3 Bet Poker

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In poker, there are two main categories of 3-bets, linear and polarized 3-bets: Linear 3-Betting Range A linear 3-betting range is one composed solely of value-bets. When we 3-bet a linear range, we are 3-betting for value. Of course, this is an extremely exploitative play that only works versus basic opponents, but if you want to get your feet wet with 3-betting out of position, I suggest you try one of these 3-bets in a local live tournament sometime. You can also try it in a $5.00 or $10.00 tournament online as the play gets deep. What Does It Mean in Poker? The term 3- bet is most commonly used to refer to the first re- raise before the flop, although the term also refers to the first re-raise after the flop.

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Opening range charts are a dime a dozen. The aspiring player is usually very familiar with the types of hands that should be open-raised from each position on the 6-max table. What is far more confusing is the struggle that follows when those opening ranges are attacked, namely by the obnoxious 3-bet – a raise so disruptive that it often prevents us from seeing the flop. Our purpose here is to define our opening ranges from the five positions on the 6-max table where it is possible to raise as the first player into the pot, but we shall not be stopping there.

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We must learn which groups of hands we should fold, call and raise with after we have opened and faced that dreaded re-raise. Colour coding shall be our friend as we learn when and how to defend our opening ranges.

The Model Situation

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The recommended strategies to follow are for use in the same model situation. Assume that we have made an open raise from the relevant position and that it has folded round to the big blind, who has elected to 3-bet. This 3-bet is of a healthy size – around three times a 3BB open or a little larger if our open happened to be smaller than this. We shall be defining how our opening range from the position in question handles this 3-bet. Of course, being in position will help us flat more comfortably, and if out of position we might have to tighten the recommended flatting ranges slightly and look to open a tighter range in the first place wherever we are likely to get bombarded with 3-bets by an in position opponent.

A Rough Strategy

There are some hands that we shall fold to the 3-bet. After all, a balanced strategy dictates that we should not always defend. If we did, Villain would be able to make far too much money with his strong hands. Similarly, we cannot fold too much, or we make a bluff too profitable an idea for Villain.

We need to 4-bet our very best hands for value, building a large pot while our equity advantage is very high. Wherever there is a value bet, there is a bluff and so we shall use hands that are slightly too weak to call as 4-bet bluffs. This will allow us to defend more hands than we could by only calling or 4-betting for value. In order to make our opponents indifferent to bluffing us and to find an equilibrium against 3-betting, we shall look to protect 45% of our opening ranges in some way. By folding the other 55%, we give Villain some fold equity, but not enough to exploit us.

When it comes to balancing our 4-bets, we may bluff slightly more than we value-raise. This is due to the fantastic strength of our value hands, the playability and blocker value of our bluffs, and the fact that Villain will need a lot of fold equity to shove over our 4-bets lightly with 100BB stacks, provided that we keep our 4-bet between 2x and 2.5x the size of the 3-bet. We can 4-bet and fold 60% of the time to a 5-bet shove without allowing Villain to profit from 5-betting as a bluff. This allows a bluff to value ratio of roughly 1.5 to 1.

A Disclaimer

The following ranges are for use against an aware and aggressive regular, who knows how to apply restrained pressure with 3-bets. There will always be those opponents who are too tight, and against them, we must fold more than the 55% benchmark. On the contrary, there will be those who take the idea of a light 3-bet too far. Against maniacal 3-bet machines, we should fold less than the recommended frequency. The following ranges are nothing but a default guide to protect us against unknown or competent Villains. It is the player’s job to deviate as he or she sees fit if the opposition does not fit this description.

Also note that the opening ranges listed below are slightly on the conservative side. As your skill advantage grows, it will become feasible to widen these slightly and then defend more hands to 3-bets as a direct result.

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Colour Coding

By Alton Hardin

Texas Holdem 3 Bet


For beginners, 3-betting can be a confusing concept to understand and properly apply at the poker tables. With so much theory being discussed in books, forums, and training videos its easy for beginners to get lost in a fog of poker haze, not knowing when to 3-bet, what range of hands to 3-bet and why. The purpose of this article is to provide a basic framework that beginning and struggling poker players can use to effectively 3-bet.

What Is The Pre-Flop 3-Bet?

3 bet poker definition

First off, lets level set what a pre-flop 3-bet is. A 3-bet occurs when someone open-raises and another person re-raises pre-flop. The re-raise is a 3-bet. This might be a bit confusing to some people because the 3-bet is the second raise, why is this? Well, in Texas Holdem the posted blinds are considered the first bet, the initial open raise is considered the second bet, and the re-raise is therefore the third bet, hence the term 3-bet.

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Linear and Polarized 3-Bets

In poker, there are two main categories of 3-bets, linear and polarized 3-bets:

Linear 3-Betting Range

A linear 3-betting range is one composed solely of value-bets. When we 3-bet a linear range, we are 3-betting for value. For example, the image below shows a linear value 3-betting range of JJ+, AQs+, AKo.

Polarized 3-Betting Range

A polarized 3-betting range is one composed of a combination of value hands and bluffs. So, unlike the linear 3-betting range, when we 3-bet a polarized range, we are sometimes betting for value and other times bluffing. The below image shows a polarized 3-betting range composed of value hands and bluff hands. In this example, we are 3-betting TT+, AJs+, AQ+ for value and 44-22, A4s-A2s, 87s, 76s as a bluff.

Why Do We 3-Bet?

Hopefully you’ve already noticed this from the section above, but we 3-bet for two specific reasons:

  1. When we have a hand that is too good to call, such as KK or AA for value
  2. When we have a hand that is too bad to call, such as A2s or 33

If we have a hand that fits within these two different reasons, then we have a hand we can “potentially” 3-bet.

Linear or Polarized?

So which should you use, the linear or polarized 3-betting model? It depends on our opponents.

Can We 3-Bet Bluff?

You probably heard the phrase, “never bluff the calling station”. Well the same goes for 3-bets. You should only apply the polarized 3-betting model with 3-bet bluffs if your opponent(s) are folding to a lot of 3-bets. If they aren’t, then 3-bet bluffing will only cause you to unnecessarily spew off a lot of chips pre-flop. Conversely, if your opponent(s) are folding to a high frequency of 3-bets, approximately 67% then you can 3-bet bluff profitably.

Therefore, 3-bet bluffing and the polarized 3-betting model works best when you have a lot of fold equity. When your fold equity is low, don’t apply this model and stick with the linear 3-betting model.

How Wide Should We Value 3-Bet Bet?

Again, this is dependent upon how your opponent(s) are reacting to 3-bets. When you are 3-betting for value, the most important factor is your opponent’s 3-bet calling range and 4-betting range.

When you are 3-betting for value, you goal is to maximize your long-term expectation in the hand by having your opponents call your 3-bet with worse hands. For example, if your opponent is folding to 100% of 3-bets (this isn’t really realistic but proves a point), then it does you no good to 3-bet KK or AA. Against this specific opponent it is more profitable to flat his or her pre-flop raise. Conversely, if your opponent is folding to next to no 3-bets, then it is highly profitable to 3-bet a very wide range for value!

So here are some general guidelines on 3-betting for value:

  • Always adjust your 3-bet value range to how your opponents react to 3-bets
  • Consider your opponent’s 3-bet flatting range and 4-betting range
  • The less your opponent is folding to 3-bets, the more you can widen your value range

Low versus High Fold Equity

Therefore, if you have high fold equity you should employ the polarized model. If you have low fold equity, use the linear 3-betting model.

3-Bet Sizing

When sizing your 3-bets, I recommend beginner start with the 3x rule: raise three times your opponents initial open raise sizing.

  • When you are out of position to the raiser, make your sizing a bit more, closer to 3.5x. Why? Our positional disadvantage in the hand.
  • When you are in position to the raiser, make you sizing a bit less, closer to 2.8x. Why? Our positional advantage in the hand.

Summing Up

This short poker strategy article on 3-betting 101 covered the basics behind 3-betting and linear versus polarized 3-betting ranges. While this article is far from being a comprehensive 3-betting strategy guide, it should help guide beginners in the right direction with their 3-betting game.

For a more comprehensive overview of 3-betting, be sure to watch our The Three-Betting 101 Course!