4-betting is usually a reaction to your opponent’s 3-betting tendencies. A player who has been 3-betting a lot and/or folding to 4-bets frequently is a prime target to 4-bet light against. The standard of today’s game is to 4-bet 2.1-2.5 times the 3-bet size. So if UTG raises to 4BB, and Button 3-bets to 12BB, you should 4-bet to 25BB. This is good for a couple of reasons:

  1. 1)  If you’re bluffing, then you risk less than a third of your 100BB stack and force your opponent to risk his entire stack.
  2. 2)  If you’re 4-betting for value, then you also encourage Villain to come along with hands that might fold to a shove. You may also induce him to 5-bet shove with a worse hand.

You never want to put in more than 30BB of your stack pre-flop because you do not want to commit to the pot with a weak hand. If you 4-bet to 40BB and he shoves, you would need to call 60BB to win 140BB—roughly 2.3-to-1 odds. This means you will have to call a shove with a hand as weak as A2s or 65s against his shoving range of QQ+/AK.

Playing TT and JJ

If you have been 4-betting small with these hands, then you’re losing a lot of value. You may decide that you want him to shove with random hands such as T8s or Q4s. While that may sometimes work, players will usually just fold those hands. People 3-bet bluff less than we think, 4-bet bluff even less and 5-bet bluff very rarely. So you gain very little by 4- betting him there.

You might even induce AQ, AJ or KQ to shove over your small 4-bet. That’s a big mistake because you want him to fold and allow you to rake in the dead money. Had he folded, he would have lost his equity share of the pot without seeing the flop. But by 4-betting small, you encourage him to shove with hands that still have 43-percent equity against you. So I would just shove it in here with TT and JJ, 4-bet bigger so he knows you’re committing yourself, or call his 3-bet.

If he 3-bets light against you and you’re OOP, then you should 4-bet big or shove. Against passive opponents who don’t barrel enough, calling is optimal because you have more chances of seeing showdowns with TT and JJ. If he’s a nit who rarely 3-bets you, then you should fold to his re-raises when you open from UTG or UTG+1. Players will save a lot of money if they treat TT and JJ like 99.

Playing AK

It’s a mistake to push this hand too hard. AK falls into the same category as TT and JJ because it’s a marginal hand to 4-bet and get all-in with. One unique distinction is that 4- betting with AK folds out a lot of Aces preflop that would have gotten stacks in if they had flopped a pair of Aces. Let’s say you raise from the CO and the BB 3-bets you. You 4-bet him and he folds all AQ, AJ, and ATs. JJ+ and AK will get it in versus AK with 60-percent equity. For this reason, calling a 3-bet and playing post-flop is fine.

The idea behind calling the pre-flop 3-bet instead of 4-betting is to call all of his flop c- bets and bet the turn when he checks to you. A half-pot bet will be sufficient to take it down. If you think he will check-call or check-raise more often than not, then check behind the turn. AK has some showdown value in 3-bet pots, so you don’t need to bluff the river often if it gets checked to you again. Calling 3-bets with AK also allows you to stack most Ax hands on Ace-high flops. After all, it is very tough to fold top pair in 3-bet pots. Lastly, Villain will be barreling with a high frequency on any turn A or K to represent AK.

The following is a hand example I played from several years back at 400NL.

I took two things away from that hand:

1) You should not automatically shove your entire stack in preflop with AK.

2) Calling a low flop with AK will induce a lot of bluffs on a turn A or K.

Playing AQ and 99

We rarely want to 4-bet with these hands and get it in preflop without history. The only hands we can really get value from are AJs, ATs, and 88, but those situations are extremely rare. An exception is when you have a very aggressive history with a villain who never believes you and is willing to stack off very light. The majority of the time, however, the best play is to call a 3-bet with them when stacks are deeper than 125BB.

An advanced tactic where you can 4-bet and fold AQ pre-flop from the blinds is when the CO opens and a habitual 3-better 3-bets from the BTN. Due to card removals, your opponents don’t have QQ+/AK as often and will have to fold the majority of their hands since your cold 4-bet is so strong. Against really tight opponents from the blinds, I would highly consider folding QQ/AK in the CO. One reason is because the blinds have a strong range. Secondly, the BTN could show up with a strong hand as well. If I had QQ+/AK from the BTN, I would shove when the CO folded.

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