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How to Approach 3-Betting Preflop

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  • Upswing Poker June 26, 2020
  • 2 Minutes Read

There is one common denominator in every successful poker player’s game: aggression.

One of the most important times to implement aggression is in your preflop strategy, when open-raising, 3-betting, and 4-betting.

In this feature, we focus on 3-betting.

 

3-Bet Sizing

When you 3-bet, you should try to use a size that puts pressure on your opponent’s range, but not so much pressure that they can only justify continuing with premium hands.

Here are some general rules to follow when sizing your 3-bets:

  1. When 3-betting in position, raise to roughly three times the size of the initial raise.
  2. When 3-betting out of position, raise to roughly four times the size of the initial raise.
  3. For every player in front of you that has called the initial open, increase your multiple by one.

 

For example, suppose you’re playing a 100/200. If a player raises to 500 in the cutoff and you are on the button, you should 3-bet to around 1,500.

Now suppose a player raises to 500 UTG, another player calls in the cutoff, and you are on the button again. This time you should 3-bet to around 2,000 to account for the caller.

With that in mind, let’s go over the four main reasons why an aggressive 3-betting strategy that includes the correct hands is advantageous for your win-rate.

 

Four Reasons Why 3-Betting is Awesome

1. 3-Betting makes your opponent’s decisions more difficult

Picture the tightest player you know. If they 3-bet before the flop, what range of hands do you put them on? Probably something like JJ-AA and AK.

Now think for a second about how easy it is to play against that tight player. When they 3-bet, their cards are basically face up.

That is why, in most instances, you should 3-bet with your strongest hands and some bluffs to balance those strong hands.

What should you bluff with? Hands like suited aces and suited connectors tend to be the best choices. These hands benefit significantly from taking down the pot before the flop, but also have excellent playability in case your opponent calls.

Click here to see a preflop range from the Upswing Lab training course for how you should play from the button versus a cutoff raise. (Red = 3-Bet, Green = Call, Grey = Fold.)

3-betting with a range like this makes you much tougher to play against. Your opponents can’t know whether you have a premium hand or a bluff. Plus, your range can actually make strong hands on low flops like 8-7-4 or 5-4-3, whereas the tight 3-bettor never has better than one pair on such boards.

 

2. You can isolate weak players by 3-betting

Learning how to crush recreational players is one of the quickest ways to sky-rocket your win-rate. This makes 3-betting particularly valuable as you can isolate bad players after they open.

Because recreational players will make a lot of mistakes after the flop, you want to play heads up with them as often as possible. And because 3-bet pots are exponentially larger than single raised pots, their mistakes will be magnified, and you will be in a position to win more money from them.

 

3. 3-betting reduces the average number of players in the pot

Winning multi-way pots is significantly more difficult than winning heads-up pots.

The reason for this is simple: as more players enter the pot, your hand’s equity decreases. To demonstrate this, look at the equity A-K suited has vs. one, two, and three random hands.

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A-K suited has 67% equity versus one random hand, but that equity drops to 41% versus three random hands

 

3-betting allows you to play more heads up pots, which makes it easier to win more money.

 

4. 3-betting gives you a chance to win the pot preflop

When you only call preflop, you’ll need to hit the flop or bluff your opponents later in the hand in order to win. You have no chance of winning the pot right then and there.

3-betting opens another road to victory because you give yourself the chance to take down the pot right away. You can still win by hitting the flop or by bluffing your opponent later in the hand, but the added possibility of winning the pot without having to see a flop is a huge windfall.

This is one reason players who 3-bet aggressively preflop tend to have higher win rates than those who don’t.

 

Conclusion

If you want to be a long-term winner in poker, you can’t be afraid of playing big pots. You have to be willing to put your opponents to the test by applying maximum pressure. That starts before the flop.

To learn more about 3-bet pots, get Upswing Poker’s free guide 20 Rules to Crush Your Competition in 3-Bet Pots.

If you want in-depth lessons on tactics like 3-betting, join the 5,337 members in the Upswing Lab training course!

The Lab is Upswing’s most popular course, and the elite team of Lab pros has been adding new content every week for the past four years. You get access to all of it when you join. Learn more now!

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