published about 5 years ago
I’m chilling at Logan airport in boston waiting for my flight to leave for the British Virgin Islands (supposedly paradise), and so i’m going to write a little bit about why I think 3-betting is overused.
Essentially, I think 3-betting is something that average players do to make money. It probably nets a slight profit vs the field. I want to introduce the theory with a story. One of the younger guys in my house at Dartmouth is a grinder, playing the .50/1 no limit games on Full Tilt. He asked if he could come sweat a 5/10 session sometime, to which I happily agreed–sorry to my paying students, but if you went to Dartmouth and hung out you’d probably get free coaching too. Anyways, after watching me play for an hour, he couldn’t stop commenting on how often I opted to flat call preflop as opposed to 3-betting. I hadn’t really thought about it that much as my game evolved, but looking back at my progression as a player gives pretty good insight into the ideas behind 3-betting.
Back in t goddammit i wrote this whole thing out and my computer deleted it and now I have to enter it again. wtf i’m going to finish this later sooo tilting argh.
Allow me to resume, this time on Little Apple Bay in Tortola. I’m much more relaxed now, haha.
Back in the day, when I started cruising in the 2/4 games on FT just after the legislation, 3-bet/c-bet was the bomb. I was basically a terrible poker player, and yet I was crushing the 2/4 games on FT just be 3betting light and then cbetting. People responded terribly. My conclusion is thus that when people respond terribly, c-betting light is a great deal.
What does it mean to respond badly to 3betting?
1) Playing loose passive pf and then playing passively (fit/fold) postflop. The number 1 money killer there is.
2) Playing too tight preflop and getting run over/being predictable.
So, if somebody is doing either of these two, by all means, 3-bet the hell out of them.
However, the games have changed since then. People are starting to know better than to just get abused like that. They’ve realized that they have two great options vs a light 3better; first, they can call in position and bluff/semibluff flops vs someone who c-bet too often. More importantly, they realized that 4-betting is an incredibly powerful tool with regards to leverage (remind me to make a post about leverage later, cause i’m happy to).
Most importantly, its not hard to realize that PF is the easiest street to play. The more money that goes in PF, the less we can play postflop, which means that the skill edges are lessed. In fact, if you 4-bet with the right frequences, somebody who 3-bets you too much is probably eliminating any chance at a winrate he might have otherwise had. For example, lets say I’m playing 2/4. I raise to 14, light 3-better 3-bets to 48. If I successfully 4bet once ever 3 or 4 times i get 3-bet, I’m breaking even. However, players who 3-bet too much often make big mistakes when they get 4bet a few times, like shoving AQ or worse into a range thats entirely polarized (stuff that folds to the 5bet shove or stuff that snaps and destroys). Even if they don’t make big mistakes, though, they still aren’t making any money–they’re just being obnoxious.
To further my point, i want to turn to D. Sklansky’s book about Tournament NLHE, in which he pioneers “the system”. He’s challenged to come up with a way for a casino manager’s wife, who’s never played poker, to succeed in a tournament. Sklansky’s plan is to play push/fold for the entire tournament, starting with only AA in the early rounds, and ending with SC’s, any A, etc. at later rounds. It turns out to be reasonably successful.
The point is this: By putting in too much money pf too often, you’re actually reducing your ability to win money via a skill advantage. This can be difficult to see however, as the mental reinforcement of winning more often than losing (I.E. guy 3-bets me 3 times, makes 42 dollars, I 4bet him once, make 48 dollars, he still feels like he’s winning more even though I’m now up). Ignore that “winning pots is good” mentality, and focus on the “winning money is better” mentality. I need to credit Jman (phil galfond) with that last idea, as I read it from some things he’s written.
Another good thing to think about when you’re trying to decide whether or not to 3-bet pf is the value of your hand. For example, lets say lagtag UTG raises to 21 in a 3/6 game. If you’re OTB with 55, 3betting is probably slightly +EV. However, it’s clear that calling and hoping to spike a set is far more +EV. Poker’s not just focused on making good decisions, its focused on making the BEST decision. So, I usually 3-bet with hands that either have huge value (JJ+, AK, etc.) or hands that have very minimal value to call a raise (J5s, 82s, even A6s, or hands like AT).
However, there is one reason that is basically ALWAYS legitimate to 3-bet, regardless of holding. Image. If you have no image (what some would call a tight image), you’re not gonna get paid off. In fact, you’re going to play an ABC game that just shuffles money with you and the other midstakes regulars. There just aren’t enough fish to make ABC work as well as it used to. However, I still prefer even then to only 3bet with really strong or really weak hands. I can focus on creating my image postflop with hands like JTs, and focus on creating my image preflop with hands like J3s.
Another good time to 3-bet hands with a lot of postflop value is in a deepstacked spot when you’re in position, but that’s a discussion from another day.
Much love from Tortola
Mmm. Excellent article.
I think that if you're playing at stakes where you feel as though you have a big skill advantage over the competition, flatcalling raises and playing post-flop is one way to maximise your edge. Furthermore, I think it will also reduce your variance as you'll be playing smaller pots and playing postflop where you have more information and therefore the opponent hand ranges are narrower.
Having said that, 3betting and the subsequently necessary 4betting is a useful tool to have, and some people definitely struggle to adjust to it... So I guess it depends on what you see your skill advantage as being - postflop or preflop play?
like shoving AQ or worse into a range thats entirely polarized (stuff that folds to the 5bet shove or stuff that snaps and destroys).
well you win nearly half a buyin the times you get them to fold
and AQ still has decent equity vs a range like JJ+ AK
risking $350 with 30% equity in a $800 pot is -110, but if you get a fold from the 4better you win 150-180 or so depending on 4bet size, so 38-42% folds = breakeven for a hand like AQ, so it can easily swing back in the face of the 4better if they get out of line too much
If you think about it, all winning poker is about making your opponent make more mistakes and bigger mistakes.
The way the estimable Mr. Whale describes those who respond poorly to three betting, they're making a large number of relatively small errors. It's relatively easy to come up with--or be told--a decent three betting range against various types of players so even relatively unskilled players like myself can take advantage of the worse players this way. As your opponents get better they make fewer of these errors so you need to get them to make more and larger errors elsewhere to make up for it. If you're better at hand reading and bet sizing and all that fun stuff calling gives your opponent's less information so they are more likely to make mistakes and it gets you into later streets where the mistakes are bigger.
Hmm, I must ponder this.
Great article I have a question though. When you are 3 betting with light hands would you ever consider showing your hand if they fold preflop to enhance your image? I have heard different things in the past about showing your cards. Some people are very much for it and others are adamantly against it.
I'm playing $1-$2NL/$2-$4NL (6max) so I think I'm at the tipping point where I need to get a really solid and balanced 3-betting strategy.
Let's start by trying and balancing the 4B example:
If I fold more then 1/3 of the time he will make a instant profit if he would push AI every time.
Let's say he has 40% EQ when I call his push [JJ+/AK vs TT+/A9s+/AQ+]
This means I will need to call his push ~60%+ [My 4B $114 his 3B $48 with stacks of $400]
-> But this is if he will only have this range and that he would push it in 100% of the time, so in reality you probably need to call his push AI around 35%-45% of the time to make your 4B profitable.
JJ+/AK is 3% of all possible hands which means the "air" hands should be 4,5% of all possible hands so you get 40/60 call/fold ratio. Now to my problem, how do you decide which "trash" hands you want to 4B. It feels like if you just go by feeling you will often 4B to much or to little. If you have pre-determined hands you will probably miss a lot of good 4B spots when you don't get the specific hands.
So how do I get a balanced 3B/4B-strategy without getting out of line or playing to mechanically?
[Also need to add that I still having problem seeing that 74s has the same EV as KQs if I 4B, so I know that I'm not feeling comfartable in these spots yet]
Great article and I agree with you, especially that there is less skill in playing preflop than post flop. I remember D. Negreanu once said there are great PreF players and great POFLop players. That quote just always stuck with me and when I'm in a heads up match, if I recognize a player as a "Pre flop player" I do what I can to play as many pots with him post flop and not give him the chance to let him do what he wants to do - which is inflate the pot preflop.
4betting smaller answers most of your guys questions.Baluga, 4betting smaller would mean maybe a little more then two times the 3bet?
In 2/4, if I raise to 14, and a guy raises to 48, assuming 100bb stacks, my default 4bet is to about 108. Sometimes like 112 or even 116, if theres a lot of $$ in the pot. I try to keep my 4bet as close to 25% of stacks as I possibly can.
I'm going to explain this in more detail coming up shortly in an article about leverage that I plan to write within the next week or two.