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Sunday, January 10, 2010

COTW #7: 3-betting

Generally speaking, calling 3-bets in the micros just isn’t profitable and I think that most people will find that if they filter in their DBs for “faced pre-flop 3-bet = true” that they will see calling 3-bets is –EV. Let’s look at the above thoughts. So, you’re a positionally aware poker player and you raise a wide range from LP and steal those blinds like it’s your job. Thus, you are more likely to be 3-bet pre-flop from villains both in the blinds and on the button (depending a bit on how loose you are from the CO). Now, because you open wide from the CO and BTN, your LP raises are smaller at 3bbs and your villains are 3-betting you to 10-12bbs. If you successfully 4-bet only once every 4 hands (i.e. villain folds his 3-bet to your 4-bet) you get the following:

4 hands
In 3 of those hands, you raise to 3bbs and fold to villains’ 3-bets to give you -9bbs.
In 1 of those hands, you 4bet and villain folds his 3-bet of 10-12bbs to give you +10-12bbs.

Net profit 1-3bbs over 4 hands. You have now taken those “light 3-bettors” and bent the situation such that their pre-flop drama is slightly +EV for you (though, imo, it will be closer to BE over the long run). Now, keep in mind that you’re not going to be 3-bet 4 orbits in a row so over 200 hands, or about 22 orbits at the table, you need only successfully 4-bet once. I highlight this point because I am NOT advocating that everyone go out there and start 4-betting light. You must pick your spots wisely and have enough history with your villain to know what type of range they are 3-betting both for value and lightly.

That’s just a general example, but you can see that if you’re being 3-bet a ton and folding to even 75% of them (and I do believe that most micro’ers should be folding to the majority of 3-bets that they face), that you’re still making a slight profit if you are 4-betting in the right spots. But, in general, I find that all that pre-flop drama ends up being a break even play even if you are 4-betting in the right spots and inducing pre-flop folds from your 3-bettors. Now, if you raise to the standard 4+1bb/limper (2p2 dogma) from LP, then your 4-bets will need to work with a higher frequency to make all that drama breakeven or slightly +EV for you.

Basically, from my initial 2 thoughts and that little breakdown above, you can see that you can still fold to a majority of 3-bets, but, by picking out the correct spots to 4-bet, all that pre-flop drama isn’t going to amount to much.

Now, people often ask me, “How do I deal with these 3-bettors??!!!”

My answer is always the same, “It depends!”

It depends on position (are you IP or OOP). It depends on the history you have with that villain (primarily, in the micros, do you have enough history). It depends on what range you think villain is 3-betting you with. It depends on the dynamic at the table and what has been going on prior to the drama that unfolds. Etc.

HHs will explain these dependencies and will also give you some examples of how to play in 3-bet pots.

The first HH: Villain in this hand is a reg who I have at 10/5/3 AND I have a note on him that says, "he likes to limp/min 3-bet his premiums on occasion. JJ+/AK." People should focus primarily on isolating the fish, but you can certainly also isolate the bad regs. Now, I raised it up pre-flop here to isolate this villain because if he limp/min 3-bets then I have a hand that, if it flops well, will have decent equity vs. his limp/min 3-bet range, I will have an opportunity to stack him AND I have position on him.

Poker Stars $50.00 No Limit Hold'em - 9 players
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BTN: $74.95
SB: $25.55
BB: $83.65
UTG: $52.00
UTG+1: $67.75
UTG+2: $50.00
Hero (MP1): $56.00
MP2: $54.95
CO: $50.00

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is MP1 with 7d 8d
2 folds, UTG+2 calls $0.50, Hero raises to $2.50, 5 folds, UTG+2 raises to $6, Hero calls $3.50

Flop: ($12.75) 6s 7h 9c (2 players)
UTG+2 bets $7.50, Hero calls $7.50

Gin. Now, I could raise it up on the flop as I have 14 outs vs. his range (straight draw, 2 pair, trips), but, if I raise it up on the flop then I will basically be polarizing my range to flopped sets and I know that this villain is capable of laying down an overpair. Not to mention, villain's c-bet% over almost 500 hands is >80% so he's still going to c-bet here even if he has AK.

Turn: ($27.75) 7c (2 players)
UTG+2 checks, Hero bets $21.00, UTG+2 folds

Naturally, I hit on the turn, but villain checks to me so I can pretty immediately assign his range as AK and bet on the turn and take this pot away. Note: I could have bet this turn and still taken the pot away even if the turn had been a blank such as a 2 or 3 etc.

I cannot stress the importance of taking notes on your villains while you are playing. If you notice something like a reg limp/3-betting premiums, then you can try to isolate that reg when you have position and when you have a hand that stands a chance of flopping with decent equity vs. that villain's limp/3-bet range (if you know that your villain will stack off with an overpair/TP type hand...very important point).

Onto the next hand. In the HH below, villain is a solid reg running at 12/10/4 and has a wider 3-bet range from LP (~9% from the CO and BTN). However, villain probably sees me as a pretty solid player and one thing that people really need to keep in mind when facing someone who 3-bets wider from LP is that these villains are probably NOT 3-betting your UTG raises light (be aware not only of how you see your villain, but also of how your villain views you). I've seen this time and again. People say to me, "but he 3-bets light from LP!" Fair enough. But, I think that if you will pay attention that you will see these villains 3betting MP and other LP raises light as opposed to 3-betting UTG/EP raises light. When someone 3-bets my UTG raise, I almost ALWAYS give that 3bet respect. Not to mention, in the HH below, if I do call villain's 3-bet, I will be OOP post flop vs. a solid reg whose 3-bet range in this scenario I would assign as JJ+/AK (in this case, QQ+/AK as I hold JJ myself) and given that he 3-bet my UTG raise, I'd weight his range as QQ+ and am thus highly uncomfortable felting JJ even on a low flop. Easy fold pre-flop.

Poker Stars $50.00 No Limit Hold'em - 8 players
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MP1: $50.00
MP2: $73.60
CO: $53.20
BTN: $11.00
SB: $37.70
BB: $55.85
Hero (UTG): $51.50
UTG+1: $50.20

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is UTG with Jd Jh
Hero raises to $2, 3 folds, CO raises to $6.50, 4 folds

Now, to those of you who 3bet light from the blinds…I hear it all the time, “That guy is attempting to steal my blinds 50% so I have to protect my blinds!”

Protect your blinds if you must and certainly 3-bet a wider range from the blinds both for value and for image. But, imo, you’re not playing a SNG or an MTT. You are playing a cash game. It is MUCH more important to focus on protecting your button than it is to protect your blinds. I’m usually more concerned with protecting my button when there’s a nut job/loose villain sitting just to my right (i.e. not only is he stealing a ton of my blinds, but he’s playing really wide from the CO and is trying to steal my button). Think about it. Go into your DBs and look at your profit from the BTN and it should be much higher than your profit from any other position at the table. People love sitting next to a nit because, “I can steal his blinds all day!” Well, fair enough; but, I’d rather steal his BTN.

3-betting light from the button: In the HH below, I only had ~100 hands with villain, but he was running EXTREMELY loose at 22/11/3 over all, so you can imagine that he was pretty much a nut job and from MP, I had him at 26/11. Here, I am protecting my button and doing so pretty lightly imo with pocket 6s. A pfr of 11% can roughly be estimated from MP is, roughly, 22+, lots of suited aces, pretty much any 2 broadway KT+ and some SCs/off suit connectors. Now, it is VERY important to let the villains to your right know that you will 3-bet their MP/LP raises when you are OTB and, often, you don't necessarily want to see a flop when you 3-bet pre-flop (i.e. you're happy to take down the chips that are already on the table). In this HH, I am certainly happy to take it down pre-flop because I don't have much history on this villain and, while I do have position, I have very little idea as to how to play this opponent post-flop.

You will make the most money on any given table from the two opponents to your right and the two opponents to your left. Focus on playing those villains at each and every table and I promise that you'll do just fine.

Poker Stars $50.00 No Limit Hold'em - 9 players
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2+2 Hand Converter Powered By

UTG+1: $12.10
UTG+2: $24.45
MP1: $39.55
MP2: $62.75
CO: $84.95
Hero (BTN): $58.35
SB: $48.00
BB: $59.55
UTG: $50.75

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is BTN with 6c 6h
4 folds, MP2 raises to $1.50, 1 fold, Hero raises to $5.25, 3 folds

Text results appended to pokerstove.txt

532,526,544 games 0.625 secs 852,042,470 games/sec

equity win tie pots won pots tied
Hand 0: 49.450% 48.93% 00.52% 260572446 2762105.00 { 22+, A4s+, KTs+, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, ATo+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo, T9o, 98o, 87o }
Hand 1: 50.550% 50.03% 00.52% 266429888 2762105.00 { 6c6h }

As you can see, I am ahead of the range that I assigned villain in this HH, but certainly not by much and, given that I have very little history with this villain, I am happy to take it down pre-flop because I lack the necessary history to outplay him post-flop. Also, it lets villain know to be a little more careful when raising from MP/LP when I am to his left and have position (i.e. it establishes my image in that villain's mind).

How much do your hole cards matter when protecting your button? Not much. In the HH below, I 3-bet pre-flop because over 500 hands, this villain was running at 39/34 from the CO and had a fold to 3-bet of 100% from the CO. Again, I am protecting my button, I have position and I have a nut job sitting to my right. Each and every time you 3-bet, ask yourself, "Self, why am I 3-betting?" Are you 3-betting for value? Are you 3-betting to scoop up the chips on the table (i.e. your opponent has a very high fold to 3-bet %)? Are you 3-betting to compensate for being OOP post flop? In addition, when a villain calls your 3-bet, you should IMMEDIATELY be able to narrow that opponents range considerably depending on villain's pfr from that particular position and his fold 2 3-bet%. Always, always narrow your opponents range based on his actions both pre-flop and post-flop.

Poker Stars $50.00 No Limit Hold'em - 8 players
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UTG+1: $50.00
MP1: $31.70
MP2: $123.20
CO: $60.90
Hero (BTN): $51.35
SB: $30.75
BB: $59.15
UTG: $58.55

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is BTN with 2d 4d
4 folds, CO raises to $2, Hero raises to $6.50, 3 folds

Playing from the blinds: One of my favorite "moves" from the blinds is to punish people on the button who punish limpers. Think about, 2 people limp in and there's a 2p2'er doing his job on the button and raising to 4bb+1bb/limper from the BTN. Here I am in the SB or BB thinking to myself, "There's a lot of chips on the table and villain OTB is just punishing limpers a majority of the time and won't be able to call a 3bet."

Now, keep in mind that when you 3-bet from the blinds that you are going to be OOP post flop. This is an entirely different scenario than when you are in the CO or OTB and are 3-betting. I rarely 3-bet light from the blinds for this exact reason, unless I have a truly nutty nut sitting OTB or in the CO. Again, I'd rather focus on protecting my BTN than defending my blinds.

In the HH below, villain was running 29/22/1 with an ATS of 60%. This table was pretty tight and this was probably the 3rd or 4th time in a row that villain had retardedly min-raised in the SB when folded to him. Now, I didn't have much history with this villain, but, in this case, I have position.

Poker Stars $50.00 No Limit Hold'em - 8 players
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2+2 Hand Converter Powered By

BTN: $50.00
SB: $54.00
Hero (BB): $65.50
UTG: $52.95
UTG+1: $48.75
MP1: $40.40
MP2: $52.95
CO: $50.00

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is BB with Qs 9s
6 folds, SB raises to $1, Hero raises to $5, 1 fold

I'm really not going to go into too much detail on 3-betting from the blinds because, again, I rarely 3-bet light from the blinds in the micros. You're going to be OOP post flop so I generally 3-bet from the blinds to compensate for position when I have a strong hand. The majority of my light 3-betting takes place from the CO/BTN.

Okay, this is getting long and I'm just going to post it and we can get some discussion going. In summary, I would encourage everyone to focus on their post-flop game instead of looking for what I refer to as "pre-flop drama" spots. Calling 3-bets in the micros is generally a losing proposition/-EV so I highly encourage people to FOLD to the majority of 3-bets that you face during your stint in the micros. That said, I'm hoping that the beginning of this post showed you how you can make those light 3-bettors "pay" for their pre-flop drama with some well-timed 4-bets. I do not advocate 4-betting light as I personally find that most of my opponents in the micros were not 3-betting nearly as lightly as most people think. Just focus on the two players to your right and the two to your left and outplay those villains since they are the ones who will be giving you the most money.

I kinda feel that this thread has gotten derailed a bit so I'm just going to post some final thoughts because I think some people are missing my major points in the OP.

Fist and foremost, afaik, most micro'ers lose money when they CALL 3-bets which is why I mentioned filtering through your DBs to determine if calling 3-bets is profitable for you or not. I think that most will find calling 3-bets in the micros is -EV. The 4-bet scenario that I went through is to simply show people that you can fold to a majority of 3-bets, but by mixing in a small frequency of well-timed, opponent-dependent 4-bets that you can still play loose from LP and not fold all the time when you face a 3-bet. Again, if you are loose from LP and fold to damn near every 3-bet you face then that is a recipe for disaster. Similarly, if you have a high ATS% and high fold to 3-bet % from the CO/BTN then that is also a recipe for disaster in the long run.

Second, when it comes to you being the 3-bettor, re-seizing initiative pre-flop is huge as CMAR stated above and people really shouldn't be spewing $$ when they ARE the pre-flop 3-bettor. Nonetheless, I personally think that most micro'ers need to work on their games plugging basic leaks before they start throwing in new quirks a la 3-betting light when it's really not necessary at the micros.

Finally, I still feel that people need to focus on protecting their button more than they need to worry about protecting their blinds. You can play hands out of the blinds and play them well without 3-betting pre-flop to limit your losses on a per hand basis from the blinds. I'm just generally hesitant to suggest that people start 3-betting more/wider from the blinds b/c you will find yourself OOP in bloated pots and may not know how to play in those spots.

By knn05

Related posts ITT:

By venice10:

One thing I would caution is when looking at the loss in BB/hand in calling 3bets is to keep in mind that if you folded, your loss is automatically the raise you normally make. Therefore, if your standard raise is 4BB with a hand and your calling 3bet loss with that hand is 2BB/hand, it is worthwhile to make this call. The reason is that you are gaining 2BB in comparison to the alternative of just folding.

I do agree you want to optimize this by picking the best situations, but poker is about losing the least amount of money as well as making the most in a hand. Sometimes that means playing some post flop poker when you don't have the best of it pf.

By mpethybridge:

Using my DB as an illustration for how people ought to go about this analysis to determine their profitability in responding to 3-bets:

1. Note your Fold to 3-bet%

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I'm a calling station, what can I say?)

2. Note your overall performance facing a 3-bet:

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3. Note your win rate when 4 betting:

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4. Note your win rate when calling a 3-bet:

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5. Note your win rate when you are NOT slow playing AA or KK by filtering them out--I call this my unsubsidized 3 bet calling win rate:

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The standard for whether you are leaking playing back against 3-bets is NOT making a profit on the hand. If you fold, you lose 3 or 3.5 bb. Therefore, any strategy which yields you less of a loss than folding is a +EV strategy.

In PT this is a loss rate of -1.5 to -1.75ptBB/hand; in HEM, it is a loss rate of -300 to -350 bb/100.

Take a look through your databases in this way, as most of the micro players I have been doing DB analyses for are definitely leaking in one or more of these areas, as knn05 says is likely the case.

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