How to Fix Your Poker Redline: Play Your Draws Aggressively

Gus Hansen
Gus knows leaks when he sees them.

Online poker games are typically pretty aggressive.

Your average regular raises 16% of his hands or more and continuation-bets up to 70% of the time!

When you flop a hand with as much equity as a flush draw there's no point playing the hand slow.

But putting money in to the pot and then folding on a later street is a major cause of a downward-sloping redline. You have to stop putting money into the pot only to fold without a fight.

Here are two important ways you can fix your poker redline:

  • Making better C-Bets
  • Playing your draws aggressively

What is a Downward-Sloping Redline?

Your redline is your "non-showdown" winnings. When you win a pot without going to showdown, your redline goes up. When you lose a pot, it goes down.

If you're losing more money than you're winning without seeing showdowns, your redline will slope downward. If you lose too much money without showdown you may not be able to overcome that to be a winning player.

For more on the basics of your poker Redline, aka your Non-Showdown Winnings, see our article here:

How to Improve Your Non-Showdown Winnings (aka Fixing Your Redline)

Why You Should Play Your Draws Aggressively

It's simple. You learn this in poker 101. When you're the aggressor you can win the pot two ways:

fix your poker redline
When you're the aggressor you can win two ways.
  • You can win by having your opponent fold
  • You can win by hitting your hand

More ways to win = more profit.

To take that point further, when your opponent is raising 16% of hands pre-flop and c-betting almost all the time, rarely is your opponent going to have a hand that can stand a raise.

Often he's going to c-bet that jack-high flop with whatever crap he raised with pre-flop and be forced to pitch it when you raise. Now he's the one throwing away money with his pre-flop raise and flop c-bet.


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Your opponent, who is a good regular (stats-wise: 20% VP$IP; 18% pre-flop raise; 3.0 aggression factor; 70% flop c-bet), raises to $8 in the cut-off.

You call with 7 8 on the button and everyone else folds. The flop comes 6 2 Q.

Your opponent c-bets $13 into $19.

Let's think about his range. Right now it's extremely wide. A player that raises 18% from all positions raises about 24% of hands from the cut-off.

Listing all of those possible hands is a waste of time, so let's just say it's a lot. Instead, think about what hands he could continue with against our raise: AA-QQ, AQ-KQ, 66, 22 and ace-high flush draws, which make up about 6% of his range.

Meaning he's going to be folding to your flop raise 75% of the time. And guess what? Even if you're called, you have more than 35% equity against everything but the nut-flush draws.

poker redline strategy
Fold equity is key.

Standard outcome: you raise to $60 and he folds.

Fold Equity is Key to Fixing Redline

Essentially, the bet above is a semi-bluff that relies on fold equity. If your opponent is raising a very wide range pre-flop and continuation-betting a very high percentage of the time, he's going to fold to your raise on the flop a very high percentage of the time.

When you raise the flop with your flush draw you want your opponent to fold. But you know that if you're called, you can still win by hitting one of your flush outs.

What If He Calls?

If your opponent calls your flop raise you have to look at his calling range. Some opponents will call the flop raise somewhat light but still fold to further action.

Against these opponents you can safely shove the turn and laugh when your opponent folds. If your opponent calls flop raises with a much tighter range, you may be better off trying to take a free card.

Like everything in this wonderful game of ours, it's player dependant.

What If He Shoves?

If he shoves you have to bite the bullet and call. Yes, it sucks, but it's the correct play. In our example there's $19 in the pot when he c-bets $13. We raise to $60 and he shoves for $192 total.

That puts the pot at $271 and we have to call $132. When we have to call $132 to win $271, we're getting better than 2:1 and are getting the odds required for a nine-outer twice.

This is obviously not the best case scenario but it's just not going to happen that often. The high percentage play is that your opponent will fold and we will steal his pre-flop raise and c-bet.

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Added Bonus of Playing Aggressive: It Balances Your Range

Another added bonus to fast-playing your draws that you can't really quantify with math is that it balances your range.

If you're raising your flush draws on the flop, no longer can your opponent just fold top pair. He's going to be left guessing whether you're raising a set or a flush draw.

So instead of just folding the flop because you never raise it without a set, he'll be forced to play the guessing game - which most players really suck at. The end result is more action on your made hands.

how to play draws in poker
Obvious downside? Variance.

Downside: Variance

There's a pretty obvious downside to playing your draws aggressively: variance. When you raise with your draws, you'll frequently win the pot without showdown.

But occasionally your opponent is going to wake up with a hand and you're going to have to get it in as a slight dog.

Some of these you're going to lose; some of these you're going to win. It's the nature of the game.

Obviously in the long run, raising with your draws is much more profitable. Your opponent will just be folding insanely often.

Add on the extra action you'll get on your made hands, and it's a no brainer. The only problem: that short run is sometimes going to be a bumpy ride.

Ride it out, and you'll see the rewards!

How to Identify Bad C-Bets

Lots of multi-tabling, auto-pilot TAGs have the same, simple leak:

  • Firing mindless continuation bets whenever they're the pre-flop raiser

When you fire c-bets with reckless disregard you're more often than not just going to end up folding later in the hand. Add up all of those folds over the course of a session - or a month, or a year - and you can clearly see that's going to cost you a lot of "non-showdown" winnings.

What's a Bad C-Bet?

Bad c-bets are ones where the only thought that enters your mind is:

  • "I'm the pre-flop raiser, so I should bet again."

Simple as that. The problem with thoughtless continuation-betting is that when your opponent calls you usually give up on the hand when he bets on a later street.

how to cbet poker

When you fold you forfeit your pre-flop raise, your c-bet and the rest of the pot without a fight. When you put money into the pot and fold, not only will your overall bottom line suffer, your "non-showdown" winnings take a big hit.

Losing a raise and a c-bet might not seem like a big deal, but it's a leak that can repeat itself countless times in a single session Do it often enough and it can become a massive leak for a player with an otherwise decent game.

How to Make Better C-Bets

If the main factor in bad c-betting is thoughtlessness, the way to become a better c-bettor is, naturally, to think about your c-bets. Every time.

What do you think about? You think about what your goal is. As the c-bettor, your goal is to use the initiative you've gained being the pre-flop raiser and get a fold from your opponent.

Mark these words: To get a fold! Repeat:

  • When you c-bet, you want your opponent to fold.

Focus your c-betting on situations when he's likely to fold; check instead when he's likely to call.

Dry Boards With Big Cards are Best

It's human nature for your opponent to put you on big cards when you raise pre-flop. When the board comes A 3 8, it's an easy c-bet.

The board is dry and he's very likely to have missed. You're the pre-flop raiser so you're more likely to have an ace than he is. In this case, your continuation bet is likely to succeed.

redline poker winnings

On the flip side, when you raise and the board comes 3 2 6, you're probably not going to get credit for a real hand that often. It's probably better to check, unless...

You Plan on Firing Multiple Barrels

A board like the one above may not be great to c-bet if you plan on going "one and done" on it - meaning firing one c-bet then giving up when called. It may still be profitable to c-bet but only if you plan on firing multiple barrels.

On a low board, or a board with one medium-high card like T 4 2, your opponent is liable to peel with almost any pocket pair. He hopes you'll give up when your c-bet is called and he can go on to check it down and win the hand.

This article, though, is to get you to stop that mindless "one and done" c-betting and get you thinking. On these types of boards, "one and done" c-betting just isn't profitable.

When you think about your opponent's range in most of these cases however, multi-barreling on these types of boards can become extremely profitable.

Your opponent's range is usually made up of weak, one-pair hands. You can often just fire the turn and river and have him fold out a very high percentage of the time.

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More Bad C-Bet Spots

1. Multi-way pots -- Multi-way pots just mean more opponents that can catch a piece of the board and call you. When you're looking for a fold, that's obviously not ideal.

fix poker redline

2. Draw-heavy flops -- If you raise in early position with A K, get called on the button, and the flop comes 6 8 9, it's probably best not to fire that c-bet. That flop just smashes your opponent's calling range.

3. vs. calling stations -- It's basically the age-old adage: Don't bluff calling stations. You can't bluff a guy that never folds.

4. Flops that don't help your perceived range -- These are the boards that you either plan on firing multiple barrels on or you don't c-bet. If a board looks like it didn't help your range, making a single c-bet then giving up is literally flushing money down the toilet.

Either plan on firing good turn cards (i.e. big cards), or just check.

5. Showdown-value hands -- A flopped hand that has good showdown value but isn't quite strong enough to bet for value is a good one to check through.

A good example would be A 7 on a K 7 2 board. You're likely to have the best hand, but betting will just fold out everything you're ahead of. No worse hands ever call, making it perfectly fine to check behind when in position.

Bottom line is if you want to make better c-bets you have to think through every situation. Think about your opponents and their playing styles.

What boards are likely to have helped their pre-flop calling range and what boards they think helped your pre-flop raising range?

Always c-bet with a plan. The main thing: ditch the "one and done" approach. If you plan on firing one barrel and giving up, don't. It may be better to not fire any at all.

More on Fixing Your Redline:

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James 2015-10-21 04:31:43

If there were 2 other players in the pot would you fold to his c-bet? Call. Or make the same move and reraise to 60.

You would not have the correct pot odds to call. Less then 3:1 and you need more then 4:1 to call.

dweezil 2011-10-02 12:10:24

jumpin howdy dowdy

silvio 2010-08-28 14:21:45



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