Many live poker rooms run a variety of promotions to get players into the casino and grinding long hours. While these promotions range from bad beat jackpots (BBJ) to high hand promotions to drawings and lucky seat promotions, they all have the same goal: keep butts in the chair and cards in the air.
But the most important question is should you adjust your strategy at all when these promotions are active? So let’s explore that through the lens of this question:
“My live room runs several high-hand and BBJ promotions that induce players to call with much wider ranges preflop. How should I play in this kind of game?”
In rooms that run high-hand or BBJ promotions, or any similar promotion that encourages action, it is common to see players adding extra hands into their preflop ranges. Before you start adding the same hands into your own ranges, make sure to read this entire article.
Since a BBJ qualifier is usually “quads beaten by straight flush”, you will typically see players add two major hand types into their ranges:
- They take pocket pairs to the flop more often in an attempt to quad-mine
- They take more suited connectors/gappers to the flop to try and hit the straight flush vs quads
For high-hand promotions, which vary massively in terms of qualifiers and payouts, it is not uncommon for players to try and see any flop. They are just trying to smash a big flop, but just end up playing too loose and either a.) playing too fit-or-fold postflop or b.) getting sticky with too many weak hands postflop.
Both mistakes are easy to identify and easy to exploit.
How Should You Play During Promotions?
Given the assumption that this game plays looser than normal, you might first think that tightening up and playing straight forward is best. Truth be told, that strategy is profitable and easy – but not always optimal.
For instance, if you find one or two players who need to see every flop but they play fit-or-fold if they do not flop a BBJ candidate (and this applies whether it’s a normal or progressive jackpot fwiw) – there is a tremendous opportunity to play extra hands preflop and fire CBs relentlessly. This exploits the gap between the hands that see the flop and the hands that continue against a bet.
If you find one or two players who need to see every flop but they also need to see the turn to ensure they whiffed a BBJ candidate – there is still tremendous opportunity. In this dynamic make sure to barrel often and watch all of those hands that “had to see the turn” melt away to yet another bet.
But not every game will play like this.
I have played in many high-hand games where nearly every hand was a limped family pot. In these games I become the player they hate. I start attacking those limped pots preflop, and for large sizes. This applies maximum pressure and makes them really decide if T7s is worth limp/calling preflop.
This strategy will not always work with weaker hands. Sometimes the players really do need to see the flop, and refuse to fold to large isolation raises – and worse, multiple players are doing it at the same time. If that is the case, make sure to attack those limpers with large preflop raise sizes when you have monsters and consider limping behind with the marginal hands and using your postflop skillset instead of forcing action preflop when there is not enough fold equity to mash hands like KTo through the pot.
What About Postflop?
As a default, stick to your normal postflop plan. If most flops are multi-way, veer away from firing bluff CBs without a clear profit plan. And since most pots in this game will be multi-way, you really need to focus on when to stab and when to just check and hope to get a free card.
One of the biggest questions I get about postflop in these games is “should I be slowing playing?”
I do not suggest slow playing in most situations.
The rare situations where your opponent has a BBJ-candidate combo in their range would likely give you action whether you fast or slow play. So rather than focus on a single combo in their range – focus on the other 98% of their range and get money from those hands as well.
Will fast-playing sometimes force them to fold out a hand that would have otherwise hit runner-runner perfect for the BBJ? Sure. Will it be often enough to worry about it? Not even close considering many players will still draw for at least the first part of the runner-runner anyway!
Should You Play Hands That Can Hit The Jackpot?
Going back to preflop, should you also be trying to see more flops with the primary goal of winning a promotion? Here are three common spots and my reasoning for them:
Quad-Mining In A Re-Raised Pot Preflop
You raise with 77 preflop, your opponent 3bets, and you are deciding if you should call the 3bet. When the BBJ is active most players will call with the rationale “I could win the BBJ!” Well, how is that going to happen?
Most rooms use a “quads beaten by straight flush” qualifier. This means you not only need to get quads, but your opponent needs to hit a straight flush at the same time. Besides the fact that you normally only get half the BBJ when this happens (and do not forget Uncle Sam wants his cut of that too)…consider your opponent’s range. Did they 3bet a ton of hands that could hit straight flushes? Or did they realistically only 3bet hands like AKs that have straight flush possibilities?
Even if they happen to 3bet many combos that could hit straight flushes, you need extremely specific boards to come up – and of course those are very rare. And the lower your pair, the more often your improvement cards reduce the likelihood of your opponent being able to hit their straight flush.
So while you do get a slight bump in EV by trying to quadmine for the BBJ, it is almost never enough of a bump to deviate from your normal solid preflop poker checklist & strategy when facing a 3bet and holding a marginal pocket pair.
Playing More Suited Gappers Preflop
There are plenty of spots where you should already be playing suited connectors and suited gappers. But adding these hands into your range in -EV spots (like from early position or calling huge preflop 3bets) thinking that the BBJ is going to make them +EV is where players get in trouble.
Again, you need very specific boards and your opponents to have very specific combos to hit a BBJ. And in most BBJ situations, having the straight flush is worth between 20-25% of the BBJ (before Uncle Sam gets his cut, of course).
Given the rarity of the BBJ hitting, it is not going to be a big enough incentive to offset -EV plays.
For instance, you might see players frequently calling 3bets and getting involved in small SPR pots with medium suited connectors. These plays are typically -EV and the BBJ will not make them worthwhile. The same thing with drawing to any backdoor straight flush draw on small-medium SPR flops. The added increase in BBJ-value almost never offsets already losing plays.
Playing Any Hand During High-Hand Promotions
During high-hand promotions, it is not uncommon to see players trying to see 100% of flops with the hopes of hitting a high hand that often times is only valued at a few hundred bucks. High-hand promotions are based solely on the final-hand strength where full houses rarely win, quads normally win, and straight flushes are almost mandatory for busy cards rooms that have long-period high-hands.
Again, you will win it rarely and winning the promotion almost never offsets the -EV of playing the hand. Especially when it comes to calling preflop raises and 3bets with junky hands – you will perform better by defaulting to your normal strategy and ranges than by trying to win a small high-hand promotion.
And The Final Answer Is…
Most of this advice boils back to the simple statement that the extra EV of the promotion rarely offsets the value lost by making -EV plays. You can take advantage of other players who fall for the trap of thinking these promotions make their -EV plays worthwhile though. Look to attack them with raises and apply pressure to players who just want to try and see cheap flops. Use aggression to exploit players who refuse to fold preflop, but are playing fit-or-fold postflop.
And whatever you do, do not fall into the trap of trying to play every hand preflop in hopes of hitting a promotion. Let your opponents make that mistake instead!
Did you like this article? This is actually a complete chapter from my book Unfolding Poker which answers questions that I get from players just like you. Grab your copy today and get even more answers on everything from when should I fold overpairs to how do I put fish on a range?