You buy 100BB and wait for the blinds to start. The cards are dealt. UTG min raises to 2BB and folds you in the big blind. You are looking down at Q ♣ Q ♠. You probably think it's a stack-dunk-3 in 100% cases. In the end, QQ is well ahead of the UTG player's opening range, opening just 2BB, and QQ is the third strongest starting hand in poker.
In the big blind, we already have 1BB in the pot. We can think of this forced bet as a 1BB discount to enter the pot, which means that our pot odds of raising are better from the big blind than from any other position. In addition, we get the opportunity to act on the last preflop. This is a significant positional advantage that we can close when faced with a raise and see the flop without fear of the player behind us opening again.
If Villain's raise size is small enough, then each hand will have equity against its range, which is higher than the price we pay to enter the pot. And the opener range is fixed - if we call too wide, they can't go back in time to make their opening range narrower than they already have to use us.
The action folds to the big blind, which tells you that he only needs 22.22% pot odds to call (he likes to talk about math), and that every hand has enough equity against your range. The big blind calls without looking at the cards and then checks in the dark.
Your range will keep the top hand in equity on every flop with low connected flops such as 6 5 4r, which is your worst equity range from 51,13% to 48.87%. This is a relatively good flop for the big blind - his range has gained some equity over yours. Here, 29.65% from your range makes the best pair even better (J9 +). Although the big blind has all top pair, in pairs, two pair and sets, only 9.69% of his range is J9 +.
Trying to bluff with such a weak range will get your opponent into trouble. Even if you bet the pot 50% on all three streets, he will struggle to defend against bluffing from you. This means a couple of things. It is important to note at this stage that with so many strong hands in your range, you will try to bluff as much as possible to maintain balance.
In fact, you need to bet your entire range. You don't have enough bluffs in your range despite betting on every hand, so your opponent must fold more than the minimum defensive frequency (MDF) on the flop, or make an EV decision. This means that you are winning EV with every hand in your range because your opponent has folded. (How much EV you win from fold equity depends on how much he chooses to fold.)
If he decides to fold all hands with equity less than 40% against your unpaired hands, then the reset will take about 50% time. This means that your bet EV is at least (4.5BB pot + 2.25BB bet) * 50% - 2.25BB bet = 1.13BB before your hand equity is taken into account. And so when the big blind makes the decision to call an extra 1BB preflop without looking at the cards, you can make at least 1.13BB by betting on every hand on the flop. And this is true for almost every flop, which proves the need to fold some hands from the big blind (even though equity is greater than the pot odds).
It was plain example with some calculations. If you want to deeper examine others interesting situations (or the same general and standard examples), I advise you to look at the Fried solver module in the lab Upswinga... Click here or below to learn more about the lab.
Playing with hands where at least one card is below a 10
The intent of the above example was to illustrate why we sometimes have to fold the big blind when faced with an open raise, and how to effectively exploit players who overprotect their big blind. For example, if UTG reveals 2BBs and he folds to us in the big blind, we should be prepared to play at least 1BB from the 4.5BB pot after the flop. We cannot call with hands that do not fit this EV calculation.
To illustrate this, consider a hand such as A ♦ 2 ♥. This hand has nearly 38% equity against the UTG opening range. However, despite the fact that we have so many shares, we cannot profitably announce the minimum increase. Our hand will flop two pair or more 3.8% times, and top pair 14.5% times. These are quite satisfactory results. If top pair (or more) and UTG bet their full range, we can bluff this hand to win back the EV with the 1BB we invested. However, with top pair and no kicker, we will often be indifferent to playing the turn. Top pair and no kicker are also too weak to appreciate a bet on many rivers if our opponent checks on the turn.
All things considered, we will continue to profit on the flop less than 20% of time with a hand like A2o. And so paying 22,22% to see the flop is not a profitable option.
Our hand fails two pair or more at 4.95% time. In addition, we will fail to play 8 of the outs (OESD, FD, combo draw) 16.2% of time, with which we will have significant equity in the future, and which give very strong value that they beat. With such high probabilities, calling a flop with one of these draws is very profitable.
So with 6 ♠ 3 ♠ we can profitably continue on the flop at least 21,15% time. Combined with the perceived odds of making very strong hands like straights and flushes, we see that calling 22,22% preflop is profitable even if our opponent can bet his entire range.
At such a good price, we can continue with a lot of hands, but our continuing range should be mostly hands that can attract very strong hands postflop. Suitable hands give a flop draw with two cards 10.9% of the time, which is 10.9% more than we can continue after the flop if our opponent has a high C bet. Similarly, tied hands can flop with open ends and multiple throws. A connected hand from suit, for example 65o, folds OESD 9.71% of time.
We know that if we call too wide preflop, Villain will bet his entire range on almost any board. As a result, we cannot see the turn or river with many weaker hands in our range, and therefore these hands will struggle to maintain their equity.
If we play harder, our opponent will make less aggressive bets and we will see that we can continue on average with a larger range. We act fairly by playing more tightly, and this increases the EV of all our hands. Thus, the optimal preflop strategy exists somewhere between:
- playing too many hands and denying equity with aggressive C-bets, and
- playing too few hands and giving too many equity preflops.
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Our calling range preflop will still be wide despite the drawbacks we are discussing, simply because we get a good call price and we don’t need to win often to keep playing. As a result, our calling range will be at a disadvantage and our opponent will still bet aggressively. With very strong hands like AA, KK, and QQ, the EVs of a call-raise with an open-raise, bluff-catching or post-flop with added value are very high. However, one of these hands is not like the others. AA can confidently place 3 bets and all-in for value, but KK and QQ usually either lose, chop, or make ~ 50% against a betting range of 4.
For later positions, the EV of the calling raise is reduced compared to betting 3. This is because we can more comfortably get a 4-bet from later positions. We are often ahead of our opponents' 4 betting range and we may call 4 bets with the intention of bluffing after the flop. In addition, our opponent's range will contain more weak hands, which means they have a narrower range advantage than earlier position. This way opponents from later positions will use a less aggressive C-betting strategy against our big blind call. This makes the QQ bluff less effective.
A big opening will shorten our calling range because most of our hands will not have obvious enough odds to call. With a narrower calling range, our range will become less unfavorable and our opponent will bet less often. Recall that this reduces the call EV of our stronger hands and therefore we can profitably make 3 bets preflop.
Editor's note. Keep in mind that this argument is theoretical. On the practice, as a rule, you should 3-bet on preflop with such premium hands to benefit. The vast majority of opponents won't play enough aggressively on postflopto do call more profitable.
If we know that the open raiser will not be frequent with bets, then we can call with even more hands. This is possible because they are aware of most of their equity by seeing the turn and river more often. We also need to aggressively 3-bet our strong hands preflop with this type of opponent because we win so much EV if the bluff catches their C-bet. The opposite is true for players who might bet too often. We'll have to call more often and 3 bets less with both our weak and strong hands. If the player opens too wide, then we can continue wider. If the player is UTG, but we think he opened up a wide range, as he should have in HJ, then we should play against this player as if HJ were open. The opposite is true if we think a player is raising too much.
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