Owner and Lead Pro
Professional Cash game trainer Bart Hanson has been producing strategy content for over fifteen years. He first started on Live at the Bike! back in 2005, then moved on to host "Cash Plays" on Poker Road, then "Deuce Plays" on Deuces Cracked and then to CrushLivePoker in 2012.
In his career as a professional poker player, Bart Hanson has:
-6 WSOP Final Tables
-Over 15 years of experience at the table
-Over $1,000,000 in tournament earnings
-Multiple appearances on ESPN and Poker Night in America
-4th place finish in 2019 WSOP Monster Stack
Many poker players have a reasonable amount of concern when it comes to playing extreme multiway pots, and will oftentimes make incorrect decisions just to avoid these spots. Especially when out of position facing 4 or more callers preflop, these situations can be very tricky to navigate. In this article, we’ll go over some useful strategies that will give you more confidence in these spots, and allow you to extract more money from your opponents.
Chances are you’ll find yourself out of position in an extreme multiway pot more than a couple times during a live poker session. The main reason for this is live players love to call preflop trying to hit a hand, resulting in overcalls from wide ranges, and less 3-betting overall. Often we can raise from early position and see half the table come along for a flop. An extreme multiway scenario could also occur if early position raises, half the table calls, and we defend in the blinds.
Early Position Raise Sizing
The first thing to consider when opening in early position is your preflop raise size. Say your standard open size is $20 in a $2/$5 game, but you’re consistently getting calls from 4 or more opponents. With this configuration, it might be time to bump your raise size to $30 or more. You’ll still likely get 3-4 callers preflop, but the pot will be bigger and you’ll have less players in the hand, which is always a good result.
In poker, we want the pot to be as big as possible when we have good hands, regardless of how many players come along preflop. Betting $30 and getting 3 callers creates about the same pot size as betting $20 and getting 5 callers, while creating an easier situation to navigate postflop. Watch carefully for how often extreme multiway pots are occurring at your table, and adjust your preflop raise size accordingly.
As the preflop aggressor it may be tempting to c-bet often, even when playing extreme multiway spots. The problem is, you have very little fold equity on the flop when c-betting into 4+ opponents, so it doesn’t really make sense to lead out and bet your weaker draws and backdoors. Instead try checking the flop with more of your range, and look for spots to check-raise when you want to semi-bluff. Check-raising is a powerful tool multiway, and will typically generate more fold equity than c-betting.
When check-raising, it’s important to look at the configuration of the table and take into account who the initial bet comes from. If you check and the player to your left leads out into 4 players, it’s much stronger of a bet than if action checks to the Button and they lead out in position. So, your check-raises are likely to have more fold equity versus a Button bet than an UTG1 bet.
The best flops to check-raise bluff are boards that are top pair dynamic, meaning the turn or river is likely to change the top pair. For example, 9♥ 5♦ 3♠ is top pair dynamic, while K♥ 5♦ 3♠ is top pair static. We want to check-raise bluff more on top pair dynamic boards because we can face calls from weak top pair hands that may not want to play a larger pot once downgraded to second pair, meaning more fold equity for us on future streets. We’ll also want to mix in some value check-raises with vulnerable value hands like top pair or weaker overpairs on these top pair dynamic boards, since there are a lot of overcards that can downgrade our hand to second pair.
When we do choose to c-bet, we should mainly do it with hands that want to build a pot and see the turn. Because we have so little fold equity when c-betting into multiple opponents, we want to do so with strong value hands that want to face calls and raises. Similar to our preflop raise strategy, we want to build a pot and bet an amount that weaker hands will still call, even though GTO dictates a smaller sizing multiway. Look to exploit your opponents with your c-bet size, and make the pot as big as possible going to the turn. Take a second to consider this example.
You raise 8♠ 9♠ in early position and get 4 callers. The flop is 5♥ 6♥ 7♦, giving you the nuts.
Would a c-bet or a check-raise make more sense here?
If you answered c-bet, you’re correct! This is a spot where a c-bet will generate very little fold equity, and we would love to face calls and raises moving forward. We want to build a pot and charge our opponent’s two pairs, sets and flush draws. Check-raising generates more fold equity and looks far stronger, meaning we likely will get less money in the pot with the nuts, and miss out on quite a bit of value.
Now, let's say we raise K♦ K♥ in early position, get 4 callers, and the flop is 5♥ 6♥ 7♦.
Would we want to c-bet, check-call, or check-raise?
Pocket kings is obviously a value hand on this flop, and while we might want to c-bet when facing 1-2 opponents, an extreme multiway scenario makes things trickier. Say we c-bet and face a raise on this board, how many hands are we actually beating? Our hand certainly won’t get too many calls from worse hands by check-raising, so check-call is the correct decision here.
In summary, when playing out of position with 4 or more opponents, you’ll want to c-bet the flop with strong hands that can face calls and raises, and look to check-raise bluff when you want to gain fold equity and narrow the field. Check-raise bluff more on top pair dynamic boards, especially when facing a late position bet which can be weaker and more vulnerable than an early position bet. Check-raise for value with vulnerable hands that want to deny equity, and look to check-call with some of your strong value hands to protect your range.
Hopefully this article helped you gain a basic understanding of how to play in extreme multiway scenarios. If you’d like to learn more, check out the full breakdown in CLP Podcast Episode 545: Playing From Out of Position Extremely Multiway.
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