Flat calling ranges in poker

Flat-calling in no-limit Hold’em poker has something special: beginners do it too often – advanced players often do not do enough. How to optimize your Flat Calling Range is explained in this article.

Today’s strategy article is all about flat-calling – the cradling of elevations in position and without position. The big drawback to this move is that, unlike a 3-bet or opening, we do not take the initiative. That’s why we have to choose our flat-calling range very carefully, both in position and without position. The following tips and poker strategies are especially for 100BB online games.

Flat Calling Ranges in position

Position is the key to successful no-limit hold’em poker. That’s why we can design our flat-calling range much further in position than without a position.

Flat calling with pocket pairs in position

In position you should usually call with all pocket pairs a preflop raise, with which you do not want to start a 3-bet. This is of course dependent on the situation, but will mostly correspond to the range of 22-TT – against openings from early positions additionally JJ and against some players even QQ. If you have very aggressive players or short-stackers behind you who regularly squeeze, then you can occasionally just call with KK or AA and let them run into the trap.

If you hold a small pocket par (22-66), then there are often three higher cards on the flop. You should just give up your hand against a continuation bet. Middle pairs are a little better: you can call a continuation bet on many boards and reevaluate the situation on the turn.

Flat calling with suited connectors in position

In order to call a raise with suited connectors profitably, you usually need position. You often hold a hand on the flop that has some equity and you would like to see the turn. Without position and initiative, it is not possible to make a profit with these hands in most game situations.

Flat calling with Broadways in position

Suited Broadways are great for a flat call. Very often you flop enough equity (pairs, backdoor draws, overcards, …) to float profitably or bluff.

Offsuit Broadways are also good, but you should play a bit more conservative. Against a opening from a late position is a call from the button with QJo or AJo certainly profitable, against an increase from early position but not. Strong Broadways such as AQ or KQ can also be included in position in your Flating-Range – with AK you should usually start a 3-bet.

Flat calling with suited aces in position

Most good poker players love suited aces. In many situations you flop enough backdoor equity to float profitably or bluff.

Flat calling without position

Without position (from the blinds) you should make your flat-calling range much more conservative. The position penalty is just too big to flatten profitably many of the above hands.

Good hands for a call against openings from late position are middle pairs and suited broadways – but you should be careful with openings from early positions, and very, very tight flatten.

Squeeze play

In poker, there are many moves that are often strange for outsiders. ‘What does he do?’ – ‘Did not he see his cards?’. One of these moves is the squeeze play.

Of course, you have often been in the following situation: You are sitting on the button, the loose cut-off opens and you call with a suitably-suited connector. The big blind bets on a 3-bet that fold-off folds, and you too severely part with your suited connector. A similar situation a few laps later: the cut-off opens and you call with a promising pair 55. The aggressive big blind is again setting up a 3-bet. The cut-off throws his hand away and you, too, have to leave your couple, a bit annoyed. Without seeing a flop, the big blind profits with its aggressive preflop tactics: Welcome to the Squeeze Play!

Definition of the squeeze play

A loose player opens the pot with a raise and is called. A player from late position or from the blinds bets a 3-bet or more precisely a 3-bet bluff to steal the pot preflop.

Why does squeeze play work?

In order for the squeeze play to be as successful as possible, the player who raises the pot should be a relatively low-skilled player – a player with a very wide opening range and, on average, a relatively weak hand. The hand of the caller is most likely also only medium strong, otherwise he would have even set a 3-bet. The decisive re-raise to steal the pot preflop, the squeeze, has a very high probability of success in this scenario and is therefore very profitable.

What do you have to keep in mind when squeezing play?

As mentioned earlier, squeeze play is all about the situation. If a player opens with a tight range, then you should avoid squeezing. You have the greatest chance of success against a player who opens very wide but gives up many of his hands against a 3-bet. Your hand strength is relatively unimportant for the squeeze play (the stacks are deeper, then hands with good postflop playability choose).

You should always be aware of which table image you have right now. If you have a tight image, your teammates will also pay more respect to your 3-bet and give up their hand. If you have a rather bad image, then you should avoid this move.

Another important point is the stack sizes – this is especially true in tournament situations. Attack players with mid-sized stacks and avoid desperate short stacks looking for situations to double their stack. Even players with very large stacks tend to make very loose 3-bet calls in tournaments. Also note that your 3-bet does not risk too much of your own stacks and ‘commites’ to it.

o Squeeze play depends on the situation – not on your hand strength
o the opening player should have a wide range
o you should have a tight image
o Note stack sizes

example
In the late phase of a tournament, you are on the button and have 26,000 chips left – all other players cover you. The blinds are 1000/2000. The loose hi-jack opens at 5,000 and the cut-off calls.

This is a typical scenario for a ‘compulsory squeeze’ (in the live game I would normally not watch my cards here, but of course pretend). You risk 26,000 chips to win 13,000 (5,000 + 5,000 + 1,000 + 2,000). So, your opponents have to fold in about 2/3 of a time to make this turn profitable immediately (if we still calculate our post-flop equity, you only need about 50% fold equity).

Example WSOP 2004
Probably the most famous squeeze play occurred in 2004 at the Word Series of Poker at the final table:

o Greg Raymer 7,920,000
o Josh Arieh 3,890,000
o Matt Dean 3,435,000
o David Williams 3,250,000
o Glenn Hughes 2,375,000
o Dan Harrington 2,320,000
o Al Kruk 2,175,000

Josh Arieh, a very loose and aggressive player, opens up to 220,000 with K9o. Greg Raymer called with A2s and Dan Harrington increased from the button with 62o to 1.200.000. Dan Harrington, one of the old-guns with a very tight image, wins the pot and even kicks David Williams, who throws away AQ without thinking twice.

Summary:

Squeeze play can be a very efficient and profitable ‘weapon’. But always pay attention to the situation and your table image – otherwise your ‘weapon’ can backfire very easily.

3-bet defense – defense strategies

Defense strategies against the ‘Light 3-Bet’

3-betting has become a standard tactic in today’s no-limit Hold’em games and it’s hard to imagine life without it. Especially in the 6max games the aggression is extremely high and it is important to understand the dynamics around 3-bets in order to be able to defend itself adequately.

In the last article about ‘Light 3-Bets’, I’ve already mentioned that there are basically two schools of thought regarding 3-bets: the one group of players tends to use 3-bets rather tight and conservative. This group believes they are superior to the opponents post-flop at high stack-to-pot ratio. With a simply raised pot we still have a STPR of approx. 12 in the 100BB games. In contrast, two-fold raised pots after a preflop re-raise have a stack-to-pot ratio of only about 5. The other group, which uses 3-bets very often and regularly, feels more comfortable with this STPR and above all wants to build up an aggressive image in order to be paid accordingly with the good hands.

Against the second group, ie against the ‘light 3-Better’, it is particularly important to learn defense strategies and their implementation. But how can you best defend yourself? An already often mentioned main influencing factor comes here once again into play: the position.

o you are in position
o you have no position

Defensive strategies against 3-bets in position

If you are in position postflop after your opponent’s 3-bet, then you have mostly opened the pot in the cut-off or button and the 3-bet came from one of the blinds. Your openings from early positions will hardly be attacked by the blinds due to your tight range and their position disadvantage without proper hand.

To react properly now, you should already know your opponent. Your tracking software will serve you well. You should know how often your opponents fold blinds to your steals. Most players in the blinds fold between 75% and 80% of their hands in this situation (cut-off or button steal) and counter 5% – 10% with a 3-bet. If you are dealing with opponents who defend many of their hands with 3-bets (> 7%) then you should definitely make the necessary adjustments in your game.

Counter Merged Range with 4-bets

It is important to know the range of your opponent. He sets his 3-bets predominantly with a merged range, so with a range which consists mainly of good hands such. Broadways, then you should be careful with your calls and tend towards a 4-bet defense strategy. The equity of his 3-bet range is just too good to play a profitable call strategy. However, your opponent will worry about your 4-bets as he has to put away many of his good but not top hands against your 4-bets. If he fails to adjust his game, it can be extremely profitable for you.

25% rule

However, with your 4-bet tactic against your opponent’s merged range, it’s important to keep in mind that the stacks are big enough. You should not invest more than 25% of the effective stack size in a 4-bet. In a 100BB game, this would be e.g. an opening on your part on 3BB from the button, a 3-bet on the big blind on 10BB and a 4-bet on 25BB. So you’re not mathematically tied to your opponent’s hand with your 4-bet bluffs and you can put them down against an all-in.

Counter polarized range with calls

A polarized 3-bet range of your opponent can be countered profitably with a calling strategy. In his range are many bad hands against which you have good hands with good hands like Broadways.

Tip: To reduce the effectiveness of your opponent’s aggressive 3-bets from the beginning, you should make your opening raises smaller preflop. Instead of 3.5BB or 3BB you open the best from late position only on 2.5BB.

Defensive strategies against 3-bets without position

Without position it is very difficult to defend against 3-bets. You have the position disadvantage and the missing initiative against you. Many poker players therefore choose a pure 4-bet defense strategy to avoid the post-flop game in this scenario. However, this can very quickly lead to high volatilities in your winrate against an aggressive opponent. Of course, with the 4-bet defense strategy without position, the 25% rule applies.

The problem with the 4-bet defense strategy

All good players make their 3-bet range polarized in position. On the one hand, they have the position advantage and, on the other, they do not expect to be called very often from your side without a position. Thus, the polarized range is the optimal range to set a 3-bet.

But against this range you have one thing: equity advantage with your good hands. That’s why you should also include calls in your tactics. For this you have to know your opponent and his style of play already really well to compensate for the position disadvantage.

Again, you can consult your tracking software: How often 3-bets your opponent – especially from the cut-off and the button? In most cases the button attacks the cut-off, as it has the widest opening range. However, some players also tend to increasingly attack open positions from early positions as this turn looks particularly strong. So you have to figure out how many times a player attacks which position.

If your opponent has a 3-bet range of more than 10% in an individual scenario, then you should definitely do something. If you do not know your opponent so well, then I recommend a pure 4-bet strategy. It’s best to choose hands with ‘extra equity’. These are hands with so-called blockers, e.g. AJ. With the ace and the boy you take your opponent a lot of possible combinations of his value Rane. Other blocker hands would be Ax, Kx, …

If you know your opponent better then you can also include a calling strategy. Choose hands with good equity and hands to flop draws. Also one or the other very strong hand should not be missing.

Tip: If you call a 3-bet with no position, then many of your opponents put you on a very narrow range of good hands, but you do not want to play all-in preflop (AQ, TT, …). Use this!

Annotation:
If a very good player has position on you and he often 3-bets you, then the best tactic is simply to change the table. Too much pride and ego are often the biggest enemies of a poker player.

Summary:
In order to be able to defend yourself effectively against ‘light 3-bets’ of your opponents, it is important to know the respective range of your opponents. Polarized 3-bet rank, you can effectively counteract with calls in position. Against merged ranges you defend yourself best with 4-bets.