The 3 bet is an important play to learn and understand in poker. It might be one of the most important plays to get a grips with if you want to succeed at the tables. You see, people do it all the time, and you’ve probably done it too, but do you know why you did it or why you should use the 3 bet? When is the best time to use it and how often should you do it?
All great questions. If you’re a good poker player then your 3 bet had a reason behind it. Either you have a good hand, or you have position over a player, or you’re isolating yourself, or maybe you’re just trying to take advantage of a situation. Whatever your reason is there should at least be one.
Not all reasons are created equal though. Just because you have a reason for 3 betting doesn’t mean that it’s a good reason. Some people 3 bet way too much, and some people don’t do it enough. Both of these strategies can be exploited by a good player. If you’re only 3 betting premium hands then it makes it easy for players to play against you. The same goes for if you’re 3 betting a very wide range of hands. It makes it easier for people to take advantage of you then too.
What types of 3 bet are the pros making?
Pro poker players are not making a 3 bet with any particular hand, but rather they’re making 3 bets with a range of hands along with considerations of your position for the action, and the players you’re playing against.
No matter why you do a 3 bet there’s basically 2 reasons why you’re really doing it. You either have a good hand that is likely the best hand and has value or you have a hand that has potential to be a good hand. A hand that has potential is usually a suited connector type hand where you’re basically semi bluffing with a preflop 3 bet.
If you hear a pro talking about a 3 bet you might hear them say something like, “he doesn’t 3 bet light too often.” 3 betting light is basically doing it without a premium hand. It’s usually done with a suited connector that has potential to win the pot. Something like Jack Ten suited or nine ten suited. If you’re 3 betting with a premium hand then you’re said to be 3 betting for value.
3 betting for value
This type of 3 bet is the “normal” one that you expect someone would do when they have a good hand preflop. It’s done when you think you have the best hand (with something like AA, KK, or QQ) so you’re trying to get money into the pot when you think you have the winner.
The key thing to understand here is that you figure to have the best hand against the remaining players “range of hands”. How the rest of the players play will dictate what type of hand ranges they may have and whether or not you should be raising with your hand.
Another key thing to understand is that if you’re 3 betting only your premium hands then you’re 3 betting too tight, and that makes it easy for other to play against you because you become very predictable. They can now narrow down your hand range to a very small set of options. This makes it very easy for them to bluff you and take the hand away from you, especially with the right cards on the board.
If you’re going to 3 bet a good old tight aggressive player then your 3 bet range might be smaller against them than against someone that plays a little more loose. You might be just 3 betting with hands like AA down to TT, and AK, AQ. You might tighten up some more and drop AQ and TT if you feel like you have to for a particular player. Of course, position and who’s left behind you to act can change what you 3 bet with.
If you’re 3 betting a loose player then you might want to widen your 3 bet range since you know they’ll probably call you with a weaker hand.
Again, the most important thing is to not 3 bet too predictably. If you’re only 3 betting your best hands then you’re never going to get the action that you need on those hands. You should balance it all out with a few 3 bets hold JT suited or even 78 suited every now and then. Don’t let your 3 bet give your hand away. The only way to do that is to balance out your play.
3 betting light for balance
If you want to be a winning poker player then you’re going to have to get used to the idea of 3 betting with some weaker hands to create a balance to your 3 betting range. Even if someone eventually sees that you’re raising with something like 67 suited that will only make it that much sweeter when you raise with AA the next time. Your opponents will put you on a wider 3 betting range and you’ll have them guessing. You always want them guessing, never knowing what you have.
The other great thing about the preflop 3 bet with a weaker hand is you might just win the pot after the bet. Obviously, you don’t want to do it too often otherwise it loses its power, but if you can balance it every now and then you’re going to do well. Every now and then you’ll just take the pot with a 3 bet holdin AA. However, you’ll also take the pot holding 78 suited. There’s nothing better than winning a pot without having to fight anymore. You won, and on to the next hand.
When should you 3 bet?
Like I said before, it all depends on your position and the players at the table, along with what you’re holding. A good time to 3 bet with a non premium hand is against a good player that is playing loose aggressive. This type of player will sometimes fold the weaker hand to a 3 bet unless you start doing it to them too often. If you have a below average calling station raising then 3 betting light might not be such a good idea since they’re likely to stick around a while, and you might have to have the best hand to get rid of them.
One of the best things you can do with the 3 bet is alter your tight aggressive image a bit. If you’re playing a tight game it might be hard to be paid off in some places. However, if you start 3 betting with a wider range of hands then you’re more likely to get paid off when you do get a hand. The other players will have a harder time adjusting to your playing style. Remember, you don’t want them knowing what you have. You want them guessing.
Remember that you want your opponent to fold without a showdown
You have to keep in mind that when you’re 3 betting with the lighter hands you’re sometimes playing them like they’re the monsters. You would really prefer your opponent folds at some point without having to go to showdown. In order to do that you’d be better off making a 3 bet with a hand that has at least a chance at winning if it’s a weaker hand. A suited connector is much better than any random hand.
Of Course, when you do hit that flop hard those times with your suited connectors you may want them to stick around. Hopefully in those situations you get them to come along. One thing is for sure though is you want them to keep guessing at what you have, and the best way to do that is to widen your 3 betting range with some non premium hands every now and then. Don’t 3 bet too much, but don’t do it too little either.