Fold more often to 3-bets when OOP

Consider a pretty hand: A♠J♠87. You open from middle position and face a 3-bet from the button, a player with a 7% 3-bet width1 in this situation. You want to call, right? Let’s look at a few reasons why this might not be the smartest idea.

This hand is in the top 16% of all starting hands, but so are most (almost all?) of your hands opening first in from middle position. A quick equity calculation against a 7% range gives us 41% pre-flop.. that’s not bad is it?2 We’ll see another way of formulating this question at the base of the article. For now, let us dig a little into how this hand will behave on the flop. This hand is essentially a weaker version of many other Axxx hands which you have in your pre-flop opening range, including such luminaries as {AKQJ, AQJ9, AJT8ds}. We certainly don’t need it to improve our range on Ace high flops. Does it help us on other flops? Consider the most obvious flop it helps us on: T9x. When we hold a wrap (as opposed to a made straight), the {QJT}-components of our opponent’s range have a 60-40 edge on us, as do all of the {overpair+FD} hands whenever the flop is duochrome. Even when we flop top two pair we only have a 58% edge against {overpair + gutter}.

Of course, the most common flop we will encounter that will entail some thought is the Ace high flop. The ‘good news’ is that we have a 53% edge on an A high flop. The not-so-good news is that whenever our opponent also has an Ace we are a 68% dog! This will inevitably lead us into the 3BP OOP no-man’s land of check-calling the flop and waiting for our opponent to pick between realizing his equity on the turn with a weak draw and firing the turn and river with a polarized range into our ‘known’ top pair.

Another favorite hand of the newly-blooded Omaha player is ‘good’ Queens, say QQ65ss. Why it’s a suited connector with set potential, what’s not to like? Indeed this hand is a 7th percentile hand and yet is an auto-muck against a 7% IP 3-bet. The problem is that your opponent will have a higher flush draw than you around 1/4 of the time, and so the 12% of time that you “fist-pump” with a flopped flush draw you aren’t in that great a shape. This problem persists when you turn a ‘back-door flush draw’. To compound the misery, even when you do flop a set, your opponent will have 30%+ equity against you around 27% of the time! Set-mining OOP in 3bet-pots is a losing proposition; a solid guideline with disconnected pairs is to only call a 3-bet if you would be happy shoving the flop over a C-bet with {Overpair+gutter}.

I’ll conclude this discussion with an introduction to examining flop equity with a more sophisticated metric. Consider a situation where you ‘know’ you are going to face pot-sized continuation bets on both the flop and the turn. How much equity do you need on the flop to call them both profitably (disregarding implied odds)? The pot will be 9 PSFBs (Pot-sized flop bets) by the river, of which you will have contributed 4 post-flop, meaning you need 45% equity against your opponent’s range to call on the flop and turn. AJ87ss has flopped hand vs range equity of at least 45% around 38% of the time against a top 7% range. QQ65ss has flopped hand vs range equity of at least 45% only 30% of the time against that same range! It should be immediately apparent to the reader that, against a range composed of many such hands, the 3-bettor can turn a profit by potting many flops with his entire range3 .  I would encourage all of my readers to stop calling 3-bets of this 5-9% width from those 40-50BB stacks that proliferate on some well-known poker sites. You do not flop sufficient equity with sufficient frequency that your strategy of ‘making good flop push/fold decisions’ will render this line +EV.

Thanks for reading! As hinted by the “Step” title, for a few months this blog is going to trend towards releasing more articles intending to take a ‘new’ Omaha player from the basics of play to a competitive poker game. I am reserving the more dense and detailed articles for my subscriber section (sign-up in the side bar if you haven’t already). This shouldn’t discourage the more advanced reader, since many of the leaks I will be discussing remain as core features of your opponents’ strategies in the mid/high-stakes games.

This week I am launching a 5 seminar series on “Defending the Big Blind against a Button open”. The series will cover the following topics:

Constructing Calling Ranges and general flop principles in a single-raised pot
Constructing 3-betting Ranges and general flop principles as the 3-bettor
A Case Study in a single-raised pot
A Case Study in a 3-bet pot
Defending turn/river transitions in a single-raised pot

I have had sufficient reservations from present clients for the first session this Friday 3rd May. If you would like to join a second, parallel seminar stream starting next week, please get in touch. It is possible to attend individual sessions or reserve a spot on all 5 at a discount. Places are limited to 5 per seminar so get in early!

That’s enough promotion for this week, good luck at the tables,


Show 3 footnotes

  1. I have modeled this range as the top 7% of hands for the purposes of this exercise. Whilst your opponent is free to construct a different range, consider this: If he can use this most simple of strategies and still make it unprofitable for you to continue this hand then any improvement on his pre-flop 3-bet range will only make your call worse. Thus unless your opponent constructs his 3-bet range in an absurd manner (say 3-betting the poorest 7% of hands) our assumption is useful. Beware of using this method against wider 3-bet ranges as there is far more scope for introducing hands with weaker ‘raw equity’ into such ranges.
  2. Short answer, yes it is OOP against a well-constructed range. A common mistake when peasants attempt PLO theory is to ballpark the odds needed to call a bet purely based on the equity on a given street. The further we are from the river the more misleading that approach is. If the first number that pops into your head as ‘equity I need to call’ is 33%, consider this: 9832r has 33.6% equity pre-flop against a 7% range!
  3. Again, it is enough to know that such a simple strategy is profitable; if our opponent chooses another betting strategy it will also be profitable, unless it is strictly inferior to this pot-pot strategy.