HOW TO USE YOUR HUD: Cold Calling / 3-betting and 4-betting

Cold Calling

Cold call is the shortened form of “cold caller raiser,” since that seems to be the cold calling statistic most people are interested in. Make sure before you add this stat you have the right one. A cold call is the frequency that a player calls a raise from any position. An average tight aggressive player will cold call 8–10% of the time. Higher than that and you start treading onto passive ground.

It is really important however these days to have NoteCaddy when exploring this statistic. Many great players have a higher cold call, around 12–15%. This is a new trend. They are a reaction to the prevalence of 2x raisers. Getting great odds they are forced to cold call out of the big blind more than ever before. This is running their statistics up. However, if with NoteCaddy you take a look at their cold calling hands and positions, and you see the majority of them are when they have no blind invested in the pot, you can assume they’re playing too loose if their cold call has gone 11% or higher.

It is interesting to look at what hands they like to cold call with as many people never change their range. They like to 3-bet suited connectors or they do not. If you find they never flat them then you can write off a number of flush and straight combinations postflop. This can be of great assistance in very narrow spots.

3-betting and 4-betting

A 3-bet percentage is determined by how often a player re-raises a player preflop. For those of you who are wondering, let me explain why this is the “third” bet. You may feel embarrassed, but trust me: I’ve known players who have been in the game for five years who didn’t understand why it’s a third bet when technically it’s the second raise.

When limit poker was the main form of poker in the USA the big blind was referred to as the first bet. When someone would raise preflop the dealer would call out, “2-bets!” If it was an old dealer he would typically scream it out loud enough for his hearing aids to pick it up, and if you were lucky a drink girl might twitch and spill something on the felt.

When someone would re-raise that would be the third bet. Thus, when we re- raise preflop it is called the 3-bet. The blind was the first bet. The first raise was the “2-bet” although the use of this vernacular still sounds odd to me. On the flop, these conditions evaporate. If you bet that is the first bet. If they raise that’s the second bet. If you raise again that is the third bet. It doesn’t start on the “2- bet.”

You might be rolling your eyes saying “obviously” but you would not believe how many people I’ve met who have $1,000,000+ profit from poker who still refer to their flop 3-bet as a 4-bet. The 3-betting percentage is a great metric for how active a player is against other players’ aggression. Some people’s 3- bets are low, say 6% or less. This indicates they are fairly trusting of others when they enter the pot. They only re-raise with a premium holding, typically. Other players are a bit more suspicious and balanced. Maybe 1 in 4 times they 3- bet they will try to do it with a mediocre hand. This allows them to take advantage of a guy who is raising too much. Their 3-bet is 8% or 9%.

In my opinion, this is the hardest 3-bet percentage to crack. It is mostly value combinations, so you can’t bluff it relentlessly, but it also allows the player to bluff occasionally. It’s at 10% or higher when you start seeing a great deal of bluffing; 13% is when it’s typically understood that the player’s 3-betting range is unsustainable.

Now, some astute readers may ask, “Wait a minute. If you can open 15% of hands and still be able to defend yourself pretty well, why can you only 3-bet 13% of hands?” The reason is there are many hands that work much better as a flat rather than a 3-bet. A small pair has a higher equity pull, but it works poorly as a 3-bet, especially if planning to fold to a 4-bet and the player is rarely flatting. Suited connectors also have exceptional postflop capacity, and are worthless as a preflop warring hand.

For these specialized parameters the 3-betting range will contain more bluffs. A 13% range generally includes hands that could not have been flatted effectively. It is weaker than the 13% opening range because that contains all the pairs and premium suited connectors.

It is also important to note what positions someone likes to 3-bet from. There are people who cannot stand it when someone raises in position. They do everything in their power to 3-bet them from the small blind or big blind. However, others have a reverential respect for the button raisers, and do not want to touch them. For this reason they re-raise more in position but largely leave people alone when they themselves are in the blinds.

If you are using a cumulative 3-bet statistic versus the types of people described above you are not going to have an accurate number for either “resteal” position. (It is called a ‘resteal’ because generally they are re-raising more opportunistic position raisers.)

Be sure to look at someone’s button 3-bet statistic. This is where many people like to take their stand, and for a good reason: if you flat them they will be last to act throughout the rest of the hand. Also, note your opponent’s small blind and big blind 3-betting numbers. Some old-school players still love to 3- bet out of the blinds, because the appearance of an additional big blind helps the bet look larger. For example, if you 3-bet to 6BB preflop from the big blind you’re actually only risking 5x, but everyone sees 6x.

Most newer players like the small blind more than the big blind for a 3-bet steal. They have less invested in the pot preflop, so there isn’t as much incentive for them to flat. They believe their options are to 3-bet or fold, and since they don’t have to get through many players they reason the 3-bet is sometimes the better option.

Look for what types of hands they 3-bet. You can see this in NoteCaddy. Maybe someone doesn’t 3-bet much overall but you see a number of ace blockers in their button 3-betting range. You can call with stronger aces now and punish them on an ace-high board, or call down with your superior high cards.

There is also an option in Hold’em Manager 2 to look at the “versus hero” statistic. This is extremely interesting because sometimes people will have a problem with you, and want to go after you more often. You could have also possibly gotten the better of another player for months and he has just decided he’s not 3-betting you ever anymore.

PokerTracker 4 has alleged in the past that the versus hero statistic is

worthless because it can be influenced by other factors. I do not know of a single statistic that cannot be influenced by outside forces. If someone moves all-in on me with good hands a few times in a row their 3-bet in general is going to be higher than it probably is in reality. Does that mean we should do away with all 3-bet stats?

I imagine if professional Indy drivers asked for a certain gauge their car manufacturers wouldn’t refuse to provide it to them because they didn’t personally believe in it. They would say, “Well, we’re not the professionals. We’ll provide our recommendation with the service and let them make their own decisions, as the adults they are.”

If you want more specificity in your versus hero 3-bet statistics attach NoteCaddy, and you can pull up the personal replayer for every hand you’ve played with the guy. If you see him popping up with some ridiculous hands you’ll know he wants to fight with you, because of your screen name, nationality, icon, or what have you.

The 4-bet, as you can imagine, is about how many times people put the fourth bet in. When someone raises the blinds preflop that is the second bet. The re-raise is the third bet. The raise after that is the 4-bet. If the 4-bettor was not the initial raiser than it is called a “cold 4-bet.” The person came in cold, as it were. It is a much more significant investment than if the initial raiser just had to add some chips onto his initial investment.

The 4-bet percentage is easy to think of in these terms: how often do you have a hand good enough to put the fourth bet in? Just 10% of the time is how often you have a real premium. A 4-bet statistic of 8% means the guy has never 4-bet bluffed in his life, and he’s not planning to start now.

A 12% 4-bet statistic gives you a couple more hands to play when someone is really 3-betting you; 15% means you have a couple thin 4-bets, but you generally stay in control; 18% or higher means you have a guy who just doesn’t like getting 3-bet. He’s out to prove a point, and he’s willing to use his chips to do so.

When you are 3-betting a hand that you want to take postflop, if you see a person has a 4-bet of 20% you may have a problem. This gentleman might not let you see the flop with him just tagging along. If however you have a mediocre hand which you can’t flat with for fear of playing a multiway pot, but you see your opponent never 4-bets, then you can 3-bet this person without fear of being bluffed by the 4-bet.

The fold to 3-bet statistic tells you how often a person raises and then folds

when someone re-raises. Most great professionals have a fold to 3-bet of 60%. It’s very hard to construct a counter strategy for this range. The great professionals are active enough that they’ll probably pick up on when you’re 3- betting them too much, but they do not become overly involved with honest 3- bettors. If you try to 3-bet bluff them, reasoning that your bet only needs to work 54% of the time, you’re likely not accounting for how often the players behind you are going to play. This often makes the play unprofitable when attached to the initial player’s fold to 3-bet.

A fold to 3-bet of 65% or higher is generally considered too honest. This is someone who is exceedingly honest when 3-bet, or is a real adherent to classic concepts about retaining your short stack by any means necessary. At lower stakes games you’ll see many guys who play too many tables who fold to pretty much any 3-bet. You’ll also see some dated American players who hold onto concepts such as “never flat a 3-bet under 40BB” which were popular in the early years of training videos. The countries who speak English and watched these videos religiously also have some unchanging adherents. One example that comes to mind is Portuguese players. This type of person, if they should decide to enter the pot after being 3-bet, generally has a very strong hand. Caution should be exercised graciously. On the flip side, they are perfect for a 3-bet.

As you move up in the stakes you’re going to find fewer people who fold frequently to 3-bets, mostly because – at the time of this writing – no one folds to 3-bets. It has become a sign of shame to fold to a 3-bet preflop. People take flops in many situations they should not. This is generous to our bottom line, as we explore later. You can identify these players by them having less than a 50% fold to 3-bet.

Fold to 4-bet is just how it sounds. It’s a percentage of how often someone folds to being re-raised when they put in the third bet. Anything higher than 60% is a great marker for a 3-bet bluffer. People tend not to want to fold after they’ve even raised preflop, and they become more testy when they put in a larger re- raise. If they can routinely fold after throwing in such an advanced bet it is because they are 3-bet bluffing. Use your 4-bet bluffing blockers more judiciously against them. Anything less than 40% means the person generally has something; 20% or lower indicates the person almost never 3-bet bluffs.

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