Reading Flop Betting Patterns — Limit Holdem


Warning: this is going to read a bit like a brag post.  But I want to write about this hand because it nicely illustrates a few limit holdem concepts, and especially the kind of betting-pattern tells that you get in LHE that help you win extra bets.

Poker Game: $40-80 limit holdem, 5 players

Pre-flop: I am in the big blind with 5♣2

Action: All fold to the small-blind, who limps in.  I check.

Flop: A♠4♠2 (two players)

Action: Small blind bets $40, I raise, he 3bets, I 4bet, He 5bets, I call.

Turn: 9 (two players)

Action: Small blind bets $80, I call.

River: 9

Action: Small blind bets $80, I call.  He shows K♠5♠, I win with a pair of deuces.

Pre-flop I have absolute garbage, and intend to fold if anyone raises.  When the small blind simply limps in, I check behind. I frequently like to raise loosely in these spots and take control of the hand, but 52o is just too weak to raise with.

When he bets into me on the flop, I already have a good preliminary read on his hand.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have an ace, because he just limped in pre-flop, and he didn’t go for a check-raise on the flop (which is the standard play if you just limp in with an ace).  His lead indicates weakness: he doesn’t want to capture an extra bet, he just wants to push me out.

When I raise him, I am hoping to fold out all of the air hands that he could have in this spot, like Q7.  I’m raising both for value and for protection.

When he 3bets me things get very interesting.  He is trying to represent strength, but I am now strongly inclined to put him on a spade flush draw, or a pure bluff. There are just very few made hands that he could have here that he would have played this way.  Would he have limped in preflop with Ace-high hands or small pocket pairs?  Highly unlikely. Would he have lead into me on the flop with a hand strong enough to 3bet?  Highly unlikely.  The only hand I can put him on that makes sense to me is a flush draw.  He would want to play that hand strongly to preserve his fold equity. And he is likely to believe that he has significant fold equity in this hand because he is certain that I don’t have an ace either (I just checked behind pre-flop with position, in a spot where almost all players would raise with an ace).

When I 4bet him, I am again raising for value, but also to take control of the pot.  If this raise gets him to check to me on the turn or river, I will have the option of betting or taking a free card depending on how the board develops.

Nothing changes in my read when he 5bets, except to convince me even more that I am correct.  He is showing extreme strength, but because his pre-flop limp and flop lead-out are inconsistent with extreme strength, he is actually giving me a tell: the famous “Strength means Weakness” tell.  It is common among poker players to try to disguise their hands by acting the opposite to the actual strength of their hands. Thus players with weak hands like to act strong, and players with strong hands like to act weak. I am going to call my opponent to the river no matter what comes, except another spade.

The board bricks off on the turn and river, and I call down, completing what looks to my opponent and the rest of the table like a crazy play.

It made sense to me!

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