4-Betting in 6Max Cash games
July 31, 2011, Posted by Alex
6-Max cash games have gone a long way in the last 5 years. Poker players have discussed, analysed and plugged leaks. The enormous fish pools of yesteryear are no longer active, the wells in a lot of places have dried up. More and more of the time the players that make the most money are the ones that can outplay fellow thinking players and stay one step ahead of the competition in terms of strategy.
The prevalence of players 3-betting in 6Max cash games has increased in the last two years. Probably only really in the last year has it become more widespread across the entire regular player pool, as players have fine-tuned preflop activity which has spread like wildfire across the online felt. We can probably blame this increase on the numerous coaching sites and also in the huge increase in online forum discussions about correct strategy.
Given the increase in 3-betting preflop as online thinkers we should at least devote some time in thinking about when and why we should sometimes 4-bet, what the positives an negative aspects are when we do opt for an aggressive preflop stance and also the overall metagame implications. These moments of reflection will be worthwhile. Hopefully I can open your eyes little bit, to show you can exploit small leaks in your regular opponents preflop action, keep your image unorthodox which encourages action and have a range wider than most of your opponents would ever guess. It might just make you a little tougher to play.
Perhaps the best place to start thinking about 4-betting frequency and use is thinking about value. For the sake of argument I will be talking about standard 100BB games, in mid-stakes with relatively small player pools. So ask yourself the question, which hands would you always 4-bet for value (assuming you never flat call a 3-bet and always 4bet or fold)? Well obviously Aces and most likely Kings too. But after that....it becomes more situationally dependant. Now you have to start thinking a little right? What position is the villain in? Is he using a HUD? How does he view you? Do you have a lot of history? How often does he 3-bet? Is it a squeeze? These considerations build up a subconscious picture of what is happening, which you can then weigh-up and combine to create an accurate idea of what villains range is and how best you can exploit this. It was a lot easier a few years ago, where 90% of the online regulars only 3-bet preflop for Value and only with the very cream of their premium hands. It's a tad more difficult now, but that should just make the problem more fun.
So lets say you elect to 4-bet preflop for value. This means that you have assessed your hand to be best preflop most of the time and you think that the best way for you to obtain value is by putting more money in preflop. Whatever the situation, you think that now is when you can get the most value. It might be a simple situation. You might have Aces and get 3bet by a total nit that has a minimum of QQ. You also know his default line is to stackoff pre with these hands to a 100BB push. Or it might be more complex. If you know this information and know this range then its pretty obvious that shoving pre and getting called by worse is the best line. Flatting pre with the AA only increases the chance he might fold once you see a flop, for example he has QQ and the flop come K high. So obviously in this extreme example, 4-betting pre is the best line.
When 4-betting preflop gets a lot more interesting and marginal is when you are playing opponents who 3bet a decent amount preflop, but not always for value. These players can be exploited, they are being too aggressive and as such they can be targeted. It just takes a little look at the controlling factors, namely position, action, image and equity. Lets say you open UTG (your image is reasonably solid), middle position who is a loose fish flat calls in the cutoff and now an ok loose aggressive button opts to 3-bet. You know he likes to squeeze pre and you know he 3-bets light, with some positional awareness. This is a great spot for a light 4-bet. Your cards are almost irrelevant but there are some considerations. First of all we should immediately deduce that conditions are good on all fronts, both in terms of how strong we think his hand range is and also in how he will view our 4bet/be able to combat it. We know he is a reasonable player, but not especially smart. We don't want to level ourselves here into overcomplicating the situation. All he has seen is a raise from an ok player, a flat call from a fish and holy Mary he has the button and a playable hand. From his perspective this play will win the money in the middle or isolate the fish a lot of the time. His range is at its widest on the button for a 3bet and even wider since its also a squeeze and a fish is in the hand. Squeeze plays as im sure you are aware are very profitable until your cover is blown. The great thing about this situation is its very rare that he actually has a good hand here, let alone the great hand he will need to continue further. We have opened UTG, so our hand automatically looks very strong. Given the betting, he can only really continue with a top 4 hand here without history and knowing you counter him by 4-betting light. AA/KK/QQ and AK. That's not a lot of hands. If you think about how wide his overall range is and how often he will continue, assuming you get your bet-sizing right, you can start to imagine how profitable this can be. Your cards are almost irrelevant here given that this is a pure power play preflop but it helps to have some hands. AXs for example (where X is rag wheel suited card) are great for light 4-bets here, blocking Ace/X combinations that he can shove with (AK/AA) and also flopping strong enough often enough (with gutshot/flushdraw/overcard combos).
4-bet sizing is probably the biggest single mistake low stakes players make when facing regulars. Lets say for example that you are playing 400nl with a group of regulars. The usual open is $14 and the usual 3-bet will be roughly the pot in headsup pots, something like $35-40. If you are a regular in this game, you need to make a 4-bet that allows you to balance your range and get full value from your hands. You want to be able to bluff cheaper, give yourself room for barrels down the line and give your aggressive opponents the illusion that they have fold equity when you have a monster. Because so much will be invested preflop the implied odds wont matter so much. This guy can call preflop with 66 if he wants, over 25% of your stack will be in preflop so we can see who wins the money long-term with a no-set-no-bet bad play. Sometimes you are going to want to bluff cheaply, if you start varying your 4-bets preflop, changing the amounts you bet depending on your holdings, it wont take too long for players to get a line on when you are huge and when your are making moves.
With that in mind how big should a 4-bet preflop. Now this might surprise you but given the fact that the pot is already huge, it doesn't need to be so big. It needs to sometimes fold out better and sometimes get called by worse. But primarily it needs to make a profit in and of itself in the long-term. Afterall that is why you have elected to 4-bet preflop right? Continuing from our earlier example if the villain 3-bets to 38, you can make it something in the region of 80-90. You definitely shouldn't (in my opinion anyhow) just automatically press the pot button. To my mind it is an expensive bluff and freezes out worse hands if for value. $80 to win a pot of $60 odd is a lot more attractive than $110 to win $60 odd.
Good spots for 4-betting. I wanted to conclude this article by actually giving some thoughts on some good spots for light 4-bets. Obviously the main criteria is the players involved and their respective image. Cold 4-betting preflop can be incredibly profitable given the right conditions. Given that the button is where players most often 3-bet light to isolate preflop, especially versus loose middle position and cutoff opens, the blinds is where you can 4-bet light with a lot of credibility. You need a clean image and you need to recognise when a good button is targeting a bad loose players but you can abuse this dynamic often given that your play looks super-strong and its fairly hard to combat. Obviously the same bet would be horrendous if a TAG opened utg. Other good spots include coming OTT of squeezes from the blinds, especially when the opening raiser is loose, this can look incredibly strong if you were the flat caller and then 4bet over a squeeze and also when a fish gets deeper, good players will then isolate the fish with a wider range, allowing you to punish this effectively. Anyhow, I hope I have given you something to think about when getting involved in trickier preflop wars against better players. 4-betting isn't the only tool you can use, but when applied correctly, can be another incredibly valuable weapon in the arsenal.
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