3 Betting Exploitively Or GTO?

3 betting is one of the most important preflop concepts that any poker player can master. Unfortunately, many poker players are obsessed with the idea of having an unexploitable range and fail to take opportunities to 3bet exploitively. Being unexploitable sounds great in theory, but with zero sum games and a significant rake we want to focus on 3betting exploitively. Unfortunately, when we exploit our opponents weaknesses this often makes us vulnerable to being exploited ourselves – learning how to strike the right balance is critical. 

Who To 3bet Exploitively Against

Maniacs – when 3betting maniacs exploitively it should also be exclusively for value. Note: your value range versus a maniac will be very wide and include hands like A8s and better. Keep in mind that if your opponent is raising the best 30% of all hands (and it is reasonable to assume that maniacs will raise more based on the absolute value of their hand than to mix up their range) there range will look like this. That is obviously an incredibly wide range and highly exploitable. 3 Betting Exploitively Vs Maniac

Against a range that includes the top 30% of hands (as seen above) we can be 3betting the top 15% of hands (as seen below) and have a 56-44 equity edge preflop. This is a solid equity edge to start off with, and if we mostly are 3 betting with a positional advantage as well this should be highly profitable. Many players underestimate the amount they can be 3 betting versus weak opponents.

3 Betting Wide Range

3 Betting Exploitively Example

Ex. We 3 bet a really high % of the time like 20% because our opponent folds 90% of hands to a 3 bet(See my article on the Fundamentals of how to 3bet. Doing so makes us exploitable, but also makes us a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if we are exploitable if our opponent is not exploiting you! Make sure you don’t level yourself against this kind of opponent and think that maybe they are spazz 4betting against you.

How do we find and exploit a villains leak? In the scenario above it was very easy, but often that is not the case. In more complex cases we need a good grasp of what an unexploitable range looks like, and then if your opponent is deviating too far from that we know they have a leak.It is important to realize that some players may not have a significant leak until they begin to tilt. This is why game flow and psychology are so important. Many players do not focus enough on game flow and psychology in determining their villains ranges. Poker players that understand game flow and psychology better tend to be the superior higher stakes players. Ultimately, to be successful at any level we should have a strong understanding of how to construct an unexploitable range(to combat/break even vrs highly skilled regs), and have a good strategy for exploiting the leaks of weaker opponents.

3 Betting Psychology – Leveling

With time and experience we can become experts at anticipating how a poker player will react in a variety of different situations. Learning how Villains tend to react to our 3betting is an important skill to develop if we are seeking to play exploitively.

Ex.1  A skilled opponent raises the button and you 3 bet the SB and he then folds. Normally he folds to 3 bets 66% of the time. The very next hand he raises the cut-off and you raise the button. How frequently do you expect him to fold to your 3bet?

A. In this kind of scenario most players will fold more often vrs your 3 bet(something around 80% IMO). They are afraid of being seen as spazzing out and therefore they will be 4betting almost exclusively for value. At a 6max game I would expect something like AK+, JJ+ in this scenario

Ex. 2 A skilled villain raises the button 50% of the time to steal the blinds when he is first in the pot. The first time he raises the button you 3 bet from the small blind and he folds. 20 hands later a similar scenario develops where he is first in on the button and raises. Again you 3 bet from the SB. When he 4 bets do you perceive his range as wider or tighter?

A. Generally, in this scenario I would expect him to 4 bet wider. Most villains that open that wide off the button do not like to fold repeatedly vrs 4 bets. Many of them may be very exploitable to a 5 bet jam in this scenario because their 4bet is too wide, and they don’t have enough value hands in their range.

Adjusting Our 3 Betting Range

Against opponents that fold when we 3 bet, obviously we should be 3 betting a ton. Against opponents that 4bet a ton of hands, and fold to 5bets we should be 5betting small pockets, KQs, AXs etc. Against opponents that 4 bet a ton of hands, and don’t fold to 5 bets we can weigh our 3 bets heavily in the direction of value hands. What I am trying to illustrate in this blog is the importance of being versatile and adjusting in real time to our opponents. That is what will ultimately make you a big winner in poker.

One little trick to keep in mind is generally if you are significant off the 60-65% level for fold to 3 bet, 4 bet or 5 bet you probably have a leak. Whether or not your opponents at the table recognize this is another question. If your opponents don’t have a good sample on you it could be difficult for them to detect. When studying focus your time on thinking about how game flow will affect your opponents ranges. I will post more on this topic another day! Check out my other blog posts at


Be sure to pickup a copy of my book Exploitive No Limit Holdem where I delve into much further detail on these concepts.


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