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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

3 Bet Poker Strategy - Essential Guide

26,085 Views on 3/2/12

The skill of 3 Betting is key for success in today's game. What is a 3 Bet? And when should we 3 Bet?

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This article will focus on pre-flop 3-Betting

So what is a 3 bet in poker?

  • A 3 bet refers to any time a player makes the third bet in a pot. 3 bets can happen on any street, but this article will focus on preflop 3betting. The mandatory blinds count as the first bet, the open-raise counts as the second bet, and any raise following this will be a 3 bet.
  • " The 3 bet most commonly refers to the time when you raise the pre-flop opening raise of your opponent" 
  •  The same rule applies to the'4 bet' and the '5 bet' (It's basically just a shortened abbreviation for saying 'The third bet in the round')
  • So when should we 3 bet???

    There are 3 main reasons why you want to 3 bet. Before you 3 bet you should have one of them in mind:

    • For value
    • As a bluff
    • To set up a post-flop steal  (or pre-flop steal)
    • Value

      We 3 bet for value because we believe our hand to be stronger than our opponents hand, so we want to milk as much money  out of our opponent as possible. The best players to target with value 3 bets are those with a low fold-to-3 bet. Thispokerimage means that they will call your 3-bet with a decent amount of worse hands. A common mistake is to 3 bet a hand which may seem like a strong hand, but against the range that villain continues with, is relatively weak.

      In a 6-max game, especially at lower stakes, you should only be 3-betting premium hands for value: 99+, AJss+. Please note that this range will widen if you face a loose opponent. So if you're facing up against an opponent who's going to call all of your 3-bets no matter what hand he is holding, then you need to widen your 3bet range, 3bet more hands and raise it up more.

      Generally you want to 3 bet less often for value against early position opens. 3 betting vs early opens looks very strong and you may end up isolating yourself against a range you don’t do well against. Even with the top end of your value range, you may be getting folds more often than you’d like, and flatting becomes a very viable option. Even hands as strong as QQ and AKo, you can strongly consider flatting vs an UTG open-raise.

      To summarize you want to be value 3 betting against players with a 'low fold to 3 bet (Ft3bet)' and a high 'Attempt to steal (ATS)'.

      You want to be 3 betting a value range of premium hands, and rarely/never bluffing. Flatting is often a good option against early position opens.


      You want to target players with a high Ft3bet and a high ATS. If a player is not folding often enough to 3 bets then you will not have a profitable 3 bet bluff. A high ATS means villain’s range will be wider in general and he will find it harder to combat 3 bets.

      Most often you will want to play 3 bet poker as a bluff against positions where your opponent's range is going to be traditionally wide, i.e - BU, CO, and SB opens. However, a better player might perceive your 3 bets to be lighter against these positions and will play back more frequently. Against better opponents you can make advanced plays such as 3 bet bluffing vs UTG or MP opens. They won’t expect you to be bluffing here and may make some very tight folds.

      The hands you 3 bet bluff with should be those not quite strong enough to call, but still with some potential. Hands like Q9s, T8s, Axs, Kxs. If a hand is strong enough to call, you should not be 3 betting it, for the reasons given in the KQo example.  If villain is the type who will adjust by 4 betting light, you will also want to include some of the top value hands in your 3 betting range. 3 betting the top end and bottom end of your range is referred to as 3 betting a polarized range.

      You will also want to 3 bet bluff in-position more often than out-of-position, simply because you will have more fold equity in position.

      To Set up a Steal

      Perhapspokerimage villain is the type that calls a lot of 3bets but plays fit-or-fold on the flop. You can 3 bet with the intention of taking it down on the flop. You can 3 bet pre-flop with both bluffs and value-hands, but it will possibly be easier and higher EV to do it with a merged-value range. (You won’t lose EV by not flatting your medium value hands when villain has a low Ft3bet)

      In slightly more advanced games you can also 3 bet with the intention of setting up a pre-flop steal. Perhaps you know villain is going to be 4bet bluffing you a ton, so you can 3bet with the intention of 5 bet jamming as a bluff. Good hands to choose are those that have the best equity if they do end up getting called, eg pocket pairs like 88, or Axs type hands. The situations you can profitably do this at the micro-stakes are somewhat rare, but they do exist.

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      The preflop 3bet/4bet/5bet 'mind game' battles:

      This is an entire pre-flop game in itself. The objective is to adjust the ranges you 3bet/4bet/5bet in an attempt to find an edge against your opponent’s own 3bet/4bet/5bet ranges.

      The idea behind the 3bet/4bet/5bet game can be demonstrated using a simple example:

      • Let’s suppose player A opens on the button. Player B who is in the big-blind knows player A likes to open an extremely wide range from the Button. Player B decides to 3 bet bluff.
      • Player A however, by now, knows that player B knows that he is open-raising wide. Player A decides player B’s 3 betting range is wide enough and light enough to put In a 4 bet bluff.  Player B though, knows that player A knows his 3 bet range might be light, and decides to 5 bet bluff assuming player A’s 4 bet range is sufficiently light.
      • Usually the 3bet/4bet/5bet game ends here, because 100bb deep the stacks will often be all-in. Just because player A and player B are assuming each other is light though, that doesn't mean they are. Perhaps player B, knowing player A likes to 4 bet light, started 3 betting purely for value. Or, perhaps player A, knowing player B is capable of 5 bet jamming light, started 4 betting purely for value. If either player had made such an adjustment, they’d find themselves in a very profitable spot.

      For the above situation to take place, first the correct game dynamic needs to be established. At micro-stakes, a dynamic conducive to 5 bet-bluff jamming is pretty rare. The majority of players aren't 4 betting light enough for a 5 bet-bluff to be profitable. People do 3bet light a decent amount however, so you should still be focusing on your 3 bet/4 bet ranges. Usually you only want to 5 bet shove for value. This might sound “unbalanced”, but in reality it isn't. You are just selecting the appropriate 5 bet frequency to exploit your opponents, i.e 95% value 5% bluffs.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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