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StrategyWeekly No Limit

5bet bluff push vs 4bet and adjusting under check/raise on flop


In this Article

In my article I’d like to discuss two important topics for contemporary heads-up poker. They are as follows: 5-bet bluff pushes vs 4-bets and adjusting to check/raises.

We often meet regulars while playing two or three tables, and there’s a problem concerning frequent check/raises (c/r) from them. Such tendencies in our opponents’ game can drive us out of our comfort zone, and the solution to this problem isn’t that obvious for many players. It seems that frequent 4-bets don’t present much trouble, because usually such moves are provoked by frequent 3-bets from us.

I can agree with this: if our opponents loosen their 4-betting ranges, we tighten our 3-betting ranges and start shoving more frequently.

Part I - 5-bet bluff pushes vs 4-bets

It’s no secret that from time to time, maybe even often, matches against regulars at 3-4 tables are of the aggressive and sometimes super-loose type. Even when playing 2 tables this is not that uncommon. The big share of the low-stakes regulars play very loose only pre and post-flop. On the later streets they mostly lack experience and don’t understand when they should cease fire or when they should push a little harder.

With this in mind, in the first part of my article I’d like to talk about 5-bet pushes with standard stacks while playing post-flop very loosely.

It’s necessary to understand that when we 5-bet/shove any two (and this is what we’re going to talk about), we are bluffing with the exception of hands that are already in our value range. Consequently our lethal weapon is the generated fold equity (FE).

We always have some FE, when our 4-bet range consists not only of value-hands.

As you know, during the game, ranges change depending on dynamics, and there’s a critical 4-betting point when it becomes profitable to push any two, presuming that we get called only by value hands (V).

Let’s try to determine what our opponent’s 4-betting range should be (we should note that the 4-betting stat in our HUD can change during the course of the game), so that we could profitably bluff 5-bet with any two considering his own 4-bet bluffing value.

    Let’s determine that “V” = parameter, meaning the range with which our opponent will call us:

V = 4-bet/call = TT+, AQo+, AQs+ = 4.7%
Y = 4-bet against which we can profitably 5-bet bluff with any two, considering our FE.
Y - Y*X = 4.7%
X = FE

The difference of Y - V = necessary bluffing part of our opponent’s range for pushing with any two.

It’s clear that we’re going to find FE when pushing with any two against the whole 4-betting range, consisting of the bluff part and the value part (X).

FE = X
EV(F) = (100bb + 4-bet size)*X

Here’s the EV of pushing any two in case our opponent folds (our pushing stack plus his 4-bet, by the FE).

EV(C) = (1 - X) * EQ * 200bb - (1 - X) * (1 - EQ) * 200bb

Here’s the EV in case he calls: all the spots in which he calls us (1 – X), and we win the pot with our any-two equity, minus all the spots in which we lose the pot (1 – EQ). That’s how we get our push EV.

EV(F) + EV(C) > 0

And consequently if EV(F) + EV(C) > 0, our move is +EV. So, with these known parameters, we have to find only the necessary FE.

4-bet size = 27bb (a standard 4-bet)
EQ(random) vs V = 27.6%

EQ = 27.6%


EV = (1 - Х)(0.276 * 200 – 0.724 * 200) + Х*127 = (1 - Х)*(-89.6) + Х*127
Х = (89.6)/(89.6+127)
X = 0.413 = 41.3%

So we’ve got our FE, let’s put it into the range evaluation formula:

Y - 41.3%*Y = 4.7%
Y = 8%

This means that if we think the match dynamics allows our opponent to 4-bet looser than 8% from time to time, and call us only with his value-range, it becomes profitable to go broke with any two.

After some simple equilations we get:

Now we eliminate all the hands that our opponent can just call our 3-bet with and include his minimally acceptable bluffing range.

Therefore if you think that sometimes during the match the 4-betting range of our opponent includes this minimal bluffing range (often it’s much more polarised), it becomes profitable to push with any two.

Part II - Adjusting to frequent check/raises on the flop

There are so many thoughts and opinions on check/raising and I’d like to introduce some concepts here. With so many differing views these are always concepts that could be criticised or disagreed with.It’s just so difficult to develop a somewhat standard approach to contemporary HU-games, because it’s so dependable on your current opponent and hand history with him.

Before we start this topic I think we should set something straight first.

I consider the c/r stat high if it’s 25% or more, meaning that our opponent check/raises us on every 4th flop. We can’t define his whole range; there can even be any two cards from his 30-40% BB-calling range. So giving him just the top 25% of his BB-calling range is definitely a mistake. It will vary depending on the board texture. That’s why I suggest starting from the following.

To simplify our analysis, let’s define two flop textures:

  • Rd. – flops on which our opponent can often represent a strong made hand by his c/r, e.g. 456 or 79J.
  • Nrd. – flops on which he rarely hits his value range, but he also understands that we rarely hit it too, e.g. A74 rainbow.

Of course we often meet guys who c/r independent of the board texture, that’s why I suggest we should try to adapt to both types.

First we have to look at a standard BB-calling range of a regular player. It’ll usually be like 32-38%.

Obviously check/raises for value on Rd-flops will be more frequent than those on Nrd-flops, as the calling range contains fewer broadways and more connectors/gappers. In the meanwhile it’s important to realise that our opponent thinks the same so he can abuse low and connected boards against us.

Now I suggest we discuss the hand strength categorisation, in particular: HU, BSS, flop.

About a year ago I read an article named “Hand categorisation” by a PokerStrategy.com user. It was about relative hand strength in NL Hold’em. I’ll just take the same idea and set a special case.

  • 1 – Monster hands: 2 pair + (Nrd.), set+ (Rd.)
  • 2 – Strong made hands: TPGK+ (NRd.), TP + strong draw (Rd.)
  • 3 – Marginal made hands: 2nd pair GK + (NRd.), TPTK + (Rd.)
  • 4 – Strong draws: gutshot + overcards (NRd.), combo- or monster-draw to the nuts (OESD or FD + GS) (Rd.)
  • 5 – Weak draws: 3rd pair, overcards + 2 backdoors (NRd.), low OESD or weak FD without overcards (Rd.)
  • 6 – Very thin hands, almost air: gutshot, 2 undercards < X on X-high board (NRd.), 3rd pair, overcard + backdoor (Rd)
  • 7 – Air hands, hands that have almost no equity and no showdown value.

Now let’s think how often we’ll have any of these hand types, when our opponent calls on the BB. Of course, it’s impossible to give a definitive answer, but if we think a while, we can draw some conclusions.

We open like 75-100% hands from the SB. Our opponent calls with 30-40%, and it’s not the top of his range. But we have the top-range part in ours. And we have the initiative.

In fact our opponent hits Rd. boards more frequently than us, considering that his connected/junky hands ratio is lower than ours. But we both are bad in hitting Nrd. boards, because there are few hands in his range he can c/r flop for value with and not 3-bet preflop. Saying that, we still have nearly 100% range pre-flop and have hands that we can represent.

It looks like we can minimise his credibility on Nrd. boards (dry and not connected), which is shown in the hand below:


NL Holdem $0.50(BB)

Villain ($50)
Hero ($50)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Ah7s
Hero raises to $1.50
, BB calls $1

Flop: ($3) Qd8s4h
BB checks, Hero bets $2, BB raises to $6, Hero calls $4

Turn: ($15) Qd8s4h2d
BB bets $9.50, Hero calls $9.50

River: ($34) Qd8s4h2d3s
BB bets $18, Hero raises to $33 All-In

Our opponent will almost never have a hand on the River which has enough equity to call our raise or even check/call the River. It’s different when our opponent prefers to polarise his BB calling range and includes such hands as KJ+ or maybe even KK. If you’ve noticed such tendencies (which is highly unlikely, but still possible, plus it also tells you a lot about your opponent), then it alerts us to the fact that his 3-betting range preflop is polarised to the bluffing side.

We’ll predefine that we’re dealing with an average low-stakes regular who rarely thinks about actions like calling with KK+ on the BB, so in the event that we see the showdown he’ll make us give his flop check/raises a little more credit.

Of course, we must understand that we have no right to fight for every single pot on a dry board, as our opponent will start to catch bluffs with mediocre made hands.

That’s why I suggest we use that relative hand strength rating above(7 groups). Draw your attention to the fact that no example below considers a check behind, as we deal with situations in which we always c-bet.

  • 1, 2 – Definitely bet/call Flop, call Turn and raise River for value (considering the situation, of course – River AF, WTSD, your image).
  • 3 – Bet/call Flop, depending on the ugliness of the Turn card. We choose between a value/protection raise and a call down for bluff-catching purposes.
  • 4, 5 – Bet/call Flop and raise Turn as a semi-bluff (not really hard to balance, we also raise very bad turns with the 2nd or even the 1st type).
  • 6, 7 – It depends, You can play bet/call -> call -> push (this way the pattern looks like the 1st type, so it’s strong and well-balanced), or you can just give up on the flop. We still have to balance our aggression; we can’t win every single pot.

Now let’s talk about Rd.-flops.

It’s not really that simple, so we’ll have to split Rd.-flops in two groups. Let’s add Rd.Hd-flops on which our opponent can represent a strong hand but the board still remains draw-heavy, so it’s more possible that he has a strong draw rather than a made hand.

Other Rd.’s remain the same.

Such a categorisation will help us define our actions more clearly.

So, both Rd. and Rd.Hd board types suit our opponent slightly better than us, and consequently we have to proceed with more caution than on Nrd. boards.

Our relative hand strength is not stable either, so often we don’t know where we are. But our opponent won’t have much trouble while playing polarised ranges by check/raising Rd.Hd flops (both made and drawing hands). Also he can easily continue on different kinds of the Turn cards (blank, draw-completing, and good for strong hands).

So, let’s assume our opponent check/raises 25% of all Rd. and Rd.Hd. flops and c-bets 100%, on any Turn card, in case we call. And let’s not forget about the Flop 3-bet.

We should look at our relative hand strength and choose the action.

  • 1 – Bet/call Turn, if the probability of the River card killing all the action is lower than the probability of our opponent having a hand that he can bet the River but fold the Turn. Otherwise we raise.
  • 2 – We evaluate the Turn for dangers and draw-heaviness. Raising and calling down will basically have an equal EV. Of course, if our opponent looks like he’s going to 3-barrel, calling will be better.
  • 3 – This type of hands isn’t good for playing the Turn. It’s way better to bet/3-bet the Flop. Sometimes on very heavy boards with non-standard stacks, we can play like this with the 7th or even the 2nd type of hands for balance/protection. But the stacks must be quite deep.
  • 4 – Such hands should be played with a Turn raise. We can also raise here with the 1st type (again talking about the balance).
  • With 5th through 7th types we play either bet/3-bet Flop or fold. These hands aren’t that great for seeing the Turn.
The size of a check/raise

I’d recommend to always bet the Turn after we check/raise: ½ of the pot for Rd. boards and 2/3 of the pot for Nrd. boards.

As we already know, a check/raise on a dry board is not that scary. So our opponents will tend to call us down more lightly. By check/raising, we represent quite a strong range, which is credible, especially if the match has just begun. We should try and maximise our value with strong made hands. There will be less bluffing, but when our opponent sees that we play such spots for value almost every time, it’s good to polarise this range a little bit. Bet-sizing will make it difficult for our opponent to make heroic call-downs, considering that we’re quite strong in such spots.

Half-pot bet on the Turn after Rd. flops are good for buying the River, which we definitely want to see as even with a made hand it’s hard to tell where we are. Half-pot bet means lower variance too.

My article ends here. Thanks for your attention. I hope the article will help you understand and improve your own game.

This was Atij for PokerStrategy.com