1. Introduction
This is Part 4 of the article series "PLO From Scratch". The target audience is micro and low limit players with some experience from limit or no-limit Hold'em, but little or no PLO experience. My goal with this series is to teach basic PLO strategy in a systematic and structured manner.

In Part 4 we continue our discussion of principles for PLO preflop play. We will now delve deeper into some topics that we have barely mentioned so far:

- Loose openraising in position
- Playing speculative hands in position after limpers (overlimp or raise to isolate?)
- 3-betting

In Part 2 we first classified Omaha starting hands according to a system of 6 categories, based on structure. From these 6 categories we built another classification scheme with 4 starting hand categories, based on strength and playability (3 playable categories and 1 unplayable):

- Premium
- Speculative
- Marginal
- Trash

We also gave simple guidelines for how to play each of these 4 starting hands categories preflop.

In Part 4 we will extend our preflop core strategy by including more speculative hands in our late position openraising ranges, and by introducing 3-betting. We will also talk more about overlimping versus isolation raising behind limpers. A common theme that runs through this discussion is the connection between preflop play and postflop play. Different hand types are suited for different postflop scenarios, and this has a big impact on preflop strategy.

These topics will be carried over to Part 5, and the discussion of preflop strategy will be concluded there. Then we move on to postflop play, so let us briefly talk about the direction this article series will take from Part 5 and onwards. As we know, preflop play and postflop play are closely interrelated in PLO, and the main goal of our preflop strategy is to set ourselves up for profitable postflop scenarios. This relation is particularly important when we build big pots preflop. When we get involved in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot, it's necessary to have both a hand suitable for the situation and a sound game plan for postflop play.

The discussion of 3-betting/4-betting is therefore a natural transition point when the article series moves from preflop play to postflop play. We will discuss qualitative guidelines for 3-betting in this article (including an introduction to playing against a 4-bet from AAxx), and we will focus on preflop play. In Part 5 we will build on this theory, and do a more systematic and quantitative discussion of 3-betting/playing against a 3-bet/4-betting/playing against a 4-bet, and this time with focus on the postflop scenarios we set up.

This means Part 4 will be a core strategy article with sound qualitative guidelines for loose openraising in position, overlimping, isolation raising and 3-betting with focus on the preflop part of these scenarios. Part 5 will be more general and quantitative, with more thorough analysis based on ranges, equity and flop equity distributions. And in Part 5 we will begin the discussion of postflop play, a topic that has been (intentionally) left out of the discussion so far.

In Part 5 we will also talk specifically about playing AAxx and playing against AAxx in 3-bet and 4-bet pots. These scenarios occur frequently, and it's important to know the proper strategy for them. For this work, we will need theoretical tools developed in our discussion of flop equity distributions in Part 3.

Since we will use 3-betting/4-betting as our transition point to discussing postflop play, it follows that we will talk about big pot postflop scenarios first. Postflop play in big pots is more automatic than play in small pot (at least it should be, when the preflop play leading up to the big pot is fundamentally sound), and most of the big pot postflop decisions will take place on the flop. After discussing 3-bet and 4-bet pots, we move on to postflop play in singly-raised and limped pots as of Part 6.

Without further ado, let's get started with the final round of preflop core strategy. Unless otherwise stated, we are playing with 100 BB stacks.

2. Extending the preflop core strategy with loose open-raising in position
In Part 2, we defined a value based preflop core strategy, borrowed from Hwang's preflop strategy presented in his book Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy. The preflop core strategy is based on playing quality hands, especially out of position. The resulting preflop strategy is somewhat tight for 6-max play, so let's extend it by loosening up our late position openraising standards.

First, let's briefly repeat our preflop core strategy. We started by classifying the omaha starting hands according to structure, and we defined 6 categories (see Part 2 for detailed descriptions of these categories):

1. Big cards and ace high Broadway wraps
2. Straight hands
3. Suited ace hands
4. Pair-plus hands
5. Aces
6. Marginal hands

Based on this classification system, we defined 4 categories (3 playable, one unplayable) of starting hands, ranked according to strength and playability:

- Premium
- Speculative
- Marginal
- Trash

The definitions of these 4 categories were (see Part 2 for advice on how to play the hands in each category):

2.1. Premium
- Premium and magnum AAxx
- High double pairs
- 4 cards T and higher, at least single suited
- 4 cards 9 and higher, at least single suited
- Premium rundowns, at least single suited
- High pairs with suited and connected side cards

A K J 9
T 9 8 7
J T 9 7

2.2 Speculative
- Speculative AAxx
- Speculative rundowns, at least single suited
- Medium pairs with suited and connected side cards
- Suited ace with a rundown
- Suited ace with a pair
- Suited ace with 2 Broadway cards

A A 7 2
T 9 7 5
8 7 6 3
J T 7 6
9 9 8 7
A T 9 8
A Q Q 3
A K J 7

2.3 Marginal

- 3 Broadway cards + a dangler, at least single suited
- High pairs with worthless side cards
- Weak suited aces that don't fall under the previous "Suited Ace Hands" category
- Offsuit rundowns

K Q J 4
K K 7 2
A J 7 6
J T 9 7

2.4 Trash

Everything that doesn't belong to "Premium", "Speculative" or "Marginal" is (as a starting point) "Trash", and therefore unplayable.

2.5 But is "Trash" always unplayable?
It's important to understand that Hwang's starting hand categories are designed for playing mostly make-a-hand-poker in deep-stacked full ring PLO games. Hwang's hand selection criteria are therefore weighted towards hands that play well in multiway pots. In other words, hands that are coordinated and nutty.

Sticking to quality hands reduces the likelihood of ending up as an underdog in a big pot confrontation, which is a significant risk if we often splash around with non-nutty hands against many opponents. Therefore, Hwang is picky about starting hand structure. For example, he avoids playing rundowns with gaps at the top (like J 9 8 6 ), since these hands build many non-nutty straights.

But in short-handed PLO, the risk of clashing with the nuts is reduced, and hands with non-nutty strength components become more playable. In short-handed play we also get more opportunities to play in position, and this also makes more hands playable. As a result, Hwang's "Trash" category contains many hands that can easily be played profitably in 6-max games, especially when we open-raise from late position. We will also find many candidates for loose isolation raising and loose 3-betting in position.

So let us talk about loosening up our open-raising ranges in position:

2.6 Loose openraising in position
Looking at the 3 playable starting hand categories, "Premium", Speculative" and "Marginal", they clearly provide a solid core of starting hands that set us up for often getting on the right side equity-wise when big pots get built. But in 6-max play, many pots play out more or less like this:

UTG folds, MP folds, CO or button openraises, and then the blinds fold or call. In many of these pots, the preflop raiser either wins preflop, or with a c-bet on the flop.

Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you will win many pots without seeing a showdown, it's obvious that you can be less picky about your starting hands. In these situations, you plan more around steal equity and less around showdown equity. Your cards now work more as a backup plan, in case you have to make a hand to win the pot, and not as the primary reason for getting involved. Therefore, when it's folded to you in late position, you can play a much wider range of hands than what our previously defined core strategy suggests, particularly on the button.

Here's an example to give you an idea about the degree of looseness we're talking about:

Example 2.1: Button openraising against weak-tight blinds
UTG folds, MP folds, CO folds, you're on the button with some weak hand xxxx, considering a loose button steal. To your knowledge, the blinds are tight preflop, and they play mostly fit-or-fold out of position postflop.

Here are some hands from the Trash category that can be played in this scenario:

xxxx =J 7 6 4
xxxx =K Q 6 5
xxxx =T T 7 6
xxxx =A 4 8 J
xxxx =Q T 8 3

In other words: Any hand with a minimum of coordination (preferably suited) is a candidate for a loose button steal-raise against weak blinds.

And you can open-raise even weaker hands than these if the blinds are exceptionally weak. Always remember that the combination of position and initiative is an extremely powerful weapon in PLO against opponents that play fit-or-fold postflop and rarely 3-bet preflop. A strong PLO player might be able to profitably open-raise 100% of his hands on the button in this scenario.

If you want to experiment with a loose button openraising range, keep these things in mind:

- How loose you can steal on the button also depends on how well you play postflop
- If you steal extremely loosely on the button, the players in the blinds might change their strategy

In other words, using a very loose preflop strategy in position requires certain postflop skills on your part, even if the blinds are weak. And even if the blinds let you get away with very loose stealing, it might be better for you in the long run to show some moderation. You don't want them to change strategy and start calling and 3-betting you more. So if you have a very trashy hand, let the blinds get a "walk" every now and then, even if you think you have a profitable steal opportunity.

3. Playing speculative hands in position behind limpers
Here is a scenario that occurs frequently:

You have a non-premium, but playable hand (for example A K Q 3 from the "Speculative" starting hand category) behind one or several limpers. You think the hand is strong enough to play, but not necessarily good enough to raise, based on the cards alone (and you would hate to get 3-bet). But you also think a raise will increase your steal equity, and enable you to win more pots without a showdown. So should you raise to put pressure on the players behind you and increase your chances of stealing the pot postflop, even if the hand isn't premium?

In other words, you are thinking about whether you should raise to isolate the limpers or whether you should overlimp, see a cheap flop, and take it from there. What are the important factors to consider before making this decision?

We start by listing things you should be thinking about, and then we illustrate with examples:

3.1 Factors to consider in an isolation raise/overlimp decision

Your absolute position
In general, isolate more from CO than from MP, and isolate more from the button than from CO. The fewer players behind you, the more steal equity you buy with an isolation raise, plain and simple.

Your chance of winning the pot preflop
Usually zero when someone has limped in, but we include this for the sake of completeness. If you have position on a single limper who will often fold if you raise, this is a strong argument for isolation raising.

The number of limpers
The more limpers already in the pot, the more likely it is that the hand will go to showdown, and the less steal equity you have. Therefore, in a multiway pot you should isolation raise less with weak hands. Isolation raising with a lot of weak hands in this scenario sets you up for playing lots of big pots with hands that will often have to fold on the flop (since weak hands, per definition, tend to hit the flop less hard than premium hands).

The limpers' postflop tendencies
Isolate more against players who play fit-or-fold postflop. This increases your steal equity by setting you up for winning a lot of pots with a flop c-bet. Against limpers who are very "sticky" postflop and often force you to bluff more than once to steal pots, isolation raising becomes less attractive.

The tendencies of the players behind you
For example, if you are in CO with position on a single limper, you should often try to isolate. But if you have one or more loose players on the button or in the blinds, then your isolation raise will (per definition) succeed less often. If you often get called by the players behind you, you will often find yourself in raised multiway pots, so you should weight your raising range away from weak, speculative hands, and more towards premium hands.

Assess the type and quality of your starting hand
We started by assuming we had a speculative or marginal hand that you wanted to play. Then we discussed the most important factors to consider before choosing between isolation raising and overlimping. Now, finally, it's time to have a closer look at our starting hand.

3.2 Assessing your starting hand when making an isolation raise/overlimp decision

Does our hand play better against many opponents or against few opponents
More precisely, do we prefer many opponents in a limped pot, or few opponents in a raised pot? This leads us to another question:

Is our hand "nutty" or "non-nutty"?
Nutty hands have the potential to make the nuts. Therefore they play well in multiway pots, since the nuts will beat 5 opponents as easily as 1. So with a weak, but nutty hand, playing a limped pot in position will generally be a fine preflop scenario for you. Thus, you know that you can always fall back on overlimping. So the question that needs answering is whether or not an isolation raise will be better. If not, you overlimp, plain and simple.

Overlimping is usually the best alternative behind several limpers if you have a weak, nutty hand that rarely hits the flop hard, but when it hits, it hits very hard. For example, "dry" high pairs, weak suited aces, and rainbow rundowns. With these hands you are hoping to flop sets, flushes, and nutstraights on rainbow boards, respectively. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, you have a very strong hand.

Some examples of these types of hands are: K K 8 3 , A J 6 2 and T 9 7 5 . With these long shot hands it doesn't make much sense to build a big preflop pot, since the really good flops for us are few and far between (but the good flops are really good). Behind several limpers, it's therefore best to overlimp and plan around showdown equity and implied odds with a minimal preflop investment.

Non-nutty hands requires a bit more thinking, since we don't always have a profitable alternative (like overlimping is for the nutty hands) in spots where we can not isolation raise. So instead of choosing between isolation raising and overlimping, we frequently have to choose between isolation raising, overlimping and folding.

Here I would like to add that the hands from the Speculative and Marginal categories in our preflop core strategy are generally good enough to overlimp in position behind an arbitrary number of limpers. But as we learn to extend our core strategy more and more by loosening up profitably in position, we will get into more spots where we have to choose between isolation raising and folding, with overlimping being the worst of our 3 options.

We start by postulating that non-nutty hand generally play better against few opponents. Therefore, if the conditions seem good for isolating the limper(s), we should look to isolate with our non-nutty hands.

But if the conditions seem poor for isolation raising, we have to plan more around showdown equity, and we should raise less often with weak hands. The choice will then more often be between overlimping and folding. And if our hand is both weak and non-nutty, and therefore plays poorly against many opponents, we might be better off folding than overlimping.

Let's illustrate these principles at work by looking at an isolation raise/overlimp/fold decision for two speculative and non-nutty hands:

Hand 1: T 9 8 5 (included in our core strategy)
Hand 2: Q 9 5 3 (not included in our core strategy

Both hands are double-suited, non-premium (according to our starting hand categories) hands, and both have non-nutty strength components (but Hand 1 is clearly more nutty than Hand 2). Assume you're on the button after one or more limpers, and assess your alternatives.

Hand 1 (a double-suited, speculative rundown) is clearly playable here, regardless of the number of limpers. Furthermore, this is a type of hand that plays well in raised pots. Double-suited rundowns hit a lot of flops (as we saw in Part 3), which means we will often have a hand good enough to continue past the flop. Hands with this property are precisely the kind of hands we want to play in raised pots. Having a hand that can hit a lot of flops fairly well reduces the likelihood of having to give up postflop and abandon a pot where we have made a big preflop investment.

This means Hand 1 is a good hand for isolation raising purposes. A raise thins the field, builds the pot, and gives us the initiative. This does several good things for us:

1. Thinning the field makes our hand hold up more often when we hit the flop
2. Building the pot preflop makes it easier to profitably maneuver the rest of the stack in postflop when we hit the flop
3. Seizing the initiative will frequently cause our opponents to check to us on the flop. This gives us the option to choose between making a c-bet and taking a free card when we miss the flop

With Hand 1 we're not overly concerned with what happens after we raise. If we thin the field, great. Then we can plan more around stealing pots postflop. But if we get many callers and see the flop in a very multiway pot, that's fine too. Then we move our postflop game plan away from stealing and more towards a fit-or-fold strategy. The low stack/pot ratio (more about this in future articles about postflop play) + our position will then make it relatively easy to play the rest of the hand profitably when we connect sufficiently well with the flop.

So we can raise T 9 7 5 and similar speculative hands behind limpers. When the raise does not thin the field, there are other benefits to be had from raising, and this type of hand generally plays well in a big pot regardless of what happens after we raise. Note that we're not particularly worried about getting 3-bet, since our hand plays well against AAxx (as demonstrated in Part 3) in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot.

Now, compare Hand 2 with Hand 1. Q 9 5 3 is a very weak hand that looks much better (because of the two suits) than it really is. The hand is very uncoordinated, and it will never flop wraps. The best we can hope for are open-ended straight draws and straights without redraws to better straights. And when we flop flushes/flushdraws they are almost never to the nuts (the same is true for Hand 1, but Hand 1 as great straight potential, and the flush potential is merely backup).

So playing this trashy hand for a raise behind limpers does not set us up for profitably stacking off on a lot of flops, it's quite the opposite. When we hit the flop we will most of the time have a weak, non-nutty hand that can not be bet for value in a multiway pot. Also, note that uncoordinated hands benefit less from having the option to take a free card on the flop (when an uncoordinated hand does not connect well with the flop, it's unlikely that the turn card will help much). So an isolation raise will be based almost solely on steal equity, but we don't have much of that either with one or more limpers already in the pot.

So does this mean we should overlimp Hand 2 instead of isolation raising? No. With a hand that has so little postflop potential, it doesn't make much sense to overlimp and get involved voluntarily in a multiway pot, even if it's cheap. We're only setting ourselves up for lots of difficult postflop decisions with negative implied odds and headache. So hands like Hand 2 should be folded preflop in limped pots. You can use them for loose openraising in position when the conditions are good for it, but don't voluntarily get involved in pots where you are forced to see a flop.

Example 3.1

UTG ($10) limps, you ($10) have K K 9 3 in CO. The players behind you are unknown. What is your plan?

An isolation raise seems obvious. You have position on a single limper, and you have a hand that plays well in a raised pot (although you have to fold to a 3-bet), even if you get several callers. If your isolation raise succeeds (and we're assuming our chances are decent), your plan should be to exploit steal equity by c-betting most flops when checked to. You will pick up a lot of these pots on the flop. If you get 3-bet preflop, you should fold your dry pair (and we will explain why when discussing playing against a 3-bet in Part 5).

If you get several callers, your postflop game plan should revolve more around showdown equity and less around steal equity (c-bet less, and play more fit-or-fold). With more than 2 callers, you should definitely play mostly fit-or-fold on the flop, and rarely put more chips into the pot without hitting the flop (we're mostly set mining in a very multiway pot).

Example 3.2

UTG ($10) limps, MP ($10) limps, you ($10) have K K 9 3 on the button. The blinds are unknown. What is your plan?

We have the same hand as in Example 3.1, but in a different scenario. In Example 3.1 we raised to isolate a single limper with assumed decent steal equity. Here we have two limpers in the pot already, and therefore much less steal equity. We have a weak, but nutty hand that plays well in a limped pot against many opponents.

As mentioned in the previous example, K K 9 3 also plays well for a single raise, but this does not mean we should raise if this does not give us any advantages over overlimping.

With a weak, nutty hand in a situation that seems to head towards a multiway pot no matter what we do, overlimping seems best. We're now playing for showdown equity and implied odds. We're mostly hoping to flop top set, but we will of course also be opportunistic if we're given the chance to steal postflop. If we get raised by one of the blinds, we call and hope to hit top set (KKxx-hands play OK for a single raise, as previously mentioned).

Note that the advantage of sometimes getting a free card on the flop is pretty much nonexistent for an either-or hand like K K 9 3 . If we don't have a good hand (e.g. top set) on the flop, it's very unlikely that the turn card will improve us. So this advantage from a preflop raise disappears, and raising does not do much extra for us in this scenario, compared to overlimping.

Example 3.3

UTG ($10) limps, you ($10) have A K Q 6 on the button. The blinds are unknown. What is your plan?

You have a speculative hand with good high-card strength, and a nut suit. You're on the button behind a single limper, and this is a good spot for an isolation raise. We hope to get heads-up, but playing a raised, multiway pot is fine too, with a decently strong and nutty hand like this one.

Since our hand is nutty, it obviously also plays well in a limped, multiway pot. But an isolation raise should buy us a lot of steal equity in this scenario, and the aggressive alternative seems clearly better than overlimping.

Example 3.4

UTG ($10) limps, MP ($10) limps, CO ($10) limps, you ($10) have A T 7 4 on the button. The blinds are unknown. What is your plan?

Like in Example 3.3 you have a suited ace, and this time you have a 2nd suit to go along with your nut suit. But having an extra non-nut suit does not make this a raising hand behind 3 limpers. The hand lacks coordination, and it doesn't have much going for it other that the suited ace. In other words, this is a scenario where we have a weak, but nutty hand in a very multiway pot. So we overlimp and plan around showdown equity + implied odds (and we might get some postflop steal opportunities in position).

Example 3.6

UTG ($10) limps, MP ($10) limps, you ($10) have J 9 8 6 on the button. The blinds are unknown. What is your plan?

Here we can raise to isolate with a double-suited rundown, even if it's a little rough and with a gap at the top. As previously mentioned, raising with this type of hand has several advantages:

- We thin the field with a non-nutty hand
- We set ourselves up for stacking off profitably with a low stack/pot ratio when we hit the flop well
- We set ourselves up for more options to take a free card on the flop, should we want one

If we get many callers, that's fine. Then we simply steal less postflop, and play more fit-or-fold. And calling a 3-bet is fine, too, since we have a hand that often hits the flop. If we get 3-bet, we call, planning to shove the rest of the stack in on flops where we have hit a sufficiently strong piece (and we will study such scenarios in detail in Part 5)

Example 3.6

UTG ($10) limps, you have K 8 4 2 on the button. The blinds are unknown. What is your plan?

This hand we fold. We have a double-suited, but very uncoordinated hand, which is basically trash. Double-suited trash hands may look pretty, but they play very poorly without preflop steal equity. You could have considered a loose button steal if it had been folded to you, but we don't want to get involved with this hand when we are forced to see a flop.

Most of you will immediately see that this is not the kind of hand we want to raise behind limpers, but my guess is many of you will still be tempted to overlimp because the hand is double-suited. But double-suited trash is still trash. By overlimping with non-nutty trash hands, we're setting ourselves up for juggling with weak and non-nutty made hands postflop, and in a multiway pot to boot. In other words, we're setting ourselves up for donating implied odds to the nutty hands that are out there. So be disciplined, fold these hands preflop after limpers, and save yourselves mucho postflop grief.

To see why most postflop scenarios will be difficult for us after overlimping with this kind of hand, think about what our best flops will be. With the rare exception of flopping the nut flush (happens extremely rarely) or various full house/quad combinations (that we can flop with any trash hand), there aren't any made hand/draw combinations that will give us a monster when we hold K 8 4 2 .

Note that it isn't fear of losing our preflop investment that stops us, but the fear of losing a lot more postflop when we (unavoidably) find ourselves in tricky spots with negative implied odds.

4. Extending the core strategy with 3-betting
So far the discussion of preflop core strategy has revolved around openraising and playing in limped pots (raising premium hands for value, raising to isolate, and overlimping). The next step is to extend our core strategy by adding a strategy for 3-betting. Most of the 3-betting we do will be based on value with premium hands that we assume have an equity edge over the raiser's range.

But sometimes we will also make speculative 3-bets with weaker hands where we plan more around steal equity and less around showdown equity. And in particularly favorable spots we will also occasionally make bluff 3-bets with very weak hands, where the profitability of the 3-bet mostly depends on steal equity.

We'll discuss these 3 forms of 3-betting in turn and illustrate with examples. But before we start discussing 3-bet ranges, let's talk briefly about the things we need to think about when deciding whether or not to 3-bet:

4.1 Factors to consider when deciding whether or not to 3-bet

You can 3-bet more hands when you're in position. Position gives you more options postflop, more control over postflop play, and more opportunities to steal. This increases the profitability of all hands you choose to play, which means you can relax your starting hand standards a bit. Most of our speculative 3-bets will be done in position. For bluff 3-betting we rely strongly on position (plus additional favorable circumstances that we'll talk about in a minute)

Conversely, being out of position reduces the profitability of all hands we play, and we adjust by folding more speculative hands and weighting our range more towards premium hands. Out of position we will for the most part only 3-bet premium hands for value.

The number of players in the pot
You should 3-bet more heads-up than in multiway pots. The more opponents you have, the less steal equity you have, and the more you have to plan around showdown equity. This means you should weight your 3-bet range towards premium hands. With more than one player already in the pot, we will usually only 3-bet for value. Heads-up (and in position) we will often get opportunities to make speculative 3-bets.

The raiser's range
As a starting point, we 3-bet tighter against a tight raiser. But we might make an exception if he is also tight and predicable postflop, and we have position on him. Then we might 3-bet him with a speculative hand to isolate him, planning to steal a lot of pots postflop. Against a loose raiser we can also get away with more speculative 3-betting, especially if he plays weakly after a 3-bet.

The raiser's skills
We will make fewer speculative 3-bets against good players, since these defend themselves better against such attacks. Conversely, against weak players we will 3-bet more hands, particularly in position.

Your cards
The more favorable the other factors are, the less important our cards become. For example, with position on a loose raiser who won't play back against frequent 3-betting, we will often 3-bet speculative hands. But if we're in the blinds after a raise and a caller, we will for the most part only 3-bet our most premium hands.

4.2 3-betting for value
First, let's agree on the most important rule concerning building big pots preflop:

Don't build a big preflop pot in situations where you are setting yourself up for often having to fold postflop

In other words, when you choose to build a big preflop pot, one of the following needs to be true:

1. You expect to often flop a hand god enough to continue past the flop
2. You expect to often steal the pot postflop

When we 3-bet for value, we focus on the first of these points. 3-betting for value means 3-betting with premium, coordinated hands that often connect with the flop. And when they connect with the flop, they tend to build nutty and dominating hands that can extract value from non-nutty and dominated hands played by our opponents (for example making the nut flush and getting paid off by lower flushes, or flopping the nut straight with redraws and freerolling the nut straight with no redraws). From Part 2 we know that the components of starting hand strength are:

1. High card strength
2. Connectedness
3. Suitedness

So when we 3-bet for value, we want suited and connected high card hands. Most of these hands are found in the "Premium" starting hand category defined in Part 2. A solid core strategy range for value 3-betting is:

- Premium AAxx, at least single-suited, with a pair, 2 Broadway cards, or a connector
- Premium Broadway wraps, at least single-suited, and preferably with an ace
- Premium KKxx, QQxx, JJxx, at least single-suited, and with connected side cards, or another high pair

In other words, hands like these:

- A A Q Q
- A A K J
- A A T 9
- A Q J T
- K Q J T
- K K Q J
- K Q Q J
- Q J J 9
- K K Q Q

Note that we want at least one suit. For the Broadway hands without a pair, we prefer hands with an ace, and we prefer the hand to be suited to the ace (nutflush potential is very valuable).

Below is a series of examples where we consider a 3-bet for value with a premium hand, included scenarios where we elect not to 3-bet. In all the examples we first assess the situation by thinking about the various factors discussed previously (our position, the number of opponents, etc.), and then we make a decision based on the circumstances and our cards:

Example 4.1

CO ($10) raises to $0.35, you have Q Q J T on the button. CO is a loose raiser with VP$IP =48 and PFR% =29. Small blind ($10) is an unknown, and BB ($10) is a solid TAG. What is your plan?

This is a good scenario for a 3-bet, partly for value and partly to isolate a loose raiser. You have the button with position on a loose raiser, and you have a double-suited premium hand. You expect the blinds to fold to a 3-bet most of the time, so that a 3-bet will set you up for playing a heads-up pot with position on the loose raiser.

A 3-bet in this spot will be both for value (your hand should do well against the raiser's range and the blinds' random hands) and to increase your steal equity (you expect the combination of position and aggression to win a lot of pots for you against a player with a loose range). With both showdown equity and steal equity working for you, this is a good spot for a 3-bet.

Example 4.2

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, CO ($10) calls, button ($10) calls, SB ($10) calls, you ($10) have Q Q J T in the big blind. UTG is a 26/17 TAG, the rest of the field is a mix of unknown and loose-passive players. What is your plan?

We have the same hand as in Example 4.1, but the circumstances are different. Here you are out of position in a large pot, and with 4 opponents. Also, even if QQJT double-suited is a premium hand, it isn't necessarily a hand you want to play for a 3-bet out of position against a big field.

You have a high, coordinated pair with two suits, but this hand has less nut potential than premium AAxx and premium KKxx. Having two suits is nice, but you don't have nut suits. And when you flop a set with QQ, sometimes it won't be top set. These are not big problems in a heads-up pot, especially with position. But it's much more difficult to play non-nutty hands and draws postflop, especially against many opponents.

By 3-betting here, you are setting yourself up for difficult postflop decisions in a big pot (and tricky decisions is precisely what you don't want when you're playing a big pot). Setting yourself up for difficult postflop decisions means you're giving the opposition opportunities to outplay you postflop. This is a serious problem in a big pot. For example, is it correct for you to c-bet all flops where you have an overpair? Is it correct to give up on all flops where you don't flop either an overpair or a strong draw?

The answer is "no" for both these questions, but out of position you'll often have a hard time figuring our when it's correct to continue past the flop and when it's correct to give up. In position you have the luxury of seeing your opponents' actions before you act, but out of position you're forced to guess more. And when you guess in a big pot, you'll unavoidably make costly mistakes.

Your position and the number of opponents are the most important factors here, but we should also note that the raise came from a tight-aggressive player in early position. This means his range is probably weighted heavily towards premium hands. This is different from Example 4.1 where we faced a loose raiser. And of course any one of the coldcallers could have a premium hand as well.

We conclude that in this scenario it makes more sense to call and plan around showdown equity and implied odds. In this scenario you should only 3-bet for value with nutty, ultra-premium hands (Remember: Nuttiness becomes more important out of position). If you choose to only 3-bet with your best AAxx hands (good side cards and at least single-suited), there's nothing wrong with that.

Having an ultra-tight 3-betting range in situations like this one will obviously give away a lot of information about our hand. But as we shall see later in Part 5, this is not necessarily something that is easy for our opponents to exploit. The reason is that premium hands (per definition) often hit the flop hard enough to stack off profitably in big pots (and we can show this using flop equity distributions, as discussed in Part 3).

As a final comment: This example illustrates a general principle, namely that we should be cautious about making big reraises with paired hands (except the highest and most premium/nutty pairs). Especially out of position and against many opponents.

A qualitative justification for this rule of thumb is that paired hands hit less flops hard than unpaired hands. They also play poorly against AAxx, and getting 4-bet is problematic. So in scenarios like this example, our best option is often to just call, preserve implied odds, see a flop and take it from there.

Example 4.3

Button ($10) raises to $0.35, SB folds, you ($10) have A K J T in the big blind. Button is unknown. What is your plan?

This is a standard value 3-bet with a premium, double-suited Broadway hand. You are out of position, but your hand should do well in a 3-bet pot against button's (assumed) loose range.

Example 4.4

CO ($10) raises to $0.35, button ($10) calls, SB ($10) calls, you have A A J T in the big blind. All opponents are unknown. What is your plan?

An automatic 3-bet for value with a premium AAxx hand. This scenario is similar to Example 4.2 (out of position with a premium pair in a raised, multiway pot) but here we have the nuts preflop, and we have a big equity edge against the field and a hand that will hit a lot of flops hard enough to continue past the flop. Also, we would welcome a 4-bet, since that would allow us to 5-bet all in and realize all our preflop equity.

We expect several callers, but this is not a problem for us with a premium AAxx hand. We will hit a lot of flops hard enough to c-bet and profitably get the rest of the stack in postflop. But we are of course not automatically committed to go with the hand postflop. With many callers, we will consider the flop texture and the number of opponents, and then choose a postflop plan.

But that decision comes later. The preflop 3-bet is automatic, based solely on value.

Example 4.5

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, MP ($10), button ($10) calls, you have A A 8 2 in the big blind. The opposition is a mix of tight-aggressive and loose-passive players. What is your plan?

You have a double-suited AAxx hand in a scenario similar to Example 4.2 and Example 4.4. In Example 4.2 we elected to call with a premium, but non-nutty pair. In Example 4.4 we 3-bet for value with a premium AAxx hand. So what is our decision here?

This hand falls somewhere in between Example 4.2 and Example 4.4. We have the nuts preflop plus two nut suits, and this supports a 3-bet. But our side cards are completely uncoordinated, and we don't have anything extra going for us, other than the suits.

This makes A A 8 2 less suitable for value 3-betting, since the lack of coordination will be a problem for us when we're looking for flops to profitably stack off on (Remember: When you build a big preflop pot based on value, it's important that you have a hand that often hits the flop well enough to continue).

Therefore, even if having two nut suits makes this a good AAxx hand, the lack of coordination is enough to keep it out of the Premium category. So it seems best to avoid 3-betting in this scenario, out of position against 3 opponents.

Note that if you had been on the button heads-up against a raiser, this would have been a standard 3-bet for value/isolation. In that situation we would move away from our strict core strategy for value 3-betting and more towards speculative 3-betting (although A A 8 2 is a near-premium hand).

Remember that the purpose of a core strategy is to provide solid guidelines, designed to keep you out of trouble. You will often find yourself in the "grey area" that the core strategy doesn't discuss in detail. In these scenarios, you have to rely on experience and on-the-spot assessment. This gets easier the more you play.

Example 4.6

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, MP ($10) calls, you ($10) have A A 8 3 on the button. All opponents are unknown. What is your plan?

This is not a good spot for a 3-bet. The pot is multiway, and you have a trashy AAxx hand that will rarely improve to something worth continuing with on the flop against several opponents. Our best alternative is to call, planning to play mostly fit-or-fold postflop (we're mostly hoping to flop top set). Note that if are faced with a 3-bet from the blinds, we will get the opportunity to 4-bet and get most of our stack in.

Here we have AAxx of such low quality that we choose to play them like we would play dry KKxx. We call to spike top set with good implied odds, and little else. In addition, we will sometimes get the opportunity to 4-bet.

We discussed the ills of 3-betting trashy AAxx out of position in Part 2 (see section 7.6 and Example 8.3). In this example we have position, but the same logic applies.

Example 4.7

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, MP ($10) calls, you ($10) have A K K J on the button. UTG is an ultra-tight raiser with VP$IP =15 and PFR% =2.1. You have seen him go to showdown twice after raising preflop, and both times he had AAxx. The other players are unknown. What is your plan?

You should expect UTG's raising range to be heavily weighted towards AAxx, and that the quality of his non-AAXX raising hands is comparable to our hand. If this is the case, we don't have much of an equity edge here, and a 3-bet will often get 4-bet. This is something we want to avoid, since our hand plays poorly against a 4-bet from AAxx (we have 34% equity against a random AAxx hand as shown by this ProPokerTools calculation).

Under these assumptions, it seems best to call in position, preserve implied odds, and look for profitable postflop scenarios to present themselves.

Example 4.8

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, MP ($10) calls, you ($10) have A K K J on the button. UTG is loose-aggressive with VP$IP =42 and PFR% =28. MP is loose-passive. What is your plan?

We have the same starting hand as in Example 4.7, but this time the raiser is very loose-aggressive, and we can assume his range is wide. We have a premium, double-suited KKxx hand in position against two weak ranges (the raiser's and the caller's), and this seems like a good spot for a 3-bet for value (and also to isolate).

4.3 Speculative 3-betting
The principle behind speculative 3-betting is simple:

In situations where we have good steal equity, we are less dependent on showdown equity. This allows us to relax our starting hand requirements.

For example, assume you're on the button after a CO raise. You have gathered reads on CO, and you know he raises a wide range from this position. You also know he will play a tight and predictable style after getting 3-bet by a player with position on him:
- Postflop he will push AAxx if his 4-bet got called
- With the rest of his hands he plays fit-or-fold on the flop

This predictable strategy can be exploited by 3-betting in position. This forces him to give up a lot of pots, either preflop or on the flop, and the increased steal equity will make it profitable to 3-bet him with a wide range of premium and speculative hands. So which speculative hands should we include? We start with these:

- Good, suited rundowns
- Suited aces with good rundowns

In other words, hands like these:

Q J T 9
9 8 7 6
Q T 9 8
J 9 8 7
T 8 7 5

A T 9 8
A 9 8 7
A J 9 8
A 8 7 6

For both types of hands we prefer rundowns with few gaps. If we have gaps, we prefer them to be at the bottom. We also prefer double-suited hands over single-suited hands, and high rundowns over low ones.

The hands we most want to see are hands like Q J T 9 and A J T 8 . We shy away from the lowest and roughest variations with only one suit, for example 7 5 4 3 and A 8 5 4 .

As a starting point, we only make speculative 3-bets in position when we think this will result in good steal equity. The perfect scenario for a speculative 3-bet is on the button, behind a loose raiser who plays weak-tight and predictable after a 3-bet. If he only 4-bets AAxx hands, this is perfect (this gives us a lot of information about his hand, and is easy to defend against). If he also folds a lot preflop and/or plays fit-or-fold postflop, so much the better.

Here is an example of a speculative 3-bet, followed by an example where we choose not to 3-bet because of unfavorable circumstances:

Example 4.9
CO ($10) raises to $0.35, you have T 9 8 6 on the button. CO is unknown, and both blinds are tight-aggressive players who play tight out of position. What is your plan?

We know nothing about CO's range and his tendencies, but there are several other factors in favor of a speculative 3-bet. It's also generally a good idea to test the opposition early. All in all this seems like a good spot for a speculative 3-bet with a double-suited premium rundown.

If the blinds fold and CO calls, our plan should be to c-bet most flops. With several callers preflop, we will c-bet less, but we still plan to do some stealing postflop on favorable flop textures.

If we get 4-bet, we call. We will mostly be up against AAxx, and we have a perfect hand (double-suited rundown) for defending against a 4-bet from AAxx. If we see the flop heads-up in a 4-bet pot, our plan is to do "cherry picking" on the flop. This means we call the (expected) c-bet when we have hit the flop sufficiently hard. Since we expect Villain to show us AAxx almost every time, it's relatively easy to estimate our flop equity. The rest is a matter of comparing our equity to the pot-odds we're getting, and then we call or fold.

Example 4.10
UTG ($10) raises to $0.35, MP ($10) calls, you have A 9 8 7 on the button. UTG is a solid TAG who only raises premium hands from UTG. MP is also a TAG, the small blind is unknown, and the big blind is loose-passive. What is your plan?

We have one of the better speculative hands, so we're obviously not folding. Here we're probably up against two solid ranges (a TAG UTG raise plus a TAG MP coldcall), and we have a loose player in the big blind. Most of the time a 3-bet will set us up for playing a big, multiway pot with a speculative hand, since we expect to be called in several spots. This will not do much for us, since:

- We probably have zero steal equity preflop
- We probably have little steal equity postflop
- We probably don't have an equity edge against the ranges we're facing
- There's a significant chance someone has AAxx

Since we probably can not steal this pot, and since we have a hand of the type good-but-not-great, calling seems best. Our plan is to see the flop cheaply with a nutty, speculative hand and good implied odds in a raised, multiway pot. We might also get some steal opportunities postflop. Note that the opposition's postflop checking is more likely to signal weakness when we don't 3-bet preflop (3-bet will often induce our opponents to automatically check to the 3-bettor on the flop).

4.4 Bluff-3-betting
3-betting as a bluff is simply pushing the limits for speculative 3-betting in scenarios where a 3-bet will give us very good steal equity. If the conditions are very good, a 3-bet might be profitable based on steal equity alone, and therefore we don't need much of a hand. But we should not go completely over board and 3-bet trash. We can afford to wait for something that resembles a playable hand.

This kind of 3-betting should be done very sparingly, and only under very favorable circumstances. Specifically, we should never bluff 3-bet when:

- We're out of position
- More than one player has entered the pot
- We expect several callers

We also prefer the raiser to be weak, predictable and easy to play against, and we prefer to have the button. Under these circumstances a 3-bet should set us up for seeing a lot of flops heads-up, in position, and with good postflop steal equity.

Here is an example of bluff 3-betting:

Example 4.11
CO ($10) raises to $0.35, you have Q 9 6 5 on the button. What is your plan?

Without more information the answer is a loud "FOLD!", but you can consider a bluff 3-bet when several of the following criteria are met:

- The raiser has a wide range
- He plays tight and predictable after a 3-bet
- He only 4-bets AAxx
- He plays fit-or-fold postflop after calling a 3-bet out of position
- The blinds are not particularly loose
- You have a solid table image

The main idea behind this type of 3-bet is to either win the pot preflop, or steal it with a c-bet on the flop. But we have a little bit of backup from the cards. Since we don't 3-bet pure trash (we have a suit and some coordination) we will flop something decent every now and then. This will allow us to also win some of the pots Villain won't let us steal.

If we get heads-up and Villain 4-bets, we have to estimate whether or not our hand has enough potential to call profitably. If we choose to call, we do so under the assumption that CO only 4-bets AAxx hands. If this is the case, we can call the 4-bet profitably with a wide range of speculative, unpaired hands, planning to "cherry pick" flops. For this we need a hand with a minimum of coordination and preferably a suit, and here we have both.

We won't make this call/fold decision here, but we will take this example with us to Part 5 and find the answer there. We will use the flop equity distribution of Q 9 6 5 against AAxx to decide whether or not it's profitable to call the 4-bet and then go all-in on flops where we have sufficient equity against AAxx.

Bluff 3-betting should only be done when the circumstances are very favorable. Used sparingly, bluff 3-betting will make you a little more profitable in late position, a little harder to read, and a little tougher to play against.

4.5 When you 3-bet and get 4-bet
Our core strategy for playing against a 4-bet is simple:

When you get 4-bet, assume you're up against AAxx and play accordingly

It's rare to meet players who 4-bet non-AAxx hands as a default with 100 BB stacks. Good players will adjust to loose 3-betting by loosening up their 4-betting ranges, but not as a standard play against unknowns with 100 BB stacks. If it's a mistake to assume the 4-bettor has AAxx every time, it's a small mistake.

The question is then: How do we play against a 4-bet from AAxx with 100 BB stacks?

In this article we will answer this question qualitatively, and in Part 5 we will dig deeper and study the scenario mathematically. Phrased in simple core strategy terms: With 100 BB stacks, our defense against getting 4-bet by AAxx consists of two parts:

1. We 5-bet AAxx all-in.
2. We call the 4-bet with hands that are coordinated enough to profitably call and then "cherry pick" flops.

The first part is obvious, the second part is more diffuse. But the main idea is that it will be profitable for many speculative hands to call a preflop 4-bet, planning to call the flop c-bet all-in whenever we have sufficient equity compared to the pot-odds we're getting on the flop. For this to work well, we want the 4-bettor to have AAxx almost always, since this makes it easy to estimate our equity accurately on the flop.

From Part 3 we know that a very uncoordinated hand like K K 7 2 has big problems in 3-bet and 4-bet pots, and the reason is that is has so few flops with good equity. Dry pairs have a narrow range of flops with very good equity against AAxx (when we flop a set, trips or two pair), but beyond these miracle flops, there isn't much equity to find.

Therefore, when we get involved in a 4-bet pot with this type of hand, we are setting ourselves up for almost always having to fold to the flop c-bet. This means we don't get a good return on our preflop investment, and we're simply donating chips by calling the 4-bet.

The flop equity distribution graph below illustrates the problem K K 7 2 has against AAxx in big pots. Most of our flop equity is "crammed together" on a small number of flops (top 15% of flops, or thereabouts). Outside of these top 15% of flops, our equity is always poor:

In the opposite end of the flop equity distribution spectrum we have premium, double-suited rundowns like 9 8 7 6 These hands will often flop decent combinations of made hand + draw which allows us to profitably call the all-in flop c-bet. From the flop equity distribution graph below we see that our equity now is distributed evenly, and not lumped together on a small top x% number of flops:

This means hands like 9 8 7 6 will often flop well enough to profitably go with the hand on the flop. When we call the 4-bettor's expected flop c-bet, we're getting a little more than 2 : 1, so we need a little less than 33% equity on the flop. The graph above tells us that we have 33% of better on a wide range of flops, approximately top 60% of all flops.

We will not continue this theoretical discussion here, but stick to qualitative guidelines. However, we will use the two flop equity distributions above to illustrate the general principle at work:

When we defend against a 4-bet from a AAxx hand by calling and then "cherry picking" flops, we want a suited and coordinated hand that often flops decent equity

Here is an example:

Example 4.12


CO ($10) raises to $0.35, you ($10) have T 8 7 6 on the button. You have reads telling you that CO is a loose raiser who respects 3-bets, and he tends to play tight out of position after getting 3-bet. You have the button and a hand well suited for speculative 3-betting, so you 3-bet pot to $1.20. CO immediately 4-bets pot to $3.75. What is your plan?

Oops! We have to assume we have clashed with AAxx here. But all is not lost, since we have one of the better hands for "cracking" AAxx. We have 41.54% equity preflop (ProPokerTools calculation), and our hand has a very smooth flop equity distribution against AAxx, as shown below:

The pot is $7.65 on the flop with $6.25 stacks remaining. When CO pushes the rest of his stack in on the flop, we're getting pot-odds (7.65 + 6.25) : 6.25 =2.22 : 1. So we need 1/(2.22 + 1) =0.31 =31% equity to have a profitable call.

From the graph above we see that we will have minimum 31% equity on more than 60% of all flops. So we will find enough equity to call (and get a return on our preflop investment) more often than we fold. This presupposes that we are able to estimate outs and equity quickly and accurately on the flop. But this is an easy thing to learn.

Here is an example of a flop where we can call profitably:

Flop: K 6 4 ($7.65)
CO ($6.25) pushes. Does our T 8 7 6 have enough equity (minimum 31%) on this flop?

Let's start by counting outs:

- Par + 3 kickers (2 + 9 =11 outs)
- Gutshot (4 outs)
- Backdoor flush (1 out)

The gutshot and the backdoor flush draw give us 5 pretty clean outs, and we will also often win when we improve to trips. But our outs to two pair need to be discounted a bit. Whenever we improve to two pair on the turn, CO has 8 outs (2 aces, 3 kings, 3 fours) to top set or a better two pair. 8 outs corresponds to about 1/5 chance. So we discount the two pair-outs from 9 to 9(4/5) =7.2.

We round this number off to 7. Also, since CO probably has more redraws than this (we don't know his side cards), we subtract one more out, and end up with 6.

So we have:

- Par + 3 kickers (2 + 6 =8 outs)
- Gutshot (4 outs)
- Backdoor flush (1 out)

This gives us a total of 13 outs against AAxx. This corresponds to 3 x 13 + 9 =48% equity on the flop (Remember: We use the 4x-rule with 0-9 outs, and the 3x + 9-rule with 10 or more outs). A ProPokerTools calculation tells us our actual equity is 47%, so our estimate was pretty good.

This means we have a clear "cherry picking" call on the flop with god equity. After we call, our job is done, and we take the result as it comes.

About the profitability of calling a 4-bet from AAxx
We also discussed playing against AAxx in 4-bet pots in Part 3. There we used a model where our opponent's hand was known from the start, and we chose to play raised, 3-bet and 4-bet pots against him, even if we knew he had AAxx.

Not surprisingly we found that even the best "ace cracking" hands (double-suited rundowns) could not be played profitably in 4-bet pots against AAxx with a 100 BB stack. We therefore concluded that 4-betting AAxx with a 100 BB stack is unexploitable, even if the caller plays perfectly on the flop. But this doesn't mean that it's unprofitable to call the 4-bet!

In reality, we never know that Villain has AAxx when we 3-bet him (if we knew, we probably wouldn't have 3-bet). So the information about his hand reaches us at a point where the pot has already grown big, and the money we have invested no longer belongs to us (it belongs to the pot).

This means that even if it's unprofitable to build a 4-bet pot against AAxx with a 100 BB stack if we know we're up against AAxx from the start, we will often have a profitable call of the 4-bet at the moment we learn that Villain has AAxx. We lose money if we count our preflop investment from the moment we put our first chip in the pot. But we make money from the point we call the 4-bet. In other words, even if we lose money on the hand overall, we lose less by calling the 4-bet than by folding.

The types of hands that can profitably call a 4-bet from AAxx will be an important topic in Part 5.

5. Summary
We have extended our overall preflop core strategy to include strategies for 3-betting. We have also thoroughly discussed isolation raising versus overlimping in limped pots.

We're now getting close to a complete preflop core strategy, and the remaining part is a more systematic and quantitative discussion of the theory behind 3-betting/playing against a 3-bet/4-betting/playing against a 4-bet. This work will lead us to postflop play in 3-bet and 4-bet pots, and we'll let this be our transition point to the discussion of postflop play.

So our plan is to complete the discussion of preflop play in Part 5, and start discussing postflop play. From Part 6 and onwards, we will mostly talk about postflop play

Good luck!

P.S. And remember to 3-bet someone today!