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Three-betting wide on the button

by Rep Porter |  Published: Jul 08, 2015

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Today, let’s look at a spot that comes up frequently in the middle to late stages of tournaments. Often when you are in a later position, one or two seats off the button, and the action folds to you preflop, you will raise with a reasonably wide range of hands. Maybe something like all pairs, all suited aces, all combinations of two cards ten or higher, most suited connectors, and some suited one-gappers. That is about 25 percent of the hands, a perfectly reasonable amount of hands to start.
Now, at this stage in the tournament, the average stack is often getting into the 30-50 big blind range. Opening the pot by raising to 2-2.5 big blinds (BBs) is common. What happens now when the button reraises to five BBs and the action folds back to you? If you call from out of position here, the pot will be about 12-13 BBs.

If you started with a stack of 40 BBs, you will have 35 BBs left, or a little less than three times the current pot. This is an amount that can easily go into the pot in two bets. If the first bet is ten BBs, the new pot is 32-33 BBs and you have 25 BBs left in your stack. This is a spot where you have to be pretty sure of your hand strength to want to continue after the flop. Almost any first bet brings you to the threshold of being pot-committed.

As a result, it is pretty reasonable to only continue with a pretty strong range of hands. If you call or four-bet with sevens or better, A-10 or better, and K-Q, you are continuing with ten percent of the starting hands. This actually feels like a lot of hands for this situation, but it is 10/25th of the hands you opened with, or 40 percent. This means you are folding 60 percent of the time.

Now let’s consider this situation from the perspective of the player on the button. A player to your right or two seats to your right opens a pot to 2.25 times the big blind. They have about 35 BBs in their stack. If you estimate that they are playing about 25 percent of the hands, and that they will fold more than half the time, what is to stop you from raising to five BBs and trying to win the pot right now? With the blinds and antes, the pot will be about five BBs already. So you will be putting about half the money in. If you think the original raiser is going to fold about 60 percent of the time, then you just have to worry about those pesky blinds.

So what is a reasonable hand range for the blinds to play? They will be out of position for the entire hand. They will have the original raiser left to act behind them, so they won’t even be closing the action. Maybe a range like tens or better, A-K, and A-Q? That seems pretty reasonable. That is just under five percent of the hands. This means that each of the blinds will fold about 95 percent of the time if they are playing reasonably.

Back to the button. You raised to five BBs with five BBs in the middle. The blinds both fold 95 percent of the time, and the original raiser folds 60 percent of the time. When you multiply those numbers together, .95*.95*.6, you determine all three players fold about 54 of the time. This means without any consideration for the opportunities to win chips later in the hand, this preflop play is profitable as a standalone strategy. Among the ways you can still win are having a strong hand, hitting the flop, and making a continuation-bet that your opponent folds to.

It turns out that this strategy is particularly successfully when your opponent has between 25 and 40 BBs. Calling the reraise and leaving themselves with a stack to pot ratio of two or three for post-flop play is almost committing. Often your opponent will play even tighter than these estimates.

So what hands are good to make this kind of raise with? Most all of your hands you would have normally raised if folded to you, or called a raise for value in other circumstances, should be reraised. You should add in a decent amount of extra hands too. Personally, I like the speculative hands here, all the pairs, the suited connectors, the suited one-gappers, and some other similar hands. When you have to play a flop, it gives you the opportunity to still make a strong hand and win a big pot.

This situation doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does come up, it is good to be prepared. ♠

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at ThePokerAcademy.com, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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