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I recently had to deal with multiple cold four-bets in a tough $10,000 buy-in tournament. My table was fairly aggressive, so I was doing a decent amount of three-betting (re-raising) when I was in position while playing a somewhat tight strategy from out of position.
When you are playing a large buy-in event, you need to make a point to take advantage of your position as much as possible, while also making sure you don’t get too abused when you are out of position.
A hand came up where a strong, loose aggressive opponent raised from the hijack seat to 4,000 out of his 100,000 stack at 800-1,600. I three-bet to 11,000 with 9 7 from the button and then another strong loose aggressive player four-bet to 28,000 from the big blind. I didn’t think much of this hand and quickly folded.
An orbit later, the same initial raiser raised from the button to 4,000 and I made it 12,800 out of my 90,000 stack from the small blind with A J. Calling in this situation is also a viable play because if you get four-bet, you will be in a tricky spot. That said, because I was three-betting so often, I was fairly confident I could profitably get all-in for 90,000 against this opponent if he decided to four-bet. I know that may seem loose to some readers, but that was the dynamic we had.
To my surprise, a strong, fairly tight aggressive player in the big blind four-bet to 26,000. Given that this four-bettor plays at a world-class level, I thought he could easily realize the initial raiser was raising the button a ton and that I would combat this with a ton of three-bets.
I was getting around 2.5:1 pot odds, so calling should always be considered. The problem is that I would be out of position and would face a lot of difficult post-flop situations, especially when I fail to connect with the board. Folding would certainly be fine if I assume he is never or rarely bluffing, as A J has around 32 percent equity against a range of 10-10+ and A-Q+.
I imagine his calling range if I decided to go all-in would be 10-10 or better and A-Q or better. If I thought he was four-betting with something like 7-7+, A-9+, K-Q, K-J suited+, and various suited connectors, he will fold to my all-in with around 66 percent of the hands he is four-betting.
It should be noted that all players will four-bet bluff with different ranges. For simplicity though, this range will suffice. Knowing that, I can use the following equation to figure out my equity.
- Profit = (percent both players fold)(pot I win) + (percent four-bettor calls)(equity in pot – amount put in pot) + (percent four-better folds and initial raiser calls)(equity in pot – amount in pot)
For simplicity, let’s assume the initial raiser will only call around 8 percent of the time. Let’s also ignore the rare times they both call. I know my equity in the pot because I roughly know his calling range and how well A J does against it.
So, I have…
- .61(46,800) + (.33)(60,160-90,000) – .08(68,480 – 90,000) = 28,548 – 9,847 – 1,721 = 16,980
This means I will win 16,980 every time I five-bet all-in, assuming all the assumptions I made are correct. This is a huge amount of profit, especially since I am only playing 800-1,600.
If the four-bettor is playing with a tighter range, the equation would look much different, as I will no longer have much fold equity:
- .2(46,800) + .71(60,160 – 90,000) – .08(68,480 – 90,000) = 9,360 – 21,186 – 1,721 = -13,547
This means when he is rarely four-bet bluffing, I am in bad shape. All I have to do now is guess how often he is four-betting with a wide range and how often he is four-betting with a tight range. If I think he will have a wide range around 25 percent of the time and a tight range 75 percent of the time, I end up with:
- .25(16,980) + .75(-13,547) = 4,245 – 10,160 = -5,915
If instead I thought he had a wide range more often, the four-bet would be profitable. There is a lot of guesswork involved in poker. In this spot, I need to guess what his four-betting range is and then guess how often he will have each potential range. This is why it is so important to know your opponent’s strategy. If you think he will only four-bet with the nuts, you have an easy fold. If you think he will bluff often, you have an easy all-in.
All of this being said, I decided to go all-in. He called with A-Q and I was out. After looking at the math, I think I should have folded and waited for a better spot.
Analyzing your play away from the table is something everyone should do. If you would like an extensive lesson on this topic and many others, pick up my book Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em. ♠
Jonathan Little is a professional poker player with over $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site PokerCoaching.com. Click here to try PokerCoaching.com for free.