When we’ve got a made hand on a wet board, one strategy to employ is betting for protection. This means that we’re worried about our opponent out-drawing us, getting a better hand on a later street, and stealing the pot out from under us.
Essentially, the goal is to make a bet that gives our opponent the wrong pot-odds to call us. That way they can’t just keep getting free or cheap chances to finish their straight or flush. Either they fold and we win the pot on the spot, or they make a call with bad odds and we win chips in the long run.
Just be sure not to pay off the draw when it comes in!
How to Bet for Protection
Let’s say you’ve got a hand like ATo and the flop comes T97 with two suits. We have a marginal hand with top pair top kicker, but our opponent could easily have a flush or straight draw that, if it gets there, can easily beat a pair of tens.
Maybe they have 25% equity. The key here is to refuse to let them to realize that portion of their equity by making a bet that’s big enough to get them out of the pot. This aggressive play converts their portion of equity directly into your stack.
That doesn’t mean we need to bomb the pot or rip it all in. After all, we can’t ever be certain that they have a draw—they very well could have a better hand that beats us. However, if we can put them on a range that includes plenty of draws, then we want to bet big enough to push out the draws. After that, we can reassess the board and our position in the hand.
What Comes Next?
One of two things will happen next: either our opponent will put chips into the pot, or they won’t. If they fold, then congratulations. You win.
However, if they call or raise, then we need to proceed with caution. Betting for protection isn’t a pure value bet—we don’t want to be called all the time. They could have us dead on the spot, or they could be hoping for their card to come down the road.
If the next card comes and completes the draw, then we really need to watch out. We don’t want to let them make good on their implied odds, so we should probably fold to a bet unless we have a reason to keep going.