One of the common definitions you’ll hear when playing poker is “3-bet” or “three-bet.” A 3-bet, as most players use the term, means placing the third bet, technically the second “raise,” the “3-bet,” during a given round of action. Only in recent years has the term gained popularity, indicative of its use during online play.
For flop games, such as hold’em and Omaha, the pre-flop 3-bet is technically different from the post-flop 3-bet. Blinds are used in these poker games, and posting the small and big blinds is considered the first “bet.” Subsequent players, starting with the “under the gun” (UTG) player immediately to the left of the big blind, have the option to call that first bet (the amount of the big blind), fold, or raise. In a typical game, the first pre-flop raise is technically a “two-bet,” but you’ll never hear it called that. Instead, the term “three-bet” is used when another game makes a second raise, going over the first raiser. Below, you can see what a pre-flop 3-bet looks like.
In post-flop play, the 3-bet consists of an initial bet, a raise, and then a re-raise (perhaps by the initial gambler). Since the initial bet itself can be significant, the post-flop 3-bet is, in most cases, proportionally larger than its pre-flop counterpart. In cash games and in the late stages of tournaments, 3-bets often involve all-in moves by one or more players, although you might as well hear the words “pushing” or “jamming” (your whole stack to the middle) in those cases.
What does a 3-BET mean?
A 3-bet, which is always some form of re-raise, is designed to be indicative of a real premium hand. The 3-Bet is a shot over the initial raiser’s bow, designed to take the pot there. The point of the 3-bet is to say to the first gambler, “Yes, you may have a good hand, but I have a better one.” A common variation involves the initial raise from late position by the button player or the cutoff (immediately to the right of the button) and the 3-bet being made by the small or big blind, who may play the button or cutoff. contract. He tries to steal the blinds. All in all, the 3-bet has traditionally been one of the strongest moves a player can make, trailing perhaps only the all-in push and the check-raise in its ability to turn a hand. It should mean that the player making the move has a very strong hand, but since this is poker, that’s not always the case.
Create your own three bets.
The use of 3-bets is best done selectively, at appropriate times. Many hyper-aggressive players 3-bet with a wide variety of hands, including many bad hands, in the form of bluffs. However, most 3-bets are made with big hands.
When to 3-bet a hand and when to just call (also known as “smooth calling” or “smoothing”) is one of the toughest lessons players have to learn. Knowing your opponents’ tendencies is essential to success, because the best poker players play with their opponents as much as they play with their own hands. A 3-bet works best against fairly loose players, some of whom are described as “calling stations,” who simply cannot fold marginal hands when asked. Another successful type of 3-bet can be made against a player who overestimates the long-term prospects of the game or tournament out of deference to what might happen in that particular hand. He may give up a little too much of his chance to win in the hope of getting a better chance in a later hand.
Then there are bluffs. The 3-bet type of bluff is called a “re-steal,” and if executed correctly, can be one of the most profitable moves in a player’s arsenal. However, as with any good game, overuse is one of the fastest ways to go bust. Other players will eventually react to a player who makes too many 3-bets, and sooner or later the player who makes these over-the-top bets will be “looked down” (called) by their opponent. However, if you are a stable, conservative player, 3-betting on an aggressive enemy will work more often than you might think. Those players steadily try to make small gains against your supposed relative passivity, and if you fight back, they will often try another door.
Defending against the 3-Bet
Defending against the 3-Bet comes down to understanding both your opponents and the conditions of the game. Against a tight opponent who plays few hands, a 3-bet invariably means a monster, and you can throw all but the biggest hands against this opponent. Even if he rarely bluffs, his natural anti-bluff tendencies should be a warning sign.
Aggressive players in late position will often three-bet with positions like middle pair, AK, or AQ, and depending on your own hand, it is often correct to play or even 4-bet and take your chances. Keep in mind that with position and correct “pot odds” (referring to the relationship between the amount of money already in the pot and the total amount a player can win), a player in late position can be “priced in” to his own call with more inferior hands than you’d hope.