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Don't fold, just ask - NL: Light 4 bets Part 1

» Don't fold, just ask

There are moments in a career of a poker player where he has to seek some professional advice. You can get this advice from our directors of content OnkelHotte (fixed limit), sammy (no-limit, SNG) Wishmaster (fixed limit, real-life-poker). Whether you are unsure about a hand, have questions about poker theory or any other matters - ask! 

Question from Ghostmaster / joosP


Two simple questions:
1. Under which circumstances should you make a light 4bet in reaction to a light 3-bet
2. When and against which opponents should you bluff-4bet (2,25 times)?

Answer from sammy

This question has arisen quite a few times and I would like to say a couple of things about this topic. These questions seem to be very short at first glance, but the answer or respectively the effort to find a thorough but yet simplified answer won't be that short.

In order to handle this topic the best possible way without making this article too long, I will divide the questions into two blocks. I will then go on to answering them within those two blocks.

Jan Samuelsen aka sammy supervises the no-limit section from PokerStrategy. He was very successful as a player himself and reached the blackmember status. He is now teaching the following generation the art of, what he calls, big-balls-poker.
I will discuss why you should sometimes confront 3-bets with 4bets in this first part. I will start with the reasons why we should do it and go on to the parameters, which affect the decision whether to carry out a 4-bet or not.

The second part will deal with the betsize of a 4-bet as well as the implications on the gameflow. It will become a little more mathematical in this part...

We should generally ask ourselves why we 4-bet preflop at all. There are two simple reasons for this.

For Value

If we are convinced that we have the best hand and that we have an edge against the pushing-/calling range of our opponent, we should 4-bet our hand for value. We probably have this thought with AA and KK every time. AK and QQ also fall into this category in some cases. Depending on the opponent and the read, the range with which we 4-bet for value will chnange. We will always call a 5-bet after having made a 4-bet for value, because we are convinced that we have the best hand.

As a Bluff

A4-bet bluff is very useful to punish people who make small 3-bets because they would have to fold a lot of hands with which they 3-bet. We can accumulate a lot of money preflop by doing this. Furthermore we should balance our 4-bets for value with 4-bet bluffs because nothing is worse than giving away the strength of our hand preflop so that our opponent can adjust to this range.

We always want to have the possibility to fold correctly preflop if our opponent shoves, because we don't want to put our stack at risk being the definite underdog!!

Notice that as soon as we engage in preflop 4-bets we should 4-bet for value as well as bluff with 4-bets to balance our ranges. If we make a 4-bet, it should be clear as to why we 4-bet at all and how we are going to react to a shove.

As it fits nicely in here, I will give you a little tip concerning timing-tells with preflop 4-bets. You will frequently notice very fast 4-bets of some opponents. You can instantly assume that this 4-bet was made for value. It takes time to make a bluff 4-bet because many different parameters have to be taken into account analysed in order to carry out a +EV 4-bet bluff.

When 4-betting for value, we look at our hand and instantly know that we want to 4-bet with our AA. Therefore I suggest taking your time when you want to 4-bet for value to go through the scenario quickly.

When dealing with light 4-bets we should analyse the situation quickly and think about our possible options.

The standard situation

We openraise and one player confronts us with 3-bets multiple times. Due to the frequency of the 3-bets, we can assume that the opponent is not making those 3-bets only with premium hands.

Option I (leave the table)
We can't deal with the permanent aggression from this player and therefore leave the table to find another one.

This absolutely is a possibility, however we will reach a point at which we won't find any more good tables because light 3-bets are made very frequently from the mid limits onwards and every solid player knows how to 3-bet preflop.

Option II (showing no active resistance)
Our second option would be to fold our non-premium-hands and 4-bet our premium hands for value. We would encounter two "small" problems.

a) If our openraising range is too large, we would have to fold too often and our opponent would be in a +EV-position due to his light 3-bets (we would therefore be in a -EV situation). He is going to take a lot of money from us by 3-betting.

b) We haven't balanced our 4-betting range enabling our opponent to play optimally against us after a 4-bet.

Option III (calling and playing postflop)

Instead of fleeing from the action, we could face it by calling the 3-bet. By calling the 3-bet we are hoping to hit a good flop to make some profit with our postflop game. By calling the 3-bets preflop, we show our opponent that he should reduce his light 3-bets because we are willing to a) play 3-bet pots against him and b) to move/play aggressively in them.

Our active and profitable adjustment should automatically lead to the lighter 4-bets and/or calling the 3-bets.

There are two standard situations in which we are confronted with a light 3-bet.

Example 1:

Preflop: Hero is CO with X, X
UTG folds, MP3 folds, Hero raises to 3,5BB, BU raises to 12BB, 2 folds, Hero ???

Example 2:

Preflop: Hero is BU with X , X
UTG folds, MP3 folds, CO folds, Hero raises to 3,5BB, SB folds, BB raises to 13BB, Hero ???

Which parameters decide whether we can make a light 4-bet or not?

The Position

The difference between the two examples lies in the relative position. In example 1 we would have to play OOP postflop whereas in example 2 we would play IP. If we decide to 4-bet, the relative position becomes less important because the pot will be very large most of the time. We will be committed very often leaving little room for moves.

A preflop call in example 2 would therefore be better than in example 1 because we have position on the opponent all the way making it possible to exploit our postflop edge the best possible way.

Apart from the relative position, the absolute position is also an important parameter. Our openraising range increases when moving from UTG to the button. This suggests that we are holding more premium hands in early position which we would value 4-bet with. We should therefore adjust our bluff 4-bet range so that our overall range is reasonably balanced.

The Stack sizes

This information is missing in our examples even though it is very important. We have to take into account: the larger the effective stack is, the more important the relative position becomes postflop and the higher are the implied odds we are getting for a preflop call. If the relative stack is very small, we would committ ourselves with a preflop 4-bet and would have to call a shove with our bluff 4-bet, which we want to avoid.

Following this line of thought, it becomes clear that the betsize in relation to the effective stacks is very important. The concept of the besize is going to be explained in the second part so that you can make the right adjustments to profitably 4-bet preflop.

A light 3-bet stands out because of its frequency. We can only distinguish a light 3-bet due to its frequency, making it an importnat factor as well. The frequency of a three bet also affects the next parameter, namely the metagame and the gameflow. We always have to adjust to the situation and take the table dynamics into account. We have to take our own image at the table and possible rivalries between other opponents into account. These things influence the handranges of our opponents and how they might react to our 4-bet. We should therefore think about these factors before we make a 4-bet to keep away from tough decisions.

The opponent

The opponent who made the light 3-bet is obviously also very important. If we know the handrange and can put opponent on a very accurate range, it would only be hard work to calculate how +EV a 4-bet would be preflop, using the handrange in combination with the effective stacks. Therefore it is a great advantage to know the opponent well, in order to be able to put him on an accurate range. Apart from the preflop range, two other things are important which vary from opponent to opponent.

a) His postflop skills
The worse an opponent plays postflop, the more we should call preflop because we can exploit our edge a lot better than being dependent on a preflop decision.

b) The strategy of your opponent
If we know that an opponent goes into the "push or fold" mode after our 4-bet, we have an enormous advantage for deciding whether to make a 4-bet or not. If the opponent only calls a 4-bet and basically commits himself postflop, the decision becomes a lot harder.

If we know that he would only call with the absolute nuts (AA and sometimes KK) we can make better decisions postflop, because we don't need to hope for any fold equity. We would therefore avoid running the risk of losing our stack on a bluff preflop.

Our hand

A factor which seems to be very important, but is only to a certain extend. Which hands do we want to make a bluff 4-bet with? Our value 4-bet can be estimated very easily using the table dynamics and the type of opponent. We have to consider an important point for determining our bluffing range tough. We want to be able to fold the hand without any trouble if our opponent pushes. Therefore hands like TT, AJ or KQ are not suitable for bluffing. We would frequently have borderline decisions for calling because there is adequate equity against a normal pushing range with starting stacks of 100BB.

So does it make no difference whether we 4-bet with JT or A3, because we would fold them anyway if we faced a push? There is a difference indeed. According to the theorem of Bayes, it is less likely for our opponent to hold AA if we have A3 than if we have JT. As we want to keep the pushing range of our opponent as small as possible when we bluff 4-bet, it is better to hold Ax or Kx hands because these hands reduce the probability that the opponent is holding AA, KK or AK.

These are the fundamental parameters which we should to take into account when we are considering to make a light 4-bet. However, before I finish the first part, I would like to show you two situations in which we should consider making a light 4-bet. These two situations are not that common, but they can occur quite often.

Example 3 (4-Betting as a Squeeze):

Preflop: Hero is BB with X , X
UTG folds, MP3 folds, CO folds, BU raises to 3,5BB, SB raises to 12BB, Hero ???

Example 4 (4-Betting as a Resqueeze)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X , X
UTG folds, MP3 folds, CO folds, Hero raises to 3,5BB, SB calls, BB raises to 15BB, Hero ???

We can make a light 4-bet in both examples. We can 4-bet a light 3-better in the first hand even though we aren't the openraiser. We should know whether there is some kind of rivalry between the openraiser and the 3-better to understand and make the most out of the situation.

We 4-bet a squeezer in the second hand. In order to be able to do this, we have to know whether the opponent is capable of making a squeezeplay. If we have a notorious squeezer in the BB, we can make use of this situation with a profitable light 4-bet.

Notice that the table dynamics and the read on our opponent become more important. The effective stack sizes become very important as well, (you really have to take both stacks from your opponents into account!!) because a bet which commits another player could more easily happen against opponents with a smaller stacks. This is something we want to avoid.

This is the end of the first part. In the second part we will look at betsizes more closely which I will try to explain using thorough examples and calculations. You can be looking forward to a (hopefully) very informative continuation.


Comments (2)

#1 mouse89, 03 Jan 09 22:41

so wjat6y

#2 samymanole, 22 Apr 11 09:59

Nice article!