How to Play Strong Hands on Monotone Flops (Check-Raise vs Slow-Play)

Home


Thursday January 01, 1970

Mike Brady|Poker Strategy|Dec 13, 2019


Thursday January 01, 1970

How to Play Strong Hands on Monotone Flops (Check-Raise vs Slow-Play)


Thursday January 01, 1970

How to Play Strong Hands on Monotone Flops (Check-Raise vs Slow-Play)

[This post contains video, click to play]

Mike Brady|Poker Strategy|Dec 13, 2019

The text below is based on the video above.
Imagine taking a seat at a poker table in your regular game.
On your first hand, the player on the button raises and you call from the big blind.
The flop comes 6♠ 4♠ 3♠, giving you a strong hand — let’s say two pair or a flush. You check to your opponent who puts in a small c-bet.
Whether or not you check-raise in this situation will greatly impact the rest of the hand and, ultimately, your win-rate. The best approach is surprisingly tricky, but this article will shed light on what top pros do in these spots.

This is part 2 of Alex “Kanu7” Millar’s new strategy series! Alex is one of poker’s biggest-ever cash game winners. He’s joined the Upswing team to create content that will help you improve your cash game skills, including an advanced cash game course (coming in January 2020).
Click here to go back to part 1. Parts 3 and 4 will be published on this blog (and YouTube) next Friday and the first Friday of 2020 (December 20th and January 4th).

In part 1 of this series, we covered c-betting on monotone flops and concluded the following:

You should be less willing to put money into the pot on monotone flops as the c-bettor, compared to other flops.
Not only should you c-bet less often, your average c-bet size should also be smaller.
Your default strategy on monotone flops should be to c-bet around half the time for a 25-33% pot sizing.

But how should you play versus a c-bet on monotone flops? Should you be relatively reluctant to put money into the pot then? And what should you do when you flop a strong hand, like two pair or a flush?
Let’s dive in to find the answers to these questions.
How Playing Versus a C-Bet Changes on Monotone Flops
Just like last time, Alex starts the video by comparing the average frequencies for playing versus a c-bet on all flops versus monotone flops (calculated using a private solver). This table sums up his comparison:

As you can see, the check-raise frequency is cut nearly in half on monotone boards, and only smaller raise sizes are used. This is all in spite of the fact that you will tend to face relatively small bet sizes on monotone flops (which typically makes you more inclined to raise, not less).
So, the answer to one question posed in the intro is: yes, you should be relatively reluctant to put money into the pot, specifically by raising, when facing a c-bet on monotone flops.
There are two elements to consider that explain why this happens:

How the ranges match up versus each other. This was covered extensively in part 1.
The incentives of individual hands. In other words, whether each hand prefers to bet/raise/call (raise in this case) based on the ranges they’re up against.

The first element is still important when facing a c-bet, but since it has already been covered in part 1, today’s focus will be on the second element.
The Incentives of Individual Hands
When considering an individual hand’s incentives versus your opponent’s range, its helpful to separate your opponent’s hands into two groups:

Hands that will continue versus your bet or raise. The better your hand’s equity is against the continuing range, the more incentivized you are to raise.
Hands that will fold versus your bet or raise. The better your hand’s equity is against the folding range, the less incentivized you are to raise.

Of course, a given hand’s equities against these two groups tend to move together. If you have a hand that has very strong equity versus the fold range (making it less inclined to check-raise), the hand probably also has strong equity versus the continue range. The effect of the latter cancels out the effect of the former, which makes your hand more inclined to check-raise.
However, things get more complicated on monotone flops.
Let’s explain this further by going over a couple of examples. First, a “normal” flop and then a monotone flop.
6-Handed Online Cash Game. 100 Blind Stacks.
Hero is dealt 6♦ 4♦ in the big blind.
Button raises to 2.5bb. sb folds. Hero calls.
Flop (5.5bb) 6♣ 4♠ 3♥
Hero checks. Button bets 2.8bb. Hero…?
To figure out Hero’s incentives with his two pair, you first have to consider the hand types with which the button may or will continue versus a raise:

High card hands. Examples: AK, QJ. These hands have very little equity, needing runner-runner.
Weak pairs. Examples: A6s, K4s. These hands have a bit of equity with between two and five outs.
Strong pairs. Examples: KK, 77. These hands have a bit more equity with at least five outs.
Draws. Examples: 87, A5. These hands have some decent equity with between four and eight outs.
Super strong hands. Examples: 33, 75s. Hero’s two pair has poor equity versus these hands, but there are quite few combinations of them.

Versus this continuing range, Hero’s two pair has very good equity (approximately 77%), which incentivizes him to raise.
The button’s folding range will consist mainly of his weakest high card hands (like Q8) and weakest draws (like A2). Against this range, Hero’s two pair has great equity. This counteracts the incentives to raise versus the continue range, to some extent, and is why you won’t want to check-raise two pair 100% of the time on this flop.
Now, let’s give Hero the same two pair on a monotone flop.
6-Handed Online Cash Game. 100 Blind Stacks.
Hero is dealt 6♦ 4♦ in the big blind.
Button raises to 2.5bb. sb folds. Hero calls.
Flop (5.5bb) 6♠ 4♠ 3♠
Hero checks. Button bets 2.8bb. Hero…?
Again, let’s consider the button’s continuing range if Hero were to check-raise here:

Weak pairs without a spade. Example: A6. These hands have little equity versus Hero’s two pair.
Overpairs without a spade. Examples: KK or 77. These hands have a bit more equity with at least five outs.
(Here’s where the trouble starts.)
Flush draws. Examples: A♠ K♦ or J♠ T♥. These hands have solid equity versus Hero’s two pair.
Made hands with a flush draw. Example K♠ K♦ or A♠ 6♣. These hands have good equity (around 50%) versus Hero’s two pair.
Super strong hands. Examples: J♠ T♠, 66, 75s. These hands have Hero’s two pair crushed.

Versus this continuing range, Hero’s two pair has pretty poor equity (approximately 53%) — not nearly enough to warrant a raise. For reference, top pair on a “normal” flop will usually have significantly more than 53% equity versus a range that called a check-raise.
Now, let’s consider the hands the button will fold if Hero were to check-raise here:

High card hands without a spade. Example: 9♣ 8♣. These hands have very little equity and make up a huge portion of the button’s folding range.
Weak pairs without a spade. Examples: 2♣ 2♦ or A♣ 4♣. These hands have a bit more equity, but still not much.
Weak draws. Examples: J♦ 9♠ or T♥ 7♥. These hands have solid equity with between four and eight outs.

Hero’s two pair has great equity against this range, just like it did against the folding range on the “normal” flop.
So, Hero’s incentive to raise versus the folding range stayed about the same, but his incentive to raise versus the continuing range fell drastically. These incentives didn’t move together like they usually do. This illustrates why its generally not a good idea to check-raise hands like two pair or a straight on monotone boards.
You may have already known not to check-raise hands like this two pair on a monotone flop, but what about flushes?
The Incentives of Flushes on Monotone Flops
If you’re someone who almost always check-raises with flushes on monotone boards, this section is for you.
In theory, you should check-raise only a fraction of your flushes on monotone boards. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Your opponent’s calling range will have significant equity versus your low and mid flushes.
When you check-raise with a flush on a monotone board, your opponent’s continuing range will contain many one-card flush draw hands. Depending on the strength of your flush, most or all of these flush draws will have 7 outs (~29% equity) to outdraw you.
(Again, the more equity your opponent’s continuing range has against your hand, the less inclined you should be to check-raise.)
Here’s the kicker: a surprisingly large portion of their range will be a flush draw. For example, if you check-raise with J♠ 8♠ on a 6♠ 4♠ 3♠ flop, your opponent’s continuing range will be approximately:

17% nut flush draws with the A♠
8.8% second nut flush draws with the K♠
6.6% third nut flush draws with the Q♠

That adds up to 32.4%, and that number ticks up to 36% if you include sets and two pairs.
Despite having the fourth nut flush, over a third of your opponent’s continuing range has significant equity to outdraw you. And it only gets worse for lower flushes — with a hand like 9♠ 8♠, more than 40% of your opponent’s range has significant equity.
But what about ace, king, and queen high flushes? These hands have better equity than the lower flushes mentioned above, so should you check-raise frequently with them?
Not so fast!
2. High flushes block your opponent’s continuing range.
When you have a strong hand, you obviously want your opponent to continue. But when you have a high flush on a monotone flop, you block a bunch of the hands with which your opponent would continue!
If you check-raise with A♠ 8♠ on the 6♠ 4♠ 3♠ flop, for example, your A♠ alone blocks 17% of your opponent’s calling range. Additionally, your 8♠ blocks lower flushes, making it a bit less likely you will take a big chunk of chips from your opponent in a flush-over-flush situation. (The 8♠ also blocks a handful of flush draws.)
To be clear, you should check-raise with some flushes. (According to the Alex’s private solver, you should check-raise 20% of your flushes on the 6♠ 4♠ 3♠ flop.) But hopefully you’ve been convinced to lean towards slow-playing with most of them.
3. Flushes have incredibly high equity versus your opponent’s folding range.
Your opponent will rarely fold a flush draw, two pair, or set versus your check-raise on a monotone flop.
This means your flushes will have nearly 100% equity versus your opponent’s folding range, which should make you less inclined to check-raise with them.

These last two sections covered the theoretically correct approach to playing flushes versus c-bets. However, there is an exception. To quote Alex:

If your opponent c-bets way too often on monotone boards, then you should check-raise more often [with both flushes and bluffs]. But if your opponent is playing well, it’s actually a spot where you want to be check-calling [most of your flushes, even the top-end ones].

So, Which Flushes Should You Check-Raise?
Here’s a handy screenshot from Alex’s private solver that displays which flushes you should check-raise on the 6♠ 4♠ 3♠ flop:
(Note: this screenshot has been edited to make the details easier to see and understand. Some details were also removed in order to simplify the graphic.)
Click here to open the graphic in a new window.
The way the solver chooses which hands to raise and call makes a lot of sense when you consider what we’ve covered today.
K♠ 2♠, for example, is a hand with which the solver always raises. This hand has great equity versus your opponent’s continue range while not blocking the hands you want him to have (such as A♠X or 9♠ 8♠). The 2♠ in particular is a great card to have with your flush because your opponent won’t play as many 2x hands preflop.
Take a look close look at the graphic and try to deduce for yourself why certain flushes lean towards a raise or call.
Takeaways
Just like in part 1, Alex concluded the video by going over the main takeaways:

On monotone flops, your default check-raise size should be half pot.
Check-raise less frequently versus larger bets (ranging from ~5% vs 1/3rd pot c-bets down to 0% vs 3/4 pot c-bets).
Move the check-raise size down to 1/3rd pot and the frequency up to 10% vs 1/4 pot c-bets.
You should rarely want to check-raise with two pairs or straights.
Check-raise with some flushes, but check-call most of them (around 20% raise vs 80% call).

To hear these takeaways explained in greater detail, watch the last 3.5 minutes of Alex’s video.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned from Alex’s analysis of monotone flops? Let us know in the comments below.
See you next week for part 3!

Read Related Articles

4 Factors to Think About Before Hero Calling

Learn when to make a big call with a marginal hand.

Firing a Triple Barrel Bluff with 6♣️ 5♣️ on K-7-4 (Analysis)

All of the world’s top poker players have something in common: they play extremely aggressively, like in this hand.

Post navigation
← (Quiz) Let’s Play a Final Table with $173,000 Up TopMastering 4-Bet Pots with Deliberate Practice (Quiz & New Tool) →

About the Author

Mike Brady
I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I’m the Vice President of Upswing Poker and only play a decent amount of poker.

.fb_iframe_widget_fluid_desktop iframe {
width: 100% !important;
}

The post How to Play Strong Hands on Monotone Flops (Check-Raise vs Slow-Play) appeared first on Upswing Poker.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.