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Introduction to Poker 3 Betting

Intro To 3-Betting In No-Limit Holdem

In No-Limit Holdem the term ‘3-betting' describes re-raising a raiser before the flop. There are three main reasons for doing 3 betting - to get more money into the pot with the best hand, to win the pot immediately by getting your opponent (or opponents) to fold or to isolate a weak opponent with the intention of out playing them later in the hand.

This article will look at the fundamentals of 3-Betting in NL Holdem poker cash games, we will start by looking at the 3 reasons outlined above. Factors which affect the size of these 3-bets will be examined next. Finally adjustments based on the tendencies of opponents, including their perception of you, will be discussed.

3-Betting As A Bluff or Semi-Bluff

3 betting pre-flop will often win the pot uncontested. This is because there is a gap between the hands with which an opponent will raise and those which they will call a significant re-raise with. Estimating the gap between these groups of hands will give you an indication of how often your bluff will succeed. For example, an aggressive opponent raises around 20% of the time when folded to, you estimate that he will only call a significant 3-bet with the top 7% of his hands - meaning he will fold 65% of the time. Since you will win the hand some of the time that he calls, 3-betting becomes a profitable move with a wide range of hands.

3-Betting For Value

With a premium hand you need to avoid giving opponents the correct odds to outdraw you by making a set or hidden straight. When re-raising a raiser for value you do not want a fold, which would seem to suggest making a smaller raise. The issue here is that a smaller raise may ‘tip off your hand' at the same time as giving opponents the right odds to call - a very dangerous combination. Mixing up the size of bets and range of 3-betting hands is essential when you have observant opponents.

3-Betting To Isolate

When deep stacked it can be worth occasionally 3-betting from position against a known weak-spot at your table. You are often ‘taking the worst of it' immediately, but those times you hit the flop hard you may well be able to win a large pot which makes up for this. The idea is that your re-raise discourages any other players from entering the pot, giving you an opportunity to out-play the weak opponent you have identified.

Deciding how much to 3-bet will depend on a combination of factors. These include the depth of your chip stack, the tendencies and number of opponents in the pot, your position at the table and your primary reason for re-raising in the first place.

The standard range for 3-bets is between 2.5 and 4 times the size of the first raise. Any less than this and you are giving the raiser attractive calling odds -making a 2x raise gives them 3/1 on the call even before considering any dead-money. Any more than 4x is usually spewing chips. For example, if you 3-bet with a reasonable hand only to find your opponent 4-bets forcing you to fold then your initial raise would be better at 3 times the initial raise than 5 times.

Some opponents are more likely to fold pre-flop once they have raised than others. This opponent-specific information is critical to your 3-betting strategy. If a player will never fold then your value raises can be larger than for a timid opponent. Opponents who have yet to act also need to be factored in. If you 3-bet ‘light' against an extremely aggressive opponent then and aware player may 4-bet with a wider range - forcing you to lay down a hand you would rather have played.

Opponents in NL Holdem poker games at all but the lowest buy-ins will be watching your play. If you never 3-bet without a premium hand then this will tip-off opponents too easily. Conversely if you 3-bet often you may find your raises no longer cause people to fold - which can be a great result those times you do get a premium hand.

To summarize, there are 3 main reasons for re-raising a raiser before the flop: For value with the probable best hand, as a bluff or semi-bluff and to isolate a weak opponent from good position. A number of factors affect your 3-betting strategy - the most important of these is how you expect your opponents to react to your re-raise.


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