Have you ever wondered how you should play out of position in a 3bet pot? What about when you’ve missed one of the many draws that you could have in the hand? Today we will be analysing a bluff made over 3 streets in a 3bet pot. In the following hand I’ll be discussing my decision making preflop, on the flop, turn, and then on the river. We have QJs out of position facing a raise from the BTN. The bulk of the discussion will take place on the river, as that is where we must decide if we can bluff villain successfully, potentially sacrificing our remaining stack. This is a good hand to analyse in detail and will include topics such as preflop raise sizing vs an unconventional opening size, general 3bet pot strategy, when to continue on turn cards, and breaking down a river bluff decision.
From the small blind (SB) we generally want to adopt a raise or fold strategy. With Queen Jack (QJ) of Diamonds, this is a hand that plays nicely as a raise here. Raising preflop from the SB accomplishes two main things. Firstly, we reduce the chance that we play the pot multiway and out of position. Secondly, we grant ourselves the opportunity to win the pot preflop without paying any rake or allowing our opponent to realise equity as they are in position.
One criticism at this stage of the hand is the sizing that I have selected. Granted, we want to raise larger than three times the size of our opponents raise out of position- this is to give our opponent worse odds when making the call. As our opponent will be in position for the remainder of the hand, his hands will realise more of their equity. This means he can call with a wider range, especially when we give him better pot odds of calling.
However, another big reason for selecting a size preflop is a concept called Pot Geometry. Pot Geometry describes how a pot will grow over the course of a poker hand. Due to our opponent’s small min-raise, a traditional 4/4.2x raise sizing will potentially make the stack to pot ratio (SPR) in the hand awkward, and generally give our opponent a bit more leniency when making flop or turn calls. This is because those calls will have better implied odds. Should we have a premium hand that we want to play for stacks with, this smaller pot size will make it harder for us to stack our opponent as they get worse odds when making a call the larger the bet is in relation to the pot.
I don’t like the 5x raise, however I do believe, because of pot geometry, that we should go for 4.5x here rather than the standard 4x.
On the flop we elect to bet 1/3 pot, $1.64 into $5.25. Cbetting frequently in 3bet pots is a powerful strategy as most opponents on regular and zoom tables below 100nl are not making the correct adjustments to opponents who 3bet too regularly in this situation. Also, in terms of ranges:
We have the range advantage, having a higher saturation of premium hands compared to our opponent.
We have the nut advantage, having KK when our opponent doesn’t.
Villain can get into awkward situations should he decide to raise, and it makes our strategy going forward much easier in the hand (as we can fold our bluffs that have no equity with ease at this stage.)
We force folds from a good portion of our opponent’s range, namely hands that have no pairs, no straight draws, and no flush draws. He does in this case make the call. Meaning we can eliminate the afore mentioned hands from villain’s range. We should understand that by betting and being called, our opponent’s range has become stronger. We should also understand that by not raising, our opponent slightly reduces the number of premium hands in his range 33 being a combo we expect villain to almost always raise with.
On the Seven of Spades turn, we should understand this card doesn’t affect the board texture at all and should help very few of our opponents’ hands. By betting on the flop, we will have folded all most of our opponent’s pocket 7s and A7 combinations. We shouldn’t give opponent credit for many 2pair combinations with the 7 based on the preflop action.
Because this turn card does not help our opponent and we still have the range and nut advantage- we should be continuing to put the pressure on our opponent with a variety of hands. A solid piece of advice that I give my students for these situations is to continue with your best value and your best (most high equity) bluffs. Naturally there are some more caveats here such as balancing out or checking range with certain combos, I’ll let you theorise what we should be checking and at what frequency.
In this situation, the open-ended straight draw with QJ certainly falls into the best bluffs category and therefore we should continue to bet. The sizing that I choose in this situation is the solver approved 2/3 pot, $5.35 into $8.53. This puts immense pressure on any of the higher pocket pairs that did decide to float on the flop, any Tx combinations, and any of the gutshot straight draws. These hands are now marginal calls so long as we are balanced in this situation.
Our opponent calls, one thing to consider at this stage of the hand, is that our opponent has somewhat capped themselves by not raising. Most opponents will have raised with 2pair or better by this stage in the hand.
With the Eight of Clubs coming on the river we have been left with an often-seen conundrum. Do we fire the river with our missed draw?
The first thing that I think about is how much value I will have in a situation. This is vital as it is what we are going to use when deciding how many bluff combinations we can include in our range. When we shove all-in, we are going to be giving our opponent a mathematical equation to solve. The closer that we get our ratio of bluffs:value to the pot odds we give our opponent, the more profit we will come away with. We will be betting the following hands for value in this situation: AA, AK, KT, KK, TT, 77, and J9. We won’t have bet all these combinations on the turn, and we certainly shouldn’t bet with all these combinations on the river. I would suggest we are going to have around 12-14 combinations of value that we want to be betting the river with.
When bluffing, you want to make it more likely that your opponent has a hand that they will fold. When setting up the bluff catch, you need to make it more likely that they will make the bluff themselves.
A hand like KT makes a great check call here as we are blocking much of our opponents strong and medium value while simultaneously unblocking all their bluffing combinations. Be mindful of this idea when you play your own hands, it’s especially important for balancing your range on the river.
We now know our value combinations, but how many bluffs can we include profitably? We need to calculate the pot odds for that. When we shove for $16.75 (about 85% of the pot), our opponent needs to put in $16.75 to win $52.73 which gives our opponent the pot odds of 32%. In other words, our opponent only needs to win around 1/3 of the time to get his money back in the hand.
A convenient tip for working out how many combinations to include on the fly, is to add 50% extra combinations for a 33% bluffing frequency and 33% more combos for a 25% bluffing frequency. Let’s say we have 12 combos of value, adding 6 combos of bluffs will be bluffing 6 out of 18 combos or 33%. That’s perfect for our situation.
As we have calculated, we can afford to include 7 or 8 bluff combos in this hand, now we must choose the best ones. There are several factors to consider when making a river bluff, several of which you can read about in this article on what makes a good bluff. QJ unblocks many of our opponent’s flush draw combinations and blocks some of the strongest Kx combinations. I would say it is essential that we go ahead and bluff with this hand.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this insight into how I analyse a poker hand. 3bet hands can be difficult, and it can be easy to bluff too frequently in these river situations. As you can see, there are no aspects in a poker hand that you can gloss over. Becoming particular about all sizing and range decisions through a hand stands to make you a more precise, calculated player. This limits mistakes and helps to add extra profit to your win-rate over time.
My coaching sessions often include this sort of content but in much more detail depending on the subject that myself and the student are discussing. This hand is a great one to use when discussing some of the preflop intricacies, turn betting strategy, obviously river decisions, or just 3bet hands overall. Alternatively, you can find more information about how I use my knowledge to analyse students’ poker databases, you can read more information about that by following this link.