Zoom: Playing OOP on the Flop as the Preflop Aggressor

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In this article, we’re going to take a look at how our range looks like on the flop as well as planning for the turn and river.

In 6-max ZOOM, we need to be very aware of our default strategies and standard lines. To do this, we need to know what OUR range looks like and balance it in a way that is both optimal and unexploitable.

In other words, we want to make ourselves defensible but also have a balanced strategy that is adaptable in today’s ZOOM games.

This may seem difficult at first, at least it was when I first starting thinking about it. But to make things easier, I’ll break things down into sub ranges, or “range containers”, and provide some examples along the way.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BALANCE

But first, I want to talk about balance. If we’ve discovered a highly exploitable leak from our opponent, balance isn’t all that important, at least on the surface.

In this case, we just want to hammer them JUST ENOUGH to the point where they don’t adjust. Because if they do, then we get into a leveling war and our exploitative strategy goes out the window.

Against thinking opponents, however, most notably those who play a similar strategy as us, we need real balance.

So in regards to building a flop strategy, this refers to having a balanced ratio of bluffs to value hands when we bet that makes our opponent indifferent to calling with a wider range than normal.

And when we opt to check the flop, we do so with a balanced amount of check/folds, check/calls and check/raises that make villain indifferent to stabbing with his air (bluffs).

So when I mentioned range containers earlier, this is what I meant. We start with a decision tree on the flop where we either bet, check/call, check/fold, or check/raise.

FLOP RANGE CONTAINERS

These are the containers. Now we just need to fill them with hand ranges to build our perfectly balanced flop strategy.

Keep in mind though that this article isn’t supposed to be super comprehensive where I provide every balanced line for every situation.

That would take forever and they have simulation programs for that. Therefore, you will surely need to take what you’ve learned here and work through it on your own.

Applying the theory on your own is the best way to learn and improve. And, of course, it also weeds out the lazy cunts who just want answers.

BET FLOP STRATEGY

As the aggressor preflop, meaning we raised before the flop, we can choose to bet or check. If we bet, we want to do so with a balanced range unless we know villain is folding worse with a high frequency.

You should already know that there are really only two reasons to bet: to get value from a worse hand or to make a better hand fold. There’s also betting for protection, but that’s more of an extension of a value bet.

So when deciding to bet for value, we should be thinking about how many streets of value is best. Will we bet turn and check/call rivers as a bluff catcher? Or do we want to try to get the money in by the river and just bet, bet, bet? Always have a plan.

When we bet as a bluff, we’re doing so to take advantage of our fold equity when villain’s range is perceived as less than strong.

Will our flop c-bet be one and done? Or is it +EV to double or triple barrel bluff? Think about villain’s range, and again, always have a plan.

Say we have T8 on J72. We don’t want to check/call because we only have Ten-high with only 4 outs to improve. We don’t want to check/fold either because, hey, we can still make a nutted hand.

So betting here is our best option. Betting allows us to pick up fold equity and be able to realize equity when called, should we make our hand on the turn or river.

Additionally, this isn’t the kind of board where we’re going to get raised very much at all by any halfway competent player. It’s a dry board, and any hand that continues, such as Jx, 7x, 99, etc. is going to be vulnerable to over cards.

CHECK/FOLD FLOP STRATEGY

In this situation, we are the aggressor preflop and we’re playing the flop out of position.

Against a weak-passive player who folds something like 73% to c-bets, we don’t have to be as balanced and can just fire one off with a big portion of our range and expect to take it down more than enough to be profitable.

But let’s say the board connects well with villain’s preflop calling range and we have a hand with minimal equity when called. Say we have 33 and the board is QT8, where villain’s range contains a lot of broadway combos that will continue versus a c-bet.

If we bet here, we’re just asking to be exploited because our c-bet frequency is way too wide. While it’s true that our range can also hit that board, our opponent will continue here often.

Therefore, we’ll mostly likely need to keep betting and hope he’s on a draw or to make him fold a better hand. If it seems like spew, it’s because it is.

So when looking at our range containers in this example, a check/fold is going to be our best decision. Betting, check/calling, or check/raising are just not good options.

CHECK/CALL FLOP STRATEGY

So when should we check/call as the preflop aggressor? This one’s a bit tricky but doing so with the right frequency can make our opponent indifferent to betting with a wide range when we decline to c-bet.

If we have a check/fold range, we need to balance it out with something because we can’t ALWAYS check/fold. Why you ask?

Because if we don’t, villain can just stab with an insanely high frequency and print money. This is exactly what we want to avoid and the reason for building a balanced strategy to begin with.

So we need to have a check/call range, and to some degree a check/raise range as well, to balance out the times we check/fold.

Deciding to check/call can make a lot of sense when we have medium strength hands with decent showdown value, especially when villain’s range contains a lot of air and he’s likely to bet.

Of course we’re never check/calling turns and rivers 100% of the time because that would be absurd. But again, we should do so a balanced amount and in a way that makes villain’s betting range indifferent.

CHECK/RAISE FLOP STRATEGY

This isn’t a situation that will come up often, and to be honest, isn’t really necessary, but I still feel it should be included. Again, balance is important, so check/raising should be done with a very polarized range.

With our nutted hands, check/raising as the preflop aggressor makes sense when villain is both likely to bet when we check AND continue with worse. Otherwise, betting or check/calling are better.

As a bluff, we’re going to want some equity when called. So if we’re getting a bad price to check/call flop with a draw, check/raising can make sense when fold equity exists.

Still, it’s really difficult to find enough value combos to distribute evenly with our bluffs to balance out our check/raise strategy. This is the reason I said it’s unnecessary, but I at least wanted to provide some logic should you decide to use it.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Ok to recap, we’re going to bet a polarized range of both strong hands and draws, as well as air that contain some kind of equity to improve when called, such as AhQh on Js8d3h.

Here we have air, but we also have two over cards and 6 outs to improve versus most one-pair hands, as well as backdoor straight and flush draws.

We’re going to check/call with hands that have good showdown value, especially when villain has a wide stabbing range. Sometimes we call and check/fold the turn. Sometimes we check/call all three streets. Remember, it’s all about balance and making our opponent indifferent.

And finally, we’re going to check/fold our lowest equity hands that have minimal potential to improve, such as small pocket pairs (only two outs) on high-card connected boards.

For practice, start with your preflop range in certain spots and look at how each hand stacks up on various boards. Then divide your range into a bet, check/call or check/fold container. Rinse and repeat.

Once you get the hang of it, start thinking about how you will play certain turns and rivers, all the while remaining balanced in a way that makes our opponent indifferent to our actions.

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Postflop automation now possible

Ever get confused postflop?

Improvising is a bad idea and will cost you a lot of money over the long run.

If you don’t know what to do with specific hands, or don’t have your system memorized, this could help.

It’s meant for ZOOM games specifically, but applies to cash games in general also.