1. Introduction
This is Part 5 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 5 and Part 6 we will conclude the discussion of principles of PLO preflop play, and make the transition to postflop play. In Part 4 we introduced 3-betting into our preflop core strategy, and we also talked briefly about defending against 4-bets. Part 4 focused on the preflop part of these scenarios, and the purpose of this work was to define solid ranges for 3-betting, solid guidelines for how to think about 3-betting, and to give an introduction to defending against 4-bets.

In Part 5 and Part 6 we will delve deeper into 3-bet and 4-bet pots, and at the same time begin talking about postflop play. The purpose of Part 5 and Part 6 is to present a systematic treatment of the big pot scenarios 3-bet pot and 4-bet pot where we tie together preflop strategy and postflop strategy. The structuring of Part 5 and Part 6 is:

Part 5
- 3-betting
- Playing against a 3-bet

Part 6
- 4-betting
- Playing against a 4-bet

(Part 5 and Part 6 were initially planned as one article about 3-betting/4-betting. But the material grew during the writing process, and it became necessary to split it into two articles)

The theory for 3-bet and 4-bet pots will be illustrated with simple examples along the way. We will also end Part 6 with a series of examples where we train sound big pot thought processes, and apply the theory we have learned.

To keep things simple, we will mostly stick to heads-up scenarios with 100 BB stacks in the examples. However, we will return to the topic of 3-bet/4-bet pots in future articles about postflop play (Part 7 and onwards). So we will get plenty of opportunities later in the article series to apply our knowledge to more complicated scenarios with more than one opponent and/or different stack sizes.

The purpose of Part 5 and Part 6 is not to cover every aspect of playing in 3-bet and 4-bet pots (one could write thick books on this topic), but to teach you sound thought processes and solid guidelines for how to play them. Big pots are important pots, and big mistakes in big pots are costly mistakes. Therefore, it's important that you learn:

1. How to think and plan preflop before you set yourselves up for playing a 3-bet/4-bet pot
2. How to think and plan postflop in 3-bet/4-bet pots

So now we dig into the topic of 3-betting/playing against a 3-bet, and in Part 6 we'll do the same for 4-betting/playing against a 4-bet.

2. Some macro principles for playing big pots
We kick off this article with some big picture ideas for preflop and postflop strategy in big pots. If we always think about these principles whenever we get involved in a big pot, we'll be on the right track:

2.1. "Master plan" for preflop play in big pots
Before you build a big pot by 3-betting or 4-betting preflop, know why you do it. Usually, this means thinking about many factors in addition to your 4 cards (and some of the things we should think about before a 3-bet were discussed thoroughly in Part 4).

Specifically, when you 3-bet or 4-bet, it should be because either:

1. You have a quality hand that often connects well enough with the flop to continue profitably
2. You believe your reraise will increase your steal equity, either preflop of postflop

Both criteria don't have to be satisfied at the same time, but for a 3-bet or 4-bet to make sense, at least one of them has to be. And if you're weak in of these areas, you need to be strong in the other. For example, if you have a trashy hand, you need good steal equity, either preflop or postflop.

2.2. "Master plan" for postflop play in big pots
When you've gotten involved in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot, it's important that you don't give up too easily postflop. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in any form of pot-limit or no-limit poker is to build big pots preflop and then abandon them lightly postflop. Folding when you shouldn't is usually a small mistake in a small pot, but can be a huge mistake in a big pot.

Thus, knowing when to 3-bet and 4-bet preflop does not help you if you frequently screw up postflop. If you are weak postflop, building many big pots preflop could easily be a leak for you, even if your preflop play is technically correct (in isolation).

Sticking to a postflop philosophy where you play cautiously with marginal hands is an OK starting point for limped and singly raised pots. But the bigger the preflop pot, the more important it becomes to play aggressively postflop to get value for your big preflop investment.

Therefore, in 3-bet and 4-bet pots, we simply can not "nut-peddle" (i.e. sit patiently and wait for the nuts or something close to the nuts). If you use this strategy in big pots, you will get run over. Correct postflop play in big pots often dictates you stack off lightly, sometimes with as little as top pair or a non-nutty pair + draw combination.

Postflop play in big pots revolves around play on the flop, and the remaining stacks often get pushed in there. The decisions are often dictated by simple mathematics (pot-odds and assumptions about opponent ranges). This means reads, metagame and planning over several streets become less important the bigger the pot grows preflop. This doesn't necessarily mean postflop decisions are easy in big pots, but the more chips go into the pot preflop, the less variables we have to take into consideration postflop.

Since much of the postflop play in 3-bet and 4-bet pots is automatic and based on math, we will find some "low hanging fruit here" (e.g. strategies that are easy to learn). It's a good starting point to think about postflop strategy in big pots as more of a craft than an art. One reason is that the possibilities for high level thinking (for example, complex multi-street bluffs) are limited when the pot is big relative to the remaining stacks.

A lot of the material in Part 5 and Part 6 is about "the craft of playing big pots". When we know the fundamentals, we will always find spots for artistry here and there. But if we don't know the fundamentals, and we frequently make big mistakes in big pots, occasional outbursts of brilliance won't save us.

We have talked a lot about the connection between preflop play and postflop play in PLO. Therefore, it should not be a surprise to anyone to hear that solid preflop play is an important part of big pot play. What we sow preflop is what we reap postflop. This will become clear in the discussions and examples throughout this article, for example in Section 3.4 where we look at 3-betting heads-up with premium and trashy AAxx hands.

2.3. Defining "big pot" and "small pot" using stack-to-pot-ratio (SPR)
To clarify what we mean when we are talking about big pots and small pots, we will use the conceptual tool stack-to-pot-ratio (SPR). Simply put, this is the ratio between the remaining stack and the pot size on the flop.

For example:

If you raise pot to 3.5 BB from UTG, get 3-bet by a player behind you, and call heads-up, the pot will be 25.5 BB on the flop. If both of you started with 100 BB stacks, you will have 88 BB left to play postflop. The stack-to-pot ratio is then SPR =88/25.5 =3.5.

But if the player behind you had called and the blinds had folded, the pot would have been 8.5 BB with 96.5 BB left to play postflop. This gives SPR =96.5/8.5 =11.

And if both you and the player behind you had limped, the small blind had folded, and the big blind had checked, the pot would have been 3.5 BB with 99 BB left to play. Now we would have SPR =99/3.5 =28.

Definition
When we talk about big pots, we mean pots with a low SPR. When we talk about small pots, we mean pots with a high SPR

In other words, how big a pot is depends on how big the pot is on the flop, compared to the remaining stacks. So what is a high SPR value and what is a low SPR value? We will use a simple classification scheme:

- Ultra-low SPR: less than 1
- Low SPR: less than 4
- Medium SPR: 4-13
- High SPR: more than 13

These are not exact definitions, but conceptual tools designed to help us think correctly about play in pots of various sizes. The relation between SPR and postflop play revolves around the following macro principles:

The lower the SPR, the more hands we should be willing to continue with on the flop, and the less we think about negative implied odds, the risk of clashing with the nuts, and the risk of getting bluffed out on later streets

The higher the SPR, the more cautious we need to be without the nuts, and the more we have to think about negative implied odds, the risk of clashing with the nuts, and the risk of getting bluffed out on later streets


As a consequence, when we set ourselves up for playing a pot with low SPR, we should have a starting hand suitable for this purpose. Keep in mind that playing with a high SPR is always an acceptable scenario for any starting hand (we can always fall back on a fit-or-fold/nut-peddling strategy if need be). But the lower the SPR, the more important it becomes to have a hand that often connects with the flop.

Postflop play with ultra-low SPR often comes down to simple pot-odds decisions (call or fold), and this is typical for 4-bet heads-up pots when we start with 100 BB stacks. With an ultra-low SPR we have to be willing to stack off pretty light in heads-up pots.

With a low SPR we are in the raise-or-fold region. If someone has made a bet in front of us, we will often choose between folding or committing fully (often by raising all-in). A 3-bet heads-up pots has a low SPR, assuming 100 BB starting stacks and pot-sized raises. Therefore, we will be doing a lot of raise-or-fold when our opponent bets into us on the flop.

With a medium or high SPR, we have more room for postflop play over several streets. Limped and singly-raised pots with 100 BB stacks lie in these regions. We can also get here in 3-bet or 4-bet pots when we're playing with very deep stacks.

Below are two examples to illustrate sound thought processes in pots with low and high SPR:

Example 2.1: Playing an overpair with low SPR
$10PLO
6-handed

CO ($2.80) raises to $0.35, you ($10) 3-bet pot to $1.20 with A A 9 8 on the button , the blinds fold, and CO calls.

Flop: T T 2 ($2.55)
CO ($1.60) pushes the rest of his stack in. What is your plan?

This is a call. The reason is that we're in an ultra-low SPR scenario where we have a simple pot odds decision. The effective stack is $1.60 on the flop, and the pot is $2.55. We have SPR =1.60/2.55 =0.6, in other words ultra-low, and this is a big pot-scenario where we must be willing to stack off light.

CO can of course have trips, but he can also easily be bluffing, or pushing for value with some hand that we beat. Using simple logic, his bet makes it look like he wants us out of the pot. There is little reason for him to push with a monster hand with these stack sizes. There are 3 streets left to play, and CO can get the money in whenever he chooses to. With a strong hand, he should simply check to us and hope we c-bet.

We have a solid hand for an ultra-low SPR scenario, so we should call for the pot odds and see who wins. We're getting pot odds 4.15 : 1.60 =2.59 : 1, so we need 1/(2.59 + 1) =0.28 =28% equity to have a profitable call.

If we're behind, we have 2-4 outs (2 outs to a full house, and 2 outs to a backdoor flush or backdoor straight) depending on whether CO has trips or a full house. 2-4 outs give us 8-16% equity. And since we also expect CO to push some hands we beat, including some pure bluffs, this should be a profitable call.

Example 2.2: Playing an overpair with high SPR
$10PLO
6-handed

You ($26) raise to $0.35 with A A 9 8 on the button , big blind ($22.50) calls.

Flop: T T 2 ($0.75)
Big blind ($22.15) bets $0.50. What is your plan?

The same starting hand and flop as in Example 2.1, but here the pot is singly-raised and not 3-bet. Also, the starting stacks are much deeper. This results in SPR =22.15/0.75 =30. In other words, we have a very high SPR, so we're in a small pot scenario.

Being willing to commit ~220 BB postflop with an overpair on a paired flop is suicide. The reason is that we will be crushed against the range of hands Villain is willing to commit his entire stack with. Furthermore, there aren't any worse hands Villain could hold that has a good draw against our hand on this extremely dry board. So there aren't any reasons for us to play aggressively, and our postflop plan should revolve around getting to showdown in a small-to-moderate pot.

But we still haven't decided whether or not we're going to see a showdown. We can start with a call on the flop, but we need to think long and hard about Villain's range and what to do if he keeps betting. Calling the flop bet and then folding to further betting is a reasonable line to take against an unknown opponent.

The point of the two previous examples is to illustrate that a decision that was trivial in an ultra-low SPR scenario (go with the hand, and that's that) became difficult with a high SPR (we should not commit our whole stack, but we should not fold to a flop bet either, so how far should be willing to go if Villain keeps betting?)

We'll bring the macro principles for playing with low and high SPR with us to the discussion of postflop play in 3-bet and 4-bet pots. We will make a habit out of always thinking about the stack-to-pot-ratio when planning our postflop play on the flop.

3. 3-betting
We did a thorough discussion of general principles of 3-betting in Part 4. So we will only briefly repeat them here before we move on to more specific 3-betting scenarios.

For conceptual simplicity, we defined 3 categories of 3-bets:

- Value 3-betting
- Speculative 3-betting
- Bluff 3-betting

These categories overlap somewhat, and we mostly use these definitions as conceptual tools. By thinking about what kind of 3-bet we are making, we also automatically think about our reasons for 3-betting. This makes hand planning easier, since we will know whether we're playing mainly for showdown equity or mainly for steal equity. We will also think about which postflop scenarios we want to create with our 3-bet.

3.1 Value 3-betting
In Part 4 we defined a core strategy range for value 3-betting:

- 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

The only addition we'll make here is that we can also 3-bet any AAxx hand (including the trashy ones) heads-up if we can get at least 1/3 of our stack in preflop. From Part 3 we remember that we could 4-bet all AAxx hands with a 100 BB starting stack. The reason was that we then got more than 1/3 of our stack in preflop (assuming all raises were pot-sized), so that there was less than 1 pot-sized bet left to play postflop.

With 1 pot-sized bet or less left in the stack on the flop, we can push any flop heads-up with AAxx, and there isn't anything our opponent can do to exploit it (and we did calculations that confirmed this in Part 3). In SPR terms, we are creating an ultra-low SPR scenario, since we (per definition) have SPR less than 1 when there is less than 1 pot-sized bet left to play on the flop.

The same mathematical argument is valid when we 3-bet against shortstacks, when we can maneuver more than 1/3 of the stack in preflop. For example, if a Villain with 30 BB stack raises to 3.5 BB from UTG, and you have a trashy AAxx like A A 9 6 in the big blind, you can 3-bet pot to 11 BB and get more than 1/3 of the stack in. When you get called, you simply push the rest in on the flop.

Below are two examples of 3-betting for value, out of position and in position, with postflop play included:

Example 3.1: Value 3-bet out of position - Top pair + weak draws on the flop against an aggressive opponent
$10PLO
6-handed

Button ($8.50) raises to $0.35, you ($11.20) 3-bet pot to $1.15 with A Q J 9 in the small blind, and button calls. You know that button raises a wide range of hands in position. You have also several times seen him raise c-bets heads-up in position on the flop, and he seems to be playing aggressively postflop with marginal hands/draws in big pots.

Flop: J 7 3 ($2.40)
You ($10.05) bet $2.40, button ($7.35) raises all-in. What is your plan?

Let's first find the SPR value, then we evaluate the strength of our hand, and then we make a decision. The pot is $2.40 on the flop with $7.35 left to play, so SPR =7.35/2.40 =3.1. This is a low SPR, and we should be prepared to commit on the flop with a wide range of made hands and draws. Therefore, when we c-bet the flop with a decent hand against an aggressive opponent, it should be with the intent of calling an all-in raise.

This means calling the raise is something we should plan for before we c-bet. But let's evaluate the situation after the raise, using pot-odds and outs, to see why this makes sense.

We flop top pair + 2 backdoor flushdraws (hearts and clubs) + 2 backdoor straight draws (two turn/river combinations, 8/T and T/K give us a straight). So if we're behind when Villain raises, we have the following possible outs (Remember: Backdoor draws count as ~1 out):

- Two pair/trips: 9 + 2 =11
- BD flush: 1 + 1 =2
- BD straight: 1 + 1 =2

So we have up to 11 + 2 + 2 =15 outs to two pair/trips, flush or straight when we're behind. Of course, not all of these outs are clean, particularly the two pair/trips outs. For example, if Villain has JT97 for top two pair + gutshot, we have 6 outs (A, Q) to a better two pair, 2 outs (9) to two pair that splits the pot, and 0 outs to trips.

Note that our top pair works as a blocker against top set, and it seems unlikely that Villain should have many 33xx hands in his range. So we're not particularly worried about being crushed by a set. Villain started the hand with a wide range, and we know that he also raises the flop with a wide range. So he doesn't need to have us crushed to raise all-in here, and there is also a significant probability of us being ahead (for example, if Villain has raised with a dominated top pair + draw combination).

But if we're behind, we should have 8-10 outs on average. This is a rough estimate, but it seems reasonable (as seen from counting outs against JT97 above). The backdoor draws alone provide 4 pretty clean outs, so we don't need much else to have what we need.

Villains all-in raise builds the pot to $12.15 with $4.95 to call, so we're getting pot odds 12.15 : 4.95 =2.45 : 1. Thus, we need 1/(2.45 + 1) =0.29 =29% equity to call. This corresponds to about 29/4 =7.2 outs on the flop, if we're always behind.

So it seems we have the equity we need, even if we're always behind. Add the fact that we will sometimes be ahead, given Villain's aggressive tendencies, and we have an easy call.

Flop: J 7 3 ($2.40)
You ($10.05) bet $2.40, button ($7.35) raises all-in, you call.

Turn: J 7 3 K ($17.10)

River: J 7 3 K 7 ($17.10)
You win with two pair. Button has Q J T 8 for top pair + gutshot + backdoor flush on the flop.

We had a dominating hand preflop, and got our 3-bet in with 60% preflop equity (ProPokerTools calculation). Both had top pair on the flop, but we had a dominating hand, and got the rest of the stack in with 62% equity(ProPokerTools calculation).

Example 3.2: Value 3-bet in position - Overpair on very coordinated flop against a solid player
$10PLO
6-handed

MP ($11.10) raises to $0.35, you ($15.60) 3-bet pot to $1.20 with A A 6 5 on the button , MP calls.

This is a standard 3-bet for value with a premium AAxx hand. MP is a solid TAG, and you assume his range for calling your 3-bet is weighted towards good Broadway hands and good rundowns.

Flop: Q T 8 ($2.55)
MP ($9.90) checks. What is your plan?

This is just about the worst possible flop for you, both since you missed it completely (we don't even have a backdoor draw), and since it probably connected well with Villain's range. Time to slam on the brakes and save chips.

Technically speaking we will often have the "best hand" on the flop with our naked overpair. But the term "best hand" often makes little sense on a coordinated flop in Omaha. The reason is that draws often have the currently best hand crushed in terms of equity. For example, against A K Q J (top pair + wrap straightdraw + backdoor flushdraw), a hand we technically "beat" on the flop , we have 45% equity (ProPokerTools calculation)

What concerns us the most is the risk of drawing dead against a flopped straight, or drawing close to dead against a combination of a better made hand + a good draw. For example, we have a measly 14% equity (ProPokerTools calculation) against K Q 9 8 (two pair + flushdraw + gutshot), and we find many hands like this one in Villain's range.

So we know that:

- We have poor equity against Villain's total range on the flop (since we assume it connects well with this flop)
- We have very poor equity against the part of his range that continues on this flop

So we have to assume that a c-bet will often get called or (more likely) checkraised. And when Villain continues, his range will have has us crushed.

But there is a silver lining. We have position, and Villain has checked, so at least we get a free card. And on a (very) good day the hand will be checked to showdown. At any rate, we check behind, planning to not invest any more chips.

Flop: Q T 8 ($2.55)
MP ($9.90) checks, you ($14.40) check behind.

Turn: Q T 8 4 ($2.55)
MP ($9.90) bets ($2.55), you ($14.40) fold.

Villain pots the turn, probably with good equity, and we fold as planned. In spots like this one, where we have a marginal made hand without outs on a very coordinated board, it's important not to be suspicions and stubborn. When the combination of flop texture and Villains assumed range has us crushed, we simply have to get out of the way and not risk any more chips.

3.1 Speculative 3-betting
In Part 4 we defined the following core strategy range for speculative 3-betting:

- 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


Note that the border between value 3-betting and speculative 3-betting is "fuzzy". We have chosen to define value 3-betting as 3-betting done with premium suited and coordinated high card hands. But a (according to our definition) speculative 3-betting hand like Q J T 9 can definitely also be classified as premium.

As previously mentioned, this classification of "value 3-betting", "speculative 3-betting" and "bluff 3-betting" is mostly a conceptual tool that we use to facilitate sound thought processes.

With a premium high card hand (for example, a premium AAxx) we more often 3-bet independent of the circumstances. With speculative 3-betting hands (for example, A 8 7 5 ) that have less high card strength that hands in the value range, we tend to be more picky about the circumstances before we 3-bet. And with the very speculative bluff 3-betting hands (for example, K Q T 6 ) we always demand favorable conditions (first and foremost position and good steal equity) before we 3-bet.

Below is an example of a speculative 3-bet in position:

Example 3.3: Speculative 3-bet in position - Marginal pair + draw on the flop
$10PLO
6-handed

UTG ($10) raises to $0.35. UTG is a solid player, but he seems to be playing straightforward when he gets 3-bet. You have A 9 8 7 on the button and 3-bet to $1.20. The blinds fold and UTG calls.

Flop: J 7 4 ($2.55)
UTG ($8.80) checks. What is your plan?

You flop 2nd pair + nut gutshot draw + backdoor nutflush draw on a somewhat coordinated board where inside straight wraps and a flushdraw are possible. This is a flop we must assume will connect fairly well with a solid players range for calling a 3-bet out of position (the range should have lots of good high card hands and good rundowns in it). It isn't the world's most coordinated flop, but there should be many plausible combinations of pair + draws in Villain's range. So we have to think about the chance we'll get check-called or check-raised when we c-bet (just as we did in Example 3.2)

It's obvious that we can't continue if we get checkraised. So if we bet, we plan to fold to a checkraise. On the other hand, although our hand isn't great, we do have some equity with outs to two pair, trips, a nut gutshot and a backdoor nutflush draw. This means there are many turn cards that will improve our equity drastically.

So this is a spot where there are good arguments for taking a free card and preserve our equity. We can of course also c-bet, but we must assume Villain has hit a piece of this flop often, and we don't expect to have good equity against the part of his range that doesn't fold. And we can definitely not continue if we get checkraised.

To prevent getting blown off our hand by a checkraise, we can check behind and hope for a favorable turn card before we decide whether or not we want to commit more chips. Note that this type of checking behind (with hands that won't always give up on the turn) will balance the weak checks we make when we flop nothing and give up (like we did in Example 3.2)

The logic is:

Hands that check behind on the flop with decent equity will often improve sufficiently on the turn to call a bet (if Villain should decide to bluff), or bet for value/protection (if Villain checks again). And when we don't improve, we will sometimes get opportunities to bet Villain out of the pot anyway, when he signals weakness by checking for the second time. Balancing our weak flop checks by also checking some hands with good-but-not-great equity protects us and makes it dangerous for Villain to automatically bluff the turn every time we check behind on the flop.

An aggressive and unobservant Villain who doesn't pay attention to our balancing, will often bluff the turn into our improved hands that can't be bluffed out. An observant opponent who notices our balancing will often check honestly on the turn and give us the opportunity to win with a turn bet, or take another free card, should we want one.

Both these scenarios are to our advantage, and they are god examples of the importance of position when playing marginal hands postflop. Note that you don't have to check hands like this one every time. C-betting them can be fine too, but for balance you should sometimes check, especially when you have reason to believe Villain will often checkraise.

Having the opportunity to take a free card on the flop is one of the biggest advantages from having position. So you should not automatically bet every flop when you get checked to, even if you put in the last raise preflop, and you are expected to bet a lot.

Flop: J 7 4 ($2.55)
UTG ($8.80) checks, you ($8.80) check behind.

Turn: J 7 4 A ($2.55)
UTG ($8.80) checks. What is your plan?

We improved to two pair, and Villain checks for the second time. Here we have a classic example of how position allows us to play marginal hands confidently postflop. Our hand is decent, but it's far from great. However, we can be very certain we have the best hand after Villain has checked twice. Now it's almost impossible for him to have a strong hand, unless he is very tricky. He could have a made hand + draw combination with decent equity against our two pair, but he definitely isn't representing a monster hand.

We have now gathered enough information to confidently bet the turn with assumed decent equity. We plan to fold to a checkraise, since we don't expect him to checkraise with any hands we can continue profitably against.

Note that even if we're ahead, we prefer worse hands fold. Even if we make money on the turn by getting called by worse hands, it's probably better if they fold. If they call, we will often have to play the river with a marginal two pair hand on a scary board. Most river cards can beat us, or give Villain an opportunity to represent a hand that beats ours. If Villain decides to bluff a scary river card, we will be in a sad situation.

This is an area where PLO is different from NLHE. In NLHE we often find ourselves in situations where we're either far ahead or far behind (for example, when we have KK on a A x x flop). In these spots we tend to check a lot with marginal hands. The logic behind this is that we don't expect better hands to fold or worse hands to call, and we don't expect a free card to change the situation.

This way of thinking does not carry over well to PLO. One reason is that even if a bet won't make worse hands call or better hands fold, we mostly don't mind that worse hands fold, since they usually have decent equity against our marginal hand, plus the opportunity to outplay us on later streets. For example, giving a hand with 25% equity against us the choice between making a correct turn fold or an incorrect turn call is generally better for us than letting the hand see the river for free.

So we tend to bet-fold often with marginal hands in PLO heads-up scenarios, rather than trying to sneak cheaply to showdown or inducing bluffs with them. We'll have more to say about this topic in future articles on postflop play.

Turn: J 7 4 A ($2.55)
UTG ($8.80) checks, you ($8.80) bet $2.55, UTG folds.

Probably the best result for us. Such is the power of position.

3.4 Bluff 3-betting
When we push the envelope for 3-betting by including semi-trashy hands like Q T 8 3 , we have entered the region of bluff 3-betting. This is not more complicated than loosening up our starting hand requirements considerably to exploit a favorable situation where we expect to have good steal equity.

Here is an example:

Example 3.4: A bluff 3-bet in position - No hand/no draw on a dry flop
$10PLO
6-handed

CO ($14.35) raises to $0.35, you ($12.50) have K J 8 3 on the button. CO raises a wide range, and he also calls 3-bets with a wide range, but he plays tight and straightforward after a 3-bet. The players in the blinds seem tight. You decide to make a bluff 3-bet with a very speculative hand, and you 3-bet pot to $1.20. CO calls.

Flop: A 7 3 ($2.55)
CO ($13.15) checks. What is your plan?

The obvious choice is to c-bet the flop, planning to fold to a checkraise. This scenario is somewhat similar to Example 3.3, in that we have hit a piece of the flop, and we can't call a checkraise. But does this means we should check behind here as well?

No. This makes little sense here, since there aren't any turn cards (except 3 ) that will give us a strong hand or a strong draw on the turn. Therefore, unlike Example 3.3, checking this flop does not set us up for many profitable turn scenarios, since there aren't any turn cards that allows us to continue with confidence. Also, getting checkraised out of this pot is not a problem for us when we have this little equity.

If we check behind and improve on the turn, we will mostly have weak two pair hands and gutshots (and note that the 2-flush on the flop makes any improvement weaker than usual). So this is a flop where we have poor equity with little chance of improvement. And since a c-bet should be profitable in itself on this flop texture (it's hard for Villain to continue on an ace high and raggedy flop) we don't have any reason to check behind. If this pot is ours to win on the flop (and we believe it often is) we should simply bet the flop and pick it up.

Folding this hideous hand to a checkraise is not a problem for us, since our equity is very low in this scenario. So we simply bet the flop and fold to a checkraise. The flop texture is ace high and uncoordinated, and we expect Villain to check-fold the majority of his hands.

In other words, we don't care about whatever little equity we have, we simply bet our hand as a pure bluff and most of the time we give up when Villain doesn't fold (on good days he calls, and we improve on the turn, and then he lets us win a showdown with a marginal hand for free). This is different from Example 3.3 where we elected to play our marginal (but considerably better) hand with more focus on showdown equity and less focus on steal equity.

Turn: A 7 3 ($2.55)
CO ($13.15) checks, you ($11.30) bet $1.75, CO folds.

As expected. Note the bet sizing (about 2/3 pot). On an ace high and uncoordinated flop like this one, Villain will either fold (mostly independent of bet size) or call/checkraise (mostly independent of bet size). So you don't need to bet full pot to make him fold the hands that he will fold on this flop.

If you use smaller bets when bluffing at flops like this one, you should balance this by also value betting smaller (for example, if you had 3-bet with AAxx and flopped top set here).

3.4 The ills of 3-betting trashy AAxx (particularly out of position)
Before we leave the topic of 3-betting, we'll take a closer look at a frequently occurring special case, namely 3-betting with AAxx hands.

Previously in this article series (see Part 2 and Part 4) we have warned against 3-betting bad AAxx hands. Bad AAxx hands are AAxx with no suits, or with one suit and little else. For example:

A A 9 3
A A 6 2
A A T 4

3-betting bad AAxx hands is particularly problematic out of position. The reason is a combination of poor average postflop equity + a well-defined hand + putting ourselves in a scenario where we are "forced" to c-bet a lot.

AAxx is the first hand most opponents will put us on when we 3-bet. And if AA is all we have (meaning, if the xx part of our hand is so bad in can almost be ignored), it will be easy to play a wide range of hands profitably against our 3-bet. This effect is magnified by being out of position, since we now have to c-bet a lot of flops. Since there are lots of bad flops for bad hands, this means we're setting ourselves up for having to bet a lot of flops where we have poor equity. And this, in turn, gives our opponents good implied odds.

When we 3-bet bad AAxx, our opponent knows most of what there is to know about our hand, and his position makes it easier for him to put this information to god use postflop. But when we have good AAxx, the information we send Villain will be less useful to him, and he will make more postflop mistakes, even if he has position.

To illustrate the dramatic difference between 3-betting premium and trashy AAxx hands, we will do a model study, using flop equity distributions. The theory we use (flop equity distributions and numerical integration) was discussed thoroughly in Part 3, so reread this article if necessary.

Our model of this 3-betting scenario is:
  • Villain raises pot to 3.5 BB on the button with a range made up of top 50% of hands minus all AAxx hands
  • We have either A A J T (premium) or A A 7 2 (trashy) in the big blind, and Villain knows our hand
  • We 3-bet pot to 11 BB, planning to c-bet all flops and call an all-in raise
  • Villain calls the 3-bet with his entire range
  • We c-bet all flops, and Villain raises all-in on all flops where he has sufficient equity, and otherwise he folds

The question we want to answer is this:

Is it possible for Villain to use his perfect knowledge to make it profitable to raise preflop and then call a 3-bet with a wide range consisting of top 50% of hands (minus all AAxx hands)?

Note that we have removed the AAxx hands from his range to make things simpler. When Villain has AAxx, the hand will end with a preflop all-in confrontation anyway, and most of these pots will be split. Furthermore, we calculate Villain's EV from the moment he puts the first chips into the pot knowing that we have AAxx, and that he will get 3-bet. The then calls our 3-bet under the assumption that we will bet all flops, planning to call a raise.

The pot is 11 + 11 + 0.5 =22.5 BB on the flop, and there's 89 BB left in the stack for an SPR of 89/22.5 =4.0 (so we are in the raise-or-fold region). When Villain raises the flop, he is risking 89 BB to win 22.5 + 89 =111.5 BB. Thus, he is getting effective pot odds 112.5 : 89 =1.25 : 1, and he needs minimum 1/(1.25 + 1) =0.44 =44% equity to profitable raise all-in.

So Villain will raise us all-in on his top_x% of flops where he has 44% equity or more, and otherwise he will fold and lose his 11 BB preflop investment. When he raises all-in, his average equity is av_equity, and he will then be all-in in a 200.5 BB pot where he has invested 100 BB total.

We find both top_x and av_equity from flop equity distribution graphs. Villain's average total EV for raising on the button against our known AAxx hand is then:

EV (total)
=(1 - top_x)(-11 BB) + top_x{av_equity(200.5 BB) - 100 BB}


Below are the flop equity distribution graphs and calculations for Villain's top 50% range against our hands A A J T and A A 7 2 . For both hands we have first calculated the total EV from the moment Villain raises. Then we have also calculated the EV from the moment Villain calls the 3-bet (Villain then risks 7.5 BB preflop and a total of 96.5 BB, since the 3.5 BB raise now belongs to the pot, not to him).

Top 50% vs AAJT (double-suited)


EV (total)
=(1 - 0.23)(-11 BB) + 0.23{0.654(200.5 BB) - 100 BB}

=-1.32 BB

EV (call 3-bet)
=(1 - 0.23)(-7.5 BB) + 0.23{0.654(200.5 BB) - 96.5 BB}

=+2.18 BB

Top 50% vs AA72 (rainbow)


EV (total)
=(1 - 0.39)(-11 BB) + 0.39{0.681(200.5 BB) - 100 BB}

=+7.54 BB

EV (call 3-bet)
=(1 - 0.39)(-7.5 BB) + 0.39{0.681(200.5 BB) - 96.5 BB}

=+11.04 BB

An interesting conclusion
Our model first tells us that Villain can not profit (overall) by getting involved against our premium A A J T . Even with perfect information, perfect flop play, and maximum implied odds he loses -1.32 BB when he chooses to raise against our premium AAxx hand.

But when we 3-bet trashy A A 7 2 , Villain actually makes +7.54 when he raises, even if he know we have AAxx, and even if he knows he will get 3-bet every time!

We also see that it is profitable for Villain to call the 3-bet against A A J T , even if he loses chips overall against this hand. He loses from the moment he raises preflop, but when he has been 3-bet, he loses less by calling and continuing in the hand, than by folding preflop.

What can we conclude from these data?

First of all, it's abundantly clear that the value of premium side cards is huge when we build a big preflop pot with AAxx out of position. We have to keep in mind that when we 3-bet AAxx in the real world, AAxx with unknown (and therefore uninteresting) side cards is the first hand Villain will put us on. Giving away this information hurts us badly when the AA part of our hand is the only part worth anything.

In other words: Playing against our 3-bet as if we only had the two AA cards is a small mistake when the two side cards are bad (e.g. 72 offsuit). But it's a big mistake by Villain to ignore our side cards when they are valuable (e.g. double-suited JT).

Furthermore, we see that setting ourselves up for having to c-bet a low of flops (which we have to do when we 3-bet heads-up out of position) is a problem for bad AAxx. In reality we will of course not stack off on any flop like we did in the model, but out of position we still have to c-bet a lot of flops, including a lot of flops where we have poor equity.

Being "forced" to c-bet flops out of position is less of a problem with premium AAxx, since these hands often his a piece of the flop, thus often giving us enough equity to profitably bet and get the rest of the stack in. But with bad side cards, we often have poor equity, and as a result we often have to choose between bet-folding or getting the stack in with insufficient equity.

Finally, we observe that the value of perfect information is huge. Villain played a very wide top 50% range against us, and he still managed to make a solid profit against trashy AAxx. The top 50% range includes a lot of rough hands like Q 9 6 5 (ProPokerTools calculation), but still it was possible to play the range profitable against trashy AAxx with perfect information. Furthermore, we saw that Villain could call the 3-bet profitably both against premium and trashy AAxx, although he lost overall against A A J T (but he lost less by calling the 3-bet than by folding)

We therefore conclude:

Habitually 3-betting trashy AAxx hands out of position with 100 BB stacks is not good for you!

Telling Villain that you have AAxx out of position makes it easy for him to play wide range of weak hands profitably against you, even if you 3-bet preflop, and even if he is a substantial underdog preflop

The observant reader will of course see that the problem of having a well defined 3-betting range can be solved by also 3-betting non-AAxx hands. But this does not solve the problem of not finding enough good flops to stack off on when we have AAxx with bad side cards.

Even when we 3-bet a range of hands, Villain will often put us on AAxx anyway (and he ignores the side cards). And when AA with worthless side cards is what we actually have, he will be able to play very well against us postflop.

4. Playing against a 3-bet
Until now, we have seen several examples of preflop play and postflop play in pots where we 3-bet. Now it's time to turn the tables and study scenarios where we raise and get 3-bet. The first thing we want to know is:

With which hands should we call a 3-bet?

With 100 BB stacks, we have already concluded that we can 4-bet all AAxx hands (see the discussion about unexploitable 4-betting with AAxx in Part 3). In Part 6 we will also look at 4-betting with non-AAxx hands against opponents who 3-bet us with a wide range. So what remains are the non-AAxx hands we call and fold with after a 3-bet. This will be the topic for the rest of this article.

We start by looking at two types of hands that should be folded to a 3-bet. Then we shall discuss playing against a tight 3-betting range and against a loose 3-betting range.

4.1 Problem hands in 3-bet pots: Dry pairs and speculative AAxx hands.
Let's talk about two types of hands that perform poorly when we get 3-bet: Dry pairs and speculative Axxx hands.

Pairs with bad side cards (e.g. K K 7 2 ) and speculative Axxx hands (e.g. A T 9 2 ) don't perform well in 3-bet pots. There are several reasons for this:

- These hands have a hard time finding more good flops to stack off on as the preflop pot grows in size
- They play poorly against AAxx, since AA has them dominated
- They also perform poorly in general against other premium 3-betting hands

Remember, the bigger we build the pot preflop, the more important it becomes to find good flops we can profitably continue on. Hands that perform well in big pot scenarios are therefore hands that hit lot of flops fairly well, not hands that hit a few flops hard.
Therefore, when we build big pots, we prefer suited and coordinated hands that often hit a piece of the flop. The hands that perform poorly in big pots are the hands that rely more on implied odds when played for showdown equity. K K 7 2 and A T 9 2 are examples of such hands.

If we don't have much steal equity (and we usually don't, after we get 3-bet), we need good showdown equity to compensate. And in big pots we want hands that quickly make something good enough to continue with. Conversely, we don't want to play 3-bet pots based on showdown equity with either-or hands like dry pairs (usually flops a set or nothing) and speculative aces (mostly flop weak one pair hands and occasionally a flush draw if the ace is suited), since these hands mostly miss the flop.

To illustrate these principles (in case some of you still are tempted to call 3-bets to set-mine with hands like K 7 2 ) we'll do a model study with flop equity distributions. We assume we raise a dry pair or speculative Axxx and get 3-bet, and then we call to play fit-or-fold on the flop.

Here is our model:
  • You raise pot to 3.5 BB with with K 7 2 or A T 9 2 in CO
  • Button 3-bets pot to 12 BB with AAxx, and the blinds fold
  • Can we call profitably for implied odds if we know that button has AAxx and that he will bet-call every flop?

Assume we call the 3-bet (8.50 BB more). The pot is now 25.50 B on the flop. Both started with a 100 BB stack, and there is 88 BB left to play. We know that button has AAxx, and we also know that he is totally committed postflop. He will c-bet all flops if we check, and then he always call an all-in checkraise.

Our postflop plan is therefore to never bluff, but to checkraise button all-in whenever we flop sufficient equity. We risk 88 BB to win 25.50 BB + Villain's 88 BB =113.5BB. Effective pot odds are 113.5 : 88 =1.29 : 2, so we need 1/(1.29 + 1) =0.44 =44% equity on the flop to profitably checkraise all-in.

So we checkraise all-in on top_x% where our average equity is av_equity. Then we are all-in in a 201.5 BB pot where we have invested 8.5 BB + 88 BB =96.5 BB from the moment we decided to call the 3-bet

The EV for calling the 3-bet in this model is:

EV (call 3-bet)
=(1 - top_x)(-8.5 BB) + top_x{av_equity(201.5 BB) - 96.5 BB}


Below are the flop equity distributions and EV calculations for calling a 3-bet with K 7 2 and A T 9 2 against AAxx. Note that we use the notation AA** ! AAA* for Villain's hand in the ProPokerTools calculations (this eliminates AAAx hands that Villain would probably not 3-bet):

KK72 (rainbow) vs AAxx


EV (call 3-bet)
=(1 - 0.15)(-8.5 BB) + 0.15{0.803(201.5 BB) - 96.5 BB}

=+2.58 BB

AT92 (suited ace) vs AAxx


EV (call 3-bet)
=(1 - 0.24)(-8.5 BB) + 0.24{0.672(201.5 BB) - 96.5 BB}

=+2.86 BB

Results from the model study
We observe that both K 7 2 (+2.58 BB) and A T 9 2 (+2.86 BB) can call a 3-bet with marginal profit under the conditions described in the model. Does this mean these hands are suitable for calling and playing fit-or-fold on the flop when they get 3-bet?

In reality, no. Some reasons for this are:

- The model presumes perfect information about Villain's range (he only 3-bets AAxx)
- The model presumes maximum implied odds
- The call is only marginally profitable, even under ideal conditions

For example, a competent Villain will sometimes bet-fold his AAxx correctly when you have flopped really well and he has poor equity. If he bets pot on the flop (25.5 BB) and folds to your all-in checkraise, he will escape with more than half of his stack intact. This reduces your implied odds (if Villains bet-folds some flops, he also increases your steal equity, of course, but we're assuming you're using a fit-or-fold strategy here). Other times he will use position, check behind on the flop, and save chips that way.

Another thing this model does not account for is players 3-betting a range of hands. Perfect flop play is only possible with perfect information. If we can't put Villain on AAxx with a high degree of certainty, we will unavoidably make big postflop mistakes when we use a fit-or-fold strategy.

For example, we will check-fold a lot of flops where we should have checkraised (for example, with KK72 on a A J 4 flop when Villain 3-bet us with a rundown hand like JT98). We will also sometimes call a 3-bet we should have folded preflop (for example, when we have KK72 and Villain has 3-bet AKKQ and has us totally crushed).

Conclusion from the model study
When you raise pairs with bad side cards (K 7 2 , J T T 4 , etc), or speculative Axxx hands (A T 9 2 , A K 9 5 , etc.), fold these hands to a 3-bet, both on position and out of position.

Continuing to the flop, planning to play fit-or-fold, might be marginally profitable under ideal conditions, but is more likely a big mistake. You will unavoidably set yourself up for a lot of tricky postflop decisions with these problem hands, and when you're forced to think your way out of a tricky spot, you will often make a mistake.

Now that we have gotten these two common fold-scenarios out of the way, let's discuss the decision to call or fold to a 3-bet in more general terms.

4.3 Some general principles for calling 3-bets
Before we assess the quality of our hand, we should think about the circumstances surrounding the situation:

Call more often in position than out of position
Position increases the profitability of all starting hands. Some calls that are unprofitable out of position will be profitable in position. Some of the reasons for this are:

- It's easier to control pot size in position (and controlling pot size is important for marginal hands). We win more when ahead and lose less when behind.
- Position gives us more and better opportunities to steal the pot

An important concept related to position is the fact that the 3-bettor out of position is setting himself up for having to blindly c-bet a lot of flops. This increases the implied odds for the player in position. We touched upon this topic in the model study where we 3-bet premium and trashy AAxx previously in this article.

Call more often against a bad opponent
If Villain is a bad player who often makes postflop mistakes, this is an argument for playing more hands against him (and conversely, fold more hands against a competent player). The classic example is a player who overplays bad AAxx hands postflop, and commits way too often with an ovepair and little else.

This was an important part of the model study when we 3-bet trashy AAxx preflop. 3-betting bad AAxx is a mistake in itself, and we compounded the error by committing on all flops. This made it very profitable for Villain to call our 3-bet.

Call more often against a well-defined 3-betting range
Reliable information about Villain's range makes it easier to play profitably against him. The extreme case is a player who will only 3-bet AAxx.

This was the most important component of the model study of 3-betting with AAxx. Villain had perfect information about our range (and our range was only one hand), and as a consequence, he was able to play the flop perfectly. This allowed him to call the 3-bet profitably with a very wide range of hands, even when we 3-bet a premium hand. We also observed that giving away information about our hand is a bigger problem for weak hands than for premium hands.

4.4 When we get 3-bet by a tight range
By tight range, we mean getting 3-bet by a range weighted heavily towards AAxx hands. Against a tight 3-bettor our first reaction might be to fold a lot, since his range is strong, but let's think about what tight 3-betting means.

For starters, even if Villain's range is tight, we will still have decent equity with a wide range of weak hands. This is Omaha, not Hold'em, and one starting hand rarely has more than 60% preflop equity against another hand. Also, the most important property of a PLO starting hand isn't all-in preflop equity but the distribution of equities the hand flops (i.e. the hand's flop equity distribution graph)

For example, K K 7 2 is technically a favorite with 51% preflop equity against J T 9 8 (ProPokerTools calculation ). But K K 7 2 plays poorly in 3-bet pots, while J T 9 8 really shines in heads-up big pot scenarios, since it hits a lot of flops.

Then think about the fact that tight 3-betting gives us information about Villain's range. The most extreme case is an opponent who only 3-bets AAxx. The probability of getting dealt any AAxx hand is 2.5%, as shown in the ProPokerTools calculation below (use the beta version of ProPokerTools to get access to the "count" function):



(Note that we have removed the unplayable combinations AAAx and AAAA using the ProPokerTools notation AA** ! AAA*.)

Therefore, against a 3-bet% of 2.5% or lower (and we find this stat in PT3 HUD or HEM HUD) we are very likely to be up against AAxx. This makes it easy to call profitably with a wide range of speculative hands. Particularly in position, since this forces Villain to c-bet a lot of flops into us, which gives us implied odds.

As previously mentioned, we fold pairs with poor side cards and speculative Axxx hands to a 3-bet. But beyond these hands we can call tight 3-bets with a wide range of speculative hands when we suspect Villain is only 3-betting AAAx. All suited hands with a minimum of coordination are candidates.

Another way for Villain to be tight is by giving up to easily postflop, and/or having poorly balanced postflop lines. For example, if he checks and gives up on lots of flops when he misses, we will get more opportunities to steal. And he makes it worse for himself by also using poorly balanced lines, we can rob him blind postflop.

For example, playing against a Villain who bets the flop when he thinks he has good equity, and otherwise checks (and almost never checkraises), is like stealing candy from a baby.

How to plan against a tight 3-bettor
Against a tight 3-betting range heavily weighted towards AAxx, we can call with a wide rage of speculative hands under the assumption that Villain's well-defined range will be easy to play against postflop (as demonstrated in the model study of 3-betting premium and trashy aces previously in this article)

This is very much the case against a Villain who only 3-bets AAxx, particularly if he also overplays them postflop. Because then we know what we have to beat, and we're getting good implied odds for trying to outflop his aces. We fold bad pairs and bad Axxx hands and call with pretty much all other speculative hands in our range, planning to play mostly fit-or-fold on the flop.

Against a tight 3-bettor who is also tight and easy to read postflop, we have even more reason to call with a lot of weak hands, particularly in position. We can now also plan around steal equity, and not only around playing fit-or-fold. So we call not only to look for good flops, but also to do some bluffing when Villain checks and gives up on the flop. This is obviously easier to pull off in position.

In general, we won't do much bluffing when we miss the pot, particularly out of position. The exception is when Villain plays weakly postflop and gives us opportunities to steal. For example, if we know that he is always weak when he checks, we can bluff a lot when he does. Without this kind of specific information, we mostly give up on the flops where we miss completely.

Below are two examples of calling a 3-bet from a tight 3-bettor who probably has AAxx:

Example 4.1: Calling a 3-bet in position against likely AAxx - Should we bluff the flop?
$10PLO
6-handed

You ($12.50) raise pot to $0.35 with J 7 6 4 on the button , small blind ($9.95) 3-bets pot to $1.15, you call. Small blind has a 3-bet% of 1.8, and you have previously seen him bet-call AAxx on the flop in heads-up pots.

Flop: T 2 2 ($2.40)
Small blind ($8.85) checks. What is your plan?

The preflop play is straightforward. We suspect small blind to be a member of the group of players who only 3-bet AAxx, and out of position he probably has a premium AAxx hand. But we have a double-suited speculative hand that's rarely dominated by Villain's hand, and we will find plenty of flops where we can commit profitably (and if we want to, we can use flop equity distribution data to "prove" it).

The flop comes dry and rainbow, and small blind checks. We obviously have nothing, but Villain is also signaling weakness. Is this a good spot for a bluff?

Probably not. Villain's check is probably done precisely to induce bluffs. He often has AAxx here, and on this kind of flop he isn't worried about being beat. The flop contains a pair, but it's a low pair, so it's unlikely we flopped trips (there aren't that many 2xxx hands in our range, even if we are raising a wide range on the button). And we rarely have TTxx as well, so Villain should assume he is almost always ahead on this flop.

But he also knows that we will fold most hands to a c-bet. So his check probably means he wants us to bluff, so that he can call (or checkraise) to extract some value from our worthless hands. This is not a bad plan, since there aren't many worse hands we can call with, and since this is one of the few flops where weaker hands are far behind Villain's AAxx.

So if we bluff this flop, we will probably get called. And in a 3-bet pot with 100 BB stacks we have little leverage with only 2 bets remaining, and therefore little steal equity. To bluff Villain off an AAxx hand on this flop, we would need deep stacks (it's hard to check-call 3 big bets with unimproved AAxx, even on a safe flop like this one). It would also have helped if the flop had given us a better opportunity to credibly represent a strong hand (for example, it would have been easier to represent trips on a T T 2 flop than on a T 2 2 flop).

So we check behind.

Flop: T 2 2 ($2.40)
Small blind ($8.85) checks, you ($11.35) check.

Turn: T 2 2 Q ($2.40)
Small blind ($8.85) bets $1.50, you ($11.35) fold.

Nothing changes on the turn. Villain now probably bets his AAxx for value, and we let him pick up the pot.

Example 4.2: Calling with a speculative hand out of position against likely AAxx - Playing two pair + draw postflop
$10PLO
6-handed

You ($10) raise pot to $0.35 with 9 8 7 5 from UTG, CO ($10) 3-bets pot to $1.20. He has a 3-bet% of 2.1%, and he seems to be c-betting every flop heads-up. What is our plan?

We have a good, speculative hand, so we would call regardless. Here we have extra incentive to get involved with a good rundown hand, since we expect Villain to have AAxx most of the time. And our hand plays very well against AAxx. So we call, planning to play mostly fit-or-fold on the flop.

Our read of Villain's c-bet frequency heads-up can come in handy. If we can rely on him betting the flop, we can go for a checkraise, and get all our stack in when we hit the flop (or pick up the pot if he folds to the checkraise). This is good for us, since we then avoid tricky decisions out of position on later streets with chips left to play.

Note that even when we flop a decent hand, we will often find ourselves in tough spots postflop, simply because we're out of position. Heads-up with position we usually get the opportunity to raise c-bets all-in, but out of position, a competent Villain will also frequently check behind.

Having the opportunity to check behind enables Villain to lose less when behind, and he will also set us up for difficult turn decisions with marginal hands. We remember from Example 3.3 that checking behind with a balanced range that includes some decent hands, will make Villain tough to play against on the turn, even if he has signaled weakness by checking (we can not bluff every turn with impunity).

At any rate, we call the 3-bet and see a flop heads-up.

Flop: K 8 5 ($2.55)
What is your plan?

Let's first estimate our equity. We have bottom two pair + a gutshot. If Villain has AAxx, we will usually be ahead with our two pair. Villain then has 5 outs (2 aces, 3 kings) to top set or a better two pair. On a blank turn, he picks up 3 more outs to a better two pair. Also, his side card will provide him with some equity, and if he has a flush draw, he is in good shape.

It's difficult to estimate exactly how much equity we have against random AAxx, but with a decent made hand and a nutty weak draw, we should have solid equity on the flop. A ProPokerTools calculation confirms this, and we have 65% equity on the flop against random AAxx.

We definitely want to get our stack in on this flop, and the question is how to achieve this. In position we could have raised Villain's c-bet all-in, or bet when checked to. But out of position we have a decision to make, and we have to choose between betting and checkraising.

Fortunately, we have a read that helps us. We know that Villain can be relied on to c-bet heads-up, so it seems best to check to him and go for a checkraise all-in.

Flop: K 8 5 ($2.55)
You ($8.80) check, CO (8.80) bets $2, you checkraise pot to $8.55, CO folds.

A nice result, and we're definitely not unhappy about winning the pot on the flop (bottom two pair + a gutshot is not a monster against the hands that call us on a 2-flush board). Villain might have made a mistake if he bet-folded AAxx, since he got almost 2 : 1 in effective pot odds to get the rest if his stack in. With a little more than 33% equity, he should have called, and we saw that random AAxx had 35% equity on this flop.

4.5 When we get 3-bet by a loose range
With loose 3-betting we mean 3-betting with a solid and balanced range of mostly AAxx and other good hands (like our 3-betting range). We then 3-bet a mix of AAxx (but not all AAxx), premium Broadway hands, and good speculative hands (rundowns and suited ace + rundown). And occasionally we 3-bet semi-trash hands, mostly as a bluff

A solid and balanced 3-betting range is hard to exploit, both because it can hit almost any flop, and because it dominates many of the weak, speculative hands that calls to try and outflop it. A solid and balance 3-betting range in the hands of a competent player can give us serious problems postflop if we call the 3-bet with a very wide and weak range.

For example, against a Villain who only 3-bets AAxx, always c-bets the flop heads-up, and bet-calls too often when he gets raised, you can call the 3-bet with a hand like T 8 7 4 , and raise all-in on a flop like J T 6 without feeling nauseated when Villain calls. You have 59% equity against random AAxx (PropokerTools calculation), and you expect random AAxx to make up most of Villains range.

But against a competent Villain who 3-bets a balanced range of good AAxx, suited and coordinated high card hands, and premium speculative hands, you will be in much worse shape when he bet-calls your non-nutty hands/draws on this kind of flop.

For one, a competent player will not often bet-call AAxx on draw-heavy flops unless he has something to go along with it. And since he's only 3-betting good aces, he will often have extra pieces of equity in addition to his overpair. And if he bet-calls with a non-AAxx hand on a draw-heavy flop, you can expect him to have hit it at least s well as you.

So compared to a bad opponent with only AAxx in his range, a competent opponent with a solid and balanced 3-betting range will both have better average equity when he c-bets, and better average equity when he calls your all-in raise. This is because:

- A competent Villain is more picky about c-betting flops, and will bet less often with poor equity
- His bet-call range will contain more good speculative hands that have your weak speculative hands dominated, even if your weak speculative hands hand play well against the AAxx part of his range

So against a loose, but solid and balanced 3-betting range, we should tighten up our calling standard somewhat to avoid setting ourselves up for being at the wrong end of postflop coinflips. When we get all-in in a heads-up 3-bet pot, we will mostly find ourselves in coinflip scenarios of the 55/45 kind, or 60/40 if we're lucky.

Often getting the 45 or 40 end of these conflips is costly. To avoid it, we have to cure the problem at it's root, and play fewer weak, speculative hands preflop when we suspect we're up against a solid and balanced 3-betting range. Also, as mentioned previously, a competent opponent is another reason to tighten up a bit.

We end Part 5 with two examples where we get 3-bet by a competent Villain with a loose, but assumed solid and balanced range:

Example 4.3: Calling with a premium high pair in position against a loose 3-betting range - Playing an overpair + weak draws on the flop
$10PLO
6-handed

You ($10) raise pot to $0.35 with K K Q J on the button , and the big blind ($9.90) 3-bets to $1.10. Villain is a solid, aggressive player with a wide 3-betting range in position, and he also 3-bets premium non-AAxx hands out of position heads-up. What is your plan?

Previously in this article we stated that we should fold bad pairs and speculative Axxx hands to a 3-bet. Paired hands in general can be difficult to play in 3-bet pots (having a pair in our hand makes it less likely we'll connect with the flop), but here we have a premium pair with suited and connected side cards, and we have position. Furthermore, we know that Villain 3-bets a wide range heads-up, including some speculative hands (like QJT9) that we have good equity against.

So this is definitely not a scenario where we will fold a premium high pair to a 3-bet. Also, against a very wide 3-betting range, good KKxx hands are candidates for light 4-betting (and we'll discuss this in Part 6). But here we make the obvious play, call in position and wait for profitable postflop scenarios to present themselves.

Flop: J 6 6 ($2.25)
Big blind ($8.90) bets $1. What is your plan?

This is a dry and uncoordinated flop which is good for your overpair if Villain doesn't have AAxx. It's also a flop where Villain is expected to c-bet most of his range, so his flop bet doesn't narrow down his range much.

We probably have decent equity against Villain's range (we have an overpair + top pair + 2 backdoor flushdraws + backdoor straight draw) and many turn cards will improve us. But raising probably won't do us much good. After all, Villain's range contains many AAxx hands (which have us crushed), and we can't expect to have good equity against the hands that calls our raise. Also, we'll be far ahead of the part of his range that will fold to our raise, so it's not a big problem for us that these hands get to see the turn.

Flop: J 6 6 ($2.25)
Big blind ($8.90) bets $1, you ($8.90) call.

Turn: J 6 6 A ($4.25)
Big blind ($7.90) checks. What is your plan?

An interesting turn card, since it both reduced our overpair to an underpair and gave us a flush draw. If Villain is slowplaying AAxx, we're drawing dead. If he is going for pot control with top pair, we probably have 11 outs. If he has anything weaker than top pair, we're far ahead.

This means we're in a scenario where we have good equity against many of Villains hands, but it doesn't make much sense to bet for value (we don't have a strong hand, and if we get called, we're probably beat). It doesn't make much sense to bet as a bluff either since we don't expect better hands to fold, and we're far ahead of the hands that would check-fold.

Since there is some risk of Villain slowplaying a monster or going for pot control with a slightly better hand, and since we don't want to get checkraised out of the pot when we have some outs, we can take a free card and then play the river. We don't have any immediate plans to make hero calls on the river, but we might.

Turn: J 6 6 A ($4.25)
Big blind ($7.90) checks, you ($7.90) check behind.


River: J 6 6 A 8 ($4.25)
Big blind ($7.90) checks. What is your plan?

A very interesting river card. We now have the nutflush on a paired board, and it seems highly unlikely that Villain is slowplaying a full house on both the turn and river. So we are almost always ahead, and we must consider a valuebet.

The value of a river bet depends on one thing: How often are we ahead when Villain calls?

We need to win more than 50% of the times we get called to profit from betting. There probably aren't many check-calling hands in Villain's range, but since we're extremely certain we're ahead, we can let Villain worry about finding hands to call us with. We're not worried about bluff checkraising (at least we don't ave any reason to be), and a valuebet therefore won't put us in a tough spot.

We make a moderate valuebet to give Villain the chance to snap off a possible bluff with his top pair hands and low flushes.

River: J 6 6 A 8 ($4.25)
Big blind ($7.90) checks, you ($7.90) bet $2, Villain folds.

Oh well, at least we gave him the opportunity to call with something.

Example 4.3: A very speculative hand OOP against a loose 3-betting range
$10PLO
6-handed

You ($14.70) raise pot to $0.35 with K J 8 7 in CO, button ($13.20) 3-bets pot to $1.20. Button is a solid, aggressive player who 3-bets a wide range (including the occasional bluff 3-bet), but most of his 3-bets are premium high card hands and good, speculative hands. What is your plan?

You ventured a loose open-raise in late position, and got 3-bet by a competent player with position on you, so fold this semi-trashy hand right away. You have a suit and some coordination, but you don't have much nut potential. To add to your problems, your hand plays poorly against both AAxx, premium Broadway hands, and premium speculative hands in Villain's range.

Calling to play make-a-hand poker out of position with a weak hand will only set you up for postflop headache. Also, you are starting the hand 130 BB deep, which is another argument for playing tight with weak hands out of position. So concede this pot to Villain, and move on to the next hand.

Note that if Villain often 3-bets your CO raises from the button, you should adjust. You can tighten up your raises, and/or you can start 4-betting more (you start 4-betting with premium non-AAxx hands).

This example provides a convenient transition point to Part 6, where we'll discuss 4-betting against loose 3-bettors with a range of AAxx and premium suited and coordinated Broadway hands (for example, premium AKKx and AQQx). So this is a good place to end Part 5.

5. Summary
In this article we have continued our discussion of 3-betting that we started in Part 4, and we have also begun discussing postflop play.

We have now discussed 3-betting thoroughly, and we have defined ranges for 3-betting, and talked about good thought processes for playing 3-bet pots, both preflop and postflop. We have used heads-up scenarios with 100 BB stacks to illustrate important postflop concepts.

In Part 6 we will give 4-betting and playing against a 4-bet the same systematic treatment. This is a somewhat simpler topic than 3-betting when playing 100 BB stacks, and we shall see that 4-betting strategy with 100 BB stacks is based mostly on mathematics and assumptions about our opponents range (in other words, it's not an art form, it's something that can be easily taught).

Towards the end of Part 6, we will go through a series of examples with 3-bet and 4-pots to practice using the concepts we have learned.

Good luck!
Bugs