In the mood this morning to post some ideas on pre-flop range construction when you are facing a raise.
First, some high level thoughts:
- None of this will apply to min raises, which I tend to view as open limps (though of course they differ from that in many ways – but still, in general they create a dynamic that is quite different), or to raises that significantly over-bet the current pot
- When can I have a calling range?
- when last to act
- as the button
- if players behind are passive, and rarely squeeze
- From most seats, on an aggressive table, only raise or fold
In spots where it is only raise or fold, I think you can largely throw out the 3 betting charts you see on line, for the simple reason that the raising range you are facing is rarely anything close to the equilibrium strategy for that seat. Your 3 betting range should be a function of the RFI range you are facing, and in the real world, that range is extraordinarily player dependent. And so this gets me to what I think is the single most important piece of advise: pay attention to the raising frequency of all of your opponents by seat.
This is surprisingly easy data to gather, and also converges fairly rapidly, so you don’t even need to be continuously gathering it. It also gives you a data point for the general population at a given level that you can treat as a default as you face new players. This is the first and most important ingredient in deciding what your 3 betting range should look like.
- what does the raising range look like?
- do I have position against the raiser?
- how many opponents behind me might still call or squeeze?
- how many opponents behind me will have position on me if they continue?
- how often are players left to act 4 betting?
- do people over fold to 3 bets?
All example below will assume effective stacks of 100bb to 200bb.
Case 1: 0.5% range
You’d need a lot of hands to confidently say someone has a 0.5% raising range, but lets say you have 1,000 hands against a particular opponent, and you’ve only seen them raise 5 times from any position. That range generally consists of only AA. If you are last to act, have an appropriate drawing hand (pocket pair, Ax suited, suited connector or gapper), and are deep stacked (200bb+), you can call and hope to stack the player, but the general play here is just to fold.
Case 2: 3% range
This is now the classic super strong range that you might often see in 3 bets or 4 bets, consisting of AA-QQ, AK, and then some mix of AQs, AJs and JJ. Whether it is AA-JJ and AK, or AA-QQ, AK, AQs and AJs makes a pretty big difference, but usually takes more data. I would generally 3 bet here with AA, KK, AKs, and some smaller fraction of AKo. If last to act with deep effective stacks, you can again call some of the time with more speculative hands.
Case 3: as highjack facing 6% UG open with aggressive players behind
3 bet or fold. Your opponents range probably has all pocket pairs through TT, AK and AQ, KQs, AJs, and then some mix of additional smaller pocket pairs and suited hands. I’d default to 3 betting a linear 3% range.
Case 4: as CO facing 15% LJ open, with a strong, aggressive players on the button and the big blind
A player opening 15% from low jack is probably a fairly strong player, as that is only a little below a typical equilibrium opening range. With strong players behind you it’s usually raise or fold, though if either of the players behind is addicted to squeeze plays, you could consider cold calling with AA, KK and AKs. The low jack probably has pocket pairs down to 77, suited broadway, aces down to ATo, KQo, and most Ax suited. The balance of the range then probably will vary by opponent, consisting of some smaller pairs, suited connectors or gappers, and Kx suited. 3 bet a core range of AA-JJ, AK-AQ, AJs-ATs, A5s, KQs-KJs, and QJs, and then 3 bet all other pairs a smaller fraction of the time, with TT around 50% to 60%, 99 at 20% to 30%, 88 through 66 maybe 10% to 20%, and just rarely with 55 to 22. Also mix in some rare small suited connectors. A4s could also be in the mix some fraction of the time.
Case 5: as button against a 25% LJ range, passive players behind
This low jack is strong and in general very active pre-flop, opening significantly more hands from each seat than a solver would normally recommend. You want to attack ranges like this pre-flop, as the highjack will either have to defend too small a fraction of their range, or will be going post flop with hands that will under realize equity out of position. Still, you’ll have a lot of hands that will just be happy to see a flop, and won’t care too much if the small blind or big blind join in the fun to improve your implied odds, and so a mixed strategy of calls and raises is nice here, playing most hands in your range both ways.
- Raise only hands: AA-QQ, AK, AQs, AT
- Mostly calls: 99-55, ATs, QJs, T9s
- Mostly raises: all other suited aces, AQ and AJ, JJ and TT, KQ-KJ, KTs-K9s, Q9s and J9s
- Rare calls: smaller pairs, 98s, 87s, 65s, 54s
- Rare raises: QJ, KT, K6s
- begin with the shape of the raising range you are facing
- I’ll generally want to 3 bet with a range half as big as what I think I am facing (so 5% 3 bet into 10% raising range, or 10% 3 bet into 20% raising range)
- mostly polarize your 3 bets if you will also have a calling range, or if you think the raiser will over fold to a 3 bet
- avoid calling with aggressive players left to act behind you, except perhaps as the button when you are deep enough to be happy to play post flop with a reasonable SPR if you get squeezed
- out of position I will raise more, call less, and fold more
- in position, I will raise less, call more, and fold slightly less
- last to act, I will have a calling range, and a polarized raising range
That’s it for now. Hope others have some ideas on how to play pre flop facing a raise.