This week we’re not going to analyze one specific hand. Lately we have been receiving inquiries about 3 betting. When to 3 bet, how much to 3-bet, and so on. It's a very tricky answer and can only truly be summed up by saying… it depends. Last week we discussed playing our hand based on the opponent and the situation. This week will tie into that and go a little deeper. There are so many elements that will determine when to 3 bet, including cards and pot sizing, that we cannot give a straightforward answer.
For starters, a 3 bet is when you bet… someone else raises… and you re-raise. (That’s 1, 2, 3, bets. Hence 3 bet).
To begin, we will go with the easiest scenario of when to 3 bet. This is any time you have Aces, Kings, AK or other top tier hands. If you never 3 bet any other hands, you will do just fine by only 3 betting these at the lower limits. Once you move up and face tougher opponents, it is imperative to mix it up a little.
Another great spot to 3 bet is from the blinds. Players like to open many hands from the button in an attempt to steal the blinds. Therefore, you can profitably 3 bet a wider range of hands as a way to re-steal. If you're facing an opponent who does not fold often, then don't even try to 3 bet them unless you have an actual hand. A good opponent to 3 bet is someone who is a little on the better side and has a fold tendency. If you are playing online, software can help determine just how often a player will fold to a 3 bet. This information will make decisions much easier.
Having said all that, you don't want to 3 bet just any hand. You need to have some sort of equity, or a hand that can flop semi-decently. This way, if your 3 bet fails to frighten your opponent into a fold, you will have something that can actually make a decent hand. Some good examples of hands to 3 bet as a bluff would be connected cards, such as 98, JT and so on. Bad hands to do this with would be small pairs, 72, basically all trash hands. Small pocket pairs are ok to 3 bet with but your hand instantly becomes a bluff since it's very rare that pocket deuces will go all in, so it's never a 3 bet for value.
Now let's discuss bet sizing. Players will usually have a different approach to their 3 bet sizing, but as a rule of thumb it's perfectly fine to make a 3 bet to 3 times the raise. There will be certain times to adjust this and we describe them right now. When a player min raises pre flop, a bet of 3 times the raise will be smaller than normal, enticing other players to call since it will be on the cheaper side. Raising it to 4 or 4.5 times the raise will be sufficient.
The other times you can change your sizing will be when playing out of position, especially if 3 betting as a steal. When you 3 bet out of position, it's usually because the button opened and you are trying to steal. Some players will defend 3 bets by calling with a wider range than normal. To combat this, 3 betting on the larger side of around 5 to 5.5 times the raise amount can be a better option.
This final note is of great importance when it comes to 3 betting. I see many players who will 3 bet big when they have a real hand and small when they don't. This is a very easy tell to spot and very exploitable. It's ok to vary your sizing based on the criteria discussed above. However, if you're going to 3 bet larger when out of position as a steal, make sure to make the same sizing when you have a hand, as this will help to keep your 3 betting range unexplainable.
There are many more tools needed to perfect 3 betting, but these basics offer a solid foundation to get started. We will continue with 3 betting in later posts with more detail, and get more advanced as we go along. So, keep reading and happy 3 betting.