Non-Polarized Blind Vs Button Defending Ranges
So recently there's been a lot of talk about using non-polarized ranges in button vs big blind situations. Let's briefly go over the problems with using a "polarized" range.
Well, firstly if we're going to be 3-betting aggressively, it's impossible to really get our range that polarized. It's not like it's an UTG open where we're 3-betting with some super clear value bets (QQ+/AKs) and air. A lot of the hands we'll be 3-betting "for value" (the term works poorly here) are hands like AT, KJ, and TT, and these hands are going to be outdrawn all the time even if they're ahead pre-flop. Tons of our opponent's hands will have over 40%+ equity against these hands and the advantage of position.
Because of that, in button vs blind situations our range won't be particularly polarized on the flop no matter how hard we try. We just can't 3-bet aggressively enough vs button opens while keeping our range very polarized. Again, this isn't like a flop situation where we can raise sets/two pair/draws and air and make a range very easy to play on the turn and river (and even then we could add a few non-polarized hands to this flop raising range, but I'll save that for another time).
If our range was perfectly polarized on the flop, we would not need to worry about check-calling or check-raising. We'd always either bet or check-fold and our hand would play perfectly like in the model described in Part Four which focuses on flop play. But since our range can't play like this, we need hands that can check-raise and check-call on the flop since we'll clearly need to be (often) defending our checks.
I'll start with listing the ranges I'm using right now. Again, these are just the ranges I'm playing with right now, these aren't GTO ranges, and in all likelihood I'll have at least slightly different ranges a year from now. They're even labeled "experimental ranges" in my flopzilla because I need more time to play with them post-flop to see if I need to tighten or widen the ranges.
Here's the SB 3-betting range (I'm not currently flatting anything from the SB, again deserves it's own article for why I'm doing this and in theory I imagine SB uses a very small flatting range. But it's not solvable and I could easily be wrong):
And here's the BB 3-betting range:
Let me stress one more time these aren't GTO ranges. I haven't even touched upon my calling range from the BB or what opening size I'm assuming the button opens. But what's more important is you see how and why these ranges are different from the ones in the book.
There is a *MUCH*
greater emphasis on using high equity hands rather than hands with more robust equity. For example, look at the small blind 3-betting range. I'm currently 3-betting Q9s but folding 65s. That's because Q9s has more equity and will play better as a check-call on certain flop textures, and this allows me to balance my post-flop ranges. So, even if 65s make a few more nut type hands (since it makes more straights), I still think Q9s is better.
Since we're 3-betting hands which will more consistently flop marginal hands (medium pair or top pair with a weak kicker), we must be prepared to play hands that are much harder to play post-flop. Especially at SSNL (but even at other stakes), people tend to love bet-folding and hate check-calling. A lot of these hands will be very difficult to play since they'll often go into "bluff catching" check-calling range post-flop (either on the flop, turn, or river) and your opponent will get to play the polarized range in position.
Since we're 3-betting more of the high equity good stuff, our calling range from the big blind will be very weak. Remember, a lot of times players min-raise or 2.5x raise in the button, so we'll never fold any hand in the big blind that can lose less than 1 big blind overall by calling. We're thus often getting an amazing price to call and should call with very weak hands.
This forces us to play a range that's very weak and out of position with a lot of stack depth. That's hard, and will result in us check-folding a lot post-flop. More specifically, there are a lot of hands that are probably -1 BB overall to fold pre-flop from the big blind (since we just fold our blind) that are in theory let's guess only -0.85 BB if we call. But these hands are very hard
for most players to play, as we're not GTO robots and most of us tend to make more mistakes with a weak range OOP than a good range in position.
So as LorenzoVMatterhorn pointed out, there is no consensus as to whether calling or 3-betting K9s pre-flop is best and he's right. So let's look at the pros and cons of each 3-betting and flatting K9s from the big blind:
Pros of 3-betting:
Our opponent doesn't get to see a free flop with his weak opening hands. This is hugely important
, since even the weakest hands in the button opening range our going to outdraw our K9s (or make us fold the better hand) nonstop.
K9s probably will work pretty well as a check-call on some king high boards, or it can bet the flop then check-call the turn. In other words, it's a hand that can usually get a few streets of value post-flop and won't often greatly fear giving free cards (since there are few overcards to a pair of kings, so our opponent's bluffs won't often have a ton of equity). Additionally, we may need more check-calling hands in our post-flop range on certain board textures and this hand will help.
Cons of 3-betting:
We may get 4-bet and have to fold a pretty good hand (or make a loose call).
We may be mostly making our opponent's dominated hands fold while the hands that dominate us call. For example, maybe our optimal-ish opponent calls A9o, KQo, KJo, KTo, and K9s pre-flop, but he folds most suited kings worse than K9s and all offsuit kings worse than KTo.
While I'm sure you can think of some more detailed pros and cons to each 3-betting and flatting, you can already get an "ewwwwwww" feeling when someone asks "Is K9s a 3-bet in the big blind vs a button open in theory?" There's a ton of pros and cons to each 3-betting and flatting, and this won't model well.
Yet if I had to guess right now, I think it's not
a 3-bet since I think our opponent is going to call with most hands which dominate us and fold most hands which we dominate. I dislike making the pot bigger when I'm behind and while it's fine if we make our opponent fold Q9o/J9o/K4s pre-flop, that's not ideal. These hands don't have much equity against and we can win a medium sized pot when we have them outkicked.
Contrast this briefly with a hand which like 76s, which I think is a clearer 3-bet since this hand retains it's equity well because it makes hands which dominate it (like A7/K7/Q7 and A6/K6/Q6) fold and it has the potential to make very robust hands (straights and flushes) and win a massive pot. So I think this one is pretty easy and people won't disagree with it.
So if I had to guess right now, in the case I find I can widen my BB 3-betting range I think I'd rather 3-bet something like K2s vs the button open rather than K9s. That's because I think the 3-bet happens to make a lot of hands which K9s dominates fold. Put differently, the 9 high kicker is more valuable in a raised pot than a 3-bet pot (since in raised pots we'll outkick our opponents K8o etc), and the difference between a pair of 9's and pair of 2's is more significant in a raised pot than 3-bet pot (since your opponent will have more pairs of 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 in raised pots than 3-bet pots). So I'd rather 3-bet K2s to make hands which dominate it fold and call with K9s to keep hands which dominate it involved.
Ultimately, is that worth having to play a 3-bet pot with a slightly weaker hand? I think it is, but there's no way to prove it and I could easily be wrong. That's also why I don't like the term "polarized" or "linear" much for pre-flop play, because I've seen the terms mean different things to different people and pre-flop is just such an incredibly complicated and unsolvable problem.
EDIT: I intentionally ignored BvB ranges because I think they're even more complicated, didn't understand them well enough when writing the book (and still might not), and the concepts behind them would likely be too complicated to explain that early on in the book.