Texas Hold'em No Limit Advanced

Way Ahead or Way Behind?

8,250 Views 17 Comments on 10/7/12

Am I way ahead of this guy or way behind him?

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What are WAWB Situations?

WAWB stands for “Way Ahead, Way Behind”. It describes a situation where you are either a huge favourite or a huge underdog in a hand, but don't necessarily know which. WAWB situations need to be played carefully – you want to limit your losses when you are way-behind but still make some profit when you are way-ahead.

Let’s look at an example of a WAWB situation - 

MP ($25) CO ($25) UTG ($25) BB ($25) SB ($25) BU ($25)

Pre-flop: Hero is BU with ak

3 folds, Hero raises to $0.75, SB folds, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($1.65) aa4   2 players

SB bets $1, Hero…..

Why is this a way-ahead / way-behind situation?

  • Think about the range of hands villain might call with pre-flop and then donk-bet the flop.
  • He could certainly have some strong value hands. Any Ace beats us because of our kicker issues, and villain could also hold 44 for the flopped boat. Against these hands we are way behind, having little chance to improve to the best hand.
  • Villain might hold some bluff type hands too. Perhaps he might bluff at this pot with hands that have equity against our non-Ace range. Things like KJ/KQ/JQ. He could also be betting certain hands for thin-value/protection – 55-KK which he didn’t want to re-raise pre-flop. Against these hands we are way-ahead.
  • WAWB situations occur most frequently on dry boards where our opponent cannot have many draws.
    • Play Passively in WAWB situations
    • 1 – Facing a Bet

      In the above example we expect to have the best hand a decent amount of the time. So long has villain has a reasonable range of worse hands that he is either bluffing or betting for protection with, we might expect to have around 80% equity. It’s unlikely we’d ever consider outright folding our trip Aces on the flop.

      What if we were to raise? This would be a big mistake – let’s consider why. Imagine you are villain and you have donk-bet this flop. When your opponent raises, which hands will you continue with?

      You’d probably call with most of your Ax hands. If you were convinced you were outkicked you might fold some of the lower Aces….but likely you would continue with AJ+. If you had a hand like 55-KK, you'd probably end up folding, although you could certainly think about bluff-catching from time to time. You would literally only beat bluffs however, seeing as your opponent is not raising worse for value.

      It means hero will have very little equity, perhaps only 20% or so against the range villain is continuing with. By raising hero would have turned a potentially good situation into a very bad one.

      As a general rule you want to play passively in WAWB situations. Facing a bet, your default action should be to flat-call rather than raise. This allows your opponent to proceed with both the way-ahead AND the way-behind part of his range. Raising might cause your opponent to fold the way-behind part of his range and only continue with the hands that have you crushed.

      2 – Facing a Check

      What happens if our opponent doesn’t bet however? We have 2 conflicting rules to think about. We want to bet to extract value from worse, but we also are aware that we should be playing passively. Take a look at the following hand -

      MP ($25)CO ($65)UTG ($25)BB ($25)SB ($25) BU ($50)

      Pre-flop: Hero is BU with ak

      2 folds, CO raises to $0.75, Hero raises to $2.25, 2 folds, CO calls $1.50

      Flop: ($4.85) k42   2 players

      CO checks, Hero checks.

      Why is this a WAWB situation?  

      • Let’s think about the types of hands in villain’s range that might call a 3bet. We don’t know anything about his tendencies but we could estimate that he might call a 3bet with JJ+, AQ+. Some players will happily call with any pocket-pair out of position and a selection of suited connectors, so his range could be a lot wider. Other players may fold JJ,QQ,AQ meaning his range could also be as tight as KK+, AK.
      • Unimproved pocket-pairs below a King are pretty much all way-behind. They have 2 good outs for around 8% equity. If our opponent was calling with suited connectors they have likely missed and have very little equity.
      • Conversely our opponent may be holding 22, 44, KK, AA. These hands are way ahead.
      • So long as our opponent’s range that calls a 3bet out-of-position isn’t super tight (which perhaps it should be), there is a pretty decent chance we have the best hand.

      What if we fire 3 streets for value?

      • Which worse hands do we expect to be calling? A hand like QQ/JJ may call once on the flop, but will have a hard time calling again on the turn – especially in the knowledge that a big river barrel might be coming. Lower pocket pairs and suited connectors may be folding immediately to a c-bet. Maybe once in a while our opponent may show up with KQs/KJs and call down 3 streets – but we don’t necessarily expect these hands to be in his cold-call-3bet-OOP range. Even if he does flop top-pair medium-kicker, facing 3 big barrels makes his hand more or less a bluff catcher. On the contrary if our opponent does have KK,AA, 22, 44 he is obviously never folding, and will quite happily call down 3 barrels.
      • Hopefully we can see that betting 3 streets in this situation would be a mistake, despite expecting to have the best hand quite often on the flop. By the time we reach the river villain will have folded out most (if not all) of his way-behind range, while continuing with his entire way-ahead range.
      • So what is the solution? Either bet less streets or bet smaller. You want to extract as much money from the way-behind part of villain’s range without isolating yourself against the way-ahead part of villains range by representing too much strength.

        Checking back the flop in the #Ac#Kc hand example above has two main advantages:

        1 –Potentially makes our range look weaker in villain's mind, making him think his way-behind hand eg.QQ/JJ is good more often. It is also easier for villain to call 2 streets on the turn/river than it is to call 2 streets on the flop/turn. This is because on the river villain is closing the action, while on the turn he has to be worried about a large 3rd barrel on the river.

        2 –Gives villain a chance to bluff the turn and river with part of his air range that can never call - eg suited connectors. We’d rather be calling than betting in these WAWB situations. If villain checks to us again on the turn, we should usually start going for value.


        MP ($25) CO ($25)UTG ($25)BB ($25)SB ($25) BU ($25)

        Pre-flop: Hero is BU with ak

        2 folds, CO raises to $0.75, Hero raises to $2.25, 2 folds, CO calls $1.50

        Flop: ($4.85) kk2  CO checks, Hero checks.

        Turn: ($4.85) 4

        CO checks, Hero bets $3, CO calls $3

        River: ($11.85) 2

        CO checks, Hero bets $7.50, CO calls.

        Hero shows ak, Kings and Two's, and wins the pot $26.85

        CO mucks qq, Queens and Fours.

        Hero could also have chosen to bet very small on all 3 streets and possibly still extract value from worse.


        The next time you hit the tables, be on the lookout for WAWB situations and try not to make plays which cause villain to fold out his way-behind range. Aggression is a key tactic in winning poker, but sometimes it is correct to take more passive lines.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a range of educational content ( ... Read More


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Feldheimer1on 19/12/17

Hi Adam (and everyone else) In the first part, what do you mean that you have kicker issues with the AK? Surely it's our opponent who will have the issues in that spot?


giantpokeron 28/8/17

Very helpful


ayylmao1993on 10/7/16

Great article, but a lot of mistakes/typos. AK can never be outkicked, and is only beat by A4 or 44 in the first example.also BB bets $1, not SB since he has folded. Example 3 CO would show/muck kings and queens rather than kings and fours. Hope this helps


FierceProPlayeron 27/5/16

The conclusion makes sense! Tks!


Manheuseron 14/12/15

Two comments regarding the first example. First, SB has already folded, I think you meant BB bets $1. Second, how does any ace beat AK? The only other ace that wins is A4 in that example.


SDeakon 23/1/16



Manheuseron 14/12/15



Andemiton 10/11/15

Brilliant article. Im installing it into brain right away :)


Andemiton 10/11/15

CO mucks kings and queens, not fours


Martinoon 3/3/15

Very good article something to definitely think about in the hand


jongordon84on 6/11/14

Very helpful. I'm often finding myself value betting postflop, being called all the way, only to find I was way behind all along. Guess I need to read the situation better.


christhehead191on 2/11/14

Good read very useful tips


alexg89on 12/10/14

Nice article, this is something every player should have in hes mind, specially if I may add in MW pots. Example from today, I raise pocket 1010 from UTG and get 2 callers ( LAG and TAG ) and flop 10hKhAc. I`ve choose to check and see what happens, ofc I am never folding a set on flop, but board is so wet and turn/river could easily ruin everything. This article should be connected with Pot Control article too.


w34z3lon 15/9/14

Thaks a lot guys!


UKGRRiton 15/9/14

great article. I'm grateful for every written or spoken bit of info provided by a poker pro, as it helps me tremendously to advance in the beautiful game. thx Adam


othd13on 29/7/14

very like this article. after use it, i feel i win more :D


Jon-PokerVIPon 3/12/13

Fantastic article. I think this is something everyone thinks without really knowing it. Playing accordingly is a must. Great strategy to use. What do you guys think?

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