Playing in 4bet Pots

Many players struggle with finding the best line in 4bet pots. There are a few obvious reasons for this.

1. They have never specifically analysed strategy for 4bet pots.
2. They have spent a decent chunk of their career avoiding 4bet pots as a result of bad advice.
3. There is more money at stake, increasing psychological pressure.

To complicate matters, many players put themselves in impossible situations by incorrect use of bet-sizing when in 4bet pots. The first step in improving play in 4bet pots is being able to understand how the game-tree should work in terms of bet-sizing.

4bet Pots – Bet Sizing Plans

It’s possible to employ a 3-street bet-sizing plan in 4bet pots while playing 100bb effective. Many players either assume that there is only room for 2 bets postflop or have simply never thought about bet-sizing plans in 4bet pots. The first important decision as the aggressor is hence to decide whether we are planning to follow a 3-street plan or a 2-street plan. Let’s see how it works.

Two Street Plans

Imagine 50bb in the middle and 75bb in the remaining stacks. (This would usually be achieved if a player were to 4bet to 25bb preflop with 100bb effective stacks).

Flop Pot Size = $50, Effective Stacks = $75

We bet $16

Turn Pot Size = $82 Effective Stacks = $59

We can see that we have a decent sized bet left for the river. Notice that the flop c-bet sizing is around one third of the pot. This is considered standard c-bet sizing in 4bet pots. It’s very easy to spot recreational players because they use unorthodox c-bet sizing and set up awkward river SPRs. Let’s see an example.

Flop Pot Size = $50, Effective Stacks = $75

Amateur player bets $35.

Turn Pot Size = $120, Effective Stacks = $40

Notice the awkward turn stack-to-pot ratio of 0.33. This makes it very difficult to fold hands on the turn. We end up committed with hands that we would ordinarily not have chosen to commit with. One way to keep play in 4bet pots as straightforward as possible is to keep the SPR neat and tidy. As a general guide, SPRs less than 0.4 on any street make poker unnecessarily complicated. If we can’t set up an SPR higher than 0.4, perhaps we should have been shoving the previous street.

Three Street Plans

So how exactly would a 3-street plan work with the same setup? We’d have to bet even smaller on the flop and follow up with another very small turn bet. We are targeting a river SPR somewhere in the 0.4 to 0.5 region.

Flop Pot Size = $50, Effective Stacks = $75

We bet $11

Turn Pot Size = $72 Effective Stacks = $64

We bet $15

River Pot Size = $102, Effective Stacks = $49

This just about works, but is a little bit awkward with a flop SPR of 1.5. It’s a very good strategy when

1. We have the board completely locked up.
2. Our hand is non-vulnerable. (Usually occurs on the drier textures).
3. We have a bluff/semi-bluff and one of the above two types of holding within our range.

The good news is that in the modern environment, most 4bet pots don’t start out with a flop SPR of 1.5. Average 4bet sizing is gradually becoming smaller. For example, imagine the 4bet sizing is 18bb preflop with 100bb effective.

Flop Pot Size = $36, Effective Stacks = $82

We bet $12.

Turn Pot Size = $60, Effective Stacks = $70

We bet $20

River Pot Size = $100, Effective Stacks = $50

So at higher flop SPRs (over 2 in this case), we can follow a 3-street plan by betting roughly 33%, 33%, 50%. With lower SPRs, we need to bet noticeably less than 33% on flop and turn in order to set up a reasonable river SPR.

Note that a 2-street plan can still easily be used even with a flop SPR of greater than 2. And we still don’t need to bet especially large to set up a turn SPR of 1.

Flop Pot Size = $36, Effective Stacks = $82

We bet $15.

Turn Pot Size = $66, Effective Stacks = $67

So flop c-bet sizings of 50% pot or larger are usually unwarranted unless –

1. The stacks are deep.
2. We have exploitative reasons for doing so.

When a weaker player comes out with a 2/3rds pot bet in a 4bet pot, we should anticipate immediately that the turn SPR will potentially be awkward. If the turn SPR will be less than 0.4, we should tend towards making commitment decisions on the flop. If don’t feel comfortable about calling the turn, we shouldn’t call the flop.

As a general guide, it’s correct to float draws and backdoor draws in 4bet pots facing a regular 1/3rd sizing. But against a 2/3rds sizing from a recreational player, we often have the luxury of just being able to fold anything that is not a made hand or a very strong draw. We don’t want to make the mistake of peeling the flop wide and suddenly feeling committed on the turn when we notice the SPR is < 0.4.

General Postflop Outlook – Commitment

Theory models tell us that is almost never correct to fold top pair in a 4bet pot. Many other types of hands will also be committed with an SPR between 1.5 or 2, so long as they can commit aggressively rather than passively. Examples include, flush-draws, straight-draws, a decent selection of gutshots, and some vulnerable pairs. Sometimes even two very good overcards (i.e AK) should be committed aggressively. The weaker holdings such as overcards, gutshots, and mid/low pairs are extremely board-texture dependent.

Although we are committed quite wide in theory, it’s extremely important to be cognizant of how things actually work in practice. The average player bluffs nowhere near as often as he is supposed to in 4bet pots. This means that even hands as strong as top-pairs and overpairs can be folded on the turn in 4bet pots against some opponents. This would usually be exclusively weaker overpairs (such as TT/JJ) and top-pairs with a weak kicker such as KJs on K high texture. If we commit as wide as we are supposed to in theory, we’ll find ourselves spewing money against the average villain.

However, even in tight/passive playerpools, by the time we hold a decent overpair or top-pair-good-kicker + , our opponent’s propensity to value-bet worse will typically make up for any lack of bluffing.

General Postflop Outlook – Semi-Bluffing + Bluffing

To play well in 4bet pots, we need be comfortable with investing our entire stack on the turn with a semi-bluff. Flush-draws and open-enders are clearly strong enough to be jammed for 1PSB on the turn in 4bet pots. Many gutshots should be considered, but it’s unlikely these should be shoved with 100% frequency. They can also become questionable in high-rake environments and in populations with lots of non-folders.

Many of the standard auto-profit lines that work in 2bet pots will also work in 4bet pots. This means we want to be delayed-cbetting, probe-betting, and float-betting aggressively. In scenarios where betting begins on the turn (flop checked through), we can still follow a two-street plan, setting up an SPR of roughly 1 for the river. We should be comfortable shoving our entire stack on a river pure-bluff after our opponent calls our turn delayed-cbet/float-bet/probe-bet.

Bet sizing for turn stabs (delayed-cbet/float-bet/probe-bet) is extremely important. Analysis suggests a great deal of inelasticity regarding how the population responds to different bet-sizes in 4-bet pots. The effect of this is extreme to the extent where it’s debatable whether a 60% pot delayed-cbet actually generates automatic profit. The average villain is not folding significantly more often to a 60% pot delayed cbet as opposed to a 33% pot delayed c-bet. The 33% is overtly profitably while the 60% pot fails to generate automatic profit in many environments. Ranges are typically narrow in 4bet pots, and there are certain holdings our opponent won’t be willing to fold regardless of the size.

4bet Pots – Psychological Pressure

Many players struggle in 4bet pots for psychological reasons. Upon realizing that a decent amount of chips are at stake, it’s possible for our attention to be consumed by this fact as opposed to focusing purely on strategic matters.

Running analysis on how the population plays in 4bet pots is recommended. Having a high degree of confidence regarding the profitability of certain lines allows us to continue pulling triggers even when our entire stack is at stake. Most of the psychological problems occur when players are “not really sure” whether their line is profitable. Without the guarantee of long-run profit many players will default to whichever line is psychologically easiest. In many cases this means playing passively and hero-folding a lot, but for a certain subset of players it can mean the opposite.

Regardless, we don’t want to be making decisions at the poker table based on emotion. By rehearsing various scenarios beforehand, we’ll find it much easier to execute the correct strategy whilst feeling the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) pressure of being involved in a 4bet pot.

4bet Pots – General Population Data as Caller

4bet Pots – General Population Data as Aggressor

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2 replies
  1. xingchiliu
    xingchiliu says:

    As i understand this article, people are not C-betting bluff enough in a 4 bet pot, so we can easily over fold our second pairs or so. and people are overfolding way too much in a 4 bet pot facing delay c-bet, so we can delay c-bet and get it all-in on the river auto profit.

    • holsty192
      holsty192 says:

      Yeah it also says river follow ups after turn probe and floats should be shoved on river as pure bluffs for pot size but data shows folding 39% and 38% so would need around 12/13% equity to break even. Is this reasonable given the fact even our overcards could be drawing dead against villains condensed range? Would we not need at least a flush draw or OESD for the river shove to be profitable?

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