Low stakes poker strategy is actually pretty darn simple – I think the vast majority of players over complicate what should be a fairly simple recipe for success. The key is to first establish a solid bunch of fundamentals, and then learn to play exploitively.
Winning poker is difficult to define and everybody has a slightly different definition. Most players want to know how to play winning poker but don’t know how to get there. I’ve played the game for nearly a decade now (casually and more seriously) and there are some critical lessons I have learned along the way.
What are some simple winning poker strategies? A common goal of poker players is the idea of having an unexploitable range. This theory is sound, but sometimes its important to remember that it is ok to be exploitable. Just remember that if the Villain is not exploiting you then you are effectively unexploitable to them. We don’t want to pass up on opportunities to exploit our opponents just because doing so might make us exploitable against a skilled Villain.
Learning to implement expert 3bet tactics as part of your poker game is critical to your success. We all know we should pound on opponents with high fold to 3 bets with our junk hands, and pummel fish with big pocket pairs. But these player types are often generalized as ‘regular’ and ‘fish’ respectively and are not taken full advantage of. Some so-called ‘regs’ are borderline fish, and some high VPIP fish play fairly snug postflop, and aren’t just donating. 3 bets need to be completely tailored to every opponent and his overall tendencies, not just a basic fold to 3 bet number in your HUD.
Learning how to construct a proper 3 betting range is one of the most important skills an aspiring poker player can learn. We’ll take a look at the % of hands we should be 3 betting with as well as the types of hands that go into making up those ranges. I’ve previously posted about 3betting in poker as well so be sure to check out that post.
Before we delve further into detail I want to make available to you some of my other posts that discuss 3betting, 4betting, and 5 betting which are all important preflop concepts for players.
Below is a graph that shows you the different styles of play when it comes to 3 betting, I favor the LAG approach. However, far more important than the actual percentage of hand that you 3 bet is the types of hands that you use to create that range.
Polarized 3 Betting Range: When players are constructing a polarized 3 betting range this means they are 3 betting the top of their range and the bottom of their range. This is a strategy most commonly employed against other regulars. It can be especially effective against fit or fold regulars. The big advantage of this strategy is it allows us to “save” our relatively strong hands to call with and realize the equity of the weaker part of our range by creating fold equity. A polarized 3betting range of 11% might look something like this. As you can see we are not 3 betting hands like Aq, Aqs, Aj, Ajs, etc. Why? One of the big problems with these hands is they do not play well all-in preflop and 3betting them makes you vulnerable to aggressive 4 bettors. As a result it may be easier to achieve a greater expected value with these hands with calls rather than 3bets against regulars. In reality you will want to mix it up and there may be times that AQs is like the nuts. In particular I have found 3betting AQs to be quite effective in the bilnds because players will shove some very weak hands if you are an aggressive 3 bettor. Notice that I also included a couple of small pocket pairs in the 3 betting range. Note: these hands don’t play well in a passive manner because it is difficult to tell where you are with the inevitable 3 overcards. Realizing equity in a aggressive manner with these hands is generally the best policy.
Linear 3 Betting Range: A linear 3 betting range is simply one that is composed of the highest value hands. So, it will be heavy on the high cards. It is often a fairly good policy to 3 bet a linear range against maniacs or other weak opponents. Basically, you want to be 3 betting the top of your range to build the pot versus a weaker range and allow for the weak Villain to make huge postflop mistakes.
Against regulars who frequently call your 3 bets you will likely have to move more toward a linear 3 betting range and away from a polarized range. Why? One good reason is that it allows you to extract value from light calls of 3 bets with hands like QJ, Q10, KQ, etc. Unless you have some AJ and AQ type hands in your 3 betting range your opponent will be ok with these light calls. One of the first things you should think about when playing against another regular is how are they constructing their 4bet and calling of 3bet ranges. Preflop play is extremely important in NLHE and its importance should not be underestimated.
Value Only 3 Betting Range: A value only range will vary dramatically depending on the opponent. Versus other regulars this would be extremely tight and an ill advised way to 3bet. Ex. QQ+ and AK+ is only 2.56% of hands, and you probably don’t want to get it in much wider than that (especially if your numbers are this tight). 3 betting in this way is highly ill advised and means you are leaving a ton of money on the table. Your opponents will know exactly what you have every time that you 3 bet and it will be excruciatingly difficult to get paid off with your hands. Many live players fall victim to 3 betting only hands like this.
Keep in mind that a value only range will be much wider versus weaker opponents. This will vary wildly depending on the opponent that you are up against. Versus a maniac a value only range could exceed 10% of all hands. In some cases at higher stakes you will see players 3betting extremely thin for value in the 15-20% range. I
This could look like anything. If you took out the AA, AKs, Ako, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010 from the above hand range you could be looking at a bluff only 3 bet range. I don’t know that I have ever seen a player do this and it is highly ill advised. When you have strong hands in poker it is important to put pressure on your opponents and attempt to build the pot. The only time I use a bluff only range is against players that massively overfold to 3 bets. In these cases you probably want to save your stronger hands to play in postflop pots against them and just take advantage of their tightness with bluff 3bets.
Be sure to check out my book exploitive no limit holdem where I talk at length about these concepts and many more!
The 3 bet is one of the most important tactics in poker. Every poker player should understand the fundamental benefits of the 3bet. There are two important concepts to understand when it comes to 3 betting profitably. The first is fold equity and the second is showdown equity. When you combine the two they are incredibly powerful. This is one of the first lessons any NLHE poker player should learn.