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.
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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