A commonly used phrase in the poker world is “the fourth bet is always aces.” This used to be true, but in today's poker world filled with hyper aggressive kids and savvy veterans, players are now willing to put in a 4th bet with nothing. Think back to the Phil Ivey hand against Paul Jackson where the two went to battle with Ivey holding Q-8 and Jackson 6-5 on a J-J-7 board with Ivey winning the hand making a fifth bet all in, and he most certainly did not have aces.
This is just one of many examples we can use to illustrate the point, but the simple fact of the matter is that understanding when to make a fourth bet and when to call a fourth bet can be the difference between finding yourself crippled late in a tournament or being the tournament chip leader. This article is going to examine the four bet and what you should be looking for when making your decisions in these situations.
When to make the fourth bet
The old adage “it depends” is certainly applicable here. There is no steadfast answer a poker player should use when deciding whether or not to put in a fourth bet. Instead you need to examine the individual hand and its characteristics before making your decision. Here are some of the main factors you should be evaluating:
- The strength of your hand – this is the easiest part. The stronger your hand is, the more likely you should be willing to put in the fourth bet. The weaker it is, the more you will have to evaluate the other factors.
- The hand range of your opponent – with some players, a third bet will mean just a few hands like aces or kings. With other players it could be anywhere from aces to 7-2 off suit. Hopefully your observation at the table will let you narrow down their particular range in this situation. The wider their range, the more likely you should be willing to make a fourth bet. The smaller the range, the more you will need to refer to #1.
- The likelihood that your opponent will fold to a fourth bet – if you've determined that your opponent's range is large, you then need to determine the probability that they will fold to your bet. If it is the type of player that will not, then again #1 should be your determining factor. If it is the type of player that will fold, then your hand should be irrelevant (like Ivey's was in his hand).
- The price you are being given. Sometimes you make a fourth bet merely because the pot odds dictate you doing so. Let's use an example to illustrate what we are talking about. You are dealt A-Ks and start the hand with 28,000 in chips. Your opponent starts the hand with 40,000 and the blinds are 500/1,000 with a 100 ante at a 9 handed table. Your opponent opens the action for 3,000. You make it 10,000 to go. Your opponent makes a third raise to 20,000. You have 18,000 remaining in your stack. There is 35,400 in the pot but if you move all in you will essentially be committing 18,000 to win 43,400 (as your opponent would have to call an additional 10,000 more) or 2.4:1 on your money. The only hand that A-K is bigger than a 2.4:1 dog to is pocket aces, thus the price you are being given here would dictate that you should probably make the fourth bet. There will be situations where this is incorrect, but in most instances that is not the case.
When to call the fourth bet if it is all in, or make a fifth bet
On the other side of the spectrum, what about the times where you have made a third bet only to find yourself facing an all in or fourth bet. When do you call or make a fifth bet in these situations? Again, it will depend, but the answer will be less often than you should be making a fourth bet yourself. This is the power of the fourth bet – it is truly a bet of intimidation and power and one that should be respected and most often is. The factors for what to do in this situation are similar to the when to make a fourth bet factors but let's look at them again in a bit more depth:
- The strength of your hand – this is clearly the most important part because your opponent is usually either all in or to the point where they might consider themselves committed to being all in. Therefore you are usually going to need a hand that will win at showdown since you will be seeing all five cards. Whether you call or make a fifth bet with a hand like queens or kings will depend on #2. If you have aces and are considering folding, you might consider taking up a new hobby like checkers.
- The hand range of your opponent – what if you are facing a fourth bet from the likes of Phil Ivey or a hyper aggressive Internet kid? They won't necessarily have aces in these situations and are instead using the power of the fourth bet to intimidate you into making a bad decision. This doesn't mean automatically that they have a bad hand. More often than not, their hand in these situations will be legitimate. You need to evaluate why they are making this bet in this situation. An important factor to consider is your own table image. Do you give the impression of being a tight nit who will fold all but the nuts when facing adverse pressure? If so, they could have anything in this situation. Do they see you as a tight but solid, aggressive player? Their hand is probably better than normal. Are you coming across as a loose, aggressive maniac? Then again their hand could be anything. Understanding what your opponents think of you in this situation is crucial in determining whether to proceed.
- The likelihood that your opponent will fold to a bet – if your opponent still has chips remaining and you do not want a call, you need to figure out what the probability is that they will fold. An important consideration now will be #4 – the price that they are being given. If they only have to call an additional 10,000 in a pot of 100,000 the odds are that they won't fold to a bet. However, if the amount is something along the lines of calling an additional 50,000 in a pot of 100,000 and that 50,000 is their entire stack, then you still have fold equity. You should only be making a bluff 5th bet in the rarest of instances and you need to be certain that your opponent is capable of folding if doing so. As for making a 5th bet with a strong hand, that will depend on the range that you are giving your opponent. If you think your hand is well ahead of his range, then you should not be afraid to put your chips at risk.
- The price you are being given. Typically if you have put in a 3rd bet, you have invested even more chips in the pot and the price you are being given, unless you are playing with monumentally deep stacks, will probably be close to making a call or fifth bet worthwhile. However, you need to understand that your typical opponent is aware of this and knows that you are likely not going to be going anywhere. Therefore, their hand is more often than not going to be very good in these cases and sometimes you have to throw the math out the window because it's better to have some chips than no chips.
It's Not Always What It Seems
If we were to summarize four betting in one sentence, it would be that it's not always what it seems. In years past it might have been the case that a fourth bet was always a monster but in today's poker world it certainly is not the case.
Understanding your opponent's motivations and what types of hands they would make a third or fourth bet with can take you from being the meek and weak player that folds any time a player applies this kind of pressure to the fearless, winning type of player that learns to understand that your opponent's fourth bet is not always about the cards they are holding but rather about the fact that they think they can get you to fold. Remember this and study four betting situations carefully and you'll be the one making people fold and not the other way around.