What is a 3-Bet in Texas Holdem Poker?
A 3-bet, as the term implies, means putting in a third bet in a particular round of betting. It is slightly different pre-flop and post-flop because the big blind is counted as the first bet before the flop. Therefore, the first raise pre-flop would be the second bet, while a re-raise is considered a 3-bet.
After the flop, there is no compulsory blind posted, so a 3-bet is still the first re-raise following one player’s bet and the raise of another. The term “3-bet” has gained popularity since the advent of the Internet and online play. It wasn’t used very frequently before the early 2000’s.
The 3-Bet is…
When a player makes a 3-bet, it is intended to mean that such player is holding a premium hand, good enough to come over the top of the initial raiser. Your first thought when seeing a 3-bet is usually to believe that the 3-bettor is holding a high pocket pair such as Queens or higher, or perhaps A-K.
However, nowadays, successful aggressive players will mix up their play and use their favored position in the hand to 3-bet with hole cards pre-flop that can be considered much less than premium hands.
Three-betting is sometimes done by loose-aggressive players holding suited connectors or mid-level pocket pairs to induce more players to fold and to take control of the hand, so to speak. Or you may see a player in the small or big blind make a 3-bet when he feels that a player in late position may be attempting to steal the blinds.
A 3-bet is a very strong play to make, perhaps trailing only an all-in shove or a check-raise when it comes to changing the direction of a hand.
Deciding When to Use It
Deciding when to 3-bet or when just to call the raise of the player acting before you is one of the most difficult strategies to learn. Being aware of the styles and tendencies of your opponents is crucial to being a successful 3-bettor because skilled and profitable poker players are adept at playing their table rivals in addition to playing their hole cards.
Your Table Image
If you happen to have a table image as a tight, solid player, a 3-bet will garner much respect from your opponents. On the other hand, a very loose style player who 3-bets often is seldom afforded the same respect. But that also ties in with the game plan of loose players who will get plenty of action from their opponents when holding a premium hand because opposing players won’t believe the loose player has good cards.
Types of 3-Bets
There are two types of 3-bets. Three-betting light and 3-betting for value. A light 3-bet is done pre-flop when holding less than a quality hand, such as 7-8 suited or 10-J. A 3-bet for value consists of re-raising when holding a premium hand.
You may wonder why players would 3-bet light with less than a good hand, seemingly sweetening the pot for the initial raiser who may be holding a strong hand of his own. Well, it is typically seen as being much more advantageous than just calling.
Many players will fear that the 3-bettor is holding A-A or some such high pocket pair. It accomplishes the goal of taking back the initiative in the hand and putting your opponents on the defensive.
There are certain hands that it’s recommended not to be 3-betting light with. When dealt hole cards such as K-Q, K-J and Q-J, you may tend to run into trouble when trying to take the initiative with such hands. The problem being that any opponent who calls your 3-bet will likely have a more dominating hand.
That’s why its preferable to be 3-betting with, say, 8-9 suited because your decisions after the flop will be easier as you won’t get married to a hand with a high pair and a low kicker.
If you do 3-bet pre-flop and the flop misses you, it’s highly recommended to make a continuation bet post-flop roughly 2/3 of the pot size. The pot will be rather hefty following your 3-bet before the flop and a bet of 2/3 the size of the pot is plenty and will minimize losses if the hand should not work out.
Remember that 3-betting is intended to give you the power and control in the hand and you want to work that advantage to the fullest, even if the flop is not a favorable one. If your continuation bet fails to entice a fold from your opponent and it looks like your table rival has a hand and will not be going away, you can always reverse course and check on the turn if need be.
Three-betting is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of many a successful poker player. Naturally, 3-betting light is riskier than 3-betting for value, and it is indeed a good idea to know the styles of your opponents well and have a considerable amount of experience before attempting such an aggressive move that can backfire and severely damage your bankroll if done haphazardly.
Moving down to a lower stake level or two than you are accustomed to playing at would be the best place to try a few light 3-bets. Three-betting is a skill that is worth taking some time to fine tune and perfect because it adds a dimension to your game that can be extremely profitable if done correctly and in the right situations.
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