Your results in 3-bet pots will have a huge impact on your bottom line.
In fact, one of the easiest ways to dramatically grow your win-rate is to plug your strategic leaks in these crucial situations.
To help you do that, you are about to read 3 tips that will help you dominate after calling a preflop 3-bet. These tips cover:
- Check-Raising with Draws
- Bluffing with Small Pairs
- Check-Raising to Protect Your Equity
Each of these tips centers around a hand played by cash game boss Fried Meulders. The three hands were shared and analyzed by Fried in his latest lesson in the Upswing Lab training course, which covers playing out of position in 3-bet pots (cutoff vs button).
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Let’s dive in!
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Check-Raise Draws
In this hand, Fried opens K♥ T♥ from the cutoff and gets 3-bet by the player on the button.
Fried calls and the flop comes Q♥ J♣ 5♦, giving him an open-ended straight draw. His opponent bets $25 into the $78 pot and Fried decides to check-raise to 3.5 times his opponent’s bet (a half pot-sized raise).
On this board, Fried says his value check-raise range will be comprised of 55, QJs, and AQ at some frequency. This value range is balanced by his semi-bluffs with KTs, T9s, and 98s.
Check-raising with this balanced range will make your opponent’s life very difficult because they can’t know if you have a strong hand or a bluff. Conversely, not being balanced can make your plays transparent and prevent you from extracting maximum value with your strong hands.
Balance is especially crucial when you are playing against the same players every day. This is because if you play your value hands one way and your bluffs another way, savvy opponents will be able to pick up on your tendencies and adapt accordingly to exploit you.
What Happens When They Re-Raise?
If your opponent responds to your check-raise on the flop by raising all-in, you will often be forced to fold all of the draws that you chose to raise. However, you will still have all your strong hands with which to call, again emphasizing the importance of balance.
2. Consider Bluffing with Small Pairs
There are certain dry, uncoordinated board textures where obvious semi-bluffs (like draws) are non-existent or hard to find. In these cases, you have to get creative in order to balance your check-raising range.
Such was the case in this following hand:
Fried opens 4♥ 4♣ in the cutoff and then calls a 3-bet by the player on the button.
The flop comes A♥ 7♣ 5♠ and his opponent c-bets for 25% pot. Fried elects to check-raise to 4 times his opponent’s bet.
After picking his value raises (55 and 77), Fried has to figure out which hands to bluff with. Only a handful of draws exist on this board (98, 86, 64, 43, 42, 32) but none of them are in his range considering the preflop action (except maybe 98s).
This is where Fried has to get a bit creative…
He says that good bluff candidates on this flop are low pocket pairs between the ace and the 7, because they can turn draws. In addition to this, low suited connectors such as 65s, 76s, and 87s can make good bluffs.
Raising with all of these hands would cause Fried’s range to be extremely unbalanced towards bluffs, but not raising with any of them would cause his range to be extremely unbalanced towards value. Either of these imbalances would be exploitable.
To solve this conundrum, you can use a random number generator to randomize your check-raising frequency with these hands.
Using a Random Number Generator
Let’s say you decide to check-raise with low pocket pairs and low suited connectors 20% of the time (number chosen somewhat arbitrarily). You would then generate a random number between 1 and 100, check-raising when the number is 20 or lower and check-calling or folding when the number is 21 or above.
Check-raising with these hands goes completely against the old-school way of understanding poker, in which you’d never raise with such a marginal made hand. Nonetheless, we’ve discovered through research with solvers that this is a winning approach in these spots.
To learn more about how top pros use randomization as a part of their strategy, read Mixed Strategies 101: Why The Best Poker Players Make Decisions at Random.
3. Use Check-Raises to Protect Your Equity
Sometimes your hand is really strong on the current street, but is vulnerable to being outdrawn on future streets. In these situations, you should consider raising to protect your equity. Such was the case in the following hand:
Fried opens in the cutoff, the button 3-bets, and Fried calls with T♥ T♦. The 3-bettor then c-bets $22 into the $78 pot on a flop of 3♥ 2♥ 2♦.
Fried decides that his hand is strong, but vulnerable as any J, Q, K, or A severely weakens it. This is a particularly tough spot because even if a bad card doesn’t come on the turn, the button can elect to check and take a free card, giving him another chance to catch up on the river. This shows why position is so important in poker.
For these reasons, Fried decides to raise to 4 times his opponent’s bet (a half-pot raise). His opponent folds, so Fried takes the pot down. This is a win for Fried because very likely, he denied equity from his opponent’s two overcards.
In your face!
When you face similar spots as the 3-bet caller, keep these strategies in mind and give them a shot when it feels right to do so.
That’s all for now! If you enjoyed the article or have any questions, please let me know using the comment section down below.
If you want to read more, check out 6 Game-Changing Tactics from 500NL Zoom Destroyer Fried Meulders (mynameiskarl.
Good luck, grinders!
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