Postflop Play in 4bet Pots

Postflop Play in 4bet pots

Many players have not spent specific time working on optimal play in 4bet pots. This is partly because they happen less frequently than other situations. It is also because in the past it was not considered correct strategy to flat vs 4bets, so we’d mainly find ourself in 4bet pots vs fish. Seeing as flatting vs 4bets is much more prevalent than it used to be, understanding how to gain an edge in 4bet pots will be beneficial to our winrate.

Two Situations

There are two main situations that we will discuss here. The first situation is that we face a 4bet and decide to call. See the article “Defending vs 4bets preflop” for more information on when it is correct to flat a 4bet as opposed to 5betting or folding. The second situation is where we are the preflop aggressor and our opponent decides to flat our 4bet.

Playing as the Aggressor

In most cases against decent opponents we should get to the flop in a 4bet pot with a somewhat balanced ranges. There are exceptions, but generally we will have our strong value hands and we will have a selection of high equity bluffs such as Axs and offsuit broadways.

With our value hands we will want to play aggressively and start out by betting, although balanced strategy involves occasionally checking these hands for deception and also to protect our checking range. We don’t want to be capped any time we don’t cbet in a 4bet pot.

For value we will typically have 2 options when we hold 100bb stacks. We can either use a 3 street plan or a 2 street plan. Many players will often use a 2 street plan but are not aware that it is possible to utilise a 3 street plan in 4bet pots. It’s reasonable with no calculation to assume that 3barreling in a 4bet pot is not possible due to the low stack-to-pot ratio.

Two Street Plan

Most regulars are familiar with the two street plan in 4bet pots and will use this line by default with their value hands. The line involves firstly understanding the correct c-bet sizing in 4bet pots. While in single raised pots we may typically use a c-bet sizing of 2/3rds pot it is correct in a 4bet pot to use a sizing closer to 1/3 pot as our default sizing. This should set up roughly a pot-sized shove for the turn we can use to both value-bet and bluff with.

The two street plan is especially effective on drawy textures. Our opponent will only get to see one additional card before he is all-in. He will need to put his entire stack at risk if he wants to fully realise his equity.

Naturally if we are going to plan our value-hands this way then we should think about bluffing this way also. This is only necessary against good opponents however. If our opponent is a calling station then 2barreling as a bluff purely for the sake of balance is a good way to donate our chips.
One of the reasons we like hands such as Axs and Kxs hands as preflop 4bet-bluffs is that they are reasonably playable as bluffs postflop. Usually we can cbet in most cases where we have some type of backdoor draw. Assuming we turn our draw we can use this hand as a bluff shove on the turn. If we miss our draw we can check, but we should be ever alert to possible river opportunities. If our opponent checks to us again OOP on the river there is a reasonable chance he is capped and we can consider turning our busted-draw into a pot-sized river bluff.

Three Street Plan

The three street plan is used less commonly but this is because many regulars are unaware that it’s possible. If we want to split our stack into three chunks we need to bet very small on the flop and turn. We want to leave a river stack which is large enough to accomplish both value-betting and bluffing. If we have less than about 35% pot-sized bet left on the river we are really going to struggle to pull off convincing bluffs. Our opponent may decide that he is simply priced in to calling.

If we bet around 30% of the pot on flop and turn we are left with around 40-50% pot sized third barrel on the river. This is enough to generate some fold equity.

The three street plan is especially effective on dry board textures where we don’t mind giving our opponent cheap turn and river cards. We are more likely to keep our opponent in the pot for longer and extract the most value. Similar to before we want to think about including some three barrel bluffs in this line against competent opponents. We can adjust our bluff:value weighting if we discover our opponent is calling down too much or folding too much to the river bet. Backdoor draws are effective for this. If we don’t like the turn card and need to check back, we still retain the option of a river overbet which we can use to bluff if we decide our opponent is capped.

Unorthodox bet sizings

These two lines are considered the most standard and it’s unlikely necessary to include additional sizing plans. A common mistake is to not consider what type of stack we are setting up for the next street. In the majority of cases we want to leave a stack for later streets that can generate some fold-equity. It’s common for players to simply bet in accordance with the pot and then face a difficult decision on the river when they have something like 20% pot size bet left and villain jams after a co-ordinated river card hits.

Being able to make tough decisions like this is what separates good players from great players, but there is also no need to put ourselves in impossible situations in the first place unless we have no choice.

Keep in mind that the sizing plans discussed apply to 100bb effective stacks. So assuming we are 150bb deep we will need to generate different sizing plans. It’s perfectly fine to consider a larger cbet sizing in such cases to help set up stacks by the river. If someone c-bets 2/3rds pot in a 4bet pot  with 100bb effective, they are probably a recreational player. If someone cbets 2/3rds pot in a 4bet pot with 150bb effective, they might be a recreational player, or they might be a regular making adjustments to their sizing plan as a result of the deeper stacks.

Protecting Ranges

It’s necessary for us to occasionally check some strong hands on the flop also. Assuming we are IP this is relatively straightfoward. If our opponent leads the turn we call down two streets or raise for value. If he checks twice we can use our two street plan sizings on the turn and river. If we do have a raising range on the turn (which would typically be an all-in), it’s reasonable to assume that we can also check back the turn with some backdoor potential hands and use them as turn bluff-jams.

OOP it’s a little more complicated because we have the option to go for a check/raise. Again we just about have the stack depth to go for a small check/raise and set up a turn jam or directly check/jam ourselves. Assuming we check/raise with the intention to set up a turn shove it will generally be very close to a min-raise. Whether the min-raise is possible will be dependent on the size of the 4bet preflop and the effective stacks.

We also have the option of check/calling down. This makes the most sense on dry textures where we do not need a check/raising range. Assuming our opponent checks back we can use our two street plan on the turn and river involving a nice mixture of bluffs and value hands. If we assume that after we check/call the flop and opponent checks back the turn that we will be shoving our value hands OOP on the river, logic suggests that it is also ok to use some backdoor potential hands in our check/calling range rather than always cbetting these. This way we still get to the river with a nice mixture of value hands and potential bluffs.

So to put everything together (including the mid-strength hands)

IP – Double barrel value hands and some bluffs
        Check back some strong hands, and some backdoor bluffs to protect checking range
Check back mid-strength hands to use as turn bluffcatchers probably calling one street

OOP – Double barrel value hands and some bluffs
Check/call some value hands and some backdoor hands on dry textures
Consider check/raising some value hands and some bluffs on drawier textures
Check/call mid-strength hands and consider folding to the second barrel

If we don’t occasionally defend our checking ranges like this we will have purely mid-strength hands and air hands when we skip our cbet. We are not striving for perfect GTO balance here, so slowplaying should occur with a much lower frequency than fastplaying. We also only need to worry about protecting our checking ranges vs competent opponents.

Playing as the Defender

So we have called a 4bet, now what? Again we have the situation where we are IP and the situation where we are OOP.

On a dry texture we will typically be calling as opposed to raising so play is a little more straightfoward. If we have a premium holding (TPTK+) then we should usually be calling down 2 or 3 streets with 100bb stacks without a specific read on our opponent.

On a drawy texture we now have the opportunity to raise or check/raise. We should still consider including some strong hands and some backdoor potential hands in our calling range however because we want to protect our mid-strength hands with premiums and protect our premium holdings with air.

Depending on the exact size of the 4bet we have 2 main options with 100bb stacks as discussed previously.

a) Min-raise a selection of value hands and back-door potential hands with the intention of firing decent turns.

b) Go directly for a jam with our value hands and our draws.

The predominant deciding factor will generally be the stack-to-pot ratio. As we mentioned earlier we don’t want to be setting up an underbet for the turn unless necessary. We’d rather be able to leave ourselves at least 50% pot bet or higher for the turn where possible. If the preflop 4bet was somewhat large our only option will be to jam if we want to incorporate a raising range on drawy textures.

Villain Skips Cbet

In most cases we will steal the initiative from our opponent if he does not cbet the flop. OOP we can now use a 2 street plan where possible unless our holding is total garbage and we prefer to check/fold. If our opponent checks twice, even our garbage hands should typically be firing the river. Since we are now using a 1 street plan with this hand our sizing does not need to set up stacks for a later street and can be significantly larger than 1/3rd pot. Exploitatively this would be whichever sizing gives us the best risk-reward ratio on our bluff, or the highest long-run payout if we are value-betting.

In many cases we will have auto-profit if we double-barrel our garbage hands on the turn and river even if this is not theoretically correct. This is because many players are not protecting their checking back range and will be capped after skipping a flop cbet.

Theoretically we should also check ourselves on the turn with some premiums after villain checks back flop to help defend the garbage holdings in our range. In practice this is generally not necessary however.

Assuming we are in position we have the option now to play similarly to how we would if we had the initiative. We can choose between a two street plan or a three street plan depending on the board texture. We should theoretically check back our garbage, some slowplays and some back-door potential hands. In practice this may again not be necessary since the average opponent is possibly capped when they skip their flop cbet OOP.

Defending vs 4bets Preflop

It wasn’t too long ago, perhaps even only a few years, where this common piece of advice would be found throughout the different online poker forums. “Don’t flat 4bets, it’s a bad strategy”

In the current games, flatting-vs-4bets appears to be an increasing trend and is becoming ever more common. So what has changed?

It’s partly to do with how the games have changed but partly to do with our outlook and understanding of the game also. It’s considered theoretically correct to flat 4bets, whereas it wasn’t before. However a certain change in the way the game is played has facilitated this advancement in understanding also.

4bets are simply smaller than they have ever been in the history of poker. Many years ago players were routinely opening to 4bb, even from the BTN. A 3bet could easily be 15bb which would make a 4bet 35bb or so. Depending on the exact sizings 4bets were often used as all-in raises.

These days it’s common for players to make a 2x open on the button and face a 7bb 3bet. 4Bet sizing can be anywhere between 15-18bb. That’s almost half the size of some of the 4bets many years back.

Price on a Jam

It makes sense to jam vs a 25bb 4bet or larger. Our risk to reward ratio is reasonable if we have some fold-equity. It’s not really so much the case when facing a 15bb 4bet. We will be shoving 100bb here over a relatively small pot. We also should factor in that it is common for players to play deep making the price on a 5bet jam even worse.

One option we can consider is the min-5bet. However this is not typically recommended with 100bb stacks. By the time we have min-5bet to reasonable sizing we will likely be priced in with our entire range including bluffs. If our opponent has any sort of 6bet bluff range we are allowing him to fully realise the equity of any of the hands he may otherwise have folded if we had jammed ourselves. It’s actually a stronger option in most cases to 5bet jam regardless of the poor overlay and deny our opponent the opportunity to fully realise the equity of some of his bluffs.

Assuming the stacks are deeper than 100bb it is ok for us to have a min-5bet range with the intention of folding our bluffs to a 6bet and continuing with our value-range. 100bb deep we generally want to avoid min-5bets, but this doesn’t mean that jamming is our only remaining option.

Flat Only Range

It’s becoming increasingly common with 100bb stacks to have a flat-only range. There are issues with trying to incorporate a min-5bet range (although this can be fine exploitatively) and there are issues attempting to jam for such a low risk-reward.

We could attempt to 5bet the top of our range and flat the hands lower than this, but it would result in an unbalanced strategy. Our flatting range would be unprotected since we 5-bet all premiums. These leads to the more modern approach of flatting our entire defending range against a small 4bet.

 

Which Hands to Flat?

Seeing as 4bet pots result in a low stack-to-pot-ratio with 100bb stacks, we generally prefer those hands which play well in such circumstances. These will be high-card hands which can flop top-pair decent kicker. This will often be enough to play for stacks with postflop against a suitably aggressive opponent.

Premium suited connectors can also be reasonable, although the primary function of these is to ensure that we connect with different types of board texture. In practice it’s completely unnecessary to flat speculative hands vs 4bets since they don’t play well with the reduced SPR.

So let’s imagine we 3bet BB vs SB and face a small 4bet from the SB. What would our flatting range look like? Something along the following lines

AJs+, 99+, KJs+, KQo

And remember that this includes premium holdings such as QQ+ also.

Position

Similar to flatting against 3bets the positions of the two players involved are relevant. If we face a 4bet from UTG we should respond with a significantly tighter range. We should also consider whether we are in-position or out-of-position when facing a 4bet. The SPR is still high enough that we will suffer from a playability disadvantage when we are OOP. We should defend a tighter range preflop and not worry if we allow our opponents to generate a small amount of automatic profit with their in-position 4bets.

Min-5betting

We can attempt to use a min-5bet strategy in 2 main situations with 100bb stacks.

1) We are confident our opponent will not 6bet bluff
2) We are 5-betting for value and don’t care about balance

In other words it can be ok as an exploitative measure to min-5bet AA/KK and never bluff. This is naturally exploitable but probably won’t matter vs the majority of opponents. We should also only do this if we feel we are more likely to generate action this way as opposed to 5bet jamming. Sometimes a min-5bet may actually make us look stronger than directly jamming.

If the stacks get deep then we are perfectly fine to incorporate a min-5bet range which is balanced between bluffs and value hands. Facing a 6bet-jam from our opponents we are not priced in to calling with our min-5bet-bluff range any more. We would include premiums in our min-5bet range but also some high equity speculative hands such as Axs or good blocker hands like KQo. Suited connectors might theoretically be correct once the stacks reach a certain depth for board coverage reasons. This does not apply vs the vast majority of opponents however, and we are better off playing higher equity hands which play well with the decreased SPR.

Large 4bets

Assuming for whatever reason the betting patterns are larger in a certain hand and we face a 4bet which is closer to 25% of the effective stacks we can now have both a flatting range and a 5-bet jamming range.

Our 5-bet range will consist of premiums and high equity bluffs. Remember that when we are all-in, the only thing that matters is the raw equity of our hand. So certain hands which make poor min-5bet-bluffs such as 66 or 77 (for playbility reasons) make decent 5-bet bluff jams because we are guaranteed to realise our equity. The top hands for 5bet-bluff-jams are Axs and PP’s.

Keep in mind that depending on the population tendencies we don’t always want a 5-bet jamming range. If we are playing at low limits where the average 4-bet range is very strong we can play an unbalanced strategy where we never bluff-jam and purely shove for value. There is no point bluff-jamming if we have zero fold equity. We may also consider tightening our flatting range if our opponent only 4-bets premiums. We simply want to fold a ton as an exploitative measure.

Exploitative Defense

The average 4bet range of a winning 6-max reg is somewhere between 4-5%. This should increase by position with BTN and SB being the highest and UTG being the lowest.

If we notice our opponent has an overall 4bet range which is significantly below 4% then we should be responding very tightly to his 4bets. We should have no problems giving our opponents a ton of automatic profit in these spots. It may feel as if we are being exploited, but we are the ones exploiting our opponents here because every time they have AA we are probably folding.

Assuming we have a decent sample we should also make use of the fold-to-5bet stat. In most cases we need around 50% fold-equity for a profitable bluff jam. If our opponent is folding significantly more than this to 5bets we should be expanding our 5-bet bluff range. We may even 3bet some high equity holdings purely with the intention of 5-bet jamming. Something like 66 which is not part of our standard 3bet range can become a decent 3bet if we have the intention of 5-bet bluff jamming against our opponent’s 4bets. We can also consider slowplaying part of our value-range by flatting a 4bet if our opponent will be folding a ton of the time to our jam.

At the lower limits it is more common to see opponents who have a low fold-to-5bet stat. This is because they are 4betting a tight range and have no intention of folding to further action. This is the situation where we 5-bet jam a merged value range and don’t bluff. The top of our range we can jam, the slightly weaker hands we can consider flatting a 4bet or simply folding.

Assuming we have the sample we should also check our opponents 4bet range and fold-to-5bet stats by position. Some players are positionally aware, others aren’t. Assuming we don’t have the sample we can usually make estimates on our opponent’s positional stats based on their overall stats. So if someone has a 4bet range of around 4% it’s reasonable to assume they have a 4bet range on the button of around 7% and a 4bet range from UTG of around 2%.

Reverse Implieds

A common mistake when facing 4bets is calling too wide as a result of pot-odds especially vs tighter opponents.

Our pot odds are only the most relevant factor when we are close to being all-in. Assuming we have the correct pot-odds to call vs a certain range it may not always be a correct call especially when OOP.

This is because we must factor in future postflop play. In certain situations where we are heavily dominated we might

a) not make money when we hit if our opponent has nothing
b) get stacked when we hit if our opponent has something

It’s always important to account for future play. We may need more or less equity than we are being offered by our direct pot-odds. We want to consider other variables also such as how often our opponent will fold in a 4bet pot. If we have decent fold-equity we can get away with having less pot-equity than our direct odds dictate. If we have little fold-equity and will often make dominated hands then we need significantly more equity than our pot odds suggest.