Time to read: 5 minutes
5 bet bluffing pre-flop can be very profitable versus the generic MTT recreational player and many solid MTT regs who exhibit these traits:
- Employ a 4bet or fold strategy pre-flop when out of position
- Exploit a wide 3bet range by using a linear/merged 4bet range (or having many suited As and broadway hands)
- Place too much value on the “tournament life” / refuse to felt light
Many times, I see players express either disgust or surprise versus “donkeys” who got 3s, A4s or even K2s (if you are Paul Volpe) in pre-flop versus their AAs or KKs for 80bb each. In the following section, I will show examples on why 5bet bluffing with small pocket pairs and A/K blockers are profitable, optimal situations for 5bet bluffing and defense strategies.
Assume a first in pre-flop raise size of 2.5bb, 3bet size of roughly 2.8x or 7bb, 4bet size of 17bb, and two different 5bet sizes 1) 80bb and 2) 100bb. Also, I assume a “standard” 4bet felting range or QQ+, AK, and 50% of JJ (many people won’t actually felt JJ and some AK).
Example 1) 80bb Effective
The original 3 better (Paul) risks 73bb (80-7 used for 3bet) to win roughly 26.5bb (7+17+blinds and antes) when he 5bet bluffs with hands like 3s or A4s. When the 4better folds, Paul wins 26.5bb. And when called, Paul’s 33 and A4s have 34% and 31% equity, respectively, against 4better’s felting range. In a 162.5bb pot, Paul will recover roughly 55bb or lose 18bb when his 5bet attempt fails. Paul risks 18bb to win 26.5bb.
Example 2) 100bb Effective
In this scenario, Paul still stands to win 26.5bb if 4better folds. But Paul loses 24bb on average when called. Here, Paul risks 24bb to win 26.5bb.
Paul’s 5bet bluffs doesn’t need to work very frequently to turn a profit. In the 80bb example, Paul’s bluff only needs to work 40% of the time or 18/(18+26.5).
5bet bluffing pre-flop becomes even more potent in high pressure situations when the 4better will lay down a decent percentage of his AK and JJ. As 4better’s felting range becomes increasingly narrower, the expected value of Paul’s 5bet bluffs goes up. Many well regarded MTT regulars have adopted this strategy on bubbles (money/pay jump) and in the early stages. Many recreational players travel long distances and block off 2-3 days on their calendar for the tournament (ex WSOP Main) and are very unwilling to stack off “light”. Tournament regulars also hate to felt light (that’s the reason why you rarely read “I stacked off with AJs versus a very aggressive players’ 5bet jam preflop” as bust out tweets). Both recreational players and the majority of the MTT regulars are willing to accept -EV plays versus aggressive strategies that threaten their “tournament life”.
Especially in situations when all the chips can reasonably go in, in high buy-in single-entry events, ramp up the variance versus your opponents and challenge them to find the fold. They will often surprise you with what they are willing to lay down :). As they mutter: “always the nuts here.”
Given that the 5better needs to succeed 40% of the time, you can construct a 4bet range that includes at least 40% value (QQ+, AK) and the rest 60% pure bluffs (A8o, K5o, etc) because majority of the players won’t flat 4bets and you’ll rarely have to play K5o post-flop. And save suited hands with decent equity for calling the 3bet (ex A3s, K8s, 99). This way your opponent cannot exploit you preflop and you can deny equity from your opponent’s 3bet bluffing range.
Don’t mess with Paul Volpe. 5bet bluffing with K2s can be profitable. Challenge your opponents to find the fold. Defend yourself by including enough value hands in your range and don’t be afraid to look like a fool when calling off light.
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