PokerListings.com is the world's largest and most trusted online poker guide, offering the best online poker bonus deals guaranteed, over $1m in exclusive freerolls every year and the most free poker content available on the Web.
Don't Limit Yourself Part 3: Multiple-Street Plays
To raise your play beyond the amateur level, you must harness the ability to plan and execute multiple-street plays.
Building on the single-street plays from the previous article, we'll now look at how to go about this.
Poker being the dynamic game that it is, all multi-street plays must be made with a contingency plan in mind.
If a bad card falls, your read was incorrect or your opponent makes an unpredictable move on the street following the first action in your play, you will be forced to reevaluate your situation.
As a result, you'll often have to abandon your previous play in favor of a new option more suited to the current situation.
It's been said before, but poker is a game of partial information. The actions and plays you create to suit your needs on the flop can be the exact opposite of the play you intend to make on the turn.
For this reason, the majority of the plays you make in poker will be interrupted by forces out of your control. Your job is to take notice when the situation shifts, and adjust your play accordingly.
Regardless of how the hand finishes, initiating a multi-street play can be the best option with the information you have at any given time. In such scenarios, you only have four main multi-street plays available to choose from.
The Continuation Bet
Recipe: Raise pre-flop; bet out on the flop regardless of how the flop relates to your hand.
The continuation bet is the most straightforward multi-street play. Every player above absolute-beginner level uses this play in abundance. In fact, many players will make a continuation bet almost 100% of the time they raise pre-flop.
The idea with this play is just what it seems: you raise pre-flop, giving your opponents the impression of strength in your hand. Since statistically most flops will miss your opponent's hand, or improve them marginally at best, betting the flop will often win the pot due to a sheer display of strength.
The danger in c-betting too frequently is that your opponent may pick up on the trend, and create their own play to trap you. If you're playing at a table with players capable of playing back at a c-bet, you have to use other plays in a mix to keep your opponent guessing. The next step up from a simple c-bet is the floater.
Recipe: Raise pre-flop, check on the flop, bet on the turn.
A floater is simply a delayed c-bet. By delaying the bet on the flop, you can create the illusion that you had missed the flop, but the turn improved your hand enough to be worth betting, or, alternately, that you now have enough information on your opponent's hand to know that your hand is good.
The danger in using the floater is allowing your opponent to see four cards for the price of one bet pre-flop. Every card you allow your opponent to see is another card that could connect with their hand, or convince them that their hand is in fact stronger than yours.
Because of the danger, floaters should be used somewhat infrequently. As a general rule, a floater is used only as a means to keep your opponent from getting a clear idea of what you're doing at the table.
Recipe: check first to act, call the bet of the player betting behind you, and finally open the next betting round with a bet.
The stop-and-go is a fairly advanced move, not in its difficulty of execution, but in its subtlety. Typically only an advanced player will understand the significance of a stop-and-go.
As we learned in part one, checking pre-flop exhibits weakness to your opponents. If your opponent shows strength with a bet, your call will increase your show of strength, but not nearly as much as a raise would.
Once you bet out on the flop (or on the turn, depending on the timing of the play), your opponent has now been sent three different signals of strength, all three in ascending order.
To a pro, a stop-and-go feels like a very strong hand, and instills a sense of warning. Not only have you shown no respect for the strength of your opponent's hand by betting into them, but human minds like to find patterns.
With your steadily increasing progression of aggression and strength, some part of your opponent's mind will expect the next action to continue one the pattern, making them fear being reraised if they pop you.
A stop-and-go is best used to control the size of a pot, or as part of a larger play to set up a bluff on the final street(s).
Recipe: Raise pre-flop, bet, bet, bet.
The double barrel combines a c-bet and a floater. After c-betting the flop, and getting called, you bet again on the turn, again as a bluff. If that gets called, some players will opt to fire a third barrel at the pot, for one final bluff on the river.
The pure aggression shown in a double- or triple-barrel bluff will be enough to blow most players off of most hands. Only a truly premium hand, or a player with one hell of a read and some serious cojones, will be able to call you.
The danger in running a double- or especially a triple-barrel bluff is in the size of the pot you build. Each bet you make will have to grow exponentially in size from the last. With all the bets and calls being made, the pot will grow extremely large, making your triple-barrel bluff incredibly difficult.
In order to make a successful triple-barrel all of the following factors must be in place:
- You have enough chips to make a third bet/bluff large enough to not offer attractive odds to your opponent.
- Your opponent has to have enough chips to be capable of folding (not be pot-committed).
- Your opponent has to have the ability to fold after investing into a very large pot.
Many poker players make the mistake of bluffing someone who simply can't fold. Many beginners get so attracted to the idea of winning a large pot that they will abandon all reason, and hold onto their hand regardless of the betting story. Bluffing a calling station will always work out poorly for you in the end.
These multi-street plays make up the core "stock" plays. By mixing multi-street and single-street plays, you have the ability to create an enormous amount of possible plays.
The goal is to understand what impression each play will have on your opponent in that specific situation. The vast majority of poker hands play out in a very standard way, meaning you will almost exclusively make these stock plays.
Along with mixing up your play to eliminate predictability, only in odd situations or tricky hands will you have to get creative, practicing some sort of poker-play alchemy. Unlike trying to turn lead into gold, though, using an obvious, almost worthless play creatively can turn it into a valuable weapon.
The final article in this series will explain a bit of poker causality, and how the plays you make are dynamic. Once you truly understand all the aspects that go into making a profitable poker play, you'll have the ability to consistently create strong plays that will yield you maximum profit.
More Poker Theory Articles: