How To Use SPR To Make Decisions

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Levuta says: “Is there any merit in check shoving this turn?”

Let’s check out the spot. This hand is from 2NL online, playing four-handed. There’s a limp from the CO, a raise from the Button, who is a 32/21 over 30 hands. Hero decides to 3Bet, which I’m very happy about. However, I think the size here is going to be the major problem.

The issue here is that the size is really small. Typically I’m going to 3Bet 3x at a minimum, which would mean about $0.30 at a minimum. Against a 32/21, who I’m assuming is not the greatest player in the world, the CO decided to open-limp from essentially the effective UTG. So, I’m also assuming that they’re probably not particularly good, so I’m just going to go to a big size here, totally for value, assuming they’re going to make a lot of mistakes against that size.

I’d really like to see this probably something in the 40-some ballpark and feel really, really comfortable and go from there. Somewhere between 3x to 4x is my typical 3Bet size, and I think larger is definitely going to be fine here, especially against weaker opponents with value hands, that’s the way that I’m typically going to size.

We end up getting called by the Button, go heads up to it, and Hero decides to lead for $0.36.

Okay, before we really jump into this, I want to back up one quick tick and look at the SPR here. We notice there’s about $0.50 in the middle, about a $1.80 effective, and in that situation we’re looking at about 3.5 SPR.

My default when it comes to SPR is that I’m going to default stack off my over pairs, when it’s less than 3 SPR. Between 3 and 6 is kind of my grey zone, and higher than 6, I don’t default stack off. Doesn’t mean I won’t stack off, just means I don’t default have to stack off.

Obviously in this situation we’re in the grey zone, but we’re in the small side of the grey zone. When I’m typically in the grey zone against someone who I deem is a weaker opponent, I’m typically still going to stack off my over pairs. In this situation I see no reason not to do that. I think this is a situation where we can still get it in, feel comfortable, I don’t think we’re only going to be getting it in against things like sets and two pair. If he has a lot of two pair, then he can have things like JT and T9 and maybe he’ll over-value those kind of things.

I’m ultimately feeling very, very comfortable here. My general thought process is I’m going to stack off, it’s just how am I going to stack off? It’s really important that we understand that and get really, really familiar with playing these kinds of SPRs. When we’re in 3 and 4Bet pots, we’re typically going to be somewhere between 3 to 5 SPR online, so it’s really, really important that you know how to handle these situations, what goes into it, how to view, how committed or not committed you are, and then choose a line based upon that.

In this situation, Hero decides to lead out for $0.36. One of the big questions I would ask myself is, “Could I just check here instead?” If we checked, what is the Button going to do?

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I typically assume that there are two kinds of Button players here. There are the more passive ones who are more likely to check behind if we check to them, but would possibly call a bet with something like TT or 88, in which case, that’s going to skew me more toward just leaning into them myself, just like Hero did. Or they’re the kind of Button players who I assume that if I check to them, they’re going to bet their entire range. They’re going to be things like JX, and TT and 9x, and also things like KQ and AQ and those kinds of things. Depending on which kind of player I think Button is, is going to skew me one way or the other.

Now, I think a lot of players are going to fire, if you check to them here. I think they’re going to be pretty much the bulk of their range and they’re just going to put you on a hand like AK or AQ and try to take you off it. In which case, cool! Check, induce a bet from them, and then check shove right in their face.

Again, it’s an SPR where I’m committed, so I’m going to be getting my stack inside one way or another, it’s just how am I going to do it.

I think that if we bet, we may lose hands that would have gladly bet into us, had we checked, if that makes sense. Things like AQ. I think if we decide to bet here, he’s going to fold those a decent chunk of the time. Whereas if I check, I think he’s going to bet those a decent chunk of the time. Obviously if he has a set, whatever, it sucks to be us. If he has big draw, cool, good for him. But again, given the SPR, we’re going to be getting it in, so it’s not a huge deal either way, it’s just how do I maximize against the bulk of his range?

The worst thing you can do is check here against someone who is likely to check behind because you really don’t ever want this flop to go check-check, and then you’re just giving free equity and hell cards and all that kind of stuff. Ultimately, if you feel comfortable, you can go for a check raise, by all means considering going for that.

In this exact situation, Hero decides to bet, gets called, goes to a pretty ugly turn and the big question that he has is, “Is there any merit to check-shoving this turn,” which is exactly what Hero ends up doing.

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To answer the question of: Is there any merit to doing this? I guess again, someone with a very, very specific read on them, like that they’re always going to bet super wide and that you can check raise, get it in, and have an edge, I think typically that’s going to be a little bit odd and tough. Again, this all goes back to pre-flop, because we chose a smaller size, which created an awkward SPR on the flop. Not super awkward by any stretch, but not as good as we would’ve wanted or could’ve otherwise created, I should say.

Then the other thing is the flop line. Yes, it’s default to bet, but I think a check-shove could’ve made a lot of sense there, too.

So because we chose both of those things, smaller size pre-flop and just to bet on the flop instead of check-raising, we found ourselves in this awkward situation and obviously the Kc is a really gnarly card. I’m not super excited about it, but given the SPR, I’m still going to stack.

I don’t think check-shoving is best though, because again, the worst thing that can happen is this turn goes check-check and you’re just giving free equity for days. I don’t really love it because of that risk. I’d honestly just bet the turn myself, and he doesn’t have that much more than a pot-size bet left anyway—if we just back up a couple of ticks, he only has $1.46 and $1.20 pot. So, I would just lead this out for $1 and get it in, if he happens to shove and if he happened to improve? Whatever, sucks to be us.

I don’t know what happened for the rest of the hand, there was nothing else included, so this is as far as I got. Again, is there any merit? Maybe, but again, I don’t really think we should be getting here like this. I think a better pre-flop size and a better flop line definitely makes this turn decision kind of moot because it doesn’t really happen.

So Levuta, thanks for the great hand and hopefully this helps you the next time you find yourself in a similar situation!


My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 500+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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