Expert 3 Bet Strategy

Learning to implement expert 3bet tactics as part of your poker game is critical to your success. We all know we should pound on opponents with high fold to 3 bets with our junk hands, and pummel fish with big pocket pairs. But these player types are often generalized as ‘regular’ and ‘fish’ respectively and are not taken full advantage of. Some so-called ‘regs’ are borderline fish, and some high VPIP fish play fairly snug postflop, and aren’t just donating. 3 bets need to be completely tailored to every opponent and his overall tendencies, not just a basic fold to 3 bet number in your HUD.

Take a common reg who underutilizes his HUD. He’s in the blinds facing a Button Steal and he consults these basic stats:

Villain Name: 1Gamblor

Attempt to steal: 48%

Fold to 3 bet: 50%

This reg might say “Well I can see 1Gamblor has a high-ish ATS and doesn’t fold too much here, I should use a depolarized 3 bet range of AQ+, KQ+ and TT+; this will crush his likely calling range of TJs, AJ, QJ etc”. While that’s a damn good strategy generally here, let’s dig a bit deeper to see what else we should be looking at before making an informed decision:

RFI (raise first in) – ATS is far too broad in my opinion, and not nearly accurate enough. BTN RFI’s can vary by over 30%! This will alter your expert 3 bet strategy immensely.

Positional fold to 3 bet – If these aren’t in your pop up, they should be. These numbers vary widely and you need to adjust for them. Some guys over-defend on the btn.

HERO 3 bet/Fold vs HERO 3 bet – Trackers now have stats that record how your opponent see’s your stats in his HUD. This ideally, is the best 3 bet/f3b number to use. Does he fold to your 3bets more or less than his general HUD number?

Lets look at 1Gamblor’s info with our newly added stats:

BTN RFI – 60%

Fold vs HERO 3b – 68%

BTN f3b 62%

Wow, this changes things a lot! We can see now that 1Gamblor opens super wide, actually folds on the BTN more than we thought to a 3 bet (because of his 60% RFI) and a lot to HERO’s 3 bets specifically. So why limit ourselves to one range of hands? I’d use my whole value/bluff 3b range here. We’re just leaving money on the table not using that wider range of hands here. Semi-bluff hands like Axs, Kxs, and suited connectors/gappers are great for this because of how many flops they can connect with. The more they fold, the wider we go.

This is just the start of the process.  There are other things to consider when Expertly Tailoring 3 bets:

Fold to cbet in 3 bet pots (IP/OOP) – IP/OOP vary widely so pay attention. When c-Betting 55% of the pot you only need >35% folds for a +EV play. (Using the formula x/x+y)  Pot 20bb:  11/31 = 35%

Fit-or-fold players are a dream here; in that they call a lot pre-flop then fold away on the flop when they miss. Some weak regs call a lot of 3 bets OOP and then fold on the flop > 55% of the time. The same goes for certain breeds of fish. Common fish are sticky non folders, but there are some who play fit-or-fold post-flop. In effect, they are the same as a weak reg and should be treated as such. It matters not that they don’t fold pre-flop to a 3 bet if they are going to fold on the flop. In fact its better for us! I use my semi-bluff range here too as well as standard value.

Expert 3 bet Sizing

The more your villain is wiling to call pre-flop the bigger your sizing should go with value hands. This might seem obvious, but many regs just use the same sizes again and again. Pre-flop, start with 9xbb, but the more they call, the more you can make it; 11x, 15x… hell, jump straight to a 4 bet sizing with your 3 bet if he’ll call! With fit-or-fold players described above I’d do the same with semi-bluff hands.

3bet Versus Min open

Players that use a min open strategy from the button are often the guys that steal >60%. We simply can’t allow this to happen and must widen our 3bet ranges. I’d consult the positional stats mentioned above and use a 7.5bb max 3b. Anymore and you are just risking too much for the reward.

Vs a btn f3bet >60% – I’d use at least half of all suited cards to 3 bet bluff + off-suit connectors and Ax.

50-60% folds – stronger suited cards (Axs, Kxs, connectors/gappers)

<50% folds – Broadway hands

3-betting With Intention To 5 Bet Ship

Worthy of an article on its own, these scenarios arise mostly in steal situations. Guys that 4bet a lot are tricky to deal with. If a reg steals btn 60% and 4bets 10% (positionally you might have guessed), then that’s a 6% 4bet range he’s using. Unless he’s stacking off very wide, these 4bets can’t often take the heat of a 5b jam. Hands that do well here are 22+ and Axs.

As you can see there’s a lot more to consider when Expertly Tailoring 3bets. So in conclusion don’t limit yourself to pigeonholing players, pay attention, test guys out and above all, use all of your available information. 3 bets are like a nice suit… much more effective tailored.


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