If you wish to become a professional poker player or even someone who is good at poker, you need to understand how to bet and when to bet! In simple words, without getting the right timing for your bets, you cannot succeed in poker. In terms of poker, the ‘bet’ gets referred to as any action that a poker player takes by putting forward chips in the pot when there has been no action in that specific betting round (except for any ‘checks’). And 3 bet poker refers to the third bet that happens in any particular sequence of bets.
What is this, and why should you learn about it? Can we play this for strong hands, or is it another form of bluff poker? Let us find more about it in this article.
Understanding 3 Bet Poker
As mentioned earlier, 3 bet is the third bet (which is a re-raise) that occurs in a betting round on the table during poker tournaments or cash games. But, there is a lot of confusion amongst poker players (especially those who are new) with regards to 3bet. Because 3bet is associated with a ‘re-raise’, many believe that it happens when a player does a ‘raise’ by roughly three times the size of the earlier bet. However, this assumption is completely wrong!
There is some more confusion around this. Let us clear that off with a couple of examples below.
Consider you are playing No Limit Hold’em Poker at an online tournament. During pre-flop phase, a player raises from an early position. Now, it’s your turn and you choose to ‘re-raise’. You are said to have made a 3 bet during pre-flop stage. This sequence of 3 bet poker is often confusing for many poker players. Why? Because many fail to recognize that there is a forced bet happening in the form of blinds (Small Blind and Big Blind).
So, the blinds are considered to be the first bet. The player who raises on the blinds is the second bet or 2bet. And when you re-raise on that, it becomes 3bet (or the third bet). So, the 3 bet corresponds to the initial re-raise before the flop.
The same 3 bet can happen post the flop as well. Let us check out how it turns out with our next example below.
Say your opponent places a continuation bet on the flop. You follow it up with a check-raise. Now, this is the second bet (2bet) and not the third bet. When the opponent does a re-raise over your bet during this post flop phase, that is when it is said that an actual 3 bet has occurred.
Let us consider this same example with a different sequence/order of play. Say the opponent player (in early position) does not place a bet but instead does a ‘check’ on the flop. You follow it up with a bet (which is equivalent to the size of the pot). This will become the first bet (and not the ‘check’ by your opponent). Now, if the opponent puts a ‘raise’ on your bet, it becomes the second bet for that hand. And finally, when you do a re-raise, it becomes the third bet in that sequence (3 bet).
Hope the above examples have brought great clarity about the 3 bet online poker sequence or 3 bet LIVE poker sequence.
Different Types of Three Bets
1.Value 3 Bet
What gives you the best chance to win any game of poker? When you have a high value hand, right? That is when you can go ahead aggressively and place value bets on your hand. The same applies to the value three-bet.
You apply this when you think you have the strongest hand and you target getting more money in the pot so that when you win, you win big. You want to leverage the situation of having a very powerful hand as much as possible. And this can be done by getting called often from opponents (who have weak hands)!
Now, you might think which are the hands on which you can value 3 bet? This depends on a variety of parameters such as your table image as well as that of your opponents, your opponent’s tendencies, the overall table dynamics, your position, etc.
Your aim here has to be towards getting the best hands in comparison to the range of your opponents. So, study the opponents well. If your opponent is playing a tight game, you might as well have to play a tight three bet poker game, with hands such as premium pocket pairs (AA to JJ) or premium suited connector hand like Ace-King. However, you need to be careful against playing with a very tight range as your opponents can then identify your game as you become too predictable. This will make the opponents take notice, and the next time they face a similar three-bet, they might not fall for it.
On the other hand, if the opponent is playing with loose aggression, you can enhance the range of your hands for 3 bet value. For example, playing with hands like AK through to AQ, and even AA through to 99.
2. Light 3 Bet
Now, if you have played a bit of poker, you would agree that it is not often that you get high value hands. So, many times you have to consider getting started with a hand that is probably weak at that moment (during pre-flop), but, has a good potential of becoming a strong hand as you reach towards the post flop stages at the turn or the river. This is the same for light three bet – your re-raise with a not-so-great hand on a ‘raise’ made by an opponent at the pre-flop.
This light 3 bet can be termed as semi-bluff 3 bet, which aims to get your opponent to fall for your bluff (re-raise) and fold immediately. This is likely to work with opponents who are not tight with their initial raises. If you are able to spot such players who raise light initially so that you can then re-raise light (3 bet light), you can easily have them fold up and win the pot – without even having to see the flop.
3. Bluff 3 Bet
This is another type of 3 bet, which is generally not advisable unless you have a large chips stack and want to take a risk against weaker opponents. Here, you may not have a strong hand. In fact, it is a 3 bet that you place when you want to take the pot down pre-flop with a hand that you do not believe can improve later on. So, you want your opponents to fold immediately, especially if there are just one or two players whose turn is left.
Reasons to Opt for 3 Bet in Poker
The question you might have in your mind after understanding the basics of 3 bet is why you should go for it? Let us understand some of the reasons below:
It has the potential to help you increase your win rate and make more money as compared to cold calling (which refers to you placing a ‘call’ after there is a raise/bet without having any chips invested in the pot).
One of the most common reasons to three-bet is to obtain good value out of your strong hands. This is generally possible with value 3 bet poker.
To balance your range and leave the opponent guessing / confused. As indicated earlier, you do not want to become too predictable for your opponents by going for three-bet only when you have few of the strongest hands, say AA, KK, QQ and AK. Instead, you need to keep your opponents guessing by having a wider range of hands for which you are found to opt for three-bet. This is where using light three-bet can help you to leave your opponents bamboozled and not help them to guess the type of hands you could be holding while doing a re-raise. Once the other players are left confused, they are prone to make mistakes such as folding up when you have a weak hand and calling when you have a strong hand. That is exactly like playing into your hands!
Another major reason that you should 3-bet is to make your opponent fold their hands, and more so when it’s an aggressive opponent! The play changes quite a bit after the flop. You may either have to hit and get money extracted from a very weak hand or you get the opponent to fold up post flop. This is where going for 3-bet can help you to make your opponent fold. And even if the player does not fold, you can rely on the strength of your hand to progress further in that round. This is where it becomes critical to choose the top of your folding range for placing a 3 bet and have a back-up ready in terms of the strong hand. You need to be smart and identify the range for which the opponent can call. For example, against your re-raise (3 bet), he/she is likely to make a fourth bet only if he has hands AA through JJ or AK. The opponent might opt to call with a hand like AQ and some less premium pocket pairs like TT or 99. For most other hands, he / she will fold. In fact, even if that player decides to call with something like TT, you can flop an A (Ace) and win. Your re-raise (three bet) turns profitable if your opponent can fold 66% of the time when your re-raise is around 3 times the original raise. And if your opponent can fold more than 66% of the times when you do a 3 bet, then, your 3-bet becomes instantly profitable.
Three bet poker also helps modify your table image in front of the other players. As an extremely tight player, you will be caught fairly easily by your opponents, and you won’t be able to get them to add good money to the pot even when you have strong hands – so your wins will fetch you minimal returns. But, with light 3 bet approach, you can change your image and keep your opponents guessing as to whether you are 3-betting on a very strong hand, a slightly strong hand or an average hand. They may form an opinion to call your three bets more often after you show up a weak hand. And they might just fall for it when you really have a decent hand that becomes a strong one post flop.
How to Correctly Size Your 3 Bet?
Many poker players who are trying out 3 bets for the first time or do not know how to effectively use three bets, often try to size their 3 bets according to the strength of their hands. A common strategy followed by some confused players is to have a big-sized bet for a weaker hand to get the opponent fold quickly and to have a small-sized bet for a strong hand to continue getting more money into the pot from opponents.
Remember you are likely to have smarter opponents on a poker table, and they will catch this strategy quite easily to exploit you in next rounds. So, it does not make sense to determine the size of your 3 bet (re-raise) on the basis of your hand strength. Let us find out things that can help determine this bet size for you.
Your position on the poker table (online or LIVE) influences most strategies in poker. And it is no different for correctly sizing your three-bet. When you have a good position (either the last one or the second last one), you can sometimes get away with small-sized 3 bets. This is because of the advantage that you have of playing last for the entire hand, which can make you dominate the players in early and middle positions, irrespective of the strength of your hand. You can keep your 3- bet size to approximately 3 to 3.5 times of the initial raise – this is a sweet spot that does not encourage an automatic call from your opponents, and at the same time, you risk fewer chips.
Things are not so easy when you are out of position – where you are either in the early position or in the middle position of the poker table. In such scenarios, you will have to make decisions without having information about the actions of many opponents. So, how can you negate this disadvantage of being out of position? The only way to do so is to make big-sized 3 bets. This will discourage the players in a good position to call you unless they have extremely strong hands. How big does this size have to be? Well, anything that is 4 times or more of the initial raise is a big enough bet to make opponents think before calling your bet. You are charging a premium amount from the opponent (who is in a good position) if he/she wants to take advantage of the position.
Effective Ways to Play 3 Bet Poker
Let us check out few interestingly smart ways to play. Why? Because there is good amount of money that can be made from 3-bet pots by simply exploiting the weaknesses of your aggressive opponents, especially while playing short-handed poker (6-max). The lesser the number of players on a table for a game of poker, the more aggressive the game turns out to be. This is because, with fewer number of players, every player feels he/she has a chance of winning and wants to be in the action. The 3-bet approach will allow you to counter balance the opponent who ‘raises’ a high percentage of his starting hands, especially when only a small percentage of these are likely to continue for the next action.
Using the Initiative with Three-Bet
When you place a 3 bet during pre-flop and the opponent ‘calls’, you are said to have the initiative right in front of you. You need to realize that you have the lead in that hand and it gives you the edge. What edge are we talking about here? Well, if you analyze carefully, you are the player who is assumed to have the stronger hand. So, you ‘re-raise’ and your opponent does a ‘call’. Imagine you miss the flop – what would be the next course of action?
The most important thing over here is knowing how much re-raise your opponent can take with his / her range of hands, by understanding his calling range for your 3-bets. You need to think about the likely holdings of your opponent. Remember this could save you big time, especially when you have weak hands and want to break your opponent on the 3 bet pot with you having the lead.
There are many players who will simply call out of position and hope to flop a set. If they do not manage to, then they will just stick to the strategy of calling one street and later folding up on any further action. So, you need to understand opponents with such tendencies and make them contribute to the 3-bet pot every time. After you 3-bet during pre-flop and bet on two streets, you will be perceived to have the stronger hand. Do not let this perception go and keep adding more fuel to it with your bets. But, yes only once you are confident of knowing the range of hands for your opponent and his / her playing tendencies. The simple idea is to keep the opponents guessing, bring him/her outside the comfort zone and force a few mistakes!
Timing the Aggression
We have been talking about going aggressive and firing more barrels against your opponent in 3-bet pots. But, this does not mean that you blindly go aggressive. You cannot fire at every street with the hope of your opponent folding so easily every time. Your aggressive play has to be based on the situation and the opponents.
You do not want to continue firing barrels at an opponent who is pretty tight and will call 3-bets only with strong hands like JJ. For such players, you may end up wasting your time and chips, unless you have a good card show up for you (like an Ace or a King). How do you identify such tendencies of your opponents? On a small table where aggressive 3-bet pots are more common, you can simply watch how the players behave when you are not into action for specific hands. Find what their breaking point for this range of hands is. And when it is your turn to 3-bet in another hand, bring such players to that breaking point and exploit further.
Here, we have tried to clear the confusion that many poker players have with regards to 3 bets. You are in a strong position if you can re-raise initially during pre-flop and have a decent hand. Of course, you need to start using light three-bet to get more out of your 3-bet pots. When you are not sure about 3 bet, you can start off slowly by using value 3 bet, and eventually move to use light 3 bet in order to avoid getting predictable. While your major objective behind using 3 bets is to get your opponents to fold easily, you can even increase your range of hands and balance it out, as well as enhance your table image.
Start playing a few no-limit Texas Hold’em poker games (or similar other poker game variants) at Spartan Poker online and master your strategy around 3bet using the information provided in this article. Download the poker app now and search for tables with lesser players where you can implement 3bet strategy in a better way.