I think most players I coach and play against typically call three-bets wider than they should, especially when OOP. I even read a PLO e-book recently that said that when first starting out, you should call three-bets with whatever hands you’re comfortable with. So if I open K♥K♣7♠3♦ on the BTN, does that mean I should just call because I’m “comfortable” with it? I don’t know about you, but just because I’m comfortable with a decision I make at the tables doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily correct. So let’s talk what to look for when calling a three-bet.
First, just like everything else in poker, each line we take is heavily dependent on the tendencies of our opponents. Avoid assigning someone a loose three-betting range unless you’ve seen them do it a lot. Make them prove it, because it’s probably tighter than you think. An easy way to figure out what someone’s three-betting range is like is to simply pay attention when a hand gets to showdown.
Next, stack sizes play a key role in calling three-bets. For example, when in position, you can call more three-bets as the stacks get deeper. This is because you don’t have to rely on flopping something strong to turn a profit, since you’ll be able to use the positional advantage to value-bet thinly and take away pots. On the other hand, as stacks get shallower, there is less room for creativity, and it mainly becomes a question of what your equity is against stack-off ranges, which is why many high stakes pros think that playing cap PLO is boring.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, whether you are IP or OOP has a dramatic effect on how profitably you can call a three-bet. Your three-bet calling range needs to be much tighter OOP than in position. The difficult part about calling three-bets OOP is that in theory, it could be correct. After all, the equities are closer together in PLO, and if we flop a piece we should stack off because of all the things we’ve talked about so far, right?
Wrong. This is exactly the problem. Most people call three-bets OOP according to the immediate odds being laid. However, they’re ignoring the post-flop situation being created. I’m certain this is true because if they were, they’d realize that calling three-bets too wide OOP results in too much post-flop check-folding, and unnecessarily exposing yourself to marginal situations.
Folding Versus Three-bets
There are basically three categories of hands to avoid calling three-bets with. The first are single-paired hands. Previous chapters highlighted how the best hands in three-bet pots are those with smooth equity distributions, and how pairs decrease hand smoothness. Calling a three-bet OOP with these hands is a nightmare, because they possess little post-flop playability, so more often than not you’ll simply bleed money by check-folding whiffed flops.
Second, the moderately connected Ace-high hands do poorly against typical three-bet ranges. Most three-betting ranges are heavily weighted towards A*** hands, which means Ace-high boards present serious domination danger against a better pair of Aces. Also, if we have a hand like A♣8♥7♠5♣ on a board like A♦5♠2♥, an opponent with an Ace and live side cards, along with some backdoor equity can have close to 40% equity against us.
Moreover, holding an Ace reduces the likelihood of an Ace flopping in the first place. On many other flops where we flop equity like a pair and sidecards, our Ace will sometimes not be an out for us. More simply, the Ace in our hand is basically a dangler. Calling a three-bet will be a losing play because we’ll often be forced to fold to c-bets or find ourselves dominated.
The third type of hands to avoid calling three-bets with is the low, single-suited and rainbow hands like 9♥6♣5♥4♠ and J♥T♠9♣6♦. Although these hands have a smoother equity distribution than paired hands, they still don’t fare well in three-bet pots because they flop draws that are dominated too often. In games where opponents only three-bet Aces and go broke on every flop, then it’s profitable to call with almost any four unpaired cards. Unfortunately most players aren’t that easy to beat, so against reasonable three-betting ranges, these hands will be getting the worst of it against a variety of stack-off ranges, and are therefore difficult to play profitably, particularly when OOP.[mashshare]