In a recent hand analysis thread an important concept came up that I thought I’d highlight here in my blog to reach a wider audience.  The OP links a youtube video of a poker coach who discusses the following hand:   A TAG villain (14/12) opens the cut off, the button folds, and our hero is in the SB with AJo.  The villain has a steal % of 38% and fold to 3-bet of 79%.    The coach in the video recommends flat calling with the AJ to keep the villain’s range wide, and the OP was questioning this wisdom feeling that calling was the worst option.

I responded in agreement on calling, saying:

“First, folding is out of the question vs. a wide steal opener.  So we are calling or raising.

So the CO is opening a steal range that includes all hands that dominate us obv, and a lot of hands we are ahead of and/or dominate ourselves (like Ax and broadways). Because villain folds to 3-bets with a high frequency, he is going to be folding a lot of the hands AJ plays well against if we 3B, including many of those which we dominate. In fact all his folds will come from this bucket of worse hands, and none from the bucket of hands that dominate us. So re-raising, in effect, let's a lot of his steals off the hook while isolating us against the strongest parts of his range. That's what the coach is trying to convey.

We will generate a lot of folds 3-betting this spot for sure, but with a hand like AJ it's more profitable to keep his range wide and all those dominated hands in, and just "play poker" post flop as SS says. We are handicapped a bit by having to do so OOP, but on the flip side of that coin we are going to do so against a villain who normally plays a very Taggy/stronger range and will find himself post flop significantly wider/weaker than he's accustomed to being, which he may well be prone to making a lot of mistakes if he's not a seasoned player.”

Another PSO member, Guido-bomb, replied asking why don’t we capitalize on the numbers right now, making his steals fold instead of playing out of position based on the assumptions we make from the numbers?   It’s a great and valid question, and what prompted me to address via a blog.

In order to do this, let’s take a closer look at the ranges in play here.   First, we’ll consider 3-betting.  If the villain, who is a tight-aggressive player, folds to 3-bets 79% of the time as an aggregate over all situations, he’s probably fold to our 3-bet something significantly higher in this exact  situation since his initial open is so steal heavy.  Let’s estimate that at 85% to do some math.  We’ll also simplify this discussion by assuming the big blind always folds.

Villain has raised $3, so when we 3-bet and he folds we win $4.50, something that will happen we assume around 85% of the time for a net profit of 4.50*.85=$3.83   The other 15% of the time we get action, but vs. what range?

If villain starts with a range of 38%, and folds 85% of those, that leaves his continuing range as 38*.15= 5.7%.   Let’s take a look at how our hand plays vs. this tight a continuing range:

We can see here that our hand plays pretty poorly against this range.  And it offers some pretty heavy reverse implied odds.  What that means is, when we connect with the flop in the most likely way to connect, making 1 pair, we will be in a situation where we are way ahead (and can’t get action) or are way behind (holding at best a 3 outer) and will be forced to give action as the aggressor in a bloated 3-b pot.  Are we making money going to the flop out of position crushed this badly?  I think it’s likely we’re not even with the aggressive lead in the hand.  We have a buffer of $3.83 from the folded parts of his range, but I suspect most, if not all of that buffer is eaten up by the times villain doesn’t fold preflop. 

How about flat calling?  Against such a wide range AJ plays pretty well:


Assuming we make reasonably good decisions post flop (“just play poker” as the coach says), I think we can feel reasonably assured of making money in this situation.   Likely quite a bit more long term than we do by 3-betting. 

Like the coach in the video, I think we are taking a reasonably good situation and turning it into a marginally bad one by 3-betting due largely to the reverse implied odds nature of this hand.    He says in the video he’d rather exploit the preflop numbers by 3-betting with a hand like T7 or K5s, and a big part of the reason is we are not going to be caught in a reverse implied odds spot when we get action on our 3b… these holdings reduce the times we hit the 2nd best hand and end up giving too much action since none of our 1 pair flops will be strong 1 pair hands nor dominated as hard when behind.  In other words, we will still book a similar amount of wins, but our loses when called will be smaller on average, perhaps by quite a bit, because we won’t have a 2nd best hand of a strength that ties us into giving action as much.

I hope this makes sense, and will get you considering a villain’s continuing range and how your hand plays against it when exploiting preflop holes in opponents!