“How do we adjust if villain starts to realize we are exploiting too much (like 3betting too often)? Do we go with very nutty range to 3bet?” –Berkan U
As you improve as a poker player you will quickly find ways to exploit your opponents. You’ll become more adept at noticing their leaks, spotting frequency issues in their strategy, and in turn you’ll create your own strategies to exploit their weaknesses.
But at a certain point you may exploit a player so much that they actually notice. And any player who notices they are being exploited is typically going to try and create a counter-strategy themselves. This is the essence of poker. You employ a strategy, your opponent counters, you counter their counter…and this continues on forever.
This isn’t much of a concern when playing against a weak player (since they aren’t even self-aware enough to notice strategic issues in their game), but this is vital when you play regularly against smart players. Smart players are aware of their own leaks (to some extent) and are aware of dynamics and exploitations that are happening around them. If they notice you exploiting them too often, they WILL fight back.
If you aren’t prepared for war, don’t provoke one by being overly-aggressive
So how should we adjust at that point? Let’s explore this through the lens of 3betting specifically – even though the same underlying logic can be applied to a variety of spots. You find a player who folds too often against 3bets and thus you start 3betting them much more often. After awhile they finally notice and they begin to counter. These are the three typical counters your opponent would choose from in this spot:
- They 2bet less often so that their range is stronger when you do 3bet them
- They call your 3bet more often
- They 4bet you more often.
A smart player is not going to just sit back and continue 2betting at the same frequency and folding to your 3bet at the same frequency. Weak ABC players will, but not smart players. So we won’t even explore that “strategy.”
The first option is common for players who are very uncomfortable facing 3bets (or any aggression for that matter). If your opponent chooses this strategy they have effectively removed themselves from the game. This is FANTASTIC if that players is the second-strongest player at the table and the strategy you should look to employ against players who shy away from being aggressed.
Now good smart players are more likely to employ a strategy of 2 and 3 together – which you notice results in them folding less often against your 3bet. This is OK and not necessarily a reason to 3bet a nuttish range only (as Berkan originally asked). First, deduce which of these strategies your opponent is likely to employ. Smart players tend to call 3bets more often in-position and look to 4bet or fold more when OOP. But things like stack depth, edges, and other players at the table will influence these things considerable (especially stack depth).
If you think a player is going to 4bet you more often, start by reading my article on “How To Handle 4Bets.” This sets a profitable framework for visualizing how to 3bet, 5bet, and even call 4bets vs this strategy. Essentially you make a range assessment of their 4bet range (nuts vs non-nuts and the density of each) and then counter from there. If they 4bet/fold too often you can still 3bet wide, induce the 4bet, and then 5bet/jam with impunity and watch them melt at a high frequency (and of course, you don’t need a strong hand in order to exploit a player who folds too often either now or later).
Now most people don’t panic as much when facing 4bets (since the decision matrix is pretty simple especially when stacks are 100bb or less)…but they fear getting their 3bet called. Assuming the stacks aren’t super deep, you find yourself in an awkward 3-6 SPR pot when players call your 3bet and there are still some tough decisions to make on the flop and turn. This fear alone is not a real reason to only 3bet a nutted range.
There are still plenty of reasons to 3bet a non-nutted range here. First, will your opponent fold often when they miss the flop? If yes, they likely fold some % of the time preflop and another % of the time when they brick the flop. You can do a very simple EV analysis <link> to see if that’s going to be +EV more often than not. Remember, a play that is +EV doesn’t ensure you win the pot every single time – rather that the play expects to net you profit in the longrun.
You need a decent hand to win at showdown. You don’t need a hand to bluff.
Second, what are they likely to call your 3bet with? If they would 4bet a range of TT+/AQ+ and some bluffs, their calling range starts to narrow in a very predictable way. They likely call your 3bet with things like 66-99/AT-AJ/KJ-KQ. Think about how these hands are going to like facingn pressure on various boards and think about how sticky they will get as well. If they are going to melt to pressure, why 3bet nuttier? If they are going to get sticky postflop, how wide of a value range can you 3bet and value bet postflop?
Once you answer these question it becomes a ton easier to choose your strategic counter. Even smart players typically aren’t great at thinking multiple counters ahead. This is partially because it’s very taxing to do so, and partially because their average opponent doesn’t force them to build this skillset.
So to answer the original question, no, we do NOT need to narrow our own 3bet range to nutted hands just because our opponent notices we’ve been exploiting them. Consider how they are going to adjust, consider if showdowns are going to be seen often, and then build your range around it. And while answering some of these questions may seem a bit daunting at first, it becomes easier when you have strong hand reading skills and a strong handle on frequencies. Since you can turn frequencies into real ranges, this is a vital part of thriving in these spots.
If you want to learn how powerful frequencies can be, and how you can easily exploit people by using them, sign up today for my free webinar called 5 Frequency Exploits You Can Start Using Today. This webinar shows you five of the most common players I use in my own game using a simple math-driven approach. Don’t worry if you hate math or don’t fully grasp frequencies…I’ll explain everything on the webinar!