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When to Cold 4-bet

It’s hard to imagine a more aggressive play than a cold 4-bet. And while the situation to make this move may not come up all too often, it’s important to understand how to play it before it happens so that once your opportunity arrives, then you can make the move with confidence and win a big pot.

Before we talk about when and how to make the play, let’s clarify some of our terminology. When we talk about making a “cold” bet, that means that we haven’t put chips into the pot yet. So, for instance, if someone open raises in front of us and we call their bet from late position, then we’re making a “cold call”.

A 4-bet refers to the 4th pre-flop bet. The blinds are the first bet, the open raise is the 2nd bet, and the first re-raise is a 3-bet. That means that the 4-bet is the 2nd re-raise.

Putting it all together, a cold 4-bet is a big re-re-raise as our first action in the hand.

The Range

We only want to make such an aggressive play with the right range, but that doesn’t mean that we’re only using our best hands, such as QQ+ and AK. While these hands are great value 4-bets, we always want to mix up our play sometimes and we need to have bluffs in our range—otherwise they’ll never call.

That means that we occasionally want to 4-bet bluff with hands like 22-44 or A5o. This is called playing a polarized range: either our hands are the best of the best, or they’re not that great.

Notice, however, that we’re not bluffing with complete junk. We still want to have a little equity in case we get called.

Exploitative 4-bets

The best time to make this play is when you can do so as an exploit because you’ve identified a weakness in your opponents’ game. Ideally, you want both the initial raiser and the 3-better to be loose aggressive players because we’re counting on them to either fold or call with a worse hand.

If, on the other hand, the 3-better is a huge nit who only 3-bets with aces or kings, then there’s no point in making the play because you’re always going to be beat. A loose player, however, might be 3-bet with JJ, T9s, or other marginal hands that can’t stand up to a big 4-bet.

As a final note, remember that, even after you’ve identified a good spot, this play takes commitment. Make the courageous play, knowing that you might lose your whole stack but that, in the long run, you’ll win many more chips than you lose.

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