Why 4-bet Bluff?

Like I’ve said earlier, the games are increasingly aggressive pre-flop and post flop. To some degree at certain higher stakes, the 3-betting and 4-betting has mellowed out a little, but micro and small stake players are still seeing effects of increased aggression. In order to properly combat this increased aggression, you need to have a solid 4-bet bluffing plan. 4-betting for value is pretty simple. You have a big hand against someone who you think will stack off with worse and you 4- bet. Finding profitable 4-betting spots is a little trickier, but possible to do if you are staying cognizant of the opportunities that present themselves.

Why 4-bet Bluff?

There are several reasons to 4-bet bluff in today’s games. In general, people at micro and small stakes games will 3-bet a bit too wide in certain situations, and not re-defend their 3-bets often enough. Some people think it’s a strategy that carries with it higher variance, but if you pick your spots well, that’s simply not the case. In some volume, of course, there’s going to be more variance, but in any reasonable sample you’ll show profit if you’re picking your spots correctly. Some of the reasons to 4-bet bluff are:

1. Defend your opening raise. If you’re opening a somewhat wider range, then you should expect to get 3-bet more. If you simply fold only the highest end of your range, you’re going to get exploited pretty badly by even bad regulars.

2. Add depth to your 4-bet range. So when you do 4-bet, you may get your opponents to react poorly and 5-bet shove with the wrong ranges against you. If you’re only 4-betting 2% of your range, then opponents can play near perfect against you if they are at all competent.

3. Push people off better hand. If you pick your spots and hands well, you can get people to fold hands like AQo, TT–JJ for example or even better depending on how badly they adjust to your 4-bet range.

Good 4-bet bluffing hands

The primary goal with your 4-bet bluffing hands is to have some hands that have decent showdown value if called, and can outflop your opponent’s 3-bet calling range. You also don’t want hands that are going to commit you to the pot, and that you can dump if your opponent 5-bet jams on you. So some good 4-bet bluffing hands are:

Hands with Ax and Kx contain blockers against your opponent’s range. So it cuts down on the possible big ace and king combos your opponent will have. Additionally the Ax and Kx hands can outflop or out turn your opponent’s 4-bet calling range since a lot of these hands will be JJ+ depending on your opponent and their position. Some hands like KTs and QTs can be profitable 3-bet calling hands, but in certain situations out of position, they also make good 4-bet bluffing hands.

Small pairs like 22–55, for example, are not hands that you can 4- bet bluff and fold with 100 BB effective stacks. You’ll have anywhere from 35.7–37.3% equity versus your opponent’s shoving range so you’ll be committed to calling. As a rough rule, any hand that has about 31–32% equity versus your opponent’s 5-bet jamming range, you cannot fold once you 4-bet.

The bottom line with profitable 4-bet bluffing is that you want to ideally look for opponents that 3-bet too wide, and don’t re-defend their 3- bets enough. Once you start getting over an 8% 3-betting range, you can find a lot of profitable 4-bet bluffing opportunities. As your opponents get better, they will of course understand your 4-bet bluffing range is going to widen and jam slightly wider or call accordingly. However, most opponents at micro and small stakes don’t adjust to this well. At micro stakes, you won’t have as many aggressive 3-bettors, but they are still there, and those are the people you need to target.

4-bet Bluff Sizing

When effective stacks are close to 100 BBs, then between 22––25% of your stack size is an ideal 3-bet bluff sizing. This will allow you to get away from most hands if you are jammed on. When effective stacks are over 100 BBs to about 150 BBs, then 4-bet to roughly 2.8––3.7x your opponent’s 3-bet sizing. When stack sizes get over that size, don’t look to 4-bet bluff very often since your opponent’s 4-bet calling range will begin to widen. You should instead be widening your 4-bet value range, preferably in position of course. Also you can look to 4-bet ISO in position more to apply maximum pressure versus your opponent’s range.

In the above example, in a full ring cash game with effective stacks of 100 BBs, it’s folded to you in late middle position (MP2) with QdTd and you raise 3 BBs. The action folds to the button who 3-bets 10% of his hands from the button and he 3-bets to 10 BBs. The action folds back to you, and you 4-bet to 23 BBs.

Is this a profitable 4-bet bluff?

1. He’s 3-betting over 8% of his hands, so whether it’s profitable or not is going to come down to 4-bet sizing and how wide he will 5-bet jam or call. Most opponents at micro and small stakes are going to play 5-bet jam or fold poker.

  1. What your opponent’s 3-betting range is in a spot like this is actually irrelevant, unless your opponent is calling a lot of 4-bets. Since this isn’t the case a majority of the time, you can take any range, polarized or depolarized with quasi ranges in it, and just plug in what you think a reasonable 5-bet jam range is for your opponent. We’ll say something like roughly 3% of his hands or slightly less which equates to: QQ+, AQs+, AKo. Swap JJ for AQs, and it won’t make much difference since you are not calling a jam. It will just slightly alter the fold percentages.
  2. If your opponent is opening 10% of his range, and jamming only 3%, then they’ll be folding roughly 70% of the time to a 4-bet. 14.5(.70) – 23(.3) = + 3.3 BBs

4. 4-bet bluffing in this situation has a net profit of +6.3 BBs, since if you fold you’re losing 3 BBs 100% of the time.

Is folding the correct play versus your opponent’s range if you are jammed on?

  1. If we keep the above 5-bet jamming range of our opponent, and plug in the numbers you’ll end up having slightly under 30% equity versus your opponent’s range: (100(.3)) – (77(.7)) = (30 – 54) = -24 BBs.
  2. If you 4-bet to 23 BBs and fold, you’re losing 23 BBs 100% of the time. (-24) – (-23) = -1 BBs. So it’s narrow but it would be a – 1 BB EV play.

Ideal 4-bet Bluffing Spots

Once you know what kinds of hands you want to 4-bet, and you have a good grasp of the kind of sizing you want to keep, then finding the most profitable spots will become fairly easy. Some of the criteria you’ll want to have in place to make the most profitable 4-bet bluffs are:

  1. Your opponent 3-bets too much, and won’t 5-bet shove or call wide enough to re-defend. Typically speaking, most opponents’ 3-bet range will get wider in certain spots, but their 5-bet jamming range or calling range won’t widen. So this can become extremely exploitable.
  2. You have no significant recent 4-bet history. You haven’t been 3- betting or 4-betting your opponent a lot lately in a way that will get them to over react to a situation and decide to 5-bet jam lighter than normal. Everyone has their breaking point, and when 4-bet shoving you really depend on fold equity to make it a profitable opportunity.
  3. You haven’t been super active for long stretches. You haven’t been active in a lot of pots, 3-betting and 4-betting other players a decent amount recently. Playing and calling some pots or an occasional 3- bet is fine, but either because of a run of good cards or as bluffs, if you’ve been pushing the table around a bit then this can create a reaction by other players, even if they haven’t’ been involved with you.
  4. You haven’t 4-bet folded recently. If you 4-bet folded to an opponent, then there’s a much higher chance that they will play back at your lighter, even if they aren’t a very good player.

Keep your 4-bet bluff contained to the most optimal spots and you should be able to easily get your 4-bet range over 3% and close to 4%. Something between 3–4.5% is optimal without getting into an area where you may begin spewing chips.

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