Thursday, August 2, 2012

What to do if the SB splits their pre-flop range, and more.

If the SB splits their pre-flop range (which the BB can do by sometimes 3-betting, or sometimes raising vs. a limp) you must play differently than if they either open-raise or fold pre-flop.  (There is also, by the way, great benefit vs. 'good' players who don't fold their BB too often pre-flop to sometimes open-limping, and other times open-raising; I'll discuss this second).

Scenario A)  If the SB raising range is stronger, you play vs. that range as you would if they played an open-raise/open-fold strategy.

Scenario B)  But if the SB raises with weaker hands (after making you think they're doing it only with strong hands) to gain fold equity, you must become aware of this and adjust.  Vs. this range, you'll be able to...

1)  call down a lot more with stronger made hands on higher boards (since your opponent will think they have bluff/fold equity).

2)  You can also VBet on lower flops since they'll have lower pairs using the same board cards.

3)  Play your range that matches their now-stronger limping range vs. their range as you would if they open-raised (except of course adjust for a smaller pot size/lower odds) using your matching range.

4)  You'll then need to just ditch a lot of your worse hands since they don't play well vs. your opponent's strong limping range, but that's ok because you saved money vs. if they had open-raised forcing you to call!  Plus you'll make more than that back since their lower hands are going in for twice as much money, plus worse odds throughout the hand as mentioned above.

Simply swap these above scenarios (A and B) if they shift their ranges back to open-raising with strong hands, and open-limping with weak.


This range-splitting can be good if your opponent doesn't realize it's happening right away.  Vs. observant opponents it's not a good idea (because of how terrible it performs if your opponent does what I just described above), but if they don't adjust and fall for your range swapping, you'll make a good profit.  Pre-flop it's tough to pull this off, though, because it's pretty visible once they see one of your hands at showdown.  But if hands aren't going to showdown, that means it's probably working (i.e. they're folding to your raises with junk), so keep it up.

This bring up an aside: why should I not open-raise or call pre-flop 100%?  For the same reason as above: it's pretty obvious if you never fold that you're playing 100% of your hands, thus allowing your opponent to play vs. your range as a whole perfectly.  If you open-raise 90%, then 75%, then 90% again, it's tougher for them to know exactly how tight you're raising, and so they won't be able to play perfectly.

Lastly, BB 3-betting pre-flop is the same idea as the SB range swapping.  You want to sometimes 3-bet with strong hands, then sometimes with weaker hands.  But don't do both together as you do on the flop (where you maintain > 50% value to showdown) because you can't guarantee to have any specific amount of  top combos on the flop (i.e. sometimes you'll hit with your pre-flop 3-bet 'bluff' hands like 87s perhaps, and the flop is KJ8).*  You need to change it back and forth as in the SB example above.

*note:  if the SB will let you 3-bet (without them capping), a somewhat effective strategy could be for you to check the flop sometimes, and others CBet as you would split your ranges if you had just called pre-flop, and sometimes VBet/bluff, and other times check-call.  The reason this can be good is that it does allow you to get 1 extra small bet in pre-flop with your better hands and still get your flop bet in too.  Conversely it does make it harder for your bluffs to succeed...

...because splitting up your ranges, then deciding how to proceed on the flop is much more complex than simply calling 100% pre-flop from the BB, this is why it's very opponent-dependent.  If they play poorly enough vs. your 3-bets, it can be worth sacrificing some 'correct' plays (because it's more complex you'll make plays that are sub-optimal) to gain value from their mistakes.  An example would be if they fold way too much and allow you to 3-bet with garbage and bluff them off many pots.

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