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.
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.
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.