If you have been playing no limit for a long period of time you probably noticed that the aggression level preflop even in smaller stakes games has increased exponentially over the past few years. This new style can be directly attributed to training sites that concentrated on teaching players how to beat six max no limit online. Some instructors got the preflop game down to a science.
They discovered that if you three-bet a preflop raiser who had a certain percentage of hands that he opened from from certain positions you would show an immediate profit. This was especially true when this raiser never called your three-bet but rather reraised or folded. This led to a bevy of three-bet, four-bet and even five-bet bluffing.
Well, the best way to attack this type of player was to three and four-bet with a polarized range—hands that you would go with facing a rearaise or hands that you would easily fold. There were also slightly weaker hands that people would commit with, hands that were strong and had blockers like AK, AQ and even AJ. Otherwise your three-betting range would include many more bluffs than value hands and an observant opponent could easily exploit you. These hands, especially AK, became almost a mandatory three-bet stack off in a six-max game.
Unfortunately, many players who were familiar with this online style of aggression thought that this directly translated to live games. They did not realize that people in full ring setting limp with a lot of speculative hands and open a stronger range that they would online. They also had difficulty adjusting to the fact that people would still call a lot of three-bets even from out of position with awkward stacks. The sheer fact of the matter is that if you hold AK or AQ, in many smaller stakes live games, you do not want dominated hands that players may open with – say AJ or KQ—to fold to your three-bet. By calling with big unpaired hands you disguise the strength of your hand and allow those inferior holdings to tag along. Players at the lower stakes have a lot of trouble folding top pair and by just calling you give them the opportunity to make big mistakes postflop. If you feel comfortable playing big pots after the flop I contend that it is a good play to just call with these large types of unpaired hands so that you can extract value form your opponent’s’ dominated hands later on.
With that being said if you do just flat with hands like AK or AQ you must be willing to continue on when you do not flop a pair. Say for example a mid-position player raises to $25 in a $5-$5 game with $1000 effective stacks. You decide to just call on the button with A♥ Q♦ and everyone else folds. The flop runs out 8♦ 2♠ 5♥ and the preflop aggressor bets $30. I would make the case here that more often then not, considering the pot odds, you should call. Not only do you have some equity against say TT or JJ, but also you have under represented your hand preflop that you may still have the best hand. Players at these stakes are often not capable of firing multiple barrels and you can easily do things post-flop that will allow you to go to showdown cheaply. Check out my podcast Deuce Plays Premium “Hands from a Cash Game Volume I and II’ for a further explanation of these concepts.