One of the most crucial fundamentals for playing a solid pre-flop game is mastering 3 betting. While you also need to know how to play against 3 bets, we’ll take this time to focus on 3 betting ourselves. Why and when do we 3 bet?
A 3 bet is a pre-flop re-raise. So, for instance, if the player under the gun open raises and then the player on the button raises again, we call this a 3 bet. As a default, a 3 bet is usually 3 to 5 times the size of the initial raise.
3 betting is a hallmark of an aggressive strategy. It applies maximum pressure to our opponents by putting them in a difficult situation and by making them think twice before entering a pot with a marginal hand. We want to 3 bet about 2% to 4% of all opening hands.
Just like any bet, we 3 bet for two primary reasons: for value and as a bluff. Remember, we never want to do anything all of the time in poker, so it’s important that our 3 bet range contains both value and bluff hands.
3 Betting Value
These are the hands that you’re most likely to find players, especially more inexperienced one, tend towards when constructing their 3 bet ranges. For example, we often want to 3 bet AK, QQ+ because we have a high amount of equity with these hands and we want to get as much money into the pot as possible.
If we hold AK and someone calls our 3 bet with AJ, we are setting ourselves up to win their entire stack by using our dominating hand.
The best time to 3 bet for value is against a fishy, calling-station type opponent. If you see that someone refuses to fold, especially if they are the first person to raise the pot, you can open up your value range against them because you know that they’ll be calling with all sorts of garbage.
In a situation like this, you could 3 bet TT+, AJ+, and some other broadway combos like QK to put their calling range under maximum heat.
It’s important to include value in our 3 bet range because this will increase our EV from our value hands in addition to giving our bluffs more credibility.
3 Betting Bluffs
The other part of our 3 bet range is bluffs. Here, we’re usually going to be trying to take down the pot without having to go to the flop.
However, we don’t just want to fire any old junk and should instead be looking for hands that can pick up equity on the later streets. Small pocket pairs like 22-44 and suited connectors like T9s are great for this purpose. That way, if we do get called, we can draw to the best hand and we’ll have more flexibility post-flop.
The best time to 3 bet bluff is against tight players who fold too often. If we see that someone is only willing to call with a nutted range, we can open up our bluffing range to exploit this tendency.