Defending Against Frequent Blind Stealing in No-Limit Hold’em With Balanced 3-Betting

No-limit hold’em poker is a game that a lot of people know just enough about to get themselves in trouble with expert players. For example, a whole lot of players know that they should normally steal blinds a lot when it folds to them in late position. However, they don’t know how to act whenever they run into someone who doesn’t allow their frequent stealing. In what follows, we’re going to look at a good general approach to take against players who steal a lot to take advantage of their inability to adjust properly.

The following is going to assume that you are playing no-limit hold’em with stacks around 100 big blinds deep. We’re going to be looking at a situation where the initial raise will be to 3bb, you’ll be 3-betting to 11bb, your opponent will be 4-betting to 25bb and all 5-bets will be all-in. We will be wanting to construct a strategy that will be hard to adjust against and that will take advantage of someone who steals a lot without being able to adjust well against someone who 3-bets a lot. To protect against erratic 4-bets from an opponent who over-adjusts by 4-betting too much, we’ll also have a balanced range that is not vulnerable to an opponent who 4-bets a lot.

Suppose an opponent open raises on the button, the small blind folds and we are in the big blind. We’ll definitely be wanting to 3-bet a range of {AK, QQ+} for value against most opponents, so we’ll assume that will be all of the hands we are 3-betting for value. This is a total of 16 hand combinations for AK and 18 hand combinations for QQ+, so we’ll be 3-betting (and 5-betting) 34 starting hand combinations for value. To balance our 3-betting range and take advantage of someone who steals a lot, we’ll want to 3-bet as a bluff about twice as often as we’re 3-betting for value. This ratio of bluffs to value bets comes from the bet sizes involved, and though it won’t be perfectly balanced in terms of game theory, it will be pretty close..

Suited Aces are great hands for 3-bet bluffing because they hold an Ace blocker and hit a lot of flops, so let’s add in {ATs-A2s} for a total of 36 combinations. Let’s add in some suited broadways and one-gappers that we wouldn’t normally call with as well: KJs, KTs, QTs, J9s, T8s, 97s, 86s and 75s are another 32 combinations. This is a range that will be hard to read on a lot of flops if our opponent tries to just call our 3-bets in position, so we’ll be in decent shape if they resort to that strategy.

Now we have a balanced 3-betting range that will allow us to 3-bet between seven and eight percent of the time without being exploited. This is a base strategy that you can use as-is against players who steal a lot, regardless of how often they 4-bet. If you think that they will avoid 4-betting you as much, then you can throw in even more bluffs if you would like. People who want to keep a balanced range will like the fact that they can throw in JJ, TT or AQ into their value 3-betting range to make it even harder on their opponents to adjust.