Understanding Defence in 3-Bet Pots – Big-Blind vs Hijack

100bb 6-max.

Hero is dealt AhJh
Folds to HJ/Hero, who opens to 2bb.
CO folds.
BU folds.
SB folds.
BB/Villain 3-bets to 11bb.
HJ calls.

Flop (22.5bb) Js7d3c
BB bets 11.25bb.
HJ calls.

Turn (45bb) Tc
BB bets 22.5bb.
HJ calls.

River (90bb) Ks
BB bets all-in 55.25bb.
HJ folds.

In today’s poker strategy session, we’re dissecting a fascinating 3bet pot scenario that unfolded between the big blind and the hijack. We’ll start by breaking down the preflop decisions, then dive into the postflop drama with insights from our GTO (Game Theory Optimal) solver.

Here’s the deal: Our protagonist, holding the Ace-Jack of hearts, makes an opening bet of two big blinds. Action folds around to the big blind, our antagonist, who escalates the stakes with a 3bet to 11 big blinds.

Our hero accepts the challenge, calling the 3bet. The plot thickens as the flop reveals a Jack of Spades, Seven of Diamonds, and Three of Clubs, granting our hero top pair with the best possible kicker. The big blind, seizing the initiative, bets half the pot. Without hesitation, our hero calls, eager to see the next chapter.

The turn card, the Ten of Clubs, introduces a new layer of intrigue, unveiling potential flush and straight draws, including a completed 9-8 straight. Unfazed, the big blind continues the narrative with another half-pot wager.

Our hero stays the course, calling again, leading us to a riveting river card—the King of Spades. The big blind goes all-in, pushing about 60 percent of the pot. After a moment of tension, our hero decides to fold, closing this hand’s chapter but leaving us with much to analyze.

Stay tuned as we delve into the strategic intricacies of this play, from preflop considerations to the final fold, applying GTO principles to understand the moves and counter-moves of this poker duel.

Let’s dive into the mechanics of the preflop action and examine the strategic decisions made by the players.

The hijack kicks things off by opening approximately 23% of hands, typically with a raise to 2 or 2.25 big blinds. Following this, the cutoff engages around 11.5% of the time, with subsequent positions reacting accordingly: the button gets involved slightly over 15% of the time, and the small blind around 13.5%. When action folds to the big blind, they seize the opportunity to establish a robust 3bet range, commonly selecting hands such as Queens through Aces, Ace-King, and Ace-Queen suited for their value propositions, alongside a variety of bluffs and semi-bluffs. Their bluffing arsenal includes suited connectors, aces, and kings, like King-7 suited and King-6 suited, as well as a few suited queens (Queen-8 suited) and offsuit broadway cards (Ace-Queen offsuit, King-Queen offsuit, Queen-Jack offsuit). Interestingly, Pocket Jacks hover in a gray area between 3betting for value and calling.

On the topic of bet sizing, the hijack shows flexibility, employing a range between 10 and 14 big blinds, with Ace Queen suited typically avoiding the upper end of this spectrum, contrasting with Ace King offsuit’s preference for larger bets. This leads to a bifurcation in the 3bet strategy, where bets closer to 11 big blinds often involve Ace Queen suited, while larger sizes around 13.25 to 14.38 big blinds favor Ace King offsuit. The logic here hinges on the different strategic goals: Ace Queen suited benefits from the additional playability offered by a slightly smaller pot, whereas Ace King offsuit leverages its strength in shallower pots.

As we consider the response to the 3bet, the hijack defends with a wide array of hands, especially pocket pairs below Jacks, which are somewhat ambivalent in this context. Notably, Pocket Jacks are generally called, aligning with the big blind’s value range. This selection includes strong suited broadways like Ace Queen suited down to Ace Ten suited and King Queen suited to King Ten suited, as well as Ace King offsuit. Pocket Queens stand out as a hand that typically avoids 4betting due to its position at the lower end of the 3bet value range.

The hijack’s 4bet range is selective, comprising Pocket Kings, Aces, Ace King suited for value, and incorporating semi-bluffs like Ace King offsuit and complete bluffs such as Ace Queen offsuit and suited wheel aces. The sizing for a 4bet ranges from a minimum to about 25 big blinds, occasionally including even smaller bets as bluffs.

This comprehensive look at the preflop dynamics showcases a deep strategic engagement, particularly highlighting the significance of suited broadways in the hijack’s calling range, which effectively counter the bluffs from the big blind while blocking key value hands.

Transitioning to the flop analysis, the cards reveal a Jack of Spades, Seven of Diamonds, and Three of Clubs. This setup gives the big blind a wide range of hands to consider checking with, as their overall equity is estimated at 47.5%. This suggests a slight range advantage for the hijack. Despite this, the big blind holds a strategic upper hand with overpairs, creating a scenario of significant polarity in their favor. A visual comparison of the ranges—big blind in blue, hijack in green—highlights this disparity, with the big blind’s overpairs offering a stark contrast to the hijack’s assortment of hands.

The big blind’s edge is most notable with overpairs (Queens through Aces), whereas the hijack’s notable holdings include pocket Queens, sets (Jacks, Sevens, Threes), and a higher frequency of top pairs with robust kickers, such as Ace-Jack suited and King-Jack suited. This diversity in the hijack’s range, including numerous Ace-Highs like Ace-Queen suited and Ace-Ten suited, contrasts with the big blind’s range, filled with unmade high cards that missed the board.

On this flop, the big blind opts for a polarized betting strategy, alternating between half-pot and three-quarters of the pot bets. This approach leverages their overpairs and top pairs for value, alongside a mix of Ace-Highs and other high cards as bluffs. Notably, suited connectors like 6-5 and 5-4 serve as potential gutshots, adding depth to the bluffing range.

Facing a half-pot bet from the big blind, the hijack responds predominantly by calling, employing a high-frequency defense strategy. Exceptions include a selective raise with pocket Queens, aiming to capitalize on equity denial opportunities. However, the core of the hijack’s response lies in calling, trapping with sets, and supporting top pair hands, which are called almost universally, including the Hero’s Ace-Jack of Hearts. Additional calls come from hands with backdoor potentials and overcards, like Ace-King, Ace-Queen suited, and King-Queen suited, which navigate the flop texture adeptly.

Mid-range pocket pairs (Tens through Eights) and lower (Sixes through Twos) show a mixed response, with the former group often finding themselves in a neutral position against the big blind’s bet and the latter tending towards folding. Weak Ace-High hands, notably Ace-Queen offsuit through Ace-Eight, typically exit the hand at this stage, underlining their vulnerability in this context. This strategic interplay underlines the nuanced decision-making process on the flop, shaped by both players’ ranges and the emerging board texture.

Following a call, the turn reveals the Ten of Clubs, adding complexity to the hand. The big blind, while maintaining a polarized range, now faces an equity disadvantage. This card doesn’t significantly improve the bluffs initiated on the previous street, leaving the big blind’s range largely ineffective against the hijack’s calling range. The Ten of Clubs introduces potential for straights, notably with 9-8, and for two pairs, like Jack-Ten, yet it largely bypasses the big blind’s bluffing hands. Consequently, the big blind is likely to check, aiming to shield their vulnerable bluffs and leverage their strong hands defensively.

In scenarios where the big blind opts for a check, expecting to capitalize on check-raises as a strategic maneuver to discourage over-aggressive bets from the hijack, the dynamics shift. The hijack, anticipating such checks, may choose to bet roughly 58% of the time, often opting for smaller bets, such as a quarter to half of the pot, prepared for the possibility of facing a check-raise.

Conversely, when the big blind decides to assert control, they construct a betting range that gravitates towards half-pot and three-quarter pot bets, with a renewed focus on overpairs and a selection of bluffs. The addition of the flush draw, courtesy of the Ten and Three of Clubs, introduces high-equity bluff opportunities into the mix. The hijack’s strategy against these bets involves pushing all-in with their strongest hands, like sets or robust top pairs, aiming to cut through the array of possible straights and flush draws now in play, expecting quick calls from overpairs.

This aggressive move by the hijack not only aims to deny equity from the big blind’s potential draws but also sets a trap, albeit infrequently, looking to maximize value or induce a fold before the river, regardless of its outcome.

Within this intricate turn play, the hijack’s top pair holdings assume a critical role, consistently calling against the big blind’s half-pot aggression. This reflects a strategic depth where the hijack leverages top pair for value, navigating the turn’s nuanced tactical landscape with an eye towards maximizing potential gains or minimizing losses as the hand progresses to the river.

The river brings the King of Spades, a pivotal card that significantly shifts the dynamics in favor of the big blind by completing the Ace-Queen straight and introducing new top pairs with Ace-King into their range.

This King of Spades is a game-changer, enhancing the big blind’s equity to approximately 65%. It adds both a straight and a high-value top pair to their arsenal, starkly contrasting with the hijack’s range, which lacks such depth in high-frequency top pairs or straights. The big blind meticulously crafts their betting strategy around the strength of pocket Aces and Ace-Queen for value bets, while cleverly selecting hands like 10-9 for strategic bluffs. These bluffs are designed to fold out strong hands by blocking key components of the hijack’s range, such as potential straights with Ace-Queen and top pairs with Ace-King.

For hands like Ace-King, which now possess top pair top kicker, the big blind might opt for a smaller, more cautious quarter-pot bet, aiming to navigate the complexities of the river’s betting landscape. This move sets a delicate balance, making the decision to call or fold against aggressive plays somewhat ambiguous.

Should the big blind choose to check, the onus shifts to the hijack to take aggressive action, potentially pushing all-in to capitalize on the remaining pot. This scenario expects the hijack to bet with high frequency, leveraging strong holdings like top pair with Ace-King for value, expecting to be called by the big blind’s weaker top pairs.

The intricacies of this river play highlight the nuanced decision-making process, where the big blind’s strategic bluffs and value bets aim to navigate the hijack’s responses. This hand exemplifies the delicate balance between aggression and caution, with each player’s actions deeply influenced by the river card’s impact on their perceived ranges.

Reflecting on the hand’s progression, it’s clear that the strategies employed were both sophisticated and indicative of a deep understanding of game theory and opponent psychology. Such a thorough analysis underscores the complexities of poker strategy, particularly in hands where the river dramatically transforms the game’s narrative. This exploration into the strategic depths of poker offers a wealth of insights, emphasizing the importance of adaptability, range understanding, and the psychological interplay between players. For enthusiasts keen on delving further into the intricacies of poker strategy, remember to subscribe for more insightful content and visit our website through the link in the description below.

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