Hand of the day: getting to grips with three-bettors

CardRunners pro Jonathan ‘wooz’ Gaynor says you can’t allow opponents to run you over with three-bets

Three- and four-betting strategy in no-limit Hold’em is a subject that is often misunderstood. Adopting the right strategies against players who three-bet and four-bet aggressively is a complex art, as is finding the correct three- and four-betting approach to your opponents.

As with most things in poker, balancing your three- and four-betting/calling hand ranges will differ depending on the villain.

With regulars, one thing you should look out for is how often your opponent folds to three-bets (I’m assuming you’re using tracking software). If you have an opponent who folds to three-bets more than 70% of the time you should open up your three-betting range. If, however, your opponent only folds to three-bets about 50% of the time, you should adjust accordingly and tighten your three-betting range for value. And, as always, try to three-bet in position more than out of position.

If you are going to three-bet a wide range of hands from the blinds make sure you pick the right opponent to do it against. For example, three-betting Tom Dwan out of position with K-5 suited will clearly not be profitable. On the other hand, three-betting a very ABC player out of position with K-5 suited will be insanely profitable, because he will often just play fit-or-fold poker.

Working it out

In a $5/$10 full ring game I was playing, the action folded to me in the cutoff and I raised to $30 with 9-9. A very aggressive player with a high three-bet percentage reraised on the button to $100 with effective stacks of 110 big blinds. I called and the flop came K-T-7♠ – a perfect flop for his perceived range. However, this is a flop that is bluffed at by high-percentage three-bettors almost all the time.

As expected he decided to bet out for $120 into a $215 pot. I called and the turn was the 6, putting a backdoor flush draw on board and an inside straight draw for me. This is a card that will bring a lot of draws and added equity to his perceived range, since he likes to three-bet a wide variety of suited cards. If he’s picked up a heart draw and is going for it, he’s going to get the most fold equity by betting. Sure enough, I checked, he bet $260 into $455, and I called. The fact that I turned more equity with my inside straight draw made this more of a call, too.

The river ‘blanked’ with the K♣. I checked and he insta-shoved the river, polarising his range to nuts or air. Being a fairly aggressive player myself, he should realise I don’t have a King in my range very often. And the fact that another King came on the river reduces the likelihood that I hold one in my hand. It also decreases the likelihood he has one.

All the factors I’ve mentioned – in addition to his insta-shove – led me to believe he would bluff at this river a high percentage of the time. I called and he flipped over J-8 for the missed gutshot and flush draw.

Balancing act

If you have a regular like this, who three-bets and four-bets a very wide range in position, four-betting with your hands like 9-9 once in a while and calling a shove is okay. Aggressive three-bettors have to counter getting four-bet bluffed by five-bet shoving somewhat wide as well.

Likewise, if you do decide to flat-call with hands like 9-9, you’ll need to balance your three-bet calling range by flatting with premium hands like A-Q, A-K, K-K and A-A occasionally.
This will make you more unpredictable in bloated pots and harder to play against.

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