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Playing big pairs preflop/3betting wider for image purposes

_Heisenberg Posts: 6Member
This is more of a general strategy/theory question than a specific hand problem.

As a bit of background, I am from the UK and have recently moved from online MTTs to live cash games (I enjoy live poker more and feel more comfortable deep stacked than short). The game I play in is £1/£2 NL £50-£400 buyins, which also happens to be the biggest game that runs regularly around here. For players of any level, if you want to play live cash without travelling to another city, these £1/£2 games are your only option - which means you get a broad spectrum of abilities playing on any given night. You have lots of recreational players of course, but there are at least a couple of pros who play there semi-regularly, as well as plenty of your typical younger online-types and reg-fish.

The main problem I've had so far is playing big pairs (AA, KK, QQ) preflop especially when faced with aggression. I play a nitty style in the main, and 3bet rarely without a premium hand. This is a widely-advocated strategy for live low stakes ring games on the basis that most people won't notice that you're not balanced. In my experience so far though, this doesn't seem to be the case - there are a decent number of 'aware' players (online players primarily) who can spot a nitty image, but sometimes I put in the 3bet and even some of the so-called fish will point out that I haven't reraised anyone in the 3 hours or whatever I've been there. An example was where an obvious recreational player (buying in short, splashing around, stationing down, drinking etc) opened in the hijack, I 3bet him from SB with KK and he flatted. Flop comes 9 high, and since he had less than a PSB left I just put him all in there and then. He thought for about 20 seconds and folded JJ face up 'because it was my first reraise in x hours'.

This has lead me to flatting big hands in spots where I would otherwise 3bet or cold 4bet, for fear of turning my hand face up (or even over-repping my hand with QQ). This has then resulted in me being unsure where I am in a hand, and incorrectly folding the best hand postflop a couple of times. My question is whether I should be playing a looser and more aggressive style. Not so much for pure balance since people probably aren't paying much attention to exacty what I'm showing down, but more for image purposes since most players good or bad seem to be able to spot when someone is playing very tight. My thoughts on changing my preflop game are:

1. 3betting some weaker 'value' hands IP like 77-TT, AQ, AJ, AT, KQ, KJ, QJ which I might flat normally or fold sometimes in the case of KJ/QJ/JT. Do I do this over a raise and multiple callers? Pots are liable to go multiway depending on opponents.

2. 3bet some bluffs, e.g suited connectors, suited aces. As above, is this wise in a multi-way raised pot?

3. Bumping it up in position over multiple limpers with the same range above, where currently I might just overlimp.

4. Opening a wider range in general from more positions, to create a generally 'looser' overall image.

Any thoughts? Generally I don't expect to have much fold equity postflop vs multiple opponents so I have previously shied away from 3betting light. It also feels a waste to turn a hand like 99 into a bluff and get 4bet off a potential setmine when villain has a monster. I don't see how else I can ensure my 3 and 4bets with premiums aren't totally face up though. Sorry for the tl;dr - got a little carried away here! Any other general pointers on preflop strategy for live low stakes cash are also welcome as I feel this is a definie weak area of mine.

Thanks in advance.


  • ThatOtherJeremy Posts: 314Member
    From reading this, it seems to me like most of your issues are centered around hand reading and playing off an opponents range. All you basically talk about in this post is your own range and perceived range. You're providing a pretty detailed scenario of how you are viewed by other players, from local pros to fish and everything in between. If you're observant enough to pick up this, why aren't you making the individual adjustments that each style of player necessitates? They certainly seem to be adjusting to you...

    1) Randomly raising your preflop 3bet frequency is probably one of the WORST things you can do. Who cares about your image shifting towards less nitty when you will end up on a flop without a clear plan on how to maximize value? We 3bet for value, we 3bet for strategic purposes. We 3bet as we recognize the inherent power of our position and the potential to exploit that power for more value.

    2) Theres no real answer to this question because every hand plays out in a different way. Its the net of all actions (and inactions) in a hand weighed against the board, our likely holdings, and other intangibles that allow us to identify premium spots for betting as a bluff. Its wise to start recognizing these spots with greater frequency if you are adding bluffs to your range

    3) I don't know what % of hands you are actually playing, or what your derived stats like VPIP figure to be. Raising with position is a player dependent situation, but if you would already describe yourself as overlimping a large range of hands, you probably need to be open raising/3 betting or folding a lot of these hands

    4) See #3. You need to be able to recognize the spots and players that such moves are profitable. Again, shifting your image means NOTHING if you are going to be a losing or break-even player.

    Overall it just seems like so much of your insecurities would be resolved by working on hand reading. Seems you are having trouble executing movesets that are tailored to an opponents range instead of your specific holdings. You shouldn't have to do a ton of image shifting at this level...just adapt your play to be more mindful of keeping your opponent in the hand when you have the best of it ...
  • _Heisenberg Posts: 6Member
    The reason I'm providing a detailed scenario of how I am viewed is because I posted this topic about concerns relating to my image. I haven't mentioned postflop handreading because everything in the post was related to preflop play. I'm not sure exactly where I implied that I was a poor postflop handreader (nor am I saying that I'm a good one either! - but rightly or wrongly this is the area that I feel most comfotable with).

    I think I've possibly worded my post wrong. Generally speaking, there are at least SOME fish at the table the majority of the time, therefore as an overall adjustment I play a tighter range when opening/calling/3betting as a whole - which seems to be the correct approach in the vast majority of low-limit live games. The nature of my question is "the general preflop strategy I employ at an average 1/2 is to play tight and this seems to work overall BUT it leaves me playing a little face up when I do 3bet because I'm only doing it with premiums and the table picks up on this". I'm most certainly NOT overlimping a 'large' range (frequently I'm the tightest player at the table) - what I meant by this is that sometimes, instead of making what I would consider a 'standard' overlimp with for example 98ss or A4ss on the BTN I could bump it up, take the lead and try to narrow the field - which would have the advantage of giving me a more active image.

    I am not a confident preflop player as without community cards it feels like a guessing game to me - so little information. When deciding between 3betting or flatting, I always try to decide what benefits each action will provide - and with anything but premiums I end up coming to the same conclusion: "if I 3bet, I fold out lots of worse hands, get called by better ones, and may get 4bet out of the pot by a hand I have decent equity or implied odds against - therefore I flat". Which is fine, but it then (combined with my already tight opening/calling image) makes it extremely obvious when I do 3bet that it's with a very strong hand. All the material I have seen/read online or seen in videos says that for the most part this imbalance doesn't matter because people won't notice - however in my experience this isn't necessarily true. So this being the case, should I then widen my 3betting range in order avoid being so obviously exploitable?

    I'm not sure if that makes sense or not. It's 6:30am here and I've been awake for almost 24 hours now so I may not be articulating my views very well. Hand reading is the one facet of the game I work on the most by far, but I struggle to see how that in any way relates to my ability (or lack of) to make preflop decisions.

    Thanks for the reply!
  • ThatOtherJeremy Posts: 314Member
    *If you are perceived as extremely tight, where players are usually folding to your 3bets, why are you so worried about being 4-bet off your weaker holdings?

    *If, in your player pool, you feel like your imbalance IS being picked up on by players, than you are compelled to change it, regardless of what you are hearing elsewhere. So, yes, you need to open up your game, but you cant do that properly or profitably if you don't attempt to range the field when you are considering being more active.

    *When I talk about handreading, I am talking about PRE and POST flop. Yes, information is at its most incomplete before the flop. That's why we factor player image, relative position, stack size, skill level of upfront players, etc...so that we can assign a range to them preflop. Isn't that exactly what your opponents are doing when they make the decision to fold to your 3bets? Are they not utilizing at least some of those factors to assign a range to you that they feel they are not ahead of enough to warrant a call? By extension, shouldn't you also be able to weigh all of these factors accordingly to determine spots where it is possible to make plays based on an opponents perceived range? Ranging is a subset of handreading, and it in EVERY way relates to your ability to make correct decisions preflop

    *Its pretty clear you need to open your PreF range up. What I was trying to say is that there is no cookie cutter guideline for doing that, because you have all of the above considerations to deal with. If you go in with a mindset of "Im raising here because its my button", or "Im 3 betting 56 UTG+1", you are going to succeed in your short term goal of shifting your table image, but fail at your long term goal of positive expected value
  • electricsheep Posts: 169Subscriber
    _Heisenberg said
    I am not a confident preflop player as without community cards it feels like a guessing game to me - so little information. When deciding between 3betting or flatting, I always try to decide what benefits each action will provide - and with anything but premiums I end up coming to the same conclusion: "if I 3bet, I fold out lots of worse hands, get called by better ones, and may get 4bet out of the pot by a hand I have decent equity or implied odds against - therefore I flat".
    I also believe you need to open up your range. But "being seen as active" so that we can be looked up by "worse hands" is not the optimal reason to do so. A couple of reasons why we would want to open our range is to exploit our perceived image & to exploit our opponents' range (probably more true than the former).

    I also don't agree with the thinking of: "I am folding the worse hands and getting called by better" (PREFLOP). This is like something we think about when considering to bet for thin value.

    There are so much more we can think about preflop such as dissecting an opponent's 3-bet calling range, post flop calling ranges in 3-bet pots, etc.

    As a general example, some villains will call 3 bets with a relatively wide range but only call with an extremely narrow range on the flop - so we exploit that by bluffing preflop. Or some people open so wide that we can consider 3 betting for value with hands that we would otherwise just flat with. Again these are just generalizations but thinking about situations this way is probably more optimal.
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