SB vs. BU and 3-Bet Pots

In this instalment we shall outline a 3-bet or fold strategy from the SB in the early stages of a Spin & Go before looking at how to handle 3-bet pots where there is very little money remaining in the stacks compared to the size of the pot.

SB vs. The BU Min Raise

Firstly, a couple of words on flat calling in this spot – avoid it. There are three main problems with building a flat calling range into your game from the SB.

  1. The pot odds do not justify making investments from out of position with very many hands. Hands that are profitable calls are likely better 3-bets any way.
  2. Not closing the action is destructive to the EV of calling. The times the BB 3-bets small or shoves will annihilate any profits we make the times we are allowed to see the flop.
  3. We are incentivised to 3-bet premium hands for value and build the pot while we have a big equity advantage. This would mean any calling range that we chose to build would be a capped one, which would be very easy for BB to attack. Hitting a reasonable defence frequency to 3-bets therefore becomes impossible.

The options we shall take from the SB facing a BU raise are:

  • 3-bet all in
  • 3-bet small for value
  • 3-bet small as a bluff
  • Fold

Here is a road map of our strategy in this spot:

Once again, the hands with which we make a small value 3-bet are those that want to encourage action due to flopping powerfully. With the blinds at 10 and 20, BU raises to 40 and we make it 100. This 3-bet size prevents Villain from calling the worst hands in his opening range (note that a size of 80 would allow him to call too profitably), while at the same time allowing us to fold to a jam if we happen to hold our 3-bet small bluff range.

The hands which 3-bet small as a bluff and then fold to a jam lie just outside of our shoving range. They will have either useful blockers (EG. A8o) or they will have a bit of playability in case Villain calls the 3-bet (EG. T8s). The idea here is that these holdings will not have enough equity to make profitable shoves against well-constructed BU strategies and so are the best of the rest. For this reason, they go into the range that seeks out pre-flop fold equity at minimal cost.

Finally, some of our shoving hands are combinations that are high equity, but less flop-friendly such as AKo. Other shoving hands are semi-bluffs and make profitable jams due to a combination of fold equity and having enough equity to compensate us the times we get called. Of course, hands like A3s and 98s are hoping to get a fold, but they are chosen based on the fact that they have some equity to fall back on if unlucky enough to be called.

Playing 3-Bet Pots

On the flop, after BU calls our small 3-bet, we will have built the pot to 200 and the effective stack will be just 400, assuming that it is the very beginning of the Spin & Go. This small stack to pot ratio offers us an array of interesting exploitative choices. We shall discuss a game theory approach to these spots against solid regs and also a more exploitative game-plan to use against weaker players. We should note that the latter are by far the most common player type that we shall be encountering and so our default game will be an exploitative one.

Let’s take a dry harmless flop of 774r to start with. This is a board that largely misses both ranges. I advise my students to imagine it like a pane of clear glass that does not distort the pre-flop situation. These benign flops mean that any range advantage that existed pre-flop still exists to the same degree. We as the 3-bettor, have a mass of strong hands that our opponent cannot hold. Moreover, because we sized so small pre-flop, we tailored our range to contain quite a high concentration of value hands compared with bluffs. This gives us a very clear and decisive range advantage on this flop.

When you have a large range advantage, it is usually correct to c-bet with all of your range. There is nothing that Villain can do about it because our range is naturally stronger than his. We shall not be folding often enough to a shove to make bluff jamming a good idea for Villain, and so, even though we have bet every combination with which we got to the flop, we are still balanced and protected. As for sizing, we should choose a size that sets up a turn shove. With the effective stacks only being 2x the pot, there is no room for putting the money in over three streets. The GTO here is to bet all of our range for around half of the pot, but in reality, we can usually do better by splitting up our range in a more exploitative way.

The exploitative solution that is more profitable against weaker opposition looks like this:

Hands like AA and KK are heavily incentivised to check. This slow-play is completely justified on a dry board with an invulnerable hand given that we only need two streets of betting to get the money in. This way we can extract money from both Villain’s weaker made-hands (either now if he bets or by betting the turn if he checks), but by checking we allow Villain to make investments as a bluff with hands he might simply fold to a half pot c-bet. By checking these monstrous hands, we are widening the part of Villain’s range that can pay us off.
TT-QQ are fine to bet with as they gain protection by folding out overcards. In other words, these pairs are more vulnerable and have more to gain by ending the hand now when they are ahead. Again though, we should weigh up the chances of Villain bluffing the flop if checked to and still be inclined to check these pairs vs. aggressive opponents.

With a hand like ATs-AKs, bluff catching makes a lot more sense than betting. By betting we are only usually folding out worse hands and we often dominate many of these. AKs is semi-vulnerable, but nowhere near as much as something like 66, which hates far more turn cards. It is perfectly reasonable to check/call these hands on this low board.

When we have air in this spot, such as Q8s, we can bluff for half pot and fold to a shove. We should expect this bet to work more often than it should due to Villain’s range being capped and the board texture not giving him any real help. Players will fold too much to a c-bet here and so having a mainly bluff heavy betting range is a solid exploit. Against very passive players, we might elect to check/fold these hands because, by checking, we glean free information as to whether Villain has connected with the flop, without having to waste a bet the times he has. Face-up passive players are very profitable to play against due to how predictably they construct their betting ranges.


Now that we have covered the last early game pre-flop spot on the list, and got our feet wet with post-flop, it is time to move onto some post-flop Spin & Go situations with slightly deeper stacks – namely, single raised pots.