3-Bet/4-Bet Strategy – 3-Betting Tactics

While shoving over opening raises is an integral part of any short stacking strategy, it is not the most important ingredient to success. My approach puts much less emphasis on 3-betting than one might expect. I want you to become a good poker player, not a shovebot.

Reacting to reraises is a source of massive leaks among most poker players. They either call too much or fold way too often. The goal of any 3-bet shoving strategy should be to take advantage of the tendencies of your opponents. In Chapter 7, I provided you with a pre-flop chart that outlines profitable 3-bet and 4-bet frequencies versus varying opening ranges.

In this chapter, my goal is to discuss a bit of theory and put you on the path toward improving your understanding of reraises. However, before putting too much time and effort into strengthening your pre-flop game, I recommend spending more time working on your post-flop skill. Having a strong post-flop game is much more important and will increase your win-rate more quickly. For now, I recommend sticking to the charts for all of your 3-betting and 4-betting decisions.

3-Betting Tactics

The profitability of 3-bet shoves are completely mathematical. The range of hands that can profitably 3-bet are based upon the opening and calling ranges of our opposition as well as the Hero’s position at the table and stack size. Once you have a grasp of your opponent’s ranges, you must then factor in the strength of your hand as well as your fold equity before deciding whether or not to shove.

As you learned previously, fold equity is the amount of money you win when your opponent does not have a hand strong enough to call your 3-bet. The tighter an opponent’s calling range, the more fold equity you have. Conversely, the looser an opponent’s range, the less fold equity is available. Therefore, the stronger your hand, the less fold equity you need to shove profitably, and the weaker your hand, the more fold equity you need.

Let’s say you have a hand that has 55% equity against your opponent’s calling range. In this case your shove is for value, and you don’t need any fold equity to make it a winning play. Alternately, let’s say you have the same hand vs. a much tighter player, and now you only have 40% equity against his calling range. Now your shove is a bluff, and you need him to fold often enough to aquire sufficient non-showdown money to make up for the times he calls.

Calculating fold equity and calling ranges is fairly complicated and beyond the scope of this book. Luckily, there are a few programs out there that help you do this. A good one that I recommend is called “Cardrunner’s EV.” It is free to download and try. For now, I have done the calculations for you. My intermediate charts are based on average calling ranges in the player pool and tend to err on the tight side. I designed them this way intentionally for a few reasons:

  1. Profiting from 3-bet shoving as a short stack is over-rated. Most of your income should come from pre-flop stealing and outplaying your opponents post-flop, not from becoming a 3-betting maniac.
  2. The amount you win or lose in most 3-bet situations is fairly marginal. When you do 3-bet, you want to be sure that it will almost certainly be exploitative.
  3. Generally, the player pool expects you to be 3-betting wide as a short stack. Therefore, shoving ranges should be based on what your opponents perceive your shoving range to be, not what their HUD says their calling ranges are. In other words, the average player is generally going to have a much wider 3-bet calling range versus a short stack than they’d have versus a 100 big blind player. And the more likely you are to get called, the tighter your shoving range should be.

Against unknowns, you should always have a standard 3-betting and 4-betting range. I have provided one in my basic charts that will serve you well. My advice is that you memorize them and always fall back on the default ranges when you do not have a read.

Standard 30 big blind 3-betting ranges based on your position:

HJ: JJ+, AK

CO/BTN: 99+, AQ+

SB/BB: 88+, AQ+

BTN Vs. Steal: 77+, AJ+

SB/BB Vs. Steal: 55+, AT+, KQ+
The ranges indicated are the same as can be found in the basic charts.

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Light 3-Betting

At some point, you will encounter players who are abusing the button and cutoff by stealing with a very wide range. Most players attempt to counter them by calling more often. Unless you have a specific plan to trap, this is the worst thing you can do, as it has you playing out of position without initiative.

And while light 3-betting can be very profitable, as with anything else, you still need to practice discretion. First of all, you need to keep in mind that unless you are in the big blind, you still have one or two players to your left that have a chance of picking up a monster. This is not a great concern since people pick up big hands so infrequently that you can’t let it slow you down too much. The main thing to keep in mind is that you can resteal much lighter from the big blind than you can from the small blind or button.

You also need to understand that since you are a short stack, you will generally get called much lighter when you shove all-in. Since calling ranges drastically affect the ranges you can profitably resteal with, you must remain mindful of your inherently decreased fold equity. Most players who have a very wide stealing range generally understand that they will be 3-bet light more often, especially against short stacks. In turn, they will consciously have a wider calling range against resteals than will your typical player.

Therefore, you need to walk a tightrope when it comes to light restealing. I advise that you choose hands that stack up very well against a wide calling range. Hands like Axs, suited connectors, and small pocket pairs do very well as they have a lot of equity versus hands like KQ, KJ, QJ, Ax, and small pairs, which generally make up a typical light calling range. Here is the Pokerstove calculation:

I have built some of these types of light 3-bets into the intermediate chart. However, against some players, it is okay to resteal even lighter than the chart indicates. Look for players who are opening greater than 50 percent from a stealing position, especially those raising three times the big blind or more. I like to pick my spots carefully, but will generally confidently resteal my entire standard cutoff and button range against them with a 30bb stack or less.

If an opponent is stealing more than 60 percent, unless he calls extremely wide, you can usually 3-bet any two cards profitably against him. Just be sure to avoid doing it enough to incite an adjustment from your opponent. Strong judgment in these situations is something you will learn. I encourage you to eventually do your own study and learn how ranges stack up against each other in 3-bet and 4-bet pots. For now, the intermediate pre-flop chart provides you with a sound system for 3-betting.

As a short stack, you have at your disposal a decisive weapon that, when used properly, is very effective in exploiting loose steals. Through light 3-betting, you will force loose players to readjust against you or risk leaking tons of money your way. If they do not either tighten up their opening range or loosen their 3-bet calling range, you will rake in the dough against them.

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