3-Betting – By: Russell Blattberg
The 3-bet is one of the most powerful and misunderstood plays in poker. Playing optimally in 3-bet pots versus your opponents can generate huge profits. Few players understand the science or the art of 3-betting.
Why 3-bet? 3-betting makes the pot bigger pre-flop. Why would you want to do that? You are essentially forcing your opponent to make a decision- you are saying, “if you want to push me off the hand, you’re going to need to play for a lot of your chips. If you want to see a flop you’ll have to pay.” By 3-betting pre-flop you give your opponent a chance to fold. If you 3-bet a reasonable range against a normal opponent, you will make more money in 3-bet pots by getting the pre-flop raiser to fold than you will lose when you are 4-bet (remember you are not always folding to a 4-bet).
It’s crucial to know how much to 3-bet to if you choose to reraise. With 100 big blind effective stacks in position against one raiser you want to 3-bet at least 3x their raise and as high as 4x their raise. Let’s say you are playing $100 NL and the stacks are $100 effective. The cutoff opens to $4, and you decide to re raise in the button to $14, the cutoff calls. There is now $29.50 in the pot. The cutoff checks the flop to you and you continuation bet $24, the cutoff calls. There is now $77.5 in the pot, and you have $62 left. The sizing leaves you with the perfect bet to be able to shove. When considering how big to 3-bet, and to c-bet you want to make sure that your sizing allows you to get your stack in over 2-3 streets.
When you are out of position it’s important to increase the size of your 3-bet so your opponent has less of an incentive to call in position. By making the post-flop stacks shallower you decrease your opponent’s positional edge- making the hand simpler and easier to play.
As the stacks get deeper, you should increase the size of your 3-bet to cut down on your opponent’s implied odds. Let’s go back to that $100 NL example. If your opponent raises with small pocket pair in the cutoff and you re-raise to $14 your opponent has to call for $10 and there is $19.50 in the pot. Assume your opponent is playing strictly for set value. There is $19.50 in the pot, and I have $86 left behind. The maximum the villain can win is $105.5. If a raise is under 5% of your stack you can generally call profitably for set value, and if opponent is fishy and you know they are going to stack off, then you can call up to a maximum of 10% of your stack. Villain has to call about 9.5% of his stack, and I am not going to spew to him. It is definitely not profitable for him/her to call for set value here. Lets change the example though and say that effective stacks are $200. Now it is profitable for villain to make the call. To reduce the villain’s implied odds, you need to increase the size of your 3-bet.
When you are considering a 3-bet it’s important to think about your position, your opponent’s pre-flop raising range from their position, and their calling/ 4-bet range versus their folding range.
Assume your opponent is 22/18/3. A reasonable pre-flop raising range is: under the gun- AJ+/ATs+/KQ+/KJs+/22+, hijack- AT+/A9s+/KJ+/JTs+/22+, cutoff- A8+/A2s+/ KT+/ JT+/ J9s+/ 87s+/ 22+, button- A2+/Q9+/K8s+/ T8+/ 86s+/ 76+/ 54s+/ 22+, and a similar small blind range to button.
I’m going to give you a range of hands that you can 3-bet, but you shouldn’t necessarily 3-bet every time. I’d recommend 3-betting your premiums almost all the time, and the more marginal the hand, the less you should 3-bet it (the more it has to work/ you have to outplay your opponent post-flop). 100 BB effective stacks, $100 NL. 22/18/3 raises under the gun to $4, you re raise to $14 on the button. Their calling/ 4-bet range is generally: AK+/TT+. You should be 3-betting a tight range here- AQ+/JJ+, rare bluffs 1-2% (suited connector’s 45s-89s/small pairs 22-66). Roughly 70% of the time you 3-bet, they will fold and you will win 5.5 bb’s. Roughly 30% of the time they’ll either call (50%) or 4-bet (50%).
Raises in the hijack to $4, you re raise to $14 on the button. Their calling/ 4-bet range is generally: AQ+/TT+. You should still be 3-betting a tight range here- AJ+/KQ+/TT+, rare bluffs 2-4% (suited connectors/ small pairs).
Raises in the cutoff to $4, you reraise to $14 on the button. Their calling/ 4-bet range is generally: AJs+/99+. Because the cutoff is raising a fairly wide range and you have position, you should be 3-betting your widest range on the button: ATs+/KJs+/TT+, bluffs 4-8% (suited connector’s/ small pairs).
When I am out of position I tend to re raise my premium hands AK/JJ+, and sometimes AQ/AJ/KQ depending on my opponents calling/ and 4b range. Every once in awhile I’ll mix in a bluff (suited connector/ under pair), but this should be done pretty sparigly.
When planning to 3-bet, it’s helpful to understand your opponent. I don’t like bluffing versus random players. Against some players I will 3-bet a much wider range in position because they are fishy. For example I played a hand last night where a fish playing 65/45/2.5 doubled the bb (his last pre-flop raise was 5 bb’s) under the gun, a fairly fishy player calls, andthe cutoff calls. I was in the button with QJ. I normally would not 3-bet in this situation, but I felt like under the gun’s raising range was so wide that QJ was actually ahead, and that I would normally take the pot down pre-flop.
Squeezed pots (3-betting versus a pre-flop raise/ call/s) plays somewhat differently than regular 3-bet pots. I generally bluff a little more when I am squeezing. The first player to act is forced to fold most of their range because there is a player/s behind him/her still to act. A majority of the time the initial raiser is going to fold. They will occasionally call/ 4-bet, but unless they are terrible or are good and put you on a squeeze, they will not call light/ 4-bet bluff. If the pre-flop raiser folds, the player/s who called the raise pre-flop normally has a pretty easy decision. Players generally call pre-flop raises with pairs/ suited connectors/ and broadway hands, and they should normally fold these types of hands when they facing a squeeze (this doesn’t mean they will). Obviously if they are bad/ or called with a strong hand pre-flop you are probably going to a flop. If I’m going to 3-bet bluff out of position I’m much more likely to do it in a squeeze scenario.
This is really only the tip of the iceberg – the basics of 3-betting. I hope this article will spark some interesting discussion about 3-betting and 3-bet pots!