Inside the Mind of a Pro – Exploiting Transparency
A player, or population of players, is transparent if their actions are very likely to weight their range heavily towards a certain type of hand. When you believe that this is the case, it is often sensible to check with marginal or very weak hands and delay any thin value-betting or bluffing until a later street. Finding out what Villain likely has before committing money to the pot will save you a lot of money. In this hand I use the idea that the 100NL ZOOM pool is transparent in that it does not protect its checking-behind range well in a 3-bet pot. This allows me to increase my bluffing frequency beyond the realms of balance.
At 100NL ZOOM with $100 starting stacks, I get dealt K♦ 9♦ in the SB and a regular opens the button to $2.50. I 3-Bet to $10 and Villain makes the call. This hand is quite near the bottom of my 3-Betting range, but it should be slightly more profitable to 3-Bet than to fold. I do not build a flatting range in the SB unless there is a very poor player in the BB.
The flop ($21.00) comes 5♣ 3♣ 2♥ . Not only is this a disastrous flop for my hand – I don’t think I could have flopped any worse – it is also a horrible board for my range. Villain has far more of the small pairs than me and a higher frequency of just holding 66, 77, 88, or 99. This because my range is more diluted with hands like AK and AQ which he would often 4-bet pre-flop. What does all of this mean for my strategy?
In situations where you are out of position; your range is flopping poorly; and your opponent’s range is doing quite well; you should start by checking most or all of the hands you get to the flop with.
This simple rule protects you from making a lot of bad continuation bets with bad position and low fold equity. Think about it, if you had flatted an open BB vs UTG, would you want to build a donk-betting range on a flop like AK6? Of course not! This spot is much better for the UTG player, so we routinely check to him. It does not matter who the pre-flop raiser was, only who has the strongest range. Raisers tend to have stronger ranges than callers, but there are exceptions.
This 3-Bet pot is not quite as unfavourable as the BB vs UTG hypothetical spot, but Villain’s range is nevertheless doing well and we should still start by checking most of the time. The easiest way to apply a high checking frequency strategy is to simplify it into just always checking, no matter what you have. We call this plan a range-check.
I check to my opponent who is now incentivised to bet often and use some small sizes to protect the equity of his low and medium pairs like A3s and 77. He should also throw some sets, straights and bluffs into the mix when he bets small.
It is also proper for Villain to have a checking-behind range here. After all, we have checked a very protected range meaning that all of the overpairs are still in our range too. This prohibits him from just betting whenever he feels like it. What should Villain check back with?
The most logical hands are ones with showdown value which are not good often enough to value bet. Something like AQo for example makes a fine check behind as it does a fantastic job of catching bluffs on the turn and can still improve when it’s currently losing. This sort of hand is very partial to taking a free card. Most players see a pair like 99 or 88 here as an automatic bet and this is exactly how they become transparent. In theory, Villain should be checking behind around half of the time with these medium pairs because he needs to protect his checking range and because our range still contains all of the overpairs. Remember our check was made with everything and did not cap our range.
What happens in reality here is that the population does not understand the need to protect the check-behind range, and thus when they do check, they have far too much air.
My opponent checks and I get ready to throw some chips in his face.
The turn ($21.00) brings the 7♣ . On the surface, this looks like yet another horrible card for us, however, the population’s tendency to under-protect their flop checking range, also means they have hardly any flushes now. They are going to bet a lot of flush draws on the flop. Moreover, the fact that he likely has less 66-99 then he ought to, leaves his range very weak. The transparency of his flop action incentivises me to bluff a lot more often than theory dictates.
How often am I meant to bluff the turn with K♦ 9♦ if I want to play in a balanced way? The answer is around 60% of the time. I can choose between various bet-sizes here, in theory, but in practice, the most effective way to play against an overly capped range is to use bigger bets. I decide to not even look to my random number generator for guidance. In spots where I think my choice is a close one and want to be balanced, I will let the RNG decide, but this is not a close spot at all. My read on the pool gives me more than enough justification for just always betting big now.
I make it $14.96 and Villain quickly folds.
In theory my bet should only yield around 40% fold equity. This is the folding percentage for Villain that would make me indifferent to bluffing. In reality, I think this bet works upwards of 60% of the time. As bad as my hand looks, it is very important to consider fold equity, not improvability in spots where your opponent is overfolding. When we are bluffing with a lot of fold equity, we could have two blank cards for all I care – the bet still makes a lot of money.
It is important to know when you are allowed to bluff with nothing on the turn. You do not need to be bound by strict rules about having a draw, especially when your opponent has taken a very weak action on the previous street. My range is a lot stronger than Villain’s on this turn and it is time to apply pressure.