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StrategyWeekly No Limit

The Yeti Theorem


The "Yeti theorem" is an old theorem in poker that was discussed some time ago under pokerplayers. The theorem essentially states that "A 3-bet on a dry flop (preferably paired) is almost always a bluff."

If the flop could not give anyone a possible flush or straight draw, if you re-raise an opponent and they click it back, the chances are high that they are bluffing. An example can enlighten this.

Flop: 9 3 3
Hero checks, Villain bets, Hero raises, Villain 3-bets, Hero... ?

Let's say that you are heads up against that opponent. The action preflop was pretty standard, you raised and Villain called you from the button. Your own cards don't matter in this case.

We check to our opponent and he bets out - perfectly standard. We check-raise him and the action is back to your opponent, as he has to call to see the next card. But he 3-bets us instead. If our opponent once again raises this raise, then we should use the Yeti-theorem.

Why can you assume that he is almost always bluffing in this situation? Knowing that, we should be able to push all in and make them fold or call and show down the best hand.

How the Yeti theorem works

The Yeti theorem basically consists of 3 key ideas.

  • 1. If your opponent has a 9, he probably would not re-raise your check raise. A pair of nines is not a strong enough hand to reraise again. Even A9 is not strong enough for that. It is obviously a way ahead-way behind situation, so inflating the pot with a marginal hand is not a good idea.
  • 2. If your opponent has a 3 or pocket nines, he would be more likely to trap and call as opposed to raising us again.
  • 3. He has an overpair: if he would have AA, KK, QQ or JJ, he probably would have reraised preflop. On the other hand, why should he reraise again with these hands? It is a way ahead way behind situation, so the reraise again makes no sense. He is either far ahead or far behind.
1. Your opponent has an 9
If your opponent has an 9, his bet after we have checked makes perfect sense. He may think having the best hand and wants to take the pot without giving us a free card if we missed. Now, if you  check-raise it shows a great amount of strength, and it would easily appear as though you have a 3 or an over pair.

No Texas Hold'em player with any common sense is going to be confident enough to call this check-raise with just an 9, let alone make another raise, which means that a 3-bet here would be totally out of place.
2. Your opponent has an 3

If your opponent has a 3, the chances are that he will be more inclined to slowplay , instead of come out raising and re-raising on the flop. The flop bet with a 3 is not a bad play, but most players are likely to check here, attempting to trap their opponent on this dry flop.

3. Your opponent has an overpair

If your opponent is aware that you are representing a strong hand, he cannot 3-bet comfortably JJ or QQ. And if he is holding AA or KK, why didn't he 3-bet preflop? Chances are high that he is just bluffing.

The most peculiar play according to the Yeti theorem would be the fact that they 3-bet with their 3-of-a-kind, because this would seem like too strong of a play, where calling and trapping would be the preferable option for the vast majority of players.

The Yeti Theorem is more a rule of thumb than a real theorem like the "fundamental theorem of poker". Sometimes it could work, but sometimes not. It depends on your reads on your opponent. So you cannot use it in every spot when the board is paired. Poker is more aggressive these days and players don't hesitate to play even the nuts in this way.

But in order to improve your game and your thinking in different spots, it is still helpful, thinking about the possible ranges and moves. Rather than the mere rule of thumb, the yeti theorem can open your eyes when thinking about 3-betting situations on the flop. Therefore it will help your general mindset and approach to poker.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (2)

#1 dydukas, 26 Aug 10 13:42

It most definately works a lot of times.

#2 Skraggy, 23 Apr 12 14:43

Very very interesting, and if correctly applied should improve ones game :-)