Skates Points: Critical Points of Villain's 3-Betting Behavior

These are the critical effective stack depths at which your villain makes dramatic adjustments to their preflop ranges when facing a minraise.  A good, balanced player should not have these, but most do.  Before explaining why, I should define them.  There are two:   1) Skates Calling Point (SCP) - This is the effective stack depth at which your villain switches from an all-in or fold strategy to one that incorporates calling.  When facing a minraise at 2BB, your villain can only go all-in or fold.  At 5BB, nearly all villains will either go all-in or fold.  At 10BB, some will mix in calling with some hands.  The effective stack depth where the calling frequency becomes significant is the SCP.   2) Skates 3-Betting Point (S3BP) - This is the effective stack depth at which your villain switches their 3-bet sizing from always being all-in (or committing) to having a significant fraction of their 3-bets being non-committing.  At 15BB, if a villain 3-bets when facing a minraise, they will almost certainly go all-in with the majority of their range.  At 22BB, some villains will keep going all-in, but others might switch to smaller 3-bets.  The effective stack depth where the frequency of the non-committing 3-bet size becomes significant is the S3BP.   When I say "majority" and "significant", I am referring to a range that does not incorporate AA and KK.  Many players play in unbalanced ways with those two hands, and in this case, we would like to remove them from consideration.  Some people, when you minraise at 10BB, will flat or min-3-bet with AA or KK and only those hands.  This is not what we are looking to isolate.   When talking about SCPs and S3BPs, it might be helpful to refer to them as "hard" and "soft".  A "hard" SCP is what most players have.  If Mr. StandardVillain has been reading 2+2 for the past year, he might have learned that when facing a minraise at less than 20BB, he should either go all-in or fold.  At 20BB though, he should start to call with most hands because he does not want to risk more than 19BB to pick up 2BB.  This means that StandardVillain has a hard-SCP of 20.  This is a very common behavior among weaker players and mediocre regs at this point in time.  Historically, I think this is because the average hero often had a very wide open % (say, 80%), and a very tight call % (say, 12%).  Playing the way the StandardVillain played was incredibly profitable.  Now, the average hero at higher stakes might still open very wide, but has often adjusted to having a wider calling range, neglecting the primary source of equity won by StandardVillain.  As such, many of the stronger players today do not have SCPs at 20, but rather closer to 15.  If instead of having a hard-SCP, StandardVillain were to start gradually incorporating hands into a calling range at 18BB, he would have a soft-SCP at 18.  Very strong players have soft-SCPs that are very hard to define because they adopt mixed-strategies (they do not always play a given hand the same way).   S3BPs are almost always extremely hard (non-gradual), and are usually in the range of 22-25BB.  Sure, StandardVillain might always jam 33 if hero limps into him, but the rest of StandardVillain's 3-bet range is likely to have a 3-bet size between the range of 4BB to 6BB.  Most people have a fixed 3-bet size that they switch to when the first incorporate non-committing 3-bets.  I can not think of one villain I have come across who does not.  Of course, we ignore behavior with AA and KK.   Now that we've defined these... can you think of any forum members or coaches that have well-defined SCPs or S3BPs?  Are they hard or soft?  How many of them that have easily recognized hard-SCPs play high-stakes?  The answer is probably close to zero, and here's why:   If I can notch you into a box, I can read your frequencies and exploit you.   Over the course of a match or series of matches, a good hero attempts to best understand the frequencies with which their villain takes each possible action on each street, then utilizes that information to make estimations of villain's range on each street, then utilizes that information to come up with a maximally exploitive strategy to combat those ranges.  Although I would be happier putting a lot of caveats and footnotes in there, that is some very rudimentary poker theory.  As a consequence, anything that allows the hero to get a better estimation of those frequencies enables the hero to make more precise adjustments to better exploit their villain.   ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** Stop here, take a breather.  You should be able to extrapolate the rest of this article from what I've said already.  I will walk you through it, but I strongly encourage you to step back and not continue reading until you try to figure it out on your own. ***** ***** ***** ***** *****   Hello again!   If you play within a well-constructed set of rules, or box, your easily observed frequencies no longer tell a part of the story; they tell the whole story.  If after one game with you, I observe what I think to be a hard-SCP at 20, I am immediately estimating a 3-bet frequency I think you have at each depth below that.  If I've played many games with you, I can just look at my database and pull the information directly.  Then, what do you think my adjustments look like?  Fix a stack depth and consider a range of villain 3-bet frequencies.  Take a moment to try to come up with my opening range with respect to those frequencies on your own.   ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** Anddddd here you go: If your frequency is lower than 50%, I will raise any two cards.  I'm not going to spell that one out for you.  If you don't see why that is the case, you need to step back and think about it more.  If your frequency is higher than 50%, I will raise any hand that I am also calling a jam with, and fold all hands I would fold to a jam with.   So what is the result?  I have a raise/fold range if and only if I think your 3-bet frequency is less than 50%. ***** ***** ***** ***** *****   Now... here is where things really get interesting, despite the simplicity of the topic.  Notice that my adjustment is not continuous; I don't gradually add hands into my opening range.  Since you are playing within this box that you have defined for yourself, my adjustments are effectively in the binary.  I either raise everything, or I raise my calling range, and which strategy I adopt is dependent solely on your 3-bet frequency.  (Of course, the size of my raise-calling range will vary based on your 3-bet frequency and the effective stack depth).   If I think you 3-bet all-in with 50% of all hands at 15BB, then my raising frequency at 16BB is likely to be 100%, but my raising frequency at 14BB might be something like 40% (and raise-calling my J9s :)).  If someone were to isolate my hands from 14-16BB, they might see my raising range at something like 70%.  Do you see why their adjustments might be mistaken or flawed?  Do you see where I might be able to pick up an edge from this?  Do you see how difficult it is for someone with a hard-SCP to compete with me?   So what about S3BPs?  These are much more interesting because this part of the game is not wel-evolved.  At this time, most strong high-stakes HUSNG players have soft-SCPs that are extremely hard to discover.  On the other hand, hard-S3BPs are still found in virtually everyone; I'm currently thinking of only a few exceptions.  When thinking about a hard-S3BP and the adjustments you can make relating to it, consider how a villain views your calling frequency and 4-bet frequency when facing a non-committing 3-bet.  When they 3-bet non-committing, are they polarized?  Are they merged?  What does their 3-bet frequency look like below the S3BP (when they are only going all-in).  Does it increase or decrease on the other side of the S3BP?  What does that say about their calling range around the S3BP?  What does that mean your opening range should look like?  What kind of tricks can you pull?  I'm not going to spoon-feed this one to you... figure it out :). <3 <3 <3 -Skates / psimalive
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pokerbot102's picture

how useful though?

really cool article, had to read through it a couple times :)

Do you really play a single player enough to get a good read on his possible inflection points? At $50's the player pool is big enough that unless I single out regular player or get to rematch someone a bunch, it would be hard to get enough data. And even then if I pick on a reg, they do retarded stuff like time down every hand so I don't ever sit with them again. And if I am rematching someone, I don't usually have the time to whip open HEM and analyze.

Looser Vogel's picture

Ok, first of all: great idea

Ok, first of all: great idea to write an article and thanx for putting so much work in it!
Unfortunately I am afraid I didn't get most of it...this is mainly because I am a donk and English isn't my first language, so maybe you HAVE to spoonfeed it to me...;-)
Here is what I think I understood from the article after reading it 3 times:
To have a hard SCP is bad because once Hero knows where it is, he can start exploiting Villain's folding/shoving tendencies in the endgame. That is if Hero has either the data or a general idea of how tight/loose Villain will play in the endgame.
So to keep Hero guessing, should Villain for example sometimes shove A4s 22BB deep and sometimes flatcall a minraise at 17BB with the same hand? If yes, where is the border where both becomes a significant mistake over reshoving?
Is it similiar with the S3BP? Basically the old theme of not doing the same thing over and over again but instead varying your play, or in this case, varying the stacksize when doing it.
Again: I might have completely misunderstood the whole article. As interesting this topic is, I don't think it is an issue at the low stakes but for sure I want to pay attention to it. So I'd be happy if you could confirm if what I've understood was correct or otherwise explain it again in a bit more simple way. Think Lisa explains Marge's gambling addiction to Homer ;-)

Thanx a lot!

Steffo's picture


this is great stuff...but mostly for high stakes player...
but also low and midstakes player should think about this article...its a good way to think about poker

Radeh's picture

Reminds me a bit of the

Reminds me a bit of the poker chat we had in London...about livb's 3bet/shoving/calling ranges. My head's spinning, but I'm definitely learning something, thank you for that!

Happy new year dude, I wish you much success with your new job!! If you ever feel the urge to play some poker without taking it seriously, I'd always be happy to flip a few games with you :D


Goats!!! MORE GOATS!!!


Goats!!! MORE GOATS!!!

Malifous's picture

Incredible, too bad you had

Incredible, too bad you had to release this.

pokerbot102's picture

more member help please!

I was hoping for some more member input maybe to fill in some of his missing details! :) I think I understand some of it but certainly not all or even most as to why it is important. Does having hard inflection points just make it easy for an opponent to adjust and create a good range against your range?

halfbreedhero1986's picture

Nice post, it's nice to get

Nice post, it's nice to get the input of someone who plays such high stakes.

As someone touched upon before though I think it is only something that applies to very high stakes games where your dealing with a smaller player base and therefore encounter the same player on a regular basis.

Also I feel that at the lower stakes -villians 3 and 4 betting ranges are not as fixed as you'd get from a regular at the higher stakes  - i feel that the ranges of these players are based obviously on your range ,stack size etc - whereas at lower and -mid stakes games -game flow, and emotions are larger factors in their decisions.

Skates's picture

Late reply

I've been unable to really take the time to respond to everything since I recently moved to Chicago and have been working on my new job.  I'll do my best now;

As you all have noted, this article really is geared towards the high-stakes community, or at the least, players that you play multiple times.  I think the information about the SCP is extremely applicable to low-stakes games though.  I think you'll find that many low-stakes and mid-stakes regs have SCPs.

Yep.  At high stakes, I certainly play specific players enough times to get a feel of their SCP and S3BP.  Recently, it played a huge roll in how I played stevesbets and chapmoney.  And yes, having hard/strict inflection points makes it easy for an intelligent opponent to exploit you.

@Looser Vogel:
You're close.  The argument isn't that you want to sometimes jam A4s and sometimes call A4s at 17BB.  It's that if you're going to jam some hands, you want to call some as well.  One way of doing that could be to jam A4s and 75s, but call K9o and 65s.

So.. game-flow/emotions definitely change people's ranges at high stakes too.  This kind of approach still applies, but it becomes much more complicated since you're now dealing with more than one dynamic process.  In the form I've presented it, I agree with your comments.  However, you might think about whether or not the game-flow changes your villain's structural plays or just their ranges.  For example, your opponent might always either go all-in or fold when facing a minraise at 17BB, but his range for doing so might change with respect to game flow.  If it's just their range that changes (not their ability to call sometimes), then everything in the article applies perfectly.  You just need to adjust your perceived frequency of their actions before making your decisions, and that adjustment will be based around game-flow.

Thanks for all the positive feedback.  <3

dougthehead's picture


so how do you work out what your opening rnages should be given specific 3 bet frequencies. Whats the equation? Brillaint article Skates.

HappyFish's picture

Isent it better to have a

Isent it better to have a unexploitable 3 betting range and just try to figure out what % of hands the  villain is opening from BTN?

I dont think you should over do this i meen i hand like 44 and 20bbs i think should allways be a push 3 bet or ? But a hand like QTs is a hand I like to mix it up with. (I do probobly push Q9s more then QTs) but personally i just mix it up with hands that plays good post flop like 9Ts KT QJ.

VS a guy that raise lot i do 3bet push QTs bigger % of the time and vs a guy that dont cb a big % of the time i do 3 bet QT PF a bigger % beacuse i cant check rais him on the flop that often.

that is my thoughts on this what do you guys think of my thoughts :)

BTW great articel Skates very interesting

Nichlemn's picture

A rather late response so I

A rather late response so I don't know if you'll read it, but:

"Anddddd here you go: If your frequency is lower than 50%, I will raise any two cards.  I'm not going to spell that one out for you.  If you don't see why that is the case, you need to step back and think about it more.  If your frequency is higher than 50%, I will raise any hand that I am also calling a jam with, and fold all hands I would fold to a jam with.   So what is the result?  I have a raise/fold range if and only if I think your 3-bet frequency is less than 50%."

should not be strictly true. If I'm 3bet shoving exactly 50% of my hands (which is how many I should be at any moderate stack size if I'm playing optimally subject to the shove or fold constraint), you should minraise/fold some hands that have card removal effects such that given your hand my probability of 3bet shoving is >50%.

I'm not so sure this all that exploitable anyway. I think that "shove or fold" modes (except on the button) are generally a sign of laziness of not wanting to play future streets, but if you have an appropriate shoving range and perhaps feel like you're going to be outplayed postflop, you're not going to do too badly from the big blind. Your opponent pretty much gets to play Nash with a few extra profitable raise/folds.

TheCleaner01's picture

I'm a bit late, but I really

I'm a bit late, but I really enjoyed that. 

Well written and very clever. 

Any more jems by Skates and where is he now ?

Go forth and CRUSH !