This is a basic guide on our strategic outlook when playing in the BTN (button). We’ll select examples from NLHE cash games, but many of the concepts will translate into other formats such as tournaments or PLO.

Let’s recap on the key features of the BTN (button).

  • The best position at the table.
  • Guaranteed to be in position postflop.
  • Excellent position for stealing the blinds.
  • Acts third from last preflop (our cold calls might get overcalled or squeezed).

The Button – An Overview

The most profitable scenario is where the action gets folded around to the BTN preflop, allowing us to steal the blinds. Good players look to steal hyper aggressively on the BTN (approximately 50% of holdings).

Steal – An open-raise made from the SB (small blind), CO (cutoff) or BTN (button). 

A late position open is referred to as a “steal attempt” due to the excellent chance to win the blinds without needing to see a flop. 

The BTN makes a successful steal if the both the BB (big blind) and SB (small blind) fold when facing a BTN open.

Although this is our preferred scenario, profitable opportunities present themselves when we face open-raises also. Given that we are guaranteed position postflop (whatever happens), we like to target our opponent’s open-raises with cold-calls and 3bets.


Despite the sheer profitability of this seat at the table, we cannot call as wide as we can in the BB when facing opens. The BTN still needs to be concerned with the fact that his cold calls can be overcalled or squeezed by the blinds. So, although we look to play hyper aggressively in open-raise scenarios, our aggression is somewhat tempered when facing opens.

Strategic Outlook on the BTN

Steal very aggressively when folded around to us. Look to leverage our good position with cold calls and 3bets when facing opens. 

Stats:

Recommended average cold call frequency: Around 10%
Recommended average 3bet frequency: Around 9%
Recommended raise first in frequency: Around 48%

(Remember that these stats account for a range of different open sizings)

Sample Ranges From the BUTTON

In this section, we’ll look at some sample ranges from the button so that we can get a basic understanding of what to call/fold/raise with from this position.

BTN Defence vs CO Open

Purple: Re-raise (3bet) range
Blue: Cold calling range

BTN Defence vs CO Open

This graph represents a sample range for defending against a CO 3bb open-raise. If the CO open-raises smaller, we should defend wider, but more on that later. Note that the 3bet (re-raise) range is heavily weighted towards high equity holdings. It makes sense not to 3bet bluff speculative holdings in the majority of games since players are not folding as much as they are supposed to when facing 3bets.

BTN Defence vs Lojack Open

Purple: Re-raise (3bet) range
Blue: Cold calling range

BTN Defence vs Lojack Open

The critical difference should be readily apparent. We defend a tighter range of holdings from the BTN when facing an open from an earlier position.

BTN Raise First In Range

“Raise first in” means to open-raise preflop after it gets folded around to us. We have already mentioned that this provides us with a great steal opportunity when we are on the BTN.

BTN Raise First In Range

This raising range works out at about 48% of holdings. We raise aggressively with the hopes of picking up the blinds, but we do still have some limits as to how wide we can go. If we attempt to open-raise too aggressively, competent opponents in the blinds can exploit this strategy.

Having said that, most opponents in the blinds do not know how to counter aggressive BTN opens. It’s not unheard of for players to get away with raising 70% or more of their holdings profitably on the BTN in some environments.

BTN vs Blinds 3bet

If we are stealing aggressively from the BTN, we are going to run into 3bets from the blinds from time to time. The following sample range gives us an idea regarding what we should call and what we should re-raise (4bet).

Blue = Call vs 3bet
Purple = Re-raise (4bet) vs 3bet

BTN vs Blinds 3bet

Note that we tend towards re-raise (4betting) with high equity hands only. 4bet bluffing is not incentivised in most environments since the average villain does not fold as much as they are supposed to vs 4bets.

Relevant Adjustments

It’s essential to understand that the sample ranges should be used as a rough guide rather than a set rule. In practice, we will end up changing these defending ranges based on a number of variables. A good understanding of these variables will help us to make high-quality decisions on the fly.

Villain’s sizing – The larger our opponent’s open-raise sizing, the tighter we defend.

Formation – The later our opponent’s position, the wider we can defend.

Reads – E.g. our opponent folds too much to 3bets/4bets, we can 3bet/4bet more aggressively.

Villain skill - If our opponent is a bad player, we can play more hands in general.

Steals – If the blinds fold too much, we can open-raise the button wider, sometimes any 2 cards.

Cold-calls – If the blinds are tight and rarely squeeze, we can get away with cold calling more hands on the BTN.

Other Scenarios

Iso Raising – This situation is where we raise from the BTN when facing an open-limp. Seeing as we are guaranteed to be in position postflop, the BTN is the best seat at the table for iso-raising. We can, therefore, raise aggressively (although usually not quite as aggressively as our raise first in range from this spot).

Iso-raise – A preflop raise made against a limper.

BTN Iso

Overcalling/Squeezing – Overcalling and squeezing are terms which refer to 3-way scenarios. When facing two opponents. we generally prefer to 3bet (squeeze) a tighter range and weight our calls (overcalls) towards speculative hands with good suited/connected potential.

Overcall – A call after a player has already called before us on the current street.  
Squeeze – A 3bet made after there has already been at least one caller vs an open-raise.

Purple: Re-raise (squeeze) rangeFor the sake of comparison here is what a BTN squeezing/overcalling range might look like when facing a HJ open and CO call.

Blue: Overcalling range

BTN squeeze vs 3bb

About the Author
By
Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.
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