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The Ultimate Guide to Preflop Multiway Pots (And Squeezing)

Multiway pots are extremely complex.

As more players enter the pot, the size of the game-tree increases. This makes finding the best play a more complicated task than it usually is. Many players, including top pros, frequently make mistakes multiway pots.

We’ll break down 8 multiway pot examples in this article. These examples help demonstrate the common mistakes players make in multiway pots, and how to avoid them.

Here we go.

Part 1: Preflop – Deciding When to Enter a Multiway Pot

The old-school approach to multiway pots was to enter with many speculative hands hoping to win big when you hit. This might work against a table full of weaker players, but you are practically setting your chips on fire against strong, aggressive opposition.

Whenever we call a pre-flop raise, we cap our range because we will not have the strongest hands that would otherwise 3-bet the raiser — similar to how when weaker players open-limp their weaker holdings.

Our capped range makes us vulnerable to squeezes by players left to act behind us. Therefore, as more players call the pre-flop raise, the greater incentive there is for a player acting behind to squeeze. This is especially true if the over-callers’ ranges are weak.

As more players enter the pot, your decrease in equity outweighs the improved pot odds.

The most common preflop mistake in multiway situations is entering the pot with too wide of a range. Let’s look at some examples.

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Example 1.1

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is on the BTN

HJ opens to 2.25BB. CO calls. Hero…

We need to call 2.25BB to play for a pot size of 8.25BB assuming the blinds fold. That means the price we’re paying is 27.27%.

Let’s look at our equity assuming the ranges from The Upswing Lab. The HJ player opens with:

HJ opening range as recommended by The Upswing Lab (22+,A2s+,K6s+,Q8s+,J8s+,T8s+,97s+,86s+,75s+,64s+,54s,ATo+,KTo+,QTo+,JTo)

And the CO calls with:

CO calling range vs HJ open from The Upswing Lab (JJ-44,AQs-ATs,KTs+,QTs+,JTs,T9s,98s,87s,AQo)

Now, let’s take a look at all hands that might have enough equity to continue from the BTN. (I’m using Power-Equilab for this part.)

This is just raw equity, without considering how these hands might play post-flop. This also doesn’t factor in the threat of squeezes or calls from the blinds.

For simplicity’s sake, we will assume that the BB will flat 100% of hands. This extra caller improves our pot odds to 23.68%. Let’s see which hands are above this slightly higher equity threshold.

Even with the BB flatting 100% of hands, our equity drops faster than our pot odds improve, which causes our potential continue range to shrink. This range shrinks even further when we factor in the blinds ability to squeeze or call with a tighter range.

Let’s assume that the blinds will squeeze a combined 15% of the time to see how our potential calling range changes. (For what it’s worth, stronger blinds will squeeze more often.)

If the blinds squeeze 15% of the time, we call 2.25BB to win a pot of 85%*8.25BB = 7.013BB, making our effective pot odds 32.09% when calling with a marginal holding.

As you can see, the threat of a squeeze — or even call — from the blinds drastically decreases the size of our potential continue range.

Now, let’s move on to specific hand types and their playability in multiway pots.

How Do Multiway Pots Impact a Hand’s Playability?

Hands like KQo or AJo play poorly in multiway pots. These hands’ playability stems from making good top pair hands, whose absolute strength is much higher in heads-up pots than multiway pots.

In multiway pots, value-betting top pair hands on the flop will force too many worse hands to fold and too many better hands to continue by the time we reach the river. As a result, top pair hands will often be best used as bluff-catchers on earlier streets

These hands are difficult to play in multiway pots due to their reverse implied odds. It’s relatively likely that one of our opponents has a set or better top pair, and when we have a pair ourselves we will be obligated to call one or more streets in the hope that Villain is bluffing.

KTs and QJs are a bit better, but have many of the same problems because most of their equity comes from making good top pair hands. They have added playability due to their flush potential, but the threat of Ace-high flushes looms larger-than-usual in multiway pots.

Pocket pairs don’t have the issues highlighted above. When we hit a set with a pocket pair we can comfortably value-bet multiple streets to try to win a big pot, even multiway.

The main drawback with pocket pairs is that their showdown value drops quickly as more players enter the pot. This prevents the weaker pairs from being able to withstand multiple streets of betting, and limits how often the stronger pairs can value-bet. The weakest pairs also suffer from reverse implied odds of set-over-set when the pot goes multiway.

When deciding what hands to squeeze, we should choose hands that play better in heads-up 3bet pots. This allows us to turn some hands that might not be profitable calls into profitable squeezes.

A hand like AQo will play poorly in the multiway pot, but in a heads-up 3-bet pot it will retain much of its equity with less reverse implied odds. That combined with some added fold equity makes AQo a good candidate for a bluff squeeze.

We should also look for some bluffs that will play well in a multiway 3-bet pot. Against tight continuing ranges from two (or more) opponents, the relative strength of the hands in our range changes.

Let’s look at an example: what are the top 3% of pre-flop hands when facing one player with AKo and another with QQ?

From this we see that the hands 76s, 65s and 54s are stronger than AKs when facing these ranges.

Suited connectors play well multiway with increased ability to make straights and flushes, and no reverse implied odds when making a pair. These hands can be squeezed sparingly to balance out the rest of your squeeze range and improve your playability in a multiway 3-bet pots.

With all of this in mind, let’s build a continuing range for Hero:

Finally, back to the hand

Hero looks at 65 and squeezes to 10.5BB. Everyone folds.

Example 1.2

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is in the BB

HJ opens to 2.25BB. CO calls. 2 folds. Hero…

Creating a BB continuing range is relatively simple because there is no risk of getting squeezed behind us. We can use this fact to squeeze aggressively.

The price that we’re paying in the BB is 1.25BB to win 7.25BB or 17.24% pot odds. We find that almost any two cards have sufficient equity:

However, since we’re out-of-position (OOP) against both players we will be at an informational disadvantage for the entire hand. We can’t realistically make a profit playing all of these highlighted hands.

When OOP with a capped pre-flop range in a multiway pot, we should look to play hands that have good implied odds and little reverse-implied odds. This means playing more hands that can make straights and flushes and avoiding hands that make marginal top pairs.

Hands like 96s or 52s can’t make strong top pair hands, but have good potential to make straights and flushes. Our one-pair hands are unlikely to be dominated, meaning that our outs to two pair and trips will be reasonably clean. We still have to be cautious when we make a flush with these hands.

We can be quite aggressive with our squeezes because the only player in the pot with an uncapped range is the CO opener. The BTN will likely not have hands strong enough to 4-bet us if we squeeze as these hands will have 3-bet for value vs a CO open.

On the other hand, since both players have position on us, they are incentivized to call and see a flop. This makes a 3-player 3-bet pot more likely, so we need to add hands to our squeeze range with suitable playability.

With all of this in mind, let’s build a continuing range for Hero:

Hero looks at T♠9♠ and squeezes to 11BB. CO raises all-in to 100BB. Everyone folds.

Example 1.3

100NL, 100BB effective

Folds to HJ who opens to 2.25BB, CO calls, folds, SB/Hero?

The SB is a tougher position than the BB for a few reasons:

  • We have less invested, thus worse pot odds
  • We are OOP against both players (and the BB if they overcall)
  • The BB still has the chance to squeeze

For this reason, we should look to play hands that have good OOP playability, as well as blockers to the strongest holdings in the remaining player’s ranges (including BB).

We have to call 1.75BB to win 7.75BB — pot odds of 22.58% — if the BB folds. If the BB overcalls or squeezes, our effective pot odds will be worse. Assuming BB squeezes 10% of the time, our effective pot odds are 25.09%. Let’s look at our equity when considering a call:

When calling, we should avoid hands that will play poorly in multiway pots. We will often be OOP against two or three players, which means that the playability of disconnected and off-suit hands drops tremendously. We will not be able to realize enough of our equity, and there are reverse implied odds when making a good but vulnerable hand like top pair.

When thinking about which hands we should squeeze, we should look to play hands that can flop well, as well as use a few hands that have good playability in a multiway 3-bet pot. When squeezing from the SB, we need to use a large size to force more pre-flop folds and decrease the positional advantage of the other players.

Squeezing a greater proportion of our range — instead of calling — allows us to blow the BB off their equity, and prevent them from squeezing aggressively.

Hero looks at A7 and raises to 11BB. Everyone folds.

(Note: If you’re serious about improving your cash game and tournament skills, check out The Upswing Lab. Click here to learn more about this poker training course developed by Doug Polk & Ryan Fee.)

Example 1.4

When the pot odds are bad, squeeze a greater proportion of your range. For example:

Let’s take a look at what happens to our pre-flop over-calling range when we’re getting a worse price against tighter ranges:

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is on the BTN

LJ opens to 3.5BB. HJ calls. co folds. Hero…

Using the ranges from the Upswing Lab to estimate, LJ opens with:

LJ opening range as recommended by The Upswing Lab (44+,A2s+,K9s+,Q9s+,J9s+,T9s,98s,87s,76s,65s,AJo+,KQo)

And HJ calls with:

HJ calling range vs LJ open from The Upswing Lab (JJ-66,AQs-ATs,KJs+,QJs,JTs,T9s,98s,AQo)

We need to call 3.5BB to win a pot of 12BB after the blinds fold. Our direct pot odds — without consideration of the blinds — are 29.17%.

If we assume that the blinds will squeeze 10% combined if we call (stronger players will squeeze more often), then our effective pot odds when calling with a marginal holding are 32.41%.

After seeing the above chart, one might come up with a continue range like this:

When we call, however, we put ourselves in a position to get aggressively squeezed by the blinds (see Example 1.5). Instead, we can squeeze a larger proportion of our range to kick the blinds out of the pot and keep our continuing range uncapped. When squeezing our entire range, we use a smaller size to deny 4-bets some profitability.

We will need to add some hands to our range that play well in-position in a multiway 3-bet pot, which is more likely to happen when we squeeze smaller. Hands like 54s, 65s and 76s have solid equity against tight ranges.

Hero looks at 64 and raises to 10BB. 2 folds. LJ raises to 35BB. 2 folds.

Example 1.5

Squeeze a larger proportion of your range from the blinds as more players enter the pot.

When facing multiple callers, we should look to squeeze with a higher frequency from the blinds — especially the BB. This is because more callers add extra dead money from capped ranges to the pot. We should look to put pressure on these capped ranges to thin the field and hopefully win the pot pre-flop. For example:

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is in the BB

LJ opens to 3.5BB. HJ calls. co folds. BTN calls. sb folds. Hero…

Let’s look at Hero’s equity against the ranges from Example 1.3, using {QQ-77,AQs,AKo} for BTN. Hero needs 17.24% equity to consider calling:

Being OOP against three opponents means that we will greatly under-realize our equity when we call. On the other hand, if we were to squeeze, we can force some of the other players to fold their equity.

As the BB, the only other player with an uncapped range is the LJ, meaning that when we squeeze and the LJ folds, we will not have to worry about getting 4-bet by the remaining players. So, if LJ folds to (or calls) our squeeze, we will be able to realize some equity with our weaker hands.

With all of this in mind, we can build a continuing range. Knowing that we will under-realize our equity when we call, we can instead merge our squeezing range with our calling range — continuing our entire range as a squeeze.

When considering which hands to squeeze, we should consider:

  • Our equity against the continuing ranges
  • What blockers we have against the continuing range
  • Our playability in a multiway 3-bet pot

Here, we squeeze between 8.9% and 12.7% of the time from the BB.

Hero looks at 55 and squeezes to 20BB. Everyone folds.

Example 1.6

When facing a squeeze, defend much tighter than if you were facing a standard 3-bet. For example:

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is in the CO

HJ  opens to 2.25BB. Hero calls, BU raises to 10.5BB. 3 folds. Hero…

Our pot odds are 33.33% when considering a call. Let’s look at how our range compares to the widest BU range in Example 1.3 {JJ+,ATs+,KQs,76s,65s,54s,AQo+}.

We can see that our entire range has sufficient raw equity to continue:

But many of the hands in this range will struggle when OOP — under-realizing their equity and/or have associated reverse implied odds.

Hero has KQ and folds.

Example 1.7

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is in the HJ

Hero opens to 2.25BB. CO calls. BU raises to 10.5BB. 2 folds. Hero…

When considering a call as the HJ, we have to take into consideration the chance that CO will over-call. If we assume that CO makes the mistake of always calling if we call, our effective pot odds are 25% against both ranges:

It also does not make sense to call any hands not in the continuing range described in Example 1.6. So, our continuing range will look like:

Example 1.8

100NL, 100BB effective

Hero is in the CO

HJ opens to 2.25BB. Hero calls. BTN squeezes to 10.5BB. blinds fold. HJ calls. Hero?

Let’s assume HJ calls with {JJ-66,AQs-AJs} as we did in example 1.7. Our pot odds are 25% when considering an over-call of the squeeze, so our equity against both HJ and BTN is:

In a multiway pot, however, our ability to realize this equity will be reduced because we will see fewer board cards on average than in a heads-up pot. Knowing this, we continue with the following range:

Preflop Multiway Pots Conclusion

As you can see from the examples above, an aggressive pre-flop strategy is key to dominating multiway pots.

Remember these tips when deciding to enter a multiway pot:

  1. As more players enter the pot, your equity falls faster than your pot odds improve
  2. Squeeze a greater proportion of your range when the pot odds are bad
  3. Squeeze a larger proportion of your range from the blinds as more players enter the pot
  4. When defending against a squeeze, play much tighter than if you were defending against a standard 3-bet

Stay tuned for Part 2: Postflop – Defending a Multiway Pot, which will be available to Upswing Lab members only.

(Note: Learn and master a huge range of topics in The Upswing Poker Lab training course. This is what we would teach our younger selves (if we could travel back in time). Click HERE to learn more.)

Read more from Thomas Pinnock on UpswingPoker:

Thomas Pinnock is a math whiz turned GTO wizard. When not preparing for his MD exams, he’s either playing poker, crunching numbers in the lab, or coaching. Get in touch on Facebook

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