenarios, and talk about how we should think when playing back against a c-bet we suspect is often a bluff.

Example 3.1: Bluff checkraising heads-up

Button ($14.45) raises to $0.35, small blind ($15.90) calls, you ($10) call with J T 9 7 in the big blind.

Button is tight-aggressive, and the same goes for the small blind. You look at the HUD and notice that button is opening 54% of his hands from that position. This isn't a bad strategy, since both you and the small blind are tight-aggressive players who fold a lot out of position in the blinds. Button also has a high c-bet% of 75%. You have been cold-decked for a while, and haven't made any moves. You therefore assume your image is tight and solid.

Flop: A 9 2 ($1.05)
SB ($15.55) checks, you have $9.65. What's your plan?

Postflop parameters:
  • Number of opponents: 3-way
  • Position: Out of position
  • SPR: 9.65/1.05 =9.2 (high)
  • Equity: Poor. We have a low pair and a backdoor flushdraw, but this isn't worth anything, other than the blocker effect (makes it less likely our opponents hit the flop)

You basically flop nothing ((2nd pair without overcard kickers + a low backdoor flushdraw). The pot is multiway, so our starting point is to surrender this pot without a fight. But if button c-bets and small blind folds, we will get an opportunity to steal the pot from a presumed wide and weak range. And this is what happens:

Flop: A 9 2 ($1.05)
SB ($15.55) checks, you ($9.65) check, button ($14.10) bets 0.80, small blind folds. What's your plan?

Let's start by listing some facts:
  • Button is opening a wide range preflop, and he's c-betting aggressively. So he should have a wide and weak range, also after c-betting this flop. This is a dry flop where he can assume good fold equity in position against two tight-aggressive players, so it's correct of him to c-bet a lot of "air" in this particular spot, even if the pot is multiway.
  • You can therefore expect to have good fold equity when you bluff checkraise button on this type of flop, but:
  • That doesn't mean you should bluff every time

If you check-fold this flop every time, you will be check-folding too often against this player. He has a presumed wide and weak range, so it should be possible for you to steal some pots on dry flops. But if you bluff checkraise every time on these flops, you will be bluffing way too much, and he can adjust by calling you down light, or bluff you back with a bluff-3-bet. So when should we bluff?

First, let's estimate how often button has anything to continue with after we checkraise. We can estimate this percentage by counting the number of sets, two pair, and top pair in his range, namely all combinations of {AAxx, 99xx, 22xx, A9xx, A2xx, 92xx, Axxx}. Some of these are less likely, but button has a wide range, so we include all of them. There aren't any possible straight or flush draws on this flop, so we don't have to worry about those. Some of the top pair and two pair combos are too weak to continue after a checkraise from a tight player (us), but we include them anyway in order to weight the analysis towards "worst case for us. If a bluff is profitable under worst case conditions, we can trust the conclusion.

The total number of combos in a top 54% range is 78295 after adjusting for the known cards in our hand and on the flop:

Then we count the number of combos of {AAxxx, 99xx, 22xx, A9xx, A2xx, 92xx, Axxx} in Villain's range. This gives us 30569 combos:

The chance of button having top pair or better on this flop, given the cards that we can see, is therefore 30569/78295 =39%. If button never re-bluffs is, and never continues past the flop with a hand worse than top pair, we have a 100 - 39 =61% chance of stealing the pot on the flop with a checkraise. So we should have a profitable checkraise bluff opportunity, even if we have been liberal in our assumptions about Villains range for continuing.

Note that we have assumed that:

- Button c-bets his whole range
- He never re-bluffs us when we checkraise
- He calls or 3-bets with all hands top pair or better

The first assumption isn't necessarily valid, but it's reasonable. We know that button is c-betting a lot, and he is now in a scenario where he has position on two tight players on a dry flop. So he should c-bet a lot here. The second assumption isn't necessarily valid either, but it's very reasonable given our image. And if the third assumption isn't valid, so much the better for us (for example if button bet-folds all top pair hands, and only continues with two pair or better).

An experienced player will immediately recognize this scenario as a good spot for a bluff checkraise, and we have used range analysis to see why this is so. We therefore checkraise as a bluff:

Flop: A 9 2 ($1.05)
SB ($15.55) checks, you ($9.65) check, button ($14.10) bets 0.80, small blind folds, you checkraise to $2.40 (0.6 x pot), button quickly folds.

As expected. We checkraised to 0.6 x pot, and could probably have gotten away with a bit less. But at the loose micro limits it's a good rule to lean towards slightly bigger bets and raises. Note that we aren't credibly representing many strong on this type of flop, and a good, thinking opponent might exploit this fact by calling us down light or re-bluffing.

Which hands could we have to checkraise this flop for value? AAxx obviously, since we will flat quite a bit with bad AAxx hands out of position. We can also credibly represent A9xx and 99xx, even if we probably don't have many 99xx hands in our flatting range from out of position. Beyond AAxx, A9xx and 99xx, there really aren't many strong hands we could hold, since we probably aren't flatting 22xx, A2xx and 92xx out of position.

So against a thinking opponent it will be difficult for us to represent a strong hand credibly. Luckily, this is not something we need to worry about against the typical low limit opponents.

Using this particular raise size, we invested $2.40 to win $1.85, so we gave ourselves 1.85 : 2.40 =0.77 : 1 in effective pot-odds. We therefore need to win more than 1/(1.77 + 1) =56% to profit. We have estimated that button will fold 61% of the time, so the bluff should be profitable. If we choose a smaller bet size, it will be even more profitable.

So how often should we bluff in these scenarios?
Let's return to this question. Here are two possible answers:

- Use feel/instinct
- Use blockers both to randomize and to increase our success rate

Playing these scenarios by feel is fine. We know it's a good flop to bluff at, unless we overdo it, so we can just make the occasional checkraise when the circumstances otherwise seem good for it (our image is good, Villain seems tight and not tilting, etc.).

But we can also us blockers on our hand as the deciding factor. Here we had 2nd pair, which reduces the chance button has two pair (A9xx, 92xx) or middle sett (99xx). So our low pair eliminates some of the combos button can continue with. Let's estimate the blocker effect for our hand by removing the 9.

We change our hand from J T 9 7 to J T 7 6 . The total number of combos in Villain's range then becomes 77868:

While the total number of combos of {AAxxx, 99xx, 22xx, A9xx, A2xx, 92xx, Axxx} becomes 31729:

So the chance of button having flopped top pair or better becomes 31729/77868 =41%. We remember that the corresponding probability was 39% with a 9 in our hand. The likelihood of button having a hand to call or 3-bet is therefore reduced by 2 percentage points from 41% to 39% by putting a 9 in our hand. The chance of button folding then increases from 59% to 61%

This is a small effect, but absolutely significant. Also, note that using blockers as an argument for checkraising also will randomize our bluffs. We don't bluff this type of flop every time (we do it when we have hit a small piece, but not enough to continue for value), and we maximize our success rate by choosing situations where Villain is less likely to have hit the flop.

For example, if we have some nearly worthless hand on a 9 9 6 flop, we can use hands like 6xxx, 87xx, 75xx, T8xx, T7xx as blockers/randomizers. Both when we bluff checkraise out of position, and when we bluffraise in position.

We won't look at bluffraising in position in this article, but the same principles apply. For example, if you have cold-called on the button and get heads-up against a player who c-bets way too much (or who is weak-tight and can be bullied around), be willing to bluffraise a bit on flops that aren't very coordinated. And prefer to do it with hands that have a little bit of equity, both to randomize your bluffs and to increase their success rate.

If we're in position, we also have another weapon at our disposal, and that is the float. This is the next heads-up stealing scenario we'll look at:

Example 3.2: Floating in position heads-up

UTG ($17.55) raises to $0.35, you ($13.20) call with A J T 9 on the button, the blinds fold. UTG is TAG. He c-bets most flops heads-up, but your impression is that he rarely keeps firing on the turn and river without a hand.

Flop: K 6 5 ($0.85)
UTG ($17.20) bets $0.85, you have $12.85 left, what's your plan?

Here we elected to flat UTG's raise with a good suited ace hand on the button. This is also a hand we could have 3-bet, but 3-betting becomes better against a looser raising range, for example a CO raise. Flatting on the button and inviting multiway action from the players in the blinds after an UTG raise is fine with our nutty multiway-hand.

We hit the flop, but not very hard. We have a nutflush draw with an overcard, but this is not a monster draw in PLO. So let's analyze the situation under the assumption that we play our hand passively, without attempting to steal.

We have 8 clean flush outs that don't pair the board, and we have 3 outs to top pair. Let's assume that this gives us 9 clean outs on average. To call the c-bet profitably with 9 outs, we need a bit more than 4 : 1 in pot odds. Here we're getting 2 : 1, so we're depending on implied odds (we have to make at least 2x$0.85 =$1.70 more when we hit). But we have poor implied odds with a flush draw, since the 3rd spade will be an action killer, unless UTG has a flush himself (which is unlikely). So if we play our hand passively and strictly for pot-odds/implied odds, calling the flop bet probably isn't profitable.

Therefore, if we call here, it's not just to draw to our outs, but also because we want to steal the pot on later streets some of the time. This type of calling with a hand that technically isn't strong enough to call for pot odds/implied odds alone is called floating.

The point of floating a c-bet in position is to see the turn cheaply, and then exploiting the fact that Villain will check and give up on some turn cards. To maximize our chance of winning the pot, we want as many as possible of the following conditions to hold:
  • Villain has a wide and weak range for betting the flop
  • Villain is straightforward, and he will check and give up his weak hands on the turn when his c-bet gets called
  • Villain rarely checkraises the turn
  • We have some outs

A c-bet heads-up is definitely a scenario where the bettor has a wide and weak range, since it's correct to c-bet most flops heads-up. Here we also know that Villain is an aggressive c-bettor (we have a read), and we can safely assume his c-betting range isn't very strong on this flop.

He can't have the nutflush draw (we have it), and there aren't many combos in an UTG raisers range that will give him two pair or a set on this flop (K6xx, K5xx, 65xx, 66xx, 55xx are unlikely combinations in a TAG's UTG-range). We can therefore assume his range is weighted towards "air" hands that have missed the flop, and top pair/overpair hands. Since one pair hands without a good draw generally aren't strong enough to take to showdown when you meet resistance, Villain will be forced to check a lot of turns with these hands, hoping to get cheaply to showdown.

We don't want this of course, and a turn check is the green light we were looking for when calling the flop. If he checks the turn, our plan is to bet to bluff out all his one pair hands and worse.

But wait a minute, if his range is weak, why don't we just raise the flop?
We can raise the nutflush draw as a semibluff on the flop, but let's look at the math and compare floating and raising:
  • If we call a pot-sized bet on the flop, planning to bet pot on the turn if Villain checks, we're investing an amount equal to 4x the pot on the flop
  • If we raise pot after a pot-sized flop bet, we're investing an amount equal to 4x the pot on the flop

So what's the difference?
  • Sometimes Villain will 3-bet a flop raise and force us to fold decent equity (a naked nutflush draw isn't strong enough to continue after a 3-bet)
  • By delaying our attack until the turn, we make sure the majority of our investment is made after Villain has revealed weakness by checking. This gives us on average a better return for our investment

Those times Villain is strong, a float gives us a cheap shot at drawing out. And unlike a flop raise, a float gives us more information about Villain's range before we try to steal. We attack after he signals weakness by checking the turn. If he keeps betting the turn, we can abort the float (or float again, if we think this will be profitable), and thereby save most of the chips we had planned to invest in our attempt to steal the pot. And those times Villain is strong enough to 3-bet a flop raise, we avoid putting the whole investment into the pot without getting to see the turn.

But what if Villain bluffs a lot on the turn?
We prefer to float against players that give up easily on the turn, but note that if Villain bets too much on the turn, he is giving us better implied odds for our draw. For example, let's assume Villain bets the turn 100% of the time, regardless of his hand. But then he's giving us enough implied odds to call the flop c-bet, based purely on pot-odds/implied odds and outs.

If he bets pot on the flop, and then pots every turn, he invests 4x the pot on the flop, and this gives us enough implied odds to call the flop bet with a 9 out nutflush draw. In this particular hand, the pot is $0.85 on the flop, and Villain's pot-sized c-bet + our call makes the pot $2.55 on the turn. Villain now bets $2.55. This makes our effective implied odds on the flop (2x$0.85 + $2.55) : 0.85 =5 : 1. This is more than the 4 : 1 we need to call with our 9 out draw.

So Villain can't defend against our floating by firing mindlessly on every turn card, as long as we make sure we always have some outs. Villain is therefore forced to choose between either:

a) Checking and giving up on some turn cards
b) Donating implied odds

And this is what makes floating with decent-but-not-great draws work for us, even if we seemingly don't have the pot-odds + implied odds to draw on the flop. If Villain gives up easily on the turn, having outs is less important, since we gain more EV from steal equity. Conversely, if Villain bets a lot of turns, it's more important that we have outs, preferably a nutty draw that makes it easy for us to maximize implied odds when we hit. Now we're floating more for implied odds and less for steal equity.

So should we always bet the turn after Villain checks? If not, which turn cards should we bet at?
This is a matter of judgment. If Villain is the tight and straightforward type who check-folds every marginal top pair and worse, I will bet just about any turn card when he checks. These players are afraid (and rightly so) to get "stuck" with a marginal hand out of position in a big pot, and they tend to choose the safe route and check-fold these hands on the turn. Since they don't checkraise a lot, their turn checks are easy to read. And if they check-call the turn with a marginal hand, trying to keep you honest, you'll often get another chance to steal the pot on the river.

Against more tricky players who checkraise the turn with some regularity, or who check decent hands to snap off bluffs, it makes sense to take more free cards after they check to you. Against these players I'd rather bet at turn scare cards. Any draw-completing turn card is a candidate. Villain knows you're often drawing after your flop call, but he doesn't know which draw you have. So if you bet a draw-completing turn card, and he's now sitting with a marginal made hand out of position on a scary board, this is a pretty bad situation for him, since:
  • You sometimes have the draw that completed, and he is drawing thin or dead
  • And if you don't, you will sometimes draw out on the river anyway
  • And even if the river is a blank, it will be very uncomfortable for him to be faced with another big bet (which might or might not come, that decision is up to you and not Villain)

The theory behind the float should now be well understood, so let's continue with our hand. I elected to call the flop as a float:

Flop: K 6 5 ($0.85)
UTG ($17.20) bets $0.85, you ($12.85) call.

Turn: K 6 5 2 ($2,55)
UTG ($16.35) checks, you have $12. What's your plan?

Villain checks. The plan, given my reads on him as straightforward, was to bet any turn card after a check. Here the turn card is pretty much a blank, but it does fill a straight draw (an unlikely straight for us to have, but Villain doesn't necessarily think about this). If he has a hand worse than top pair (and his range should be full of them), I expect him to check-fold. And even with a top pair hand, he can't be thrilled about calling a turn bet, seeing the threat of an even bigger river bet looming on the horizon.

Turn: K 6 5 2 ($2.55)
UTG ($16.35) checks, you ($12) bet $2, UTG folds.

A successful and rather standard float with a medium strong draw heads-up in position against a weak player. I chose to bet less than pot to give myself a better price on the bluff. I didn't expect this player to vary his strategy much based on my bet size. If he has a weak hand, and this includes hands as strong as top pair, I expect him to fold.

Here we floated with a decent draw, but of the circumstances are good, you can also float without outs. This should not be a standard play by any means, but you can use it as a weapon to exploit very skittish players. For example, let's assume we're in a situation like the one above, but this time the flop comes 9 9 4 .

You have a hand like K Q J 8 , and Villain is the one-stab-and-done type who always c-bets dry boards heads-up, but shuts down without a hand when he gets called. By all means try a naked float without outs against this type of player. As discussed previously, you can use the blocker-effect both to randomize your floats and to increase your success rate. Here you have a couple of backdoor outs that make it somewhat less likely Villain holds cards that have connected with this flop.

Position gives you power, and against weak players, position gives you enormous power. This is the moral to learn from our discussion of floating in position. We'll discuss floating further in Part 12, when we talk about 2-barreling.

4. Summary of principles for c-betting the flop
Below is a summary of the most important c-betting concepts we have discussed in Part 10 and Part 11:

4.1 C-betting in heads-up singly raised pots
  • C-bet most flops heads-up, both with your "air" hands and your strong hands
  • Keep in mind that with high SPR, you want strong, nutty hands when getting all-in
  • You can let your bet sizing vary according to flop texture (but not according to your hand strength). For example, c-bet small on dry/light flops where the opposition rarely is strong (e.g. 8 5 2 , J 6 6 , or A 7 3 ). Use the same bet sizing for your bluffs and value bets
  • In position, check more flops with marginal hands/draws that have some outs (e.g. a nutty open-ended straight draw without anything extra) and that will benefit from a free card. This is especially important when there's a high risk of getting checkraised, and you have a hand that has decent equity with some outs, but it's not strong enough to continue after a checkraise
  • With marginal hands that have few outs (e.g. top + bottom two pair on a coordinated flop) it's generally better to bet-fold than to check and go for pot control. Keep in mind that you're rarely way ahead/way behind in PLO, and inducing bluffs with marginal hands has less value than in NLHE.
  • When you're playing against a c-bet in a heads-up pot, think about how to exploit players who c-bet too much, or who give up too easily on the turn when they get called. You can attack them with selective bluffraising/bluff-checkraising on the flop, or float with marginal hands/draws, planning to sometimes steal the pot on the turn when they check

4.2 C-betting in multiway singly raised pots
  • Rarely c-bet the flop as a pure bluff in a multiway pot. With 3 or more opponents, play completely fit-or-fold, and only c-bet for value or as a strong semibluff with your best hands
  • But if you have a little extra, for example presumed good fold equity, some equity, some blockers, some outs, and information from seeing your opponents check, you might take a stab at the pot also in a multiway pot
  • Don't try to fight back against c-betting without a hand in a multiway pot. If you are too weak to continue, based on the showdown equity of your hand, usually just give up. Don't attempt bluffraising or thin floating in a multiway pot without good reads and good reasons to think it will be profitable
Other than that, use the principles listed for heads-up pots, and remember that with many opponents it becomes more important to focus on nutty hands when big pots get played.

4.3 C-betting 3-bet and 4-bet heads-up pots
The adjustments we make in our c-betting strategy in these pots revolve mainly around the fact that low SPR makes it correct to lower our hand strength requirements postflop.

In a singly raised pot, the all-in pots revolve around the top of people's ranges, namely the nutty hands and nutty draws. In 3-bet pots we will also often go all-in with the middle part of our range, for example pair + nutflush draw, a good-but-not-monster wrap, two pair without backup draws, etc. And in 4-bet pots with SPR around 1, we are basically willing to get all-in if we hit any piece of the flop. A naked nutflush is more than enough, and any combination of pair + decent draw is generally a monster.

For 3-bet and 4-bet pots the connection between preflop play and postflop play is very important. We don't want to set ourselves up for often flopping poor equity in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot, and we avoid this by sticking mostly to premium suited and coordinated hands when we 3-bet and 4-bet preflop. If we do this, we will be setting ourselves up for lots of profitable c-betting spots on the flop.

5. Summary
In Part 11 we have completed our discussion of c-betting on the flop, and we used some thorough examples to illustrate strategies and planning for singly 3-bet/4-bet pots, and also for playing against a c-bet.

The original plan for Part 11 was to include some more topics related to c-betting on the flop, and flop betting in general, but we will move these to Part 12. In Part 12 we'll also move on to turn play. Below are some of the topics we'll talk about:

- Delayed c-betting
- Using hand reading + logic to identify good spots for stealing
- Donk betting
- Planning for later streets
- 2-barreling
- Defending against floating

Good luck!