Exclusive extract from Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games by Evan Jarvis

One of the key decisions in poker is whether to continuation bet on the flop. It is tempting to do this close to 100% of the time as the fold equity is often so good. However, that is not the correct approach and many factors need to be considered. Evan Jarvis outlines them in this extract from his book Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games.

1) Number of opponents who saw the flop

When we get to the flop, the first question to ask is how many players saw the flop with us.

As we saw above, a two-card hold’em hand will miss the flop more often than it will connect. This is even more true the stricter someone’s requirements for continuing are, as these tighter players will have a higher bar for defining what hands have connected. Even though this is less true if someone has a looser continuing range, it doesn’t mean two over-cards, bottom pair or a backdoor flush draw is a strong hand, it just means they’re willing to continue with a wider range. They will be hoping that the turn will bring more improvement.

In heads-up pots, our opponents are more likely to have missed the board than hit it. They are more likely to fold to a bet than to continue versus a bet. And that usually means that betting will be a profitable play, especially if we are facing someone with a very loose preflop range.

But the odds change as soon as we get into multiway pots. While one hand may miss the flop 60% of the time, if we are up against two players, at least one of them will hit on average 64% of the time. Player 1 misses 60% * Player 2 misses 60% = 36% of the time both miss 100% - 36% = 64% of the time one or both players will hit the flop.

In a multiway pot, suddenly it becomes more likely than not that someone has connected with the flop. That means we need a bit more working for us to justify betting or continuing ourselves.

This number only continues to increase as four, five, six or seven players see the flop. It’s why the strength of our hand becomes much more important as soon as we are dealing with multiway pots.

In heads-up pots we are often working out a plan to take the pot away from our sole opponent. In multiway pots, however, we are usually working out a plan to extract the most value from our strongest hands against mediocre holdings of opponents who just can’t let go. The more players there are, the more selective we should be about what we consider a good hand.

2) Board Texture (and Betting Strategy)

Board texture, i.e., how well the cards fit together, is important in both heads-up and multiway pots.
Some popular terms for classifying board textures are:

Dry - few or no draws possible, for example K♣-7♥-2♠
Wet - multiple draws possible, for example J♣-10♦-6♣
Static - the nuts on the flop is likely to remain the nuts future streets, for example A-x-x, K-Q-J, any monotone flop
Dynamic - the nuts on the flop is likely to change on future streets, for example 10-x-x board, or any draw-heavy board

I also like to look at whether the board is high-card heavy or low-card heavy. If the board has two or more big cards, it’s much more likely to have hit my opponent’s range solidly, and I’ll be more selective with the hands I continue with.

However, if the board has two or more low cards, it’s much less likely my opponent will have hit it. Unless they are the type to call a bet with just over-cards or a backdoor draw, these are the boards I’m going to want to bet almost 100% of the time in a heads-up pot.

Dynamic boards are boards that typically favor fast-playing strong hands. You want to get more money in when you’re sure you have the best hand. They are also good boards to bluff on aggressively because lots of scare cards or cards that complete draws will hit on the turn and river. If you are up against opponents who won’t call a big bet with one pair when a draw completes, these boards are ripe with multi-barrel bluffing opportunities.

Static boards are where I may be a bit more inclined to slow-play strong hands. If I have the best hand now it’s very unlikely that’s going to change, and so I don’t need to bet as aggressively to protect my hand from being outdrawn. In fact, I’ll often want to give free or cheap cards to my opponents on these types of boards so that they can catch up with a second-best hand.

The main priority with board texture is identifying the possibilities for the hand both immediately and in the future.

The following chart compares possible flop types, listing them from most static to most dynamic, and from dry boards to wet boards.

Progressive chart from most static (A high) to most dynamic (low high card) – from dry to wet (adding more possible draws from left to right)

A flop like A♦-8♣-3♥ is both static and dry. A flopped pair of aces will most likely remain the best hand through turn and river, with no draws immediately possible.
By contrast, a flop like 9♥-8♥-6♣ is both dynamic and wet. The best hand could easily change on both turn and river as high cards come off or draws complete.

Baseline bet sizes

Dry + Static -> High frequency (bet most of your range), small bet
Dry + Dynamic -> High frequency, big bet
Need more protection against over-cards
Wet + Static -> Low frequency (split your range), large bet
Get value on your nut hands
Wet + Dynamic -> Low frequency, small bet

Equities run close with so many draws possible, so since you will usually only be slightly ahead it’s best to keep the pot small, rather than build it and face a tougher decision on the turn as the board gets even more draw-heavy. The exception is when the SPR is such that you can get all in, and this is why sometimes these boards will be used as a check-raise all-in in three-bet pots.

Generally, you want to do more betting in position and more checking from out of position. We’ve discussed the importance of position in the Triple Threat section, but remember: being in position is worth 5-10% of the pot, on every street. It’s obvious that we are wanting to put in more money on average when we are in position than when we are out of position.

Special case flops

Paired boards
Great to bet because only five hole cards can hit, instead of the usual nine cards.
Odds of trips go up when the paired card is of higher rank (because people play more high cards).

Trips boards
Same as paired boards, but even harder to hit. Only one card hits.
Whoever had range advantage preflop will most likely win on the flop.

Monotone flops
Fine to bet heads-up, but be careful multiway.
For every flopped flush there will be many times as many missed flopped flushes (the other three suits of suited hands).
For off-suit hands, the odds are 50/50 that they have the draw.
One bet is all you need to fold out the misses. You don’t need to multi-barrel.

All low cards (like 6-5-4)
Same as monotone: fine to bet heads-up because not many players will be playing the small cards. But be careful multiway as more players will start adding in small suited connectors to their range as action gets multiway.

A reminder of the betting checklist
Step 1 – Check fold equity: how often did your opponent hit or miss? How many opponents are there?
Step 2 – Check pot equity: instant rebate when called. If you have a made hand and it’s best then this number is over 50%, and so any bet prices you in and your goal is to price them out! If you have a draw, some bet sizes will price you in, depending on the number outs you have.
Step 3 – choose a bet size to find profit in 1 + 2 (your fold equity + your pot equity/instant rebate)
vs. tight preflop players = less fold equity post-flop (but there was lot of it preflop)
vs. loose preflop players = more fold equity on the flop
vs. loose flop players (sticky) = more fold equity on the turn and river

Full details and ordering can be found HERE