Posted Sep 10, 2023
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
When it comes to defending the Button, many players (especially at low stakes) get a few key things very wrong. In this article we’ll look at when it makes sense to call on the Button, and why you should probably be doing it more often. Let’s dive in and look at a few baseline rules for defending your Button in live low stakes games.
1. Play More Hands on the Button
Most players under-VPIP on the Button, and over-VPIP in the Big Blind. We are actually allowed to call more hands on the Button than in the Big Blind, because of the positional advantage we will have postflop. Standard solver preflop charts won’t reflect this typically, due to the price you’re getting to defend your Big Blind versus a 2.5x-3x open. However, versus a standard open to $15 in a $1/$2 game, you can probably guess why defending our $2 Big Blind becomes less important than playing in position for a $30+ pot on the flop.
Say you have a hand like 8♣ 6♣. Would you rather defend this hand on the Button, or from the Big Blind? Out of position our hand will be hard to realize equity with, and we’ve just paid 5-7 additional blinds to see a flop out of position. Wouldn’t you rather put in just one additional blind preflop to play this hand in last position postflop, knowing you can sometimes win the pot without even making a good hand? The power of position is massive in this game, and with live low stakes raises so large, defending our Big Blind becomes less prevalent, and position is king.
Hands like K♣ 2♣, A♦ J♣, 6♠ 5♠ and other hands can all be good candidates to call preflop on the Button. We can also consider flatting some of our more nutted hands, even up to A♦ K♣, given how often we will dominate our opponent’s weaker Ax and Kx opens.
2. Be Aggressive (Even After Being Passive)
Just because you enter a pot passively with a call, doesn’t mean that you have to play the entire pot passively. People often don’t have postflop raises on the Button when they should, especially in single raised pots. Look to take advantage of opponent’s fit or fold postflop tendencies at low stakes games, and raise in position with a variety of nutted hands and strong draws, especially on more connected boards that favor your range as the preflop caller.
An interesting situation will arise when we play a double flat on the Button, meaning we flat the initial raise, get 3-bet by one of the blinds, and flat again to see the flop. Most poker players will keep playing passively postflop if they’ve already shown passivity preflop. When we make this double flat play we are kind of doubling down on a passive preflop line, but it doesn’t necessarily need to stay that way.
Passive play isn’t a bad thing in all situations, and sometimes it can be played very effectively. However, regardless of whether we’ve been passive or aggressive preflop, we always will want some ability to mix things up and be aggressive postflop. When we flat preflop we keep the stack to pot ratio (SPR) large, and allow for our opponents to make more mistakes deep stacked. Why would we not want to seize the advantage in position and take aggressive actions against players who will make deepstack mistakes?
3. Understand the Player-Types on Your Left
If you have a good idea of how the players to your left play, it can make a huge difference in your Button flatting strategy. For instance, if you have an incredibly tight nit to your direct left, when you’re in the Cutoff you basically have the Button, since this player will often overfold preflop, giving you last position.
For the most part you won’t see much squeezing from the blinds at low stakes, but you’ll want to tighten up your Button flatting range if you’re facing a significant amount of aggression from the players to your left. Base your Button flatting range off of the tendencies of the players to your left, and always leave room for adjustments during your session.
Hopefully this article helped you gain a basic understanding of how to think about your Button flatting strategy. If you’d like to learn more, check out the full breakdown in CLP Podcast Episode #553: Defending The Button.
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