Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tweaking preflop play

For most of this year, I've been pushing all in with premium hands preflop rather than putting in the third raise. For example, if I raised first in with AA and the button reraised, I would go all in rather than reraising him a smaller amount.

This strategy is effective because few people believed I would make such an all-in raise with a premium hand. Opponents immediately thought this was a typical move to make with AK preflop, so many lesser hands -- from TT to QQ -- would call a push.

I only made this move with AA, KK and sometimes AK (if I felt confident I wasn't against a monster), so I got by far the best of it over time. With lesser hands (QQ and below), I would either call or fold.

The problem is that playing this way is way too limiting. Because I would only make this move with premium hands, I couldn't effective 4-bet bluff with lesser hands because an observant opponent might grasp that I was only overbetting my very best holdings. Worse, I felt like I was missing out on value those frequent times when opponents folded their lesser hands to an all-in bet preflop.

In addition, 3-betting with a lot of hands is the trendy thing to do these days in the games I play. Solid loose-aggressive players are taking the initiative with a very wide range preflop, and the only way to make them pay is to reraise them.

The obvious answer is to put in that extra raise with a much wider range of hands, both as a bluff and with top-tier hands:

Dealt to smizmiatch [Ah 3c]
5 folds
smizmiatch raises to $14 from the button
SB folds
chislodc raises to $48 from BB. <-- chislodc is an aggressive player known to 3-bet lightly
smizmiatch raises to $148
chislodc folds
Uncalled bet of $100 returned to smizmiatch
smizmiatch wins the pot ($98)

This works even better when you actually have a good hand and get action:

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Ac Ad]
3 folds
Button calls $6
smizmiatch raises to $34 from SB
sohigh247 raises to $108 from BB
Button folds
smizmiatch raises to $275
sohigh247 raises to $617.10, and is all in
smizmiatch calls $319, and is all in
sohigh247 shows [Qd Qs]
smizmiatch shows [Ac Ad]
*** FLOP *** [6c 8c 6s]
*** TURN *** [6c 8c 6s] [9c]
*** RIVER *** [6c 8c 6s 9c] [2c]
sohigh247 shows two pair, Queens and Sixes
smizmiatch shows a flush, Ace high
smizmiatch wins the pot ($1,191) with a flush, Ace high

Most players know the rule of thumb that the fourth bet/third raise usually means Aces. This kind of reraising can exploit that belief.


Sometimes though, things get wacky.

I don't have the hand history in front of me, but I was playing a 5/10 game a few days ago in which I found KK in the small blind of a shorthanded game.

The UTG player raised, the loose/wild button reraised, and I reraised again. The small blind, playing with a $500 stack, went all in. The utg player folded, and then the button went all in too!

I can only recall one or two other times when I folded KK preflop, but this seemed like a clear decision. If the fourth bet usually means Aces, then surely the sixth bet always means Aces. So I laid it down, feeling confident that this was one of those times where KK was just no good preflop.

I was wrong. The BB turned up 33, and the Button had 99, which held up to take down the pot.

I didn't make money from them this time, but some of these players are just giving it away.


SubZero said...

Do you have a statistical method of mixing up your 3-betting hands (like whenever dealt both red TT-QQ), or do you do it more based on opponents (those who frequently 2-bet you out of position)?
Personally, I am more inclined to 3-bet if my opponent seems frisky, and in those cases I don't worry so much about my hand, just my position. Should I only do it with a big PP or AKs?

Gnome said...

My style is to make reraises and rereraises based on my opponents and image rather than a randomization/game theory method.
I too am more inclined to 3- and 4-bet when my opponents seem too aggressive. I like doing it with a wider range when you're against an aggressive opponent who you think can fold. Against someone who won't fold, there's little point in putting in this much money preflop with less than a premium hand.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Fantastic post. The only concern I have in doing this is when there's like a fairly short stacked opponent in the hand. But then again, I guess that could have metagame value...