4 Rules of Thumb for Preflop Play

poker Dec 04, 2018

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4 Rules of Thumb for Preflop Play 

1. Max leverage = ~18% 

Whenever we have the opportunity to 3-bet/4-bet, we do it with a range of usually 2.3-4.5x of the opponent’s raise size. The idea is that within this 2.3-4.5x, if you’re able to 3-bet/4-bet to roughly 18% of effective stacks, you get to achieve maximum leverage. This is as it doesn’t give the opponent the opportunity to re-bluff you or construct a re-raise range against you that isn’t all-in. Even if he min-raises, that’s not a very ideal situation when he has to put 30% of the pot and it gives you the opportunity to call cheaply or to go all-in. If you go all in, it’ll be hard for him to play his bluffing range since he’ll have to put 30% of the effective stack size in as a bluff and then be forced to fold. 

2. Call/raise button total of what your opponent’s RFI % is 

We’re strictly talking about play on the button. For example, you’re on the button and opponent is on cutoff. You want to Voluntarily Put Money in Pot (VPIP) with approximately an equal range size as your opponent. For example, if cutoff is raising top 30% of hands and you’re on button, you want to play top 30% of hands.

3. 3-bet 1/3 of your opponent’s RFI% 

This is a more general rule, not specific to the button. If you have a Holdem manager/Poker Tracker, you can see how wide your opponent is playing. If you don’t, you can make assumptions based on your gut feeling from playing against him. Of course, you try to look at showdowns as well to determine. When you see your opponent playing a certain range, you 3-bet him 1/3 as much as the range he uses. If he’s playing 30%, you 3-bet him 10%. This can apply to all positions. The catch is that if there’re callers in between, you want to tighten up your range slightly because if you’re still squeezing with a wide range, it allows the people in the middle to call/trap you a lot.

4. When polarized, used 1:1 Bluff:Value range 

First example, cutoff raises 30%, you’re on button and you defend with 30%. How you would split your range is to 3-bet 10% and call 20%. With the 10% of hands you’re 3-betting, you want a 1:1 bluff:value ratio. What it’ll roughly look like is that assuming you’re playing a strictly polarized range, you’re going to 3-bet the top 5% and bottom 5% of hands. *See illustration in video at 11:05* 

0-5th percentile of hands: 3-bet 

6th-25th percentile of hands: Call 

26th-30th percentile of hands: 3-bet  

Another example is when you’re BB and 1 player has raised, it is folded around to you, you want to use a polarized range here. You take the top and bottom of your range at 1:1 value:bluff to 3-bet.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hi my friends, this is Wayne Yap and since you’ve been following me on social media for awhile and this video is for social media, I won’t go in the long explanation about my history in poker but I’ll let you evaluate my thought processes based on what I say and the quality of my thoughts. Today I’m going to share with you 4 very exciting rules of thumb for poker, it will help you to really improve your game. When you can follow these somewhat accurate rules of thumb, it will help you in your quest to understand how to play closer to optimal or GTO as some people call it. Again, these are approximations, so we call them rules of thumb, but they will really help you. I am going to try using my notecards again today so here we go. These 4 rules of thumb are all for preflop.

1. Max leverage = ~18% 

Leverage stacks to about 18% of effective stack sizes when you make a 3-bet or 4-bet preflop. Effective stacks = the shorter of the stacks. If there’re 2 players in the game, I have 20bb and you have 30bb, my 20bb is the effective stack. If there’re 3 or 4 players in the hand, we look at the person with the least number of bb. What it means is that whenever we have the opportunity to 3-bet or 4-bet, we do it with a range of usually 2.3-4.5x of his raise size. Within this range, we have a lot of options. Choosing our bet sizing, a lot of times depend on the position we’re in. If we’re IP we might use a slightly smaller sizing, we don’t mind giving him some kind of incentive to see the flop. If we’re OOP it’s the reverse.  

The idea is that within this 2.3-4.5x, if we’re able to 3-bet/4-bet to roughly 18% of effective stacks, we get to achieve maximum leverage for our stack. The reason is as it doesn’t give the opponent the opportunity to re-bluff us or construct a re-raise range against us that isn’t all-in. He could still technically do it but if he wants to reraise but not go all in, he would have to reraise to about 30% of the pot. Even if he min-raises, that’s not a very ideal situation when he has to put 30% of the pot by min-raising and it gives us the opportunity to call very cheaply or to go all-in. If we go all in, it’ll be hard to him to play his bluffing range cos he’ll have to put 30% of the effective stack size in as a bluff and then be forced to fold. Putting 30% money in and be forced to fold is a pretty bad situation preflop.  

Forcing things to about 18% creates really good leverage and it reduces one of your opponent’s strategic options and when you understand preflop poker at a deep level you understand that having more strategic options where our opponents and us can construct value and bluffing range is a very favorable situation. By going for this 18%, we leverage and reduce one of his strategic options and therefore it increases the EV of our overall game tree.

2. Call/raise button total of what your opponent’s RFI % is 

We’re strictly talking about our play on the button. If we’re on the button and someone has RFI - no other callers before us or after the guy has raised. For example we’re on button and opponent is on cutoff, there’re no opponents between us. How we want to construct our range here is that we want to Voluntarily Put Money in Pot (VPIP) – call or 3-bet here with approximately an equal range size as our opponent. If our opponent is playing top 20% of hands in this spot, we can also play about top 20% of hands. He might be constructing his range differently from us. Also, we are IP so we have a bit more incentive to play suited hands as they would realise a lot more equity – we don’t need to play too many 2-big-card hands. If you’re playing online and you have hold’em manager/pokertracker you can very easily see how wide he’s playing. You can even play slightly wider than your opponent’s range, but this is a pretty good rule of thumb to play around your opponent’s range.  

Example – if cutoff is raising 30% of hands and we’re on button, now we want to play 30% of hands. Within the 30% of hands we play, we want to split between raising and calling. So, we use a 3-bet or call strategy. You’ll see later in another rule of thumb, which is to 3-bet 1/3 of what our opponent’s raise range is. If we’re 3-betting 1/3 of that, that’ll be 10%. We want to call about 20% of hands. We usually do this in a polarized fashion/mixed kind of range. How this changes when you are not the button is that if you’re on the cutoff and the hi-jack raises, let’s say he raises 15% of his range and you’re on the cutoff. On the button, you’ll play 15% of hands but when you’re on the cutoff, you have more players to act behind you, specifically the button. What we would do here is to tighten up a little bit. Every position that you go away from the button, you’ll just play slightly tighter in terms of how wide you defend or VPIP.

3. 3-bet 1/3 of your opponent’s RFI% 

Pretty close to previous rule of thumb – defending equal % to what our opponent’s range is. This requires you to understand a lot of what is top 15%/20%/30% of hand ranges are. We have to start being very aware of these things. This is a more general rule of thumb, not specific to the button, it is relatively aggressive strategy. If you don’t play such an aggressive strategy, you might struggle a bit for a start.  

If we have a Holdem manager/Poker Tracker, we can actually see how wide our opponent is playing. If we don’t, we can make assumptions based on our own gut feeling from playing against him. Of course, we try to look at showdowns as well and we see – for example if he shows a hand like JTo/QTo, he’s playing roughly about 20% of hands as it falls in the top 20%. If he shows up with 78o, he’s playing pretty loose – 40-50% of hands. That’s how we make assumptions on how wide our opponents are playing.  

When we see our opponents playing that wide, we 3-bet him 1/3 as much as the range he uses. If he’s playing 30%, we 3-bet him 10%. This can apply to all positions, whether on cutoff/button/SB/BB. The catch is that if there’re callers in between, we want to tighten up our range slightly because if we’re still squeezing with this wide of a range, it allows the people in the middle to call/trap us a lot and we don’t want to give people too big of an incentive to call/trap us much.

4. When polarized, used 1:1 Bluff:Value range 

First example, cutoff raises, we’re on button, and we want to 3-bet him. He raises 30% so we want to 3-bet him with 10%. How we would want to split our 30% range we’re going to defend with is to 3-bet 10% and call 20%. Within the 10% of hands we’re 3-betting, we want a 1:1 bluff:value ratio. What it’ll roughly look like is that assuming we’re playing a strictly polarized range, we’re going to 3-bet the top 5% and bottom 5% of hands. *See illustration in video at 11:05* 

0-5th percentile of hands: 3-bet 

6th-25th percentile of hands: Call 

26th-30th percentile of hands: 3-bet  

Another example is when we’re on the BB and 1 player has raised, it is folded around to us, we usually want to use a polarized range here. Because we get a discount when we call, we can call with the middle part of our range. Then, we take the top and bottom of our range at 1:1 value:bluff to 3-bet. This is quite an aggressive strategy, I highly recommend for you to try that. It will be win-rate changing especially if you start using solvers/simulators to understand how to play post flop after you have this kind of polarized range. It is quite fun to play big pots when you have a polarized range as it allows you to polarize a lot on later streets. 

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