C-Bet Exploits Out-Of-Position

In this post, we’ll look into exploitative strategies for flop c-bets out of position on a dynamic board. We’ll find that the best strategy greatly changes depending on the type of opponent we’re playing against. We’ll look at how a GTO strategy will mostly be checking, but that while c-betting is bad against a strong player who knows how to respond correctly, c-betting is actually better than GTO against a weak player who plays “fit or fold”. These exploits lead to massive EV differences of up to 6BB per single hand in both directions.

Often times, people say they don’t study theory but instead play “exploitatively”. This post will show that solvers can often times be the best way to understand exploitative play by using “node locking”, where at certain decision points, we lock the solver to play how we imagine our opponent actually plays rather than a GTO strategy. We’ll see how that against some common playing styles, we want to do the opposite of what we would do at equilibrium.

The spot we’re looking at is a tournament 50BB game with a BB ante where we raise in early position, middle position calls, the blinds fold, and the flop comes 962 with a flush draw.

At equilibrium, we come very close to checking all our hands. If instead, we c-bet often, we can be heavily punished by a good player who floats us and raises us light. However against a weak player who plays “fit or fold”, c-betting will print money and do far better than checking.

Let’s look at our range in OOP. This is a pretty standard early position raise first in range at 50BB with a BB ante:

oop preflop range

The in position range is tougher to determine. In this case, we assume they’re mostly 3-betting AA-KK and AKs and sometimes 3-betting hands some hands in the flatting range..

ip preflop range

Here’s the OOP equilibrium strategy on the flop. As you can see, we should be more or less checking range.

oop unlocked strategy

Let’s look at the EV of this strategy. Let’s zoom in on our big overcards - the suited and offsuit broadway combos. As we can see, they are doing quite poorly, with hands like QTs capturing 1579 chips of this 6500 chip pot on average.

oop ev unlocked

Now even though the solver almost always checks out of position on this board, many players will c-bet this more frequently. In the past, c-betting was often tied to the concept of a “betting lead”, where since you raised preflop you continue to represent strength with a bet on the flop. However, the “betting lead” concept does not exist in the solver.

Let’s look at what happens when do lead with a bet for 75% pot instead of checking. Our opponent will call with all flush draws. They will also call us with almost any pair, except for folding some combos of 77 and 88 without a spade. They should also call with all combos of AK, and importantly, some combos of backdoor flush draws.

I think it’s fair to say that almost every player will call our bet with flush draws and overpairs. However, many people might pure fold hands like KJs of diamonds, which is just overcards and a backdoor flush draw and backdoor straight draw.

What happens if we lock the solver to no longer continue with the double-backdoor + overcards hands? Suddenly we go from wanting to check range to wanting to do significant betting:

oop when too tight

Now that our opponent is overfolding on the flop, our own suited broadways with backdoors go from pure checks to mostly bets. Let’s look at an even more extreme example, where now the in-position player even folds the AK high hands, which some players might do.

Now, out-of-position goes from range checking to range betting, checking less than 2% of the time!

oop strat vs big overfold

Not only does out-of-position go from range checking to range betting, their EV increases from 2800 to 3300.

What does this tell us? If you think your opponent is folding too much such as hands with double backdoor draws, you should be betting instead of checking. If you think they require pair or flush draw to continue, you should be range betting.

Now, let’s look at it from the other player’s perspective. What happens if know our opponent is range c-betting, even though at equilbrium he should be checking?

First, for comparison, let’s look at the in-position strategy at equilbrium. As you can see, in-position is mostly calling, raising with a few sets and very few bluffs with suited aces.

ip response unlocked

Compare that to in-position’s response if out-of-position is range betting. Now we see pure raise with big pairs and lots more bluff-raising, especially with hands like QJs that can make good bluffs if they turn an open-ender.

ip response vs range bet

What’s perhaps more interesting than the strategic response is OOP EV once IP adjusts correctly. Now, their EV is down to only 2117 chips from the 2800 chips at equilibrium - a massive loss.

oop ev when locked to range bet

As we can see, if IP adjusts correctly, OOP is heavily punished by range betting with the suited broadway hands doing far worse than they did by checking. Hands like ATo would be better off as an open fold then being range bet as part of this strategy.

Let’s summarize the EV of different strategies on this board:

  • At equilibrium , OOP is almost always checking and captures 2800 of the 6500 chip pot
  • If in-position folds too many hands like KJs of diamonds (overcards, backdoor flush, backdoor straight), then OOP can start betting much more frequently. If in-position only calls with a pair, flush draw, or better and folds hands like, OOP can range-bet and raise its EV from 2800 to 3300.
  • If out-of-position starts range c-betting, IP can exploit this by raising more hands including both value such as big pairs and bluffs such as his own own backdoor draws, which reduces out of position EV all the way down to 2100.


I find this spot very interesting, because it highlights an interesting aspect of the poker “meta” evolving. In the 2000s, c-betting was associated with the “betting lead”, so out-of-position would likely frequently c-bet this spot. As we’ve been able to study solvers, we’ve learned that c-betting is more often a reflection of range advantage and positional advantage, and since OOP has neither in this spot, OOP should be checking, not betting.

In the 2000s, people were more likely to play “fit-or-fold” postflop. Against someone who is folding too many hands on the flop, the old-school style of heavy c-betting actually is significantly better than the GTO strategy. But if in-position realizes that out-of-position is c-betting too much, they can punish those c-bets with heavy raising balanced with both value and bluffs, which swings the heavy c-betting strategy from far better than equilibrium to far worse than equilibrium.

Key Takeaways

  • At equililbrium, out-of-position can range check a very dynamic board against the strong flatting range of in-position
  • Against a c-bet, in-position should continue wide with all AK, almost all pairs, and many backdoor draws
  • If in-position plays “fit-or-fold”, out-of-position can range c-bet and unlock massive value
  • If out-of-position does range c-bet, in-position can counter-exploit with heavy raising and swing the massive value in the other direction
  • Pay close attention to your opponent’s c-bet frequencies and c-bet defend frequencies, as both open the door to exploits that lead to hundreds of BB per 100

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