The 3 bet is one of the most important tactics in poker. Every poker player should understand the fundamental benefits of the 3bet. There are two important concepts to understand when it comes to 3 betting profitably. The first is fold equity and the second is showdown equity. When you combine the two they are incredibly powerful. This is one of the first lessons any NLHE poker player should learn.
The 3 bet is not a simple play because it is only one element in your overall poker game strategy. How you 3 bet factors into your overall meta game as well. There are a couple of primary reasons that you want to 3 bet. The first is, fold equity, which is what you can expect to gain when your opponent folds to your bets. It dominates poker strategy at all levels and is especially important to pre-flop play. The second reason to 3 bet is for value when you have a strong hand. Generally, you’ll want to 3 bet for value a fairly tight range of hands 3-6%. Against weaker players you can 3 bet for value a much larger range of hands.
Below are a couple of examples the illustrate the poker of the 3 bet.
Ex 1. Consider being in the BB at a $1/2 NLHE game where the button raises $6 and the SB folds. At this point if you 3 bet to $18 you are risking $16 to win $9 ($6+SB+BB). Consider your BB to be a sunk cost since you can’t take it back, and add it to what you are attempting to win. When your opponent folds and you win $9, that is fold equity. When your opponent calls, you flop a full house, and win by showing down at the river, that is showdown equity. If your opponent folded 2/3rds of the time (win $18) and shoved the other 1/3rd of the time, and you were forced to fold 100% of the times he shoved (lose $16), then you would essentially break even on your play. However, if your opponent folds two times and just calls once, then it will actually be profitable to 3 bet. The reason being that when he does call, you will always have some showdown equity, that can allow you to come out ahead some of those times. So as you can see, if you choose to 3 bet a mediocre hand with significant showdown equity, like A5s, the play can become very profitable.
Ex. 2. At a $100NL game this is how 3bet math will look with a 10bb 3bet facing off versus a standard 3bb open. This is assuming you are not 3betting from the blinds.
Risk x to win x+y. So the equation is x/(x+y)=Break even point on a fold equity basis alone
x = your preflop raises size
y= total money put in pot by others
These should vary tremendously depending on the opening range of your opponent. You can 3bet A10 for value from UG+1 against weak opponents UG raise, but you may not want to do this against stronger opponents.
It is safe to say that a value 3bet range in the 4-7% range is fairly standard. 99+ and Aj+ is commonly seen as a fairly standard value 3bet range from a tight player.
Same thing as ^ they can and should vary tremendously depending on the opponent. Against some players who are very 4bet or fold oriented I like to play exploitively and 3bet extremely weak. If opponent have a more balance approach to the game and are also willing to be calling 3bets then I need to make sure my 3bet range is more balanced.
Against weak players I prefer to avoid placing 3bets that are bluffs unless I am convinced I can push them off the pot post flop. My general 3bet strategy against weaker opponent is to 3bet a wider value range not to 3bet bluff.
Key 3bet Takeaways
For beginning players, it will be a major breakthrough once you understand that as long as you size your 3 bet appropriately you only need your opponent to fold less than 2/3rds of the time to be profitable. You will probably begin to 3 bet much more frequently. That is a good thing! 3 betting is one of the basic fundamentals of good solid NLHE play. Poker professionals often talk about the benefits of adding aggression into their poker game. And it’s true- any time you can add aggression without losing money it will help your win rate. 3 betting is a great first step toward doing that.
If you are looking for a more advanced article on 3betting be sure to check out Expert 3Bet Strategy. Also, please take a look at my recently released book Exploitive No Limit Holdem, which is perfect for low and midstakes players looking to boost their winrate.