4-Betting Strategy in Poker

4-betting has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. The main reason for this is that it’s one of the best ways to combat players who 3-bet too often with unbalanced ranges. In the following article I aim to talk about the best situations to 4-bet as a bluff and the various factors you should take into consideration before 4-betting.

Fold to 4-bet Stat

The most important stat you should take in to consideration is your opponents fold to 4-bet statistic. Some players will have a high 3-bet percent but merge their range and jam wide vs 4-bets. Against these types of players it is horrible to 4-bet as a bluff.

The best players to 4-bet as a bluff are the players who both a high 3-bet percentage and a high fold to 4-bet percentage (70%+ is preferable).

What Does Your Opponent Think Of You?

Apart from how often your opponent folds to 4-bets, it is important to have some kind of read on what your opponent thinks of you. If your opponent thinks your a tight, solid regular, chances are you will be able to get away with more 4-bet bluffs than if they thought you were a spewy LAG.

I know there have been times when i have 3-bet a loose player, then when he decided to 4-bet me, i decided to shove all-in with a weak hand, simply because i thought he would be 4-bet bluffing a huge percentage of the time. If your opponent views you as a very loose player, you may not want to 4-bet as a bluff so much.

For that reason, your opponents fold to 4-bet stat does not tell you everything. It just gives you an idea of whether they fold a lot to 4-bets or not.  Players with a tight image might get a lot of folds when they 4-bet because their opponent thinks that they fold too often to 3-bets and in turn, they increase their 3-betting frequency as an attempt to exploit that.

The Importance of Balance

When I am playing against good regulars, I try to remain balanced when I 4-bet. When you raise the button and a guy 3-bets 11% from the small blind, it’s very tempting to start 4-betting him very often. Sometimes I have to hold myself back from 4-betting because I think my opponent may just jam wide when I 4-bet.

By keeping a balanced range between bluffs and value hands, you basically make it so that your opponent cannot 5-bet jam light, and if they do it is a mistake against your overall range or breakeven at best. The last thing you want to do is 4-bet bluff with a weak hand like A5 offsuit is have your opponent shove all-in from the small blind with TJs.

To combat this I obviously balance the ratio of bluff and value hands that I have. A totally balanced range seems to be on the 60:40% range of bluffs:value hands all spots. What I mean by this is that it is close to game theory optimal where you are 4-betting with a frequency where your opponent cannot combat it by shoving all-in.

Against weak regulars you do not have to be balanced. Whether you should be balanced or not should be a function of whether your opponent will exploit your imbalances. Most poor regulars will not exploit them unless you are INSANELY unbalanced in a situation and it becomes obvious how unbalanced you are. Even then, a lot of regulars will just fold unless they have a very strong hand.

4-Bet Sizing

4-bet sizing is obviously important. When you are in position you should 4-bet to a smaller size than when you are out of position. This is just a function of that your opponent will not want to call a 4-bet out of position, almost no matter what the size is. Worst case scenario, your opponent flats the 4-bet and you still have position. This may suck slightly when you are bluffing, but will allow you to get more value when you have the nuts.

When you are out of position you will want to raise slightly larger, this will put your opponent in a 4-bet or fold spot and discourage them from flatting in position. Generally my 4-bet sizing will be around 2.1-2.2x when I am in position. When I am out of position I bump it up to around 2.5-2.7x the original pre flop raise.

Flating vs 4-betting Strong Hands

When you have a strong hand (Pocket aces or kings), you will most likely want to 4-bet this hand for value. There are however some situations where you will want to flat these hands and have an unbalanced 4-bet bluffing range that is weighted massively towards bluffs.

The primary situation I am talking about is when your opponent folds to 4-bets so often that fast playing your hand is a waste of its value. In these situations I will frequently flat my strongest value hands and just 4-bet as a bluff and with hands like pocket jacks. Sure this is unbalanced but it will allow you to exploit your opponents leak.

Other times when I frequently flat my opponent 3-bets are when I dominate a large portion of their 3-betting range. Let’s say I raise AK on the button and my opponent in the small blind 3-bets me. I have pegged his small blind 3-betting range as being merged and containing lots of hands like ATs, AJ, AQ, KQ. If I decide to 4-bet my opponent will fold all of these hands almost always. So in order to exploit my opponent I just call the 3-bet with my AK. Usually if I miss I will float the flop for value and see what happens on later streets. If I hit my top pair, chances are I will have my opponents top pair dominated and will stack them fairly often.

The Role Of Blockers When 4-Betting

Primarily I will 4-bet bluff with hands that are blockers to my opponents strong hands. My opponent’s strong hands will be weighted to hands with an Ace and a King in them, and to a lesser extent hands with a Jack or Queen in them.

I will therefore 3-bet hands with aces and kings in them most often because they act as a blocker to my opponents strong hands. So let’s say you 4-bet a hand like A9 suited or KJ offsuit because you don’t think you can flat them. Having an Ace or a King in your hand will cut down on the times your opponent will have aces, kings and ace king. This make it slightly better than 4-betting a hand like 89suited.

Another benefit is that if you get called you are rarely dead. Take the a9 suited hand; against a hand as strong as KQs or AQs you have some decent equity. You are not doing great, but you definitely have some equity.