Get To Grips With Way Ahead-Way Behind WAWB Spots
Way ahead and way behind spots come up in poker often enough that you really need to have a good handle on them. They are quite self-explanatory – they are simply situations where you have a hand that is far superior or far inferior to your opponents. Unlike many other poker hands, WAWB spots mean either you or your opponent have little to no chance of improving to the best hand. Unfortunately how to play WAWB spots is not that simple.
This article will show you examples to help you identify spots where you are either way ahead or way behind and introduce you to some strategy to help you play through these tough spots.
Way Ahead Way Behind – Examples
Imagine you have raised it up with As6c and have one caller. The flop is Ad7s3h. This is a very typical WAWB spot. You have a very weak top pair, so any other pair your opponent has is way behind and if they have top pair or better you are way behind with little chance of catching up.
These spots are almost lose-lose situations. In that if you bet out and are way ahead your opponent will fold and you winning nothing. On the other hand if you bet out and are called you’re essentially lighting money on fire because you have very little chance of improving to the best hand.
Now imagine you are facing an early position raise and look down at AA, you opt to three bet and get called. The flop is K99 rainbow and your opponent checks to you. You fire out a c-bet and your opponent raises you. This is another WAWB spot. If you are behind already you have two outs (the two remaining Aces) and if you are ahead your opponent has at most two outs.
Way Ahead Way Behind – How To Play
The reason many poker players struggle with WAWB spots is because the strategy required is counter intuitive to the normal strategy they employ. Many players like to be aggressive and betting and raising for the most part is better than checking and calling. However, in WAWB spots the last thing you want to do is inflate the pot.
We have already established that putting money in when behind is like lighting it on fire because you have close to zero equity in the hand and betting when ahead is pointless because your opponent will just fold.
This means the way to play WAWB spots is passively – you need to pot control. Once you have identified you are in a WAWB spot you need to go into checking and calling mode rather than betting and raising mode.
Let’s go back to the first example above. You have A6 on an A73 board. If your opponent checks to you - just check back. Giving a free card isn’t dangerous here because you have established your opponent has very few outs, so by checking back the flop you could induce bluffs on the turn. Or maybe your opponent thinks he can bet for value with his 88-JJ now you have checked the flop.
In the second example you have pocket Aces and are facing a check raise on a K99 flop. The last thing you want to do now is to re-raise again. This will let your opponent fold everything except the hands that are beating you. With that action your opponent will easily fold a K and all their bluffs. So let’s say you call the flop check raise and now your opponent checks again on the turn. Sure, this could mean he is weak and was just bluffing on the flop. There is still absolutely no reason to bet here. If you check behind you achieve one of a number of things.
First of all you could have avoided your opponent going for a second check raise if they had a monster – now you can get to showdown much cheaper and lose the minimum in a cooler situation. Second of all, if your opponent was bluffing on the flop then betting would only get them to fold the turn. By checking they could read you for being weak and convince themselves to bet the river as a bluff. By playing passively and checking and calling you either save a bet when you’re behind or gain a bet when you’re ahead.
Way Ahead Way Behind – Be Certain
As stated earlier, in general betting and raising is better than checking and calling, so before you slip into passive poker be sure you are in a WAWB spot otherwise the consequences could be dire. If the flop is wet or draw heavy (typically boards with connected cards or two or more cards of the same suit) it’s hard to put yourself in a WAWB spot. Reason being that draws are always in your opponents range, so it is often better to bet to get value from the draws in your opponents range than to give free cards and let them outdraw you for free.