This text is based on episode 5 of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by poker pro and coach Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood and Upswing VP Mike Brady. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.
Mike: Hello guys and gals, let’s spend a little time to level-up your poker skills. I’m Mike Brady and as always I’m joined by poker pro Gary Blackwood.
This episode breaks down when and how to 4-bet against a 3-bettor. We’ll reveal which hands to 4-bet for value and explain how to balance your range with the right 4-bet bluffs to make you a tougher, more capable poker player. We’re also gonna cover 4-bet sizing and how factors such as position and the size of the 3-bet should impact your 4-betting strategy.
Keep in mind that we’ll be focusing on 4-betting as the original raiser. In other words, you raised, a player behind 3-bet, and the action is back on you. But we will touch on cold 4-betting at the end.
Building a 4-Bet Range
Mike: Gary, generally speaking, how do you go about building a 4-bet range?
Gary: Everything enters around your value. If your value range is tight, you don’t need too many bluffs to go with it, but if your value range is wide, your bluffs get wider. Basically start with how wide your value range is, and build around that.
So the main thing we want to think about when deciding which value hands to 4-bet is the position we are in and the position of our opponent. If we are UTG and we are 4betting vs an MP 3-bet, our value range is really narrow, mainly QQ+. On the flipside, if we are BTN and 4betting vs SB, our value range is gonna have tens and jacks too.
Mike: By the way, this is how pretty much all range building in poker works. Any time you’re c-betting on the flop, or check-raising, or whatever it is, you’re generally building it around a value range, and then balancing out that range with bluffs.
So you touched on position being the main factor that impacts your value range and thus your overall 4-bet range. Suppose you’re playing a cash game with 100 big blind effective stacks. What other factors play the biggest role when you’re deciding which hands to 4-bet for value?
Gary: There are a couple of other things we want to think about, for example the size that our opponent chooses. Say for example we open to 2.5BB, and our opponent should be 3-betting to 7.5BB. But they make it 8 or 8.5BB. We don’t make too many differences there; we can essentially play the same range.
When you see the extremes, like the 6BB 3-bet and the 10BB 3-bet, those are the instances when we want to make some changes.
One main thing to consider as well is how your opponent plays. You will get some extremes like a really tight 3-bettor, for example. You don’t want to 4-bet bluff as much vs. a guy like that. On the flipside, if you have a really aggressive 3-bettor, you want to have more 4-bet bluffs versus a player like that.
Choosing 4-Bet Bluffs
Mike: Time for the fun part. Which hands make the best 4-bet bluffs and why?
Gary: All of your 4-bet bluffs are centered around two things – blockers and playability postflop. As we know our range changes based on position, but we want to have hands like KQs, AQo, AJs, A5s, KJs type hands that have good blockers to our opponent’s value range, but also play well when called.
Imagine you open KQs, you get 3bet by your opponent, and you 4bet this hand. When your opponent calls your 4-bet, sure they’re going to have AK and QQ and stuff like that. But they’re going to have hands like JJ, A5s, those types of hands. KQs plays really well versus certain hands in that flatting range. So if we’re always just calling with KQs, our 4-bet bluff range is significantly weakened, where if we’re 4-betting this hand correctly, we block a lot of strong hands (like KK and QQ), and we have really good playability when called.
Adjusting To Extreme 3-Bet Sizings
Mike: How would you adjust your 4-bet range if your opponent 3-bet to an unusually small or unusually large size?
Gary: A pretty cool question here. Vs. a smaller 3-bet sizing, my value range would stay the same, QQ, AK and so on, but I would have less bluffs in my range here and the reason for that is that we are now getting offered a much better price on our call, so we get to widen our calling range. I would actually change my range a little bit, so I 4-bet more frequently with offsuit hands like AQo, (and occasionally AJo and ATo) and call more with the KJs, KQs type hands that play better postflop.
As far as when facing a larger 3-bet, we play much tighter. And the reason for that is that at the price we’re being offered, our immediate odds and our implied odds are drastically lower. Therefore we need to tighten up with both our 4-bet bluffs and our calls. Our 4-bets for value are going to stay very similar.
4-Betting Against Normal 3-Bet Sizings
Mike: Assuming your opponent uses a typical 3-bet size, how do you approach sizing your 4-bets?
Gary: This is a big mistake that people make. Say you open to 2.5BB, you are OOP, and you get 3-bet to 8bb, you don’t need to go THAT big when you 4-bet. I see some players making it 23BB, 24BB, even bigger sometimes, and it’s just too big. You’re forcing your opponent to play shoves or folds, and it just gets very messy.
In this specific example (against an 8BB 3-bet_ I would go something like 21BB. Remember, we are 4-betting, it’s already going to be a pretty big bet, so we don’t need to go huge.
A phrase I love when it comes to 4-betting is that we want to allow for more playability postflop and not just have a really low SPR when we go to the flop, we lose our skill edge in that case, and we’re just more likely to be all-in on the flop. Whereas if we use a more correct size, we allow for more playability postflop, and if we have a skill edge over our opponents (which hopefully we do), that allows us to maximize that skill edge.
Another example is if we open to 2.5BB and an OOP player 3-bets to 10BB, our 4-bet size here can be 22.5BB or 23BB, it doesn’t need to be huge. If you ask me, the most common leak that I see when it comes to 100BB cash games, this would be up there.
Mike: Just to speculate why people make that mistake – I think people largely 4-bet with value hands, and don’t 4-bet with enough bluffs. And there’s that common fear that people have when they’re playing poker, of their good hands getting drawn out on. People are really concerned about that, especially casual players.
So when people have pocket kings, and they face a 3-bet, they don’t want to see an ace and they jack up the size of their 4-bet.
Adjusting For Different Stack Sizes
Mike: Let’s briefly talk stack size considerations. We’ve been focused on 100 big blind stacks so far. But how do you adjust your 4-betting range and size as stacks get deeper?
Gary: My in-position range doesn’t change too much, but when OOP I tighten up a bit, and that goes for my value as well as my bluffs.
Imagine being out of position 250BB deep, you 4-bet with QQ and you get called. You are going to get into a LOT of sticky spots postflop. On the flipside, when you face that 3-bet and you have KQs, your implied odds are nicer, so you wanna 4-bet slightly less frequently and call a little more.
In terms of our 4-bet sizing, we do want to go that little bit bigger when we’re deep.
Mike: So it sounds like when we’re deeper, you largely want to play more defensively and a little bit more passively.
What adjustments would you make at shorter stacks (less than 100BB)?
Gary: We’ve gotta be fearless here vs shorter stacks and play some 4-bet jams. I’m not a huge fan of 4-bet jams at 100bb, but when you’re playing against players who have 40-50bb stacks, you want to play some jams for sure.
Hands like A6s, pocket 6s, those types of hands want to be 4bet shoving from time to time because you have fold equity, but a hand like 99 or ATs that plays well enough postflop can still call.
Also, really important, ESPECIALLY in position, if you’re up against a competent short stacker, you can flat the 3-bet with aces and kings because you are MUCH more likely to get the money in postflop, so you don’t need to risk 4-betting and your opponent folds preflop. Pretty cool adjustment there.
Mike: Just to make sure everyone is on the same page; cold 4-betting is when you enter the pot for the first time with a 4-bet. For example, if you raised from the button, Gary 3-bet from the small blind, and I 4-bet from the big blind, my 4-bet would be a cold 4-bet. I’m entering the pot for the first time as the 4-bettor.
So Gary, how does cold 4-betting differ from 4-betting as the original raiser?
Gary: Again, positions are just so important here. Generally your cold 4-betting range is going to be quite tight.
Your value range is easy, JJ+ and AK, but your bluffs want to center around blockers. AQ, KQ, it really isn’t that wide so you just need a few combos.
On the flipside, in the exact example Mike has just given us, our BB cold 4-bet range gets to be wider because the button’s opening range is wide and therefore the small blind’s 3-betting range is wide, so our value range gets to be wide.
We’re betting hands like TT and 99 for value. Therefore, we need plenty of bluff combos in there as well. We have KTs, KJs, even QJs makes it in there sometimes. If we look quickly at MP opens and CO 3-bets, our SB cold 4-bet range has AQs, KQs, never AQo, and NEVER QJs, it’s just so much tighter as a result!
Want to Really Take Your 4-Bet Strategy to a High Level?
We’ve given you a solid overview of how to approach 4-betting throughout this episode…
…but if you really want to print money with your 4-bet strategy and in 4-bet pots, you’ve gotta join the Upswing Lab and check out the preflop charts that show you exactly which hands to 4-bet in every common situation. There’s also a couple of great modules from Doug Polk and David Yan that will prepare you to crush postflop in 4-bet pots.
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If you want to check out more episodes of Upswing Poker Level-Up, scroll down on this page to find them.