In No Limit Hold'em premium hands like pocket Aces or Ace-King don't come around that often so it is crucial that we get the maximum value from them when they do. It's obvious that the initial step with strong poker hands is to raise before the flop, but things get a lot more interesting – and exciting – when another player puts in a three-bet. Now the action is back on you, and in most cases you are going to want to raise the stakes again by putting in a four-bet. While four-betting is a simple move in theory, many players make errors at this stage by either choosing the wrong starting hands or by messing up their bet sizing. Stay with us as we explore the key decisions you need to perfect before you become a Texas Hold'em poker four-betting expert!
When considering a four-bet for value the first thing to think about is the hand that you hold. There are generally two groups of hands to consider. The first includes AA, KK, QQ and AK – the strongest hands that you can be dealt. In almost all circumstances you should definitely be willing and excited to re-open the action with a four-bet when holding these hands. Your intention is to get all the chips in pre-flop as these hands are so strong they will be ahead of the range of hands your opponent might hold.
The second group is those good-but-not-great hands such as JJ, TT, 99 and AQ. Your strategy with these hands must be dependent on the situation and your opponent/s. If you're playing in a very aggressive poker game with lots of re-raising and bluffing then these hands are sufficiently strong to four-bet with for value. However, if the game has been quite tight and straightforward it makes more sense just to call a three-bet, see the flop and proceed from there. Always be willing to adjust your four-betting strategy and try not to play in a robotic manner – it could get you into trouble!
Once you have decided you want to put in a four-bet the next question is how much should you raise? In a tournament, you will sometimes be playing a 20-30 big blind (BBs) stack where the only raise size option available is just to shove all-in. But the more interesting situations occur when you are playing much deeper in a tournament or cash game.
Anytime you have more than 40BBs you should not be four-bet shoving your strongest hands, but instead making a smaller raise for a number of reasons. For example, let's say you are playing a 100BB stack; you raise pocket Aces to 3BBs and your opponent three-bets to 10BBs. Shoving here would be a terrible mistake because you would only possibly be called by a hand as strong as Kings, which it's unlikely your opponent holds. You would miss out on a ton of value. Instead, you should make a four-bet to an amount like 23BBs. By doing this you allow your opponent to make a major error that could benefit you. They are getting decent odds to now call with dominated hands, could think that you could have a weak hand and shove all-in as a bluff or or they may even shove a strong hand like pocket Queens in the false belief that it's ahead. These are all great results for us!
By keeping our four-bet sizing smaller we give our opponent the rope to hang himself, either by bluffing or getting carried away with a weaker hand. If instead we just shoved we are now completely relying on a cooler situation – such as pocket Aces versus pocket Kings – which do not come around very often.
Much of the money you win or lose in No Limit Hold'em poker will depend on how you play your strongest hands. Make sure that you are giving yourself the best chance of success by perfecting your pre-flop four-betting game first. For more winning poker strategy tips, create your FREE PokerStars account now and join our school. If you're already a school member, why not make a deposit and try this strategy at the tables?
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