Playing in the full ring games on Merge made me realize that 4-betting on the button is now a popular play. I was really surprised by this because it is so hard to balance a 4-bet bluff range when you have a narrow 4-bet value range. Add this to the fact that you’re opening a really wide range and it isn’t a favorable situation for 4-betting. Watching a video this week reinforced this idea. A coach said that you have to stay one step ahead of opponents by 4-betting light from the button, and he showed a hand where he did that with J9o. I think this is at best a really mediocre strategy and at worst a decent leak. Let me explain why.
Say our opponent opens up from the button 40%, 50%, or 60% of the time. When facing 3-bets, they 4-bet a wide value range like 99-AA, AQ-AK, call with some speculative hands, and 4-bet bluff when they suspect their opponent is getting out of line. I simulated this scenario with three hands, 77, A2o, and A5s, for opening 2, 2.5, or 3 bb. The number I was looking for was the percentage of the time an opponent could take a nonvalue hand and turn it into a bluff before I could shove each to at least break even. With 77, the amount of the time they could bluff with their non value hands before my shove would breakeven was between 5% and 12%, with the most important factor being opening range and second most important factor being their opening size. With A5s, they could bluff between 7% and 15% of the time. With A2o they could bluff between 10% and 21% of the time. Mainly my point is that when your opponent is 4-betting based on table dynamics and not their opening hand, they are going to tend to 4-bet way too much.
This is not to even mention that getting in a hand like 99 or AQ to a 3-bet is by no means a snap decision. It can range from slightly profitable to terrible depending on your opponent. I ran the equity of AQo versus the range 55+, A2s+, AQ+ and it has 47% equity. That means that if I am 5-betting with a 10% range, your 5-bet call is going to have the equity of 94 compared with 77-82 if you fold. Worst case range and your opponent is not 5-betting light, your equity is 35%. That is why AQo plays so much better calling versus 4-betting. The only time you should really be 4-betting AQo is if your opponent calls a lot of 4-bets and you are planning to fold to a 5-bet, or you have a really solid read that your opponent 5-bets a ton. 99 fares a little bit better, with equity ranging from 37% to 53%.
If your opponent chooses to call with the hands 99,TT, and AQ, then their ability to 4-bet bluff without being exploitable goes way down. Now with 77 their bluffing frequency can range from 3%-8% before we should shove, with A5s, it should range between 4% and 9%, and with A2o, it should range between 6% and 12%. If you have a decent read on when someone is likely to 4-bet light, like the first time you 3-bet them in a session or the second time you 3-bet them in a row, then it is really easy to take one of these hands and show a massive profit by 3-betting and 5-betting it.
I would be a little careful when 5-betting light. The numbers that I used for breakeven point were the numbers after you make the 3-bet. For the play to be profitable overall you should have decent fold equity on the 3-bet, or excellent fold equity on the 5-bet. If your opponent has a very low 4-bet frequency, which you can use the stats 4-bet range for the position and also 4-bet vs hero, then 5-betting light goes way down in value. You will know when your opponent is 4-betting too much – it sticks out when someone opens a 50%+ range and 4-bets frequently. Use these guidelines in addition to the open shoving ranges I provided in part one to plan your strategy versus players who 4-bet bluff from the button.