How To Play Top Pair In 3Bet Pots

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Clatterpinch prefaces this hand by saying: “I have a question about a hand I played the other day at full ring 25 No Limit on Bovada. I feel like I played this hand fine, but was wondering if there was any improvement to be had.”

In this hand there is an open-raise from EP2 and he is a 67/0 over 6 hands. Hero obviously decides to isolate and I love the fact that we’re doing that, just wish the size were a bit bigger and probably go to something like a 1.25, 1.50, totally for value here. We end up facing a small 3Bet from the cutoff, who is a 21/9 with a 3Bet of 8% over 115 hands and it folds to EP2, who decides to call. The main points here are choosing the best line when facing a 3bet and then playing postflop well.

Some people may get here, they’re going to look at the cutoff 3Bet percentage of 8% and they’re going to say, “Well, he’s obviously 3Betting a non-nitty range, so I’m just going to come over the top and 4Bet,” or “I’m definitely giving action,” or whatever it is.

I just want to point out real quick that that 8% 3Bet is likely just a single 3Bet over that sample size, so it’s probably not a situation where he has an 8% 3Bet range when he 3Bets here. In fact, I would say that that’s probably very liberal of a thought process. He is running 21 VPIP it’s a pretty big gap in the VPIP/PFR, which means, I assume, a decent amount of passivity. A single 3Bet over 115 hands doesn’t seem like a lot to me, so because of that, I’m not going to freak out and say, “Oh my god, he must be 3Betting really 8% of hands here.” I highly, highly doubt that’s the case.

“Oh my god, he must be 3Betting really 8% of hands here.”

We are getting roughly 5-1/2 to 1 on a call, we are closing action, we get involved with a fish in a single SPR pot, which is going to be pretty easy, so I’m okay calling here going from there. We end up flopping top air, top kicker. Check, check, pot size c-bet from the cutoff, fold, and here we are.

I just want to say a couple of different things here. First and foremost is I really start making my decision now, simply because if we call, it’s going to be about $15 in the middle, about $30-something back, so there’s not going to be a ton of play and flexibility left and we’re getting closer and closer to commitment. The closer we’re getting to commitment, the more we want to create that plan early and obviously we want to make sure that it’s going to be a profitable plan.

The second big thing that I want to talk about real quick are the combos. If we look at this, and let’s just say we thought the cutoff pre-flop was 3Betting like queens-plus and AK. Let’s just assume that for a quick moment. If we think about that, how many combos of huge hands can he have here? There’s one combo of queens left; because we have an ace in our hand, it blocks his six combos of aces down to three, so we’re up to four combos. There are six combos of pocket kings, so we’re at ten combos of nutted hands. If we look at ace/king, there are how many of those? We have an ace in our hands and we’re going to block that down, that blocks it down to 12 combos.

Assuming that we think that he would c-bet that entire range, which I think is decently fair to say, that puts us in a situation where we’re doing plenty fine. We have equity for the times that he does have kings, obviously that’s great for us. Other times when he has ace/king, we’re obviously ahead now and he has very few outs, so that’s obviously great for us as well.

It’s just really, really difficult for someone to have the nuts, so because of that, I’m not folding here and I’m pretty much calling with intentions on getting a little bit stickier. I’m not super thrilled about going stocks or especially deeper stocks with 140, 150 big ones to start against a passive fish when I have something like top pair, but by the same token, there are plenty of situations where it’s going to be totally good. Again, you have to make that decision early because we’re getting closer and closer to commitment as this hand rolls out.

One final note that I want to talk about right this moment is twofold. One, if he decides to maybe not c-bet ace/king here all the time, obviously that’s going to skew his range further and further against us, which is not going to be good.

The other thing to consider is that obviously QQ+/AK is like the nutted side of a 3Bet range. If he ever 3Bets other things, jacks, tens, all that kind of stuff, all we’re doing is adding more and more combos that we do better and better against.

nut-3bet-range

I always start by looking at a worst-case scenario and QQ+/AK is definitely kind of the worst-case scenario as far as a 3Bet range is concerned. If we’re doing fine there, we’re doing even better as he widens up his 3Bet range. At least keep that in mind as well.

A jack on the turn, not the greatest card in the world, but not the worst card either; we check. He decides to bet and at this point we’re getting just shy of 3:1 on a call.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. I ask myself one question and it’s a very, very important question when I get to this turn in a 3Bet pot like this. My question is simply this: Would he continue betting ace/king? If he’s going to continue betting ace/king, again, we’re having that similar conversation that we did on the flop. It’s very difficult for him to have a big hand here, there are a decent amount of combos of ace/king in there and because of that, I want to call and continue giving action.

However, if he’s the kind of person that is just going to check behind ace/king, he’s like, “Oh man! He just called me on the flop, the turn doesn’t do anything so I don’t think I can get him to fold anymore.” Then he’ll knock back with ace/king, then all of a sudden his turn betting range might be a little bit too strong for me. Again, we have to make that decision right this moment.

The more aggressive that someone is, the more I’m assuming they’re going to continue banging away with ace/king and the more and more comfortable I’m going to be giving action, just like hero did. However, I at least want you to understand that if you think he’s really the kind of guy that’s just not going to fire again with ace/king, that check folding the turn has a lot of validity in it. If we call here, we have what—35 in the middle, 21 effective going into the river—we’re getting a good price on a river shove and we’re probably going to have to call that. At least keep that in mind, again, the closer you get to commitment, the more of a plan you have to have.

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As played, once hero calls, I’m pretty much in check call mode, unless of course that happens. That is by far and away the worst card that could’ve rolled off and we actually end up getting a little lucky in this instant, the cutoff decides to check behind with actually that exact hand.

We end up losing this pot, but ultimately, that’s not what’s important. What’s really important is that we played all the streets leading up to it well. I’d say pre-flop looked fine. Again, size could’ve been a little bit bigger on the isolation, the flop looked okay, as long as you’re making that plan early. The turn looked okay, as long as you were planning on check calling rivers, except for maybe exactly that one. Other than that, everything looked okay.

Again, the thought process of what goes into making those calls on the flop and turn are really, really important. Just make sure that you’re always thinking ahead, thinking about ranges, and making sure that your hand is performing well against a range rather than just, “Oh my god, I have top pair, top kicker.” We want that thought process to be a little bit more deep and involved.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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