Way ahead / Way behind

by ~ October 3rd, 2008. Filed under: General poker strategy, Instructional posts.


Or wa/wb for short. What are the characteristics of when this principle applies?

  1. We have raised preflop
  2. We get called by one player
  3. We have position on that player; he’s called from the blinds or limp/called
  4. On the flop we have a hand, but not a monster
  5. The flop is not drawy

This seems pretty limited in its use with all these requirements, but actually it does happen often.

Example: Late position, we raise QQ. Big blind calls, flop comes A92 rainbow. Big blind checks. Do we bet?

We still have a pair of Queens, a good hand, but now if our opponent has an Ace or 99 we are behind. This is the definition of way ahead/way behind. Our hand is unlikely to improve unless one of the remaining Queens hits. If our opponent doesn’t have an Ace or 99 he is also unlikely to improve to move ahead of us. At best he has say 98 with four 8s and two 9s for six outs to improve.

So we are either way ahead, or way behind. Do we bet?

wa/wb theory says no.

We’re not sure if we’re winning, and because it’s unlikely that either of us are going to improve our hands, we want to control the pot size. If our opponent holds an Ace, we don’t want to be paying him off. If he doesn’t hold an Ace, there are few reasons for him to call our flop bet. There are no draws for him to chase, so we don’t get any more from him by betting now. This of course assumes that we don’t have a calling station who calls our raise with Q9o, K2 or 55 and won’t fold his pair.

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So now what? The turn likely bricks, say a 4 comes. He may sense weakness on your part and think you hold AK so he bets his 88 or 98 or KQ hand. Now you call his bet. River card comes and now he’s not sure what you hold so he checks the river and you check behind. You win a small pot.

Or, he holds an Ace and waited for you to bet the flop. You didn’t so now he’d better bet the turn to get some money in. He bets, you call. On the river, either he’s not sure because you called his turn bet and now checks, you lose a small pot, or, he bets believing that he has you beat, and you fold, fairly certain that you’re behind.

What’s the difference between betting the flop verses calling the turn bet? Well, the times that you are ahead, you win the extra turn bet, whereas if you bet the flop, 88 or KQ and a whole host of other possible hands are not going to pay you that extra bet.

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If, based on your reads, you think your opponent likely to be betting the river with 88/89/KQ or whatever, then you can also choose to call his river bet. Calling just the turn bet or calling the turn and river bet you get to showdown more cheaply than if you had bet the flop as well. If, however, it’s a tournament situation and you started with 15 BBs and now have 11 left and you may be committed to seeing the river anyways.

This does not apply if we raise with AK and get an A92 flop. In this case we bet for value, fairly certain that we are ahead and hoping that 98 might call. But wa/wb would apply if we raised from the button in a steal attempt with A3 and got called, as once again we’re behind all other Ace hands.

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