Q♦T♥ Vs the Button, what do you do here?

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In a live $2-5 game action folds around to you in the Cutoff and you make the table's standard raise to $30 (6BBs). The Button calls and both the Small Blind and Big Blind fold. The flop comes J♦J♥T♣ and action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: In a 100 big blind deep cash game we are Q♦T♥ in the Cutoff seat. Action folds around to us and we make the standard opening raise to 6 big blinds. The Button flat calls and the Blinds fold.

The flop is J♦J♥T♣. We find ourselves in a somewhat common situation with a medium strength made hand that can be very tough to play out of position against tougher opponents who will frequently float and potentially raise our continuation bets.

When deciding to continuation bet we want to consider a variety of factors. The first thing we want to look at is who has the range advantage on the flop. If one player has a significant range advantage over the other, betting will often be preferred with the majority of if not all hands in their range. In this particular spot we opened in the Cutoff and were called by the Button.

Both players connect with this flop fairly well. We certainly have more JJ/TT/AJ type hands in our range since the opponent likely would have reraised preflop with those hands a significant portion of the time. Our opponent's calling range does however include many hands that connect quite well with this flop. While we may have a slight range advantage, it is definitely not significant.

Second, we want to consider position. When we are in position our c-bet frequency can increase because we will be getting more information on every street. Opponents often check to the aggressor on the previous street and we often get the option on the turn and/or river to check back and get a free card or even a free showdown to realize our equity. In this hand we are out of position so when all other things are close against tough opponents we will want to be checking more often.

Continued below...

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Third, we want to consider if protecting our equity in the hand is necessary. When you hear opponents at the table say things like “no free cards” what they are essentially saying is they want to protect their equity in the pot and not allow opponents to catch up. This particular spot is somewhat deceiving. The board is very coordinated which is often an indicator that our range may benefit from protection.

On this board the main draws we are protecting against are 98s and KQ. Against 98s we have one of the queens in our hand which makes completing their draw less likely. Having the queen also makes it less likely our opponent has KQ. Our opponents would likely have reraised us preflop with AK/AQ (and we block some combinations of AQ) so protecting against overcards is less of a concern. Though at first glance our hand looks like it might benefit from protection, all of these smaller factors add up to a situation where protection is less important.

Running this hand through a solver a mixed strategy is preferred consisting of of checking in this spot around 55% of the time and continuation betting small 45% of the time. Many players make the mistake of continuation betting too often in spots like this versus tough opponents.

If you are playing against weaker opposition that will fold anytime they didn’t significantly connect with the flop then by all means you should continuation bet here 100% of the time. Against players who will frequently float and raise continuation bets having hands like Queen Ten offsuit in your checking range with some regularity can significantly improve your win rate.

Checking is the best play.

How would you play it?
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