When we’re flatting with a hand preflop we need to pay attention to the three Ps: position, players, and price. The position is fairly self-explanatory. Players are what players are behind you and who is raising. The price is determined by what odds you’re getting from the pot. Before we get into those factors though let’s examine what a preflop flatting hand should be.
If you’re flatting in any position other than the big blind you can’t be assured of going heads-up with the raiser. Most of the time you call the threat of a multiway pot is a distinct possibility. Now that most people flat from the big blind given favorable odds a multiway pot is almost an eventuality as opposed to a possibility. For this reason, a preflop calling hand must be malleable. It must function multiway. Remember our rule of “two pair or better” in multiway pots with aggressive players. What hands are more likely to give you two pair or better?
Suited connectors do a great job. The suited aces are also very helpful. They make the best flushes, which cause lesser flushes to go broke. They also give you significant equity to barrel with if you flop a draw. Small pairs also work well, because in multiway pots their drawing equity is justified. It doesn’t matter that you will often miss the flop, as it’s likely you will make up for the investment with someone in the pot calling you down when you flop big. What doesn’t work well in a flatting range is the big-card combinations. K-Jo works just fine against one person, but if you go multiway with this hand you’re likely to be dominated on any good flop.
Another type of hand we should take out of our flatting range is suited one- gappers. Though in fact they hit the flop at around the same percentage of the time as the premium suited connectors they formulate much weaker combinations versus a variety of drawing connectors. They do very well against a person who is playing mainly high cards, but suffer in multiway pots where superior straights and flushes are prevalent. Unsuited connectors such as 10-9o can make great bluffing hands, but in threeway pots they have to hang on for dear life with just a straight draw; usually, that is not enough equity to be continuing.
There are occasions when we should flat more and when we should flat less. Let’s begin with the latter. It’s a real problem when there are a number of people behind you who can raise all-in and end your participation in the pot. Maybe there is a crazier player UTG and he raises. UTG + 1 you have 8-9 suited, which you know is good against him. However, behind you are five guys with 15BB. They are ready to put their chips in, and they have exactly the same read you do. They’re getting the money in often, so you’ll be forced to fold most of the time. Here, you have to make a decision to 3-bet or fold, and almost always you should pick fold. Calling is not an option.
You should also flat less if the person is very good postflop or if you have no read on them from that point. Sometimes you will have a collection of hands on a player where it shows he never 4-bets preflop, he never folds to 3-bets, and he always folds to continuation bets. This player is one of your cash machines: he raises, calls more money, and then folds. However, you have no statistics on him postflop, or the ones you have show he is really aggressive and tricky (a number of check-raises, double barrels, etc.). Why would you go into a theater of war where you have done no reconnaissance? Use the damning information you have, and make a profit.
A great time to flat versus another player is when they have a glaring postflop leak. Many players are tough guys preflop, with a great deal of re- raising and raising, but when they play a turn their bet percentage goes down to 30%, and their fold to bet rate is 60%+. They are giving up. The heist is over. If you can get heads-up against this person just by calling, then flat. This happens most often when the big blind’s fold to steal rate is 80%+.
There are also hands that play very well multiway but not so great heads-up. For example, 8-8 can yield a real decent profit multiway. Since people would squeeze with higher pairs the set of eights is likely to be best. You trap many smaller sets.
Heads-up the hand doesn’t exactly command respect. If the stack sizes are awkward I’d just put a smooth call in. Another time you should flat as much as possible is when you’re at a final table versus the other chip leader. If you and he get all-in then you have spewed money to everyone else sitting there. It is an ICM disaster – the average finish between you is quite high, but you’ve surrendered almost guaranteed prize money to go after chips that aren’t worth nearly as much.
A 3-bet, as we discussed in the statistics section, is a re-raise preflop. The blind is considered the first bet, and the initial raise is labeled the second bet. Thus, the re-raise is the third bet, or 3-bet. Learning how to come over the top is one of the trickiest concepts in a No Limit Hold ‘Em players’ repertoire. It should be done with extreme care because of the size of your enlarged 3-bet pots.
When we 3-bet and want the opponent to 4-bet or call us this is referred to as a “value 3-bet” because its sole purpose is to derive value out of the hand. There is no folding out a greater hand. This may sound obvious, but in order to 3-bet for value you need weaker hands to call or 4-bet against you.
Before you go “yeah I know that,” I’m going to tell you: there’s a good chance you don’t play like it. I remember one time I was coaching a student. This kid had had his lesson paid for him by a friend, and he clearly didn’t want to be taught by me. If I had known this I wouldn’t have taken the job, but alas I didn’t find out till I was on the phone with him. He was showing a video of himself playing. He’d get a solid hand, such as A-Qo, and 3-bet with it 100% of the time. He would then be 4-bet, and he wouldn’t know what to do. This was especially humorous when his Hold’em Manager revealed that the player only 4- bet or folded.
“Did you do this as a bluff?” I’d ask.
“Then how do you not have a plan for the only way he continues in this
He came up with a pretty good solution to this suggestion: he got rid of his
HUD. Now there was no way for me to criticize him. He had a sob story for anyone who would listen about how poor he ran. He did not want to hear that he had brought everything on himself.
Are there specific hands you 3-bet for value without thinking? I know one that is typical for many people is Q-Q or A-Ks. Sometimes those hands would work much better if flatted, especially given the opposing player’s statistics and the ICM dynamics. Yet, thanks to their bad habit, they 3-bet before they think about it.
Furthermore, you might have A-Qo, but if you 3-bet you see the person is never flatting with a worse ace. Their fold to 3-bet of 65% is too honest for that. Smooth calling versus this opponent might be the better way of trapping them
with their weaker holdings. This is especially true in the big blind. People who watch me play see I often 3-bet an A-Qo. This is because the big cards work very well in heads-up pots, but don’t do as well in multiway ones. Then a button player will open, the small blind will fold, and I’ll flat A-Ko. “What are you doing?!” they ask, confused.
Remember, big cards play well heads-up, because they make large pairs, and that is most likely to be the winning hand when playing one player. Here, I am already heads-up. Also, if I never flat this hand, I can never check-raise a high- card flop convincingly.