Some of the most difficult postflop decisions come from deciding whether or not to call or fold facing a bet with a marginal made hand. When an opponent continues to barrel and fires out bets on the flop, turn, and river, it can be tempting to simply just muck your hand if you don’t have the nuts. If you fold every time you face a marginal spot on the river, you will overfold and in turn torch your bankroll, but how do you know when to make the call?
Understanding Your Opponent’s Postflop Strategy
To properly play marginal made hands postflop, you must understand what your opponent’s postflop strategies are and adjust. Facing good, strong opponents capable of having a reasonable amount of bluffs in their range, you should be more inclined to call down on all betting rounds. Tighter opponents may have no bluffs in their range on all or specific betting rounds, indicating that you should probably fold more often to these opponents as it is unlikely they are bluffing.
A lot of poker players get it in their heads that just because they personally would bluff in a specific spot means their opponents will too, but realize that each specific opponent has their own unique strategies that you must adjust to.
Postflop Strategy When Facing Tight Ranges
The two main reasons an opponent will maintain a tight range are they are just generally tight in general or their position dictates they should play a tight strategy. If someone is raising under the gun (UTG) in a poker tournament, they are in theory required to have a good hand. When the UTG player raises preflop and the board comes A-K-7-4-5, by the river the player has almost zero bluffs in their range. Even if you happen to have an ace (like A-8) facing UTG in this spot, you should still consider folding if they bet all three streets.
Postflop Strategy When Facing Wide Ranges
Some of your opponents at the poker table will have a wide range as they usually play a loose, aggressive strategy or their position dictates they should have a wide range (usually late position).
Let’s say you are facing an opponent who raised from the button preflop. The board comes J-5-3-8-A, and throughout the hand, they bet the flop, checked the turn, and bet the river. On the river, you have an incredibly easy hero call with any pair, even 3-2! While your opponent may have an ace, they also have a lot of unpaired high card hands in their range that you beat with any pair.
Notice how your postflop strategy changes facing a tight range as opposed to a wide range, in one spot you’re folding top pair, but in the other you’re calling with bottom pair! Being profitable at the poker table requires constantly adjusting and knowing when to do so, taking critical factors like range into consideration when making decisions is how you beat your opponents.
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Postflop Strategy In Multi-Way Pots
As a pot becomes more and more multi-way, the more polarized are the ranges players bet with. These ranges often contain few draws, which means when they bet, they are likely doing so with premium hands or strong marginal made hands. If opponents are most likely to bet with premium hands or strong marginal made hands, you are incentivized to fold marginal made hands, especially if you are facing a bet and a call in a multi-way pot.
Let’s say you have a hand like J-6 or A-8 on a J-8-7 flop. If the preflop aggressor bets and another opponent calls, you have an easy fold in this spot. While this may sound overly tight, this is the right strategy. The only time you should consider calling in this or similar spots is if the pot odds are extremely favorable or if you have a pair with straight potential.
Although it may feel like you are overfolding your marginal made hands, especially in poker tournaments it is better to avoid marginal spots and save your chips for hands with better value. Always be sure to pay attention to what your opponents do and adjust to exploit them, limit your mistakes and look to exploit theirs.