Stealing in Poker. How to’s and is it worth it?

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Now this one is really important because it’s been amplifying and inflating my winrate heavily, and also worked really well for my students who understood these concepts.

First of all, what I have to say about this is that it’s good to be balanced, because it’s hard to exploit and everything falls into place, but when you’re playing in 5bb+/100 rake games which is very much the case in today’s micro,low and some mid stakes games, you’re forced to go over to the dark side. You’re forced to go over to the exploitive side. You need to figure out your opponent’s weaknesses and make the maximum amount of money from him in those spots to get a winrate that is big enough to surpass rake so that you can also get something extra for yourself on top of that, and if you start excelling at it, there will be a lot more for you in the long run than you’re expected to get! High winrates are achievable even in highly raked games, and the more you win the more fun it gets so the more volume you put into the game! It just keeps on getting better and better.

Now, re-read the breakeven fold frequency chapter if you don’t know it by heart, so that you can get a good understanding of what we will talk about in this chapter.

First of all, let’s say you’re opening either 3bb or 2.5bb or 2.1bb from the BTN. I still recommend opening 3bb for the following reasons:

  1. You get called/3-bet less pre-flop because the Big Blind has to invest more BB and has less pot odds so needs to win more often;
  2. When you do get called, although you bet either one third, half pot or two thirds pot, you’re usually getting more folds because the flop pot is bigger, you bet is bigger and it’s more intimidating in general;
  3. When you win a pot on the flop you win 6.5bb instead of 4.7bb(if you’d opened 2.1bb) and that adds to your overall winrate;
  4. When you’re actually value betting, look at this comparison. IF we raised 3bb pre-flop and we got called, Flop Pot is 6.5bb. If we bet 2/3 pot and we get called, pot on the turn will be 15bb, we bet 2/3 pot again, pot on the river is 35bb, we bet 2/3 pot again, if we get called final pot will be 78 big blinds. Now let’s try the same thing for 2.1 blinds pre-flop open. 4.7BB pot on the flop, bet 2/3 pot, 11bb turn pot, bet 2/3 pot, 25.5BB river pot, bet 2/3 pot, final pot will be 59.5BB. Figure out how much you lost by opening only 2.1BB preflop and then start opening 3BB. It’s an open and shut case here.

Only open 2.1BB or 2BB(minraise) when you have high 3-bet short-stacks in the blinds. If you open 3bb and a 40bb stack 3-bets to 9 or 10bb, your only option is shoving, you can’t 4-bet bluff here. Yes, this means that you’re going to be shoving a wide value range, but generally that’s not enough. If you open 2BB vs these individuals, they are going to be 3-betting to 6-7 or a maximum or 8BB.

If they 3-bet to 6 or 7, then it’s cool because you have to call only 4 or 5BB pre-flop which makes it easier than calling 6 or 7 when you open 3BB and get re-raised. When they 3-bet to 8BB, then it’s easier to fold a big part of your range because their breakeven fold frequency pre-flop is not that great.

More on this when we talk about getting 3-bet and how to adjust to high frequency 3-bet individuals.

Now let’s talk about breakeven fold frequency for stealing. First of all, you decide to open 3bb from the SB. You’re actually putting down 2.5BB to win a total of 3+1=4BB

This means that your Breakeven Fold Frequency will be:

2.5BB / 4BB = 62.5%

Great, but what do all these numbers mean?

Well, I guess the most important conclusion here is that if BB is folding 62.5% pre-flop vs your SB steal (or more), you’re going to be making auto-profit preflop. Imagine an ATM that spits out coins to random passers. Would you not back up onto that ATM at least one million times before it runs out of change? That’s how this also works. But, what you don’t know is that you can check/fold every flop when you do get called, fold to every 3-bet and still be making a profit in the long run. What did I tell you? ATM machine!

Also, you’re not really going to be check/folding every flop and folding to every 3-bet, that’s very obvious.

Now, for your opponent to be folding less than 62.5%, he has to be defending at least 40% range, be it 3-betting or calling. Let’s see a little bit what 40% is:


If you haven’t figured this one out yet, 40% is a LOT! Now, a lot of BB will not be defending this much, and it’s your job to steal vs them. Otherwise, you’re literally throwing away money!

Now keep in mind one more thing, you won’t be check/folding every flop vs these guys, you will be betting all your TPGK+ hands, two pair+, flush draws, open ended straight draws, gutshots+overcards, bluffable boards. The postflop play will be discussed thoroughly through examples.

Also, you’re not going to be folding to all the 3-bets, because first of all you get a lot of 4-bettable hands and second you will have a big part of your range that can call his re-raises.

But now the matter of fact is, how wide are we supposed to open? And how wide are we opening normally? It depends, but the answer is mostly 100% vs players who don’t defend that often.

100% may seem like a lot but let me explain, first of all, that you DO have a lot of equity vs your opponent’s range:


41% is more than you’d ever thought you’d get with any two cards, am I right?

Also, the second thing is that you’ll also be getting a lot of fold equity on bluffable boards. These people who don’t defend very often also tend to play very straightforward postflop so they are also very easy to exploit otherwise on flops, where genuinely they just fold way too often.

Thirs, bare in mind that even if an opponent will be calling 40% pre-flop, that doesn’t mean that he’s not exploitable post-flop. Rules are made to be broken. To be perfectly honest, an opponent who is defending vs a 100% SB steal will genuinely have to be 3-betting at least 20-30% or floating a massive amount of flops.

Now, let me give you a few examples of opponents based on stats and general experience that will fold enough for you to be taking that coin out of the ATM every time you steal.

First of all we need to consider the amount of hands that we have on our opponent. It would be really naive to use “BB fold vs SB steal” on 100 hands. It’s just a very small sample. First of all, your opponent will be in the BB one out of 6 hands. Second, everyone has to fold to the SB. This will happen usually less than 50% of times because a decent BTN open is at least 40% and you have to add the CO that is 25%, and there’s EP and MP which both open generally up to 20% of the times. Also, SB has to have a hand that he likes to steal with. Now, let’s say that this SB steal happens approximately 1 in 5 orbits. This means that this “BB fold vs SB steal” gets updated once every 6×5=30 hands. Having 100 hands on BB will give you, if you’re lucky, 5 up to 10 of these situations which is barely enough to be taken into consideration.

BB fold to steal is not really useable, even though more accurate on a sample size of let’s say around 300 hands, because it warrants BB reaction range vs SB, BTN and CO and we know for sure that this is not really helpful because BB will fold and 3-bet a lot less vs a CO opener than vs us.

Now, assuming we will not have that many hands on BB, we need to resort towards the stats that give us the most information on the less amount of hands.

These stats are always VPIP and PFR. We will be using VPIP here and then I’ll start explaining one very important factor.

You should open the SB 100% any  two cards if:

1) If you have 100+ hands on BB and his VPIP is smaller or equal to 25;

2) If you have 50-100 hands on BB and his VPIP is smaller or equal to 24;

3) If you have 20-50 hands on BB and his VPIP is smaller or equal to 22;

4) If you have less than 20 hands on BB and his VPIP is smaller or equal to 19;

5) If you have more than 40 hands on BB and his VPIP is higher than 35 and his PFR is lower than 12 and 3-bet stat is lower than 6, still open 100%. This is not a nitty guy, but he is a loose passive and their strategy makes it so that we can get a lot of folds on flops and that helps massively with our winrate. Remember this, if you can put yourself into a profitable spot in poker, it doesn’t matter how you got there. If a player folds way too many rivers, it doesn’t matter that the previous street barrels were not profitable, because he probably calls too much on those streets either way if he folds a lot of rivers. You’ve just set yourself up for a profitable bet on the river so that means that you’re still making money. A lot of it. River pots are big!

If your opponent doesn’t fold all that much to steals, then you’re supposed to open a standard opening range from the SB, even a bit tighter than BTN will be better because your opponent will have position and can make your life a living nightmare because he is going to be calling a lot in position and also 3-betting a lot, also he can float a lot of flops etc.

Also one more really important thing to consider is that if a player starts adjusting to your raises and starts 3-betting 100% vs you or defending some insane amount, it’s time to readjust to his adjustment! Poker is a game of adjusting to your opponents and the guy who is always in front will get the most amount of money. If your opponent 3-bets you twice in a row when you steal OR if he calls you three times in a row when you open the SB, then it’s time to exploit again.

One of two things happened:

  1. Your opponent is tilted and he just started playing 100% 3-bet vs you which is awesome because he’s investing 9-10BB with all his hands preflop. This means that it’s time to get some value from him. Always remember that if your opponent is too tight then you’re supposed to be loose and if your opponent is loose then you’re supposed to be tight unless he’s really passive.
  2. Your opponent mindfully adjusted to your strategy (will almost never happen with players who have sub 21% VPIP), and is now playing wider to fit your style. It’s time to understand that he will also invest a lot of money postflop with weaker hands and is more prone to investing more money on turns and rivers with mediocre holdings. You have just created an image for yourself and it’s time to profit from this situation.

If we’re facing a lot of 3-bets, a lot of players will fall into the pitfall of 4-bet bluffing a lot and also calling a lot of 3-bets because the opponent has such a wide range. Remember that some of the time your opponent will be on tilt and will be pushing way wider than what you’re used to. Also, he will be way more aggressive post-flop. Don’t call him preflop with hands that flop a lot of second pairs, you’ll have a very hard time facing a furious train that’s coming towards you, and you’re also out of position! The solution here is tightening up your pre-flop raising range considerably, even way below default opening range. He won’t know it in a few hands, he won’t readjust and his hud will not really show this to him.

If we’re facing a lot of calls I would continue to open 100% and c-bet any bluffable boards so that I can see if he’s also floating. You can’t know if you don’t test it out.

If he’s still folding too many flops then keep pushing full speed ahead because you’re going to win eventually.

If he’s calling also a lot of flops then it’s time to reduce your opening range the same way that we do vs an aggro 3-bettor.

If you’re going to get 3-bet every time, there’s absolutely no point in opening hands that you would fold vs a 3-bet. Thus, we have arrived to this range:


I’m pretty happy with calling/4-betting all these hands even OOP vs a 3-bet, and it seems pretty comfortable to do that vs a 100% range, isn’t it?

There is a catch here, though. At some point, the opponent will understand that you have started either opening tighter or think what most people think that “you just got a good streak of hands and now it’s gone” and stop 3-betting you that often or calling you that often. If this happens, it’s very easy to continue. START PUSHING AGAIN!

Yep, give them zero mercy. Are they not defending their blinds again? There’s a reason it’s called “stealing”.

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