BTN (button) is the best position on the table because:
- it guarantees information advantage against all other players
- it is fairly frequently possible to pick up the blinds uncontested (in unopened pots)
- it allows for maximally exploitative play with (comparatively) very little risk
Play in BTN is extremely heavily based on HUD and notes since the range we play with is inherently not good enough on its own (too wide and too weak).
It is fair to say that majority of player’s net profits are made in BTN. Profits from EP, MP and often a good part of CO are used to offset losses from SB and BB.
This is where the fairly tight and conservative play from EP and MP pays off (we basically sacrifice borderline hands for the ability to expand the range where the impact is greatest). We can go wild if circumstances (HUD!) allow it.
Before opening action, a BTN player looks at the following stats:
- blinds folding frequency vs steals (most important!)
- blinds calling, squeezing (BB vs BTN open and SB caller), 3-bet frequencies against steals
In my experience, people have a hard time dealing with a player who is perceived to be tight and stubborn (as described in EP, MP and CO articles) when he gets very loose in the BTN.
It is very hard in any case for the blinds to do much against opens from a good BTN player because they can easily make mistakes:
- fold a lot, which means that BTN can just fold to most 3-bets and still come ahead with automatic blind steal profit + good profit on hands he continues with
- call and play out of position too much (more on this in SB / BB articles), which is generally suboptimal strategy in most cases
- 3-bet a lot and then be in trouble post flop or against proper 4-betting strategy
Balancing these options is not easy and most players I played against had mathematically exploitable holes in their frequencies (revealed by HUD).
We do not actually care about blinds’ 3-bet frequencies if their folding frequencies are high enough. Since we automatically profit anyway, we can open wide and when they fight back just fold our garbage hands without much regret. It is hard for people who are used to being very tight to fight back when out of position so opponents’ adjustment on the fly is not a big concern.
In an ideal situation, where both blinds are very tight and/or easily fold to cbets, my opening range is basically 100% of hands, or ATC (“any two cards”).
In situations where there is a good chance opponents will not contest the pot but it is not automatically profitable to open ATC, I open the following range:
This range contains 606 combinations or 45.70% of all possible hands.
It is easy to remember:
- all pocket pairs
- all suited cards
- all unsuited Broadways
- all unsuited Aces
In cases where blinds do not fold enough to make excessive stealing automatically profitable preflop, we need to have a decent idea on proper reaction to 3-bets.
Since we always have position, it is possible to call all hands with good flopability (suited connectors, suited Aces, pocket pairs) and exploit inherent positional advantage whenever the flop hits us well. While we do fold the garbage, all situations where we see the flop favour us greatly because now we are left with a strong range and with position to maximize it.
I do highly prefer to have a clear idea of probability of taking the pot even when I miss, namely when the player is likely to give up either on the flop (check – fold) or the turn (bet flop and then check – fold turn). Against players who 3-bet wide and give up relatively easily post flop, we can simply open a slightly tighter range than normal (something close to the CO range) but then refuse to fold too much and fight back with calls as described in previous articles.
Against players who 3-bet wide and fold a lot to 4-bets, it is possible to simply 4-bet hands with blockers (and fold bluffs to shoves). Since I do not generally 4-bet much from EP and MP, it is hard for opponents to be really confident when facing aggression against their wide 3-bet range.
Against players who aggressively defend their blinds (but are not spewy), do not fold to 4-bets too much and are tricky post flop, we can narrow our opening range slightly and mix our own postflop play accordingly. It is basically impossible to lose a direct matchup against a player of similar skill (which should be the case if we are playing at a level which we can beat).
Squeezes and 3-bets + cold 4-bets
Calls from SB and squeezes from BB are relatively rare and do not merit special consideration before we decide to open the action. We do need to have data in our HUD about squeezers range and reaction to shoves (SQZ – fold) so we can profitably 4-bet shove. It is possible to work out exact range of hands we will shove here and have a cheat sheet handy when we play.
Calling the squeeze is an option when BB is weak post flop, because it is highly unlikely that SB is trapping with premiums. He would have to play out of position against two players post flop, so he would have to be really stupid to allow this unless BB squeezes with a truly insane frequency. If we do decide to call, I would advise doing it with hands which do not have domination issues (in a 3-way pot it is very unpleasant to “hit” a dominated hand and then face aggression).
Against 3-bet from SB followed by cold 4-bet from the BB I would normally fold pretty much anything below KK, unless I know that BB does this way too frequently (I know of only a few players who do this). My reason for such conservative approach is that normally I make enough profits from BTN to avoid going into these stackoffs with AK / QQ (they don’t do well in this scenario against average opponents). This situation is so rare that it is not a huge mistake in any case.
I generally do not 3-bet light from BTN, since I find it more profitable to call in position (depending on probability of squeezes). I like flatting and shoving premiums (against squeezes from the blinds), so after a while people stop attacking flat calls.
If we do decide to 3-bet, it is best to use a polarized range with blockers (either KK+ or AK/QQ+, balanced with wheel Aces as bluffs and possibly some other Ax / Kx hands). This however makes it harder to dissuade people from attacking our calling range (we can only have so many premiums).
Ideal situation for light 3-bets is:
- original raiser has a wide range and/or folds too much to 3-bets
- original raiser likes to call a 3-bet but then check-folds the flop too much
- blinds are very unlikely to flat call a 3-bet or make a cold 4-bet
- we normally have a tight 3-bet range and in general our image is very solid ( = our exploitative play does not provoke people to go wild)
- blinds are likely to squeeze but are also very likely to fold to our own 3-bet ( = we take them out of equation)
I generally use the same criteria as in MP / CO to decide whether to flat call:
- position of the raiser
- size of his range (if we have HUD data for his positional RFI)
- post flop habits (does he barrel or give up easily), which influence our ability to take the pot even when we miss
- probabilty of a squeeze (normally slightly larger than in MP / CO since our perceived calling range is wider here)
In situations where the probabilty of a squeeze is very low and original raiser is exploitable post flop, normal default calling range in BTN can be fairly wide due to guaranteed positional advantage. My own strategy is fairly tight in EP / MP, so it allows me to be more loose in BTN and exploit tight image and position to maximize profits.