Preflop Strategy – 3-Betting

When someone has raised before you, you should normally raise or fold. Under some circumstances you can consider cold calling.

You should normally raise if you believe your hand will be better than your opponents in average. This means that your hand should be within the range of the upper half of your opponents range. For example, if you believe opponent is raising with  top 10% of hands your hand should be in the top 5% range. Or if you believe opponents hand is in top 20% range your should be in top 10%.

The size of the raise should normally be 3 times the size of opponents raise. For example, if you are playing $1-2 and opponent has raised to 6 you should 3-Bet to 18.

There are a couple of exceptions:

  • There is a high risk of a 4-Bet and you can not profitably move all-in with your hand. Then it is better to fold.
  • If raiser frequently folds to a 3-Bet, you have the option to 3-Bet light.

If there is a very aggressive 4-Bettor acting behind you or if original raiser is an aggressive 4-Better and your hand is not good enough for all-in you should probably just fold. Let’s say fold if there is someone behind who is 4-Betting > 25% or if original raiser is 4-Betting > 10 %.

3-Betting light

You have a good opportunity to 3-Bet light if opponent is folding a lot to 3-Bets. 3-Betting light means to include bluffs or semi-bluffs to the range you are raising with. There is a lot of debate in the poker community on whether to 3-Bet light with a merged or polarized range. A merged range means just adding more hands from top of range. For example 3-Betting a top 15% range against someone who has raised with a top 20% range.  A polarized range means adding weaker hands as bluffs. My view on this is that I prefer a polarized range. Why?

Let’s take an example. Opponent raises with a top 20% range. He’s calling 3-Bets 20 % of the time and 4-Betting 3%. Would you prefer adding KJs to your range or 98s? I prefer 98s for two reasons:

  • KJs will often be dominated by hands like AK or AJ. You are risking winning small pots and lose bigger pots. There will be no hands in opponents calling range that are dominated by your hand (unless he calls 3-Bet a lot – in which case I don’t recommend 3-Betting light).
  • If you are making this move rarely the 98s hand will not be totally expected by opponent which means you can win a big pot.

However, I guess it is also a matter of personal taste since KJs has 43% equity against opponents range in this example and 98s has only 34%.

When opponent 4-Bets it doesn’t matter which of these hands you are holding since both are clear folds of course.

Here is my default strategy for 3-Betting light:

  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet < 75 % – only bet for value
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 75% – 80% – add 25 % of bluffs
  • Opponents folds to 3-Bet  80-85 % – add 50 % of bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 85-90% – add 100% bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet > 90 % – bluff with any two

If I am in the blinds I take it down two notches since I will be out of position if opponent calls – and they call much more often in this situation. Meaning for example, if opponent folds to 3-Bet 85% – 90% I will add 25% bluffs.

If it is a squeeze situation (one or more callers before you) it take it up one notch since it is tougher for original raiser to call and the callers usually don’t have a top notch hand. Meaning for example if raiser folds to 3-Bet 75%-80% I add 50% bluffs.

The fold to 3-Bet percentages above should be taken as the likelihood that opponent will fold in this hand – not his general stats. For example if you have 3-Bet an 80-85 % folder three times in a session and once shown 87s he will be much more likely to fight back the next time you raise him. In this scenario you should consider tightening your value range rather than thinking about more bluffs.

I will add bluffs starting with JTs-54s (2%), then J9s-64s (2%) and then JTo-54o (6%).

Examples of 3-betting light

1. Opponent raises with 20% and you expect him to fold 80% – 85%.

3-Bet for value 10% and add 5% bluffs (50 % of the 10% range). In this case I would add JTs-54s + J9s-64s.

2. Opponent raises with 30% and you expect him to fold 75% – 80%.

3-Bet for value 15% and add 4% bluffs (25 % of the 15% range). In this case I would also add JTs-54s + J9s-64s.

Calling 3-Bets

If out-of-position, you should almost always 4-Bet or fold. Only exceptions are:

  • Opponent is very bad
  • The 3-bet is small enough or opponent bad enough to give you correct implied odds
  • Occasionally with AA or KK against an opponent who 3-bets wide, is aggressive postflop and folds a lot to 4-bets. If he is good and your are playing each other often you need to balance with some other hand(s) as well.

If in-position you should 4-Bet or fold most of the time also. The exceptions above still applies and some additional ones:

  • Sometimes call with AA-99 and JTs-87s if opponent is predictable and folds too much on the flop or on the turn. If you call with these hands you need to bluff fairly often on good boards in order to not lose money on this

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