You can actually call with a wider range of hands here versus a button 3-bet because he will have hands like ATs, KTs, and QTs. For this reason, you can call with AQ, AJ, KQ, KJs, and QJs hands and play post-flop. Generally, against an aggressive opponent who has been active, I’m not going to fold if I flop a pair. Barring a disastrous turn and river that put 4 to a straight or 4 to a flush on the board, I’m going to check-call it off. You will lose sometimes when Villain shows up with a real hand, but you will pick off some bluffs as well. Of course, if you see the nuts every time you go into check-call mode against a player who has been 3-betting you a lot, then maybe he doesn’t 3-bet you that often or maybe he does 3-bet you that often but he doesn’t fire multiple barrels as bluffs that often.
Late position vs. 3-bet from blinds
If Villain has a very narrow 3-betting range, then I want to 4-bet to give him a chance to stack off with a range of JJ+/AK, which AA/KK dominates. By calling his 3-bet, he may slow down if the flop is bad for his hand and we fail to stack him.
If an opponent is 3-betting with a wide range, then I will call with my premium hands because I want to balance the times when I have marginal holdings. Against someone who is really aggressive, I will slow-play and then call down all three streets, even if the board gets scarier and scarier, because aggressive players’ bluffing frequencies increase as the board gets scarier. I almost never fold KK+ against them.
I would shove over Villain’s bet on wet flops like T83s because that’s what I would do with my semi-bluffs on this board. If Villain 3-bets a lot and c-bets at a high percentage, then semi-bluffing the flop is insanely profitable since he will bet-fold very often.
On dry boards like Q73 rainbow, I would raise small or flat Villain’s c-bet if he’s the type to pounce on weakness and capable of firing multiple barrels with AK or random hands. This causes him to overplay his marginal hands. A small raise works well against opponents who aren’t very aggressive on the turn or the river. Additionally, there will be times where I will raise small on a flop as a bluff, so I want to do it with a weak hand as well. An argument can be made that if no one is paying attention, then balancing is overrated since your opponents are only playing their cards. Nevertheless, it’s important to develop a sense of how important balance is to your game so you can be aware of it as you move up.
Don’t jam the flop
Don’t always just get it in on the flop against a 3-better’s c-bet. Almost always call more with sets and two pairs. You probably already do that with medium pairs, so why not do it with the nuts? You don’t want to have an unbalanced range for calling and shoving. Calling the flop with strong hands some of the time will also prevent aggressive villains from putting you on a weak hand and double-barrel bluffing you in the future.
Bluffing the Flop
Players who 3-bet too often also tend to c-bet the flop frequently. Good boards for you to bluff-raise on are connected boards, and sometimes even Kxx or Qxx. Bluff-raising ace- high boards works on some opponents, but it’s better to call the flop c-bet to represent more Ax-type hands. You probably wouldn’t raise a c-bet with AT on A73 rainbow versus someone who 3-bets you pre-flop. You would call instead, and you’d do the same with your other strong holdings since he will bet his pair of aces on the turn anyway. When he checks the turn, check behind. Again, you do that with all your weak aces or smaller pairs. On the river, if he bets, you can fold since he isn’t bluffing often. If he checks, then you can bet 1/2- to 3/5-pot to take it down.
Inducing a Bluff
Some players never believe you when you raise a fairly dry flop. By raising, you represent such a narrow range of hands for value that a thinking Villain will not give you credit for it. This is probably true because we would slow-play QQ on Q72 suited almost always. We will just call the flop with a weak top pair or medium pair. If Villain is smart enough to recognize when your value range is really narrow, and if he is capable of 3-bet bluffing or floating out of position and betting the river if the turn goes check-check, then a dry board is a great spot to min-raise a c-bet to induce a bluff.
The following example is a hand I played several years back against a tough aggressive player at 5/10.
Most players at the micro-limits and small stakes are not capable of Villain’s move. The purpose of this example is to show you how you can manipulate your opponent if you pick up on some of his tendencies. If you face a player who is capable of doing it, then you now know how to exploit him.
As you move up in stakes, you will realize that there’s more value to fast-playing your hands than slow-playing. As players get better, it’s more difficult to trap them. However, a lot of players want to make hero calls so if you’re playing your strong hands aggressively, you will get called more often than you think. Here’s another example.
Almost everyone calls in this spot. You want to let him continue bluffing his hand. However, if he is smart, he will shut down on the turn, since you will have a hand stronger than Tx way more often than a float. So, if he is aggressive enough, you should 3-bet Villain’s check-raise more often than call. He has been in this spot many times and every time someone calls a check-raise, they have a strong hand. By 3-betting, you are taking a different line and he may go crazy and try to bluff you or float out of position to take it down on a future street.
You generally want to 4-bet a hand that either cannot profitably call a 3-bet (A3o, KJo) or that you want to go all-in with pre-flop (QQ+/AK). Having an ace or king in your hand is great because of hand elimination. There is less chance that Villain holds AA, KK, or AK.
Don’t 4-bet with T7o because you want to least have decent equity in the pot if he does call; choose T7s instead. T7s gives you more semi-bluffing opportunities where you can bet the flop with a flush draw and follow through on the turn. You can also bet the flop with a backdoor flush draw and continue the aggression when you pick up a flush draw on the turn.
It’s also important that you don’t 4-bet with hands such as 55-88 or T9s. Assuming stacks are deep (150BB), it’s better to just call his 3-bet with these hands because the implied odds are high and there are little to no reverse implied odds (your hand is rarely dominated).
Once stacks get deep (150BB+), I would 4-bet with a wide range of hands against habitual 3-betters. There are a few reasons for this. It’s tough to counter my play because stacks are so deep. If I 4-bet big, which is a little more than double his 3-bet size, then he won’t have odds to call pre-flop to play post-flop. I may have aces or kings. Most importantly, players rarely 5-bet bluff shove for 150BB+, and like to play tight when stacks are deep, so I take down the pot pre-flop a lot of times.