There’s a reason we raise preflop and try to get pots heads-up. It’s because multi-way pots–i.e. pots in which you face more than one opponent–are so complex.
The more players you’re facing, the more aspects you need to consider. What’s their position at the table? What’s their stack size? How does the board interact with their ranges? etc.
This time, BBZ is back and looking at how to tackle dry flops in three-way pots. Let’s get to work.
The hand begins with BBZ opening in the cutoff and getting called by both the small blind and the big blind. All players have roughly 50 big blinds. First, let’s look at what BBZ’s opening range looks like:
There’s nothing super surprising here. You’ll notice that almost suited hands with a high card open as well as all pocket pairs. Ace-five off is also a pure open.
Next, let’s look at the small blind’s calling range against a cutoff RFI:
As the small blind just called, we’re only looking at the green sections of the range. Again, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here, with all pairs and hands that flop well–such as suited aces and kings–are mostly calling.
Finally, let’s look at the big blind’s defending range (this is purely vs the cutoff RFI and doesn’t factor in that the small blind has called):
As you can see, it’s a very wide range. The flop then comes:
K ♦ 9 ♥ 2 ♣
It’s a very dry board with no flush draws available. BBZ is the only player who can have the nuts at the stage (a set of kings) as the other players should have raised this hand preflop.
Both the blinds are checking almost their entire range, so it’s over to BBZ who is in position.
On this flop, we have a 66% c-bet and a 33% check, according to BBZ. Let’s say we have the Q ♣ 9 ♣ . “This hand is checked 20%, bet small 55%, and bet to a 60-70% sizing 25% of the time,” says BBZ. “C-betting at a high frequency is the play in terms of your range.”
There are some pure checks though, as pocket fives through pocket eights are checking always, but hands like flopping middle pair (a pair of nines) is not a high-frequency check.
“I think a lot of people miscategorize this hand class,” he continues. “They think 9x is a super high-frequency check, but that’s just not true. I think most players just check way too much in these spots.”
It turns out pocket nines is pure betting this flop, as are pocket deuces and K 9 (top two pair), while pocket kings (the nuts) is mostly betting, leaving our checking range fairly capped.
Why is our checking range capped? According to BBZ, it’s due to the fact we’re 40 big blinds deep. “At these stack depths, I think it makes sense to check more capped ranges because you can call with capped ranges when you’re this shallow. I think it matters because, in multi-way pots, the SPRs (stack-to-pot ratios) are narrower because of the third caller.”
Moreover, our opponents have a harder time punishing us for having a capped range, because they still have the third player in the hand to worry about whose range is completely uncapped. “If the small blind tries to come out swinging, the big blind is still uncapped, which is a problem,” says BBZ.
When it checks to BBZ and he bets, he’s opting for a smallish sizing almost always. That’s what he did in the actual hand, so now let’s look at how the small blind can respond to the c-bet.
BBZ points out that the small blind is raising with KQs, mostly raising with pocket deuces, and mixing with 97s.
“One thing that has been eye-opening for me is that we’re not pure folding pocket pairs below the middle card,” says BBZ. You’ll notice in the chart that pocket fours through pocket sevens do some calling, while pocket eights almost always calls.
“This hand class [pocket eights] is stubborn in these ranges,” he says. “Across a bunch of sims, the pocket pair just below the middle flop card is very rarely folded. If you’re always folding pocket fours through pocket eights on this flop, you’re probably folding too much on the flop.”
TIP: Check out 3 reasons you’re folding too much on flops.
How then should the big blind’s range react to a c-bet on this dry flop?
“The big blind is using a pretty high squeeze to flat ratio,” says BBZ. “Obviously you’re in the big blind so you’re still doing a lot of calling, but the squeeze ratio is really high. We’re seeing calling at 25% and squeezing at 12%, so that’s half of your continuing strategy.”
You’ll notice the big blind is squeezing with its 2x-suited combos, which is quite surprising to BBZ. “I wouldn’t have done this,” he says. “In fact, no pairs are folding at all. Even after a c-bet and a call, we’re supposed to pure VPIP all 2x and 9x with a 0% fold.”
Interesting on this flop, BBZ is happier to put money in the pot with 2x than 9x. This is because it’s less likely another player has a deuce, therefore if he improves on the turn–say to two pair or trips–it’s highly likely you’ll now have the best hand, whereas 9x is dominated a lot.
If the big blind does elect to squeeze to 6 big blinds, what does BBZ’s cutoff counter strategy now look like?
“I re-squeeze A2s, of course. I would never have done anything else” BBZ says, with his tongue firmly in cheek. Turns out the counter strategy is very “clicky”, as BBZ describes it, with hands like A2s and K3s often raising to 12.5 big blinds.
Poker sure can be a tricky game, even when the flop seems relatively simple and dry. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into how to approach these flops multi-way in the future.