Continuation Betting & Variable Ratio Reinforcement

Randomization is in the cards
What follows is an excerpt from Jeff’s books, Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha Volume II: LAG Play and The Short-Handed Workbook.

You want to discourage your opponents from check-raising you when you have taken the preflop initiative, while encouraging them to bet when they flop strong and check when they don’t. And in order to do so, you reinforce the “no check-raise” and “bet when they have it, check when they don’t” behaviors by checking behind from time to time; how often depends on the opponent.

A 20 percent reinforcement schedule might look like this:

Continuation-Betting: Variable-Ratio Reinforcement Schedule (Illustration Only)

Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Check
Bet
Check
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Check
Bet
Bet
Check
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Bet
Check
Bet

Note that the schedule is for illustration purposes only; I’m not saying that 20 percent is the magic number, but that this is what a 20 percent variable-ratio reinforcement (VRR) schedule might look like. But the question is, how exactly would you go about applying such a schedule in real life?

The answer is in the cards.

VRR in Practice: Built-In Randomization is in the Cards
There’s a key point to be made in all of this, and it is that randomizing your game doesn’t mean that you play randomly. It doesn’t mean that you look at your watch and base your playing decisions on the position of the second hand, or that you bet four times and then check once, or whatever.

The key to randomizing your game is simply that you don’t play every flop the same way every time, while at least giving the appearance that you can hit most any flop hard.

The appearance part is related to starting-hand selection, which I will discuss in a minute. But there is a built-in mechanism for randomizing our play, and it is that flops are inherently random. In other words, the flop is different every time, because that is what happens when you deal three random cards out of a deck. Meanwhile, we have a different answer for every given flop, depending on what we hold in our hand.

Let’s take a 9Club Suit

Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit 7Diamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit 3Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit flop, for example. The situation is standard; you open with a raise from the button and only the big blind calls, and the SPR [stack-to-pot ratio] is greater than 8. On the flop, your opponent checks to you. You hold any one of a group of hands with which you might have opened from the button.

What do you do?

Here’s how I approach it:

Some of the decisions are fairly clear-cut, while some are somewhat player-dependent. For example, I am almost certainly betting the strong hands: JClub Suit

Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit 10Diamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit 9Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 8Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit for top pair with a 13-card nut wrap and a flush draw; 10Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 10Diamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit 9Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 9Diamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit for top set; and AClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit ADiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit JSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 2Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit for an overpair and the nut-flush draw. These are hands that I will not fold to a check-raise.

I am most likely checking KSpade Suit

Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit QDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit JSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 10Diamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit for a nut gutshot but no flush draw, having hit a pivot card (the 9Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit) that could lead to a wrap on the turn, as well as a fistful of overcards. This hand has a lot of potential value that I would lose if I were to bet and get check-raised, in which case I would most likely have to fold. I also am likely checking KDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit QClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit JClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit 2Heart SuitHeart SuitHeart SuitHeart SuitHeart Suit for a non-nut flush draw, as it has some value that I would lose if I were to bet and get check-raised, and then most likely have to fold.

The other two hands — AHeart Suit

Heart SuitHeart SuitHeart SuitHeart Suit KSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit QDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond SuitDiamond Suit 9Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit for top pair and overcard improvers, and 7Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 6Heart SuitHeart SuitHeart SuitHeart SuitHeart Suit 5Spade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade SuitSpade Suit 4Club SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub SuitClub Suit for middle pair and a sucker wrap — are fairly player-dependent. I would go ahead and bet these hands against weaker, more predictable opponents, but might check them back against trickier opponents for pot-control purposes.

So, you can see how the variable ratio would change depending on the opposition, as I would bet five out of these seven hands against a weaker opponent, but might bet only three and check four against a trickier opponent. You also can see how our play on any given flop is naturally randomized by the cards that we hold in our hands.

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