Preflop four and five bet bluffs are one of the most exciting aspects of no limit hold'em. They keep the televised poker viewers and online cash game railbirds alike on the edge of their seats. Aggressive preflop actions remind us how fascinating and volatile of a game no limit hold'em actually is.
4bet/5bet Game and Micro Stakes
First things first. Before we touch on the theory of 4bet and 5bet bluffs it's important to point out that this part of the strategy isn't very important when playing micro stakes. There's one big reason for that.
Since the general population of micro stakes players still consists mostly of loose-passive recreationals and tight/nitty regs the default ranges for 4bets, 5bets, and even 3bets are relatively strong and therefore don't leave much room for the bluffing game. If someone only 4bets you with the value range that he/she intends to stack off with there's no point in ever bluff 5betting him.
Basic 4bet and 5bet Math
Let's start with some basic math. We'll make our way from some standard preflop situations all the way to the 5bets to see what our baseline should be when it comes to 4bets and 5bets.
Assuming 3bb open raise preflop you need to win the blinds (1,5bb) 67% of the time to show a profit and therefore blinds must defend the combined total of at least 33% of the hands to prevent you from doing so.
If you 3bet a 3bb open raise to 9bb you also need to win 67% of the time to automatically show a profit ([risk/risk + reward] 9bb / 9bb + 4,5bb = 0.67) and therefore open raiser must defend at least 33% of the hands to prevent you from doing so.
Now for the fun part. If we assume somewhat arbitrary (but also close to the standard) 4bet sizing of 19.5bb using the same equation as above we can figure out that we need to win around 59-60% of hands to show the instant profit.
5bet all-in in a 100bb deep situation (remembering all of our previous assumptions - preflop 3bet to around 9bb leaves around 91bb in the stack for a 5bet) has to work around 73% for instant profit so the 4bettor has to defend with 27%.
This is our baseline when it comes to preflop odds, but it doesn't mean that every NL10 player should be hard at work figuring out which 27% of his/her 3bet range should he defend against fellow opponents because in reality NL10 regulars won't try to relentlessly 5bet you with enormous ranges for the sake of auto profit.
Common Bluff 4bet and 5bet Opportunities
Let's talk a bit about cold 4bet bluffs which actually have the potential of adding to the micro stakes player's win rate when used sparingly. We mentioned before that average 4bet and 5bet ranges at micros aren't very wide but this doesn't necessarily ring true in the same way for 3betting ranges.
Sure you'll find many micro stakes nits that you shouldn't mess with once you see them making an aggressive preflop action, but at the same time, the more competent regulars start to experiment with wider 3betting ranges (used most often as a value heavy isolation play or bluff heavy squeeze play).
When you see a regular with higher than average 3bet frequency (>7% is a good rule of thumb) isolating a recreational player with a 3bet and you happen to hold a good set of blockers that you can't call with like a suited Ace or KQ it might be a good idea to turn some of those combos into cold 4bet bluffs to balance out your value 4betting range. Keep in mind that I only mentioned suited Ax blocker, because including offsuit combos into your bluff 4bet range can very quickly make it way too loose.
Using 5bet bluffs at micro stakes is rarely useful except for including it as a tiny part of your blind defense strategy.3betting a wide range from the blinds is very common these days. You might even elect not to passively defend any hands from the small blind and instead, 3bet every combination you wish to defend with. In that case responding only with value 5bets every time a button or cut-off stealer decides to 4bet you might be insufficient.
As we already pointed out going nuts with the 4bet and 5but bluffs at the micro stakes can be very risky, very costly and is often simply not necessary. Different poker limits allow for different 'mistake thresholds' for winning players. That 'mistake threshold' at NL2 is so big that you can completely ignore bluff 4bet/5bet game and still achieve a massive win rate by mastering simpler and more common aspects of the game like thin value bets etc.
Once we move up in limits and the edges become smaller and smaller it might be a good idea to spend a bit more time considering different 4bet and 5bet ranges. Tools like Flopzilla, PokerSnowie, and Piosolver along with a periodic database analysis (allowing you to see how your assumptions work in practice) are perfect for the task.
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