Hey guys, I saw a cool post about 3-betting yesterday so thought I’d do something similar. i posted this on 2+2 and received some interesting discussion hopefully dueces cracked provides something similar
My general guidelines to 3-betting:
The first question to ask when deciding to 3-bet is whether we will be polarising or depolarising our 3-betting range.
This is when we 3-bet the top several percentage of hands e.g. AKs, QQ+ and some random junk hands, i.e. generally the top of our folding range. What I mean by this is the best hand we fold to an open in that spot makes up the top of our folding range. For example if A5s is the worst hand we call a CO open with OTB then A4s should be the first hand we 3-bet as a bluff. So the polarised range in this spot may look like AK,QQ+ and A2s-A4s, K2s-K6s etc.
Now that we know what a polarised range looks like, it is important to talk about the frequencies of bluffs versus value in this range.
For example, say an opponent opens 35% of hands in the CO but only plays back (4-bets) with AK, QQs+ when 3-bet from the BTN. We should be weighting our 3-bet range towards a higher percentage of bluffs and tightening our value range so that we cooler his value range. What I mean by this is that if he only 4-bet calls it off with AK, QQs+ then we should only be 3-betting KK+ for value because QQ and AK are an underdog to his stack off range (Stove AK,QQ+ versus AK and QQ if you don’t believe me).
If this is in fact true which I would expect to it to be with most tight regulars at the micros with no history then we should clearly be 3-betting widely with junky hands as a bluff to steal from there wide opens and high fold to 3-bets. So a realistic range for us against this player might look like KKs+ and 10% of junky hands too weak to call with. I once read sauce 123 write somewhere that if we can’t 3-bet / 5-bet AK for value then clearly we should be bluffing our opponent an absolute ton.
If our opponent is somewhat observant or just on the looser side of life, they will begin to 4-bet bluff us, as they should. Clearly now we can start 3-betting wider for value and less as a bluff. Now we might include JJ+ and AK into our value range and only 3-bet bluff 6% of the time.
When our opponent becomes really aggressive 4-betting us a ton to our 3-bets then we should start 3-betting with the intention of 5-betting all pairs and maybe have no bluffing range. In the first example our value comes from our opponents folding too much to our 3-bets. When our opponent is this aggressive the value comes from them 4-bet folding off 21-27bbs the times we 3-bet / 5-bet.
People may argue that “Well what about all the times we run 22 into JJ?” well clearly this isn’t good. However we still have 20% equity and we take down so much dead money the times our opponent 4-bet folds that this play is still +EV. I can further explain this example if people wish.
An important thing to note is when we should use a polarised range. In the examples above there was no talk about playing against opponents who call our 3-bets OOP. The reason for this is because if our opponent calls 3-bets OOP we should be adopting a depolarised range and scrapping the ideas listed above.
Hopefully this gives you some basic understanding of a polarised 3-betting range. Feel free to add more to what I have said, or argue against any of the points I have made.
The basic idea behind a depolarised range is that the whole range consist only of hands in which we think we can use to extract value from our opponents. This type of range should be the one we use most commonly at micro stakes and will always be the range we use against bad players.
A basic depolarised range may look something like any Broadway and A9s+, as well as some pairs 88+. This range basically contains big cards which do well equity-wise versus wide ranges. I would adapt a depolarised range either IP or OOP when I thought my opponents most likely response to my 3-bet was to call. A bad player’s most likely response in poker will be to call and this range does best equity wise versus there wide calling range making it far more effective than a polarised strategy.
Now, onto some more considerations. How thin we bet for value in any situation in poker generally depends on how wide our opponent will call us down.
For example, if our opponent will call us with King high on the river then we should value bet Ace high. This translates directly into 3-betting. If our opponent will call us preflop with 87s, then clearly 3-betting A7o or A8o for value crushes there strategy or even J8s would be an acceptable hand to go for thin value.
People may argue that J8s, although is way ahead of 87s, equity wise we are crushed when called by hands like JTs. This is true however the times we are called by better is made up for by the times they open and fold to our 3-bet, call our 3-bet with worse, call our 3-bet with better then x/f to a c-bet and generally them just playing worse than us on later streets and paying us off with worse hands.
If they never fold to our 3-bet then J8s (bottom of our value range) in general does well enough against most ranges to still make it profitable with a c-bet on the flop. The point I am trying to demonstrate here is that when we 3-bet thin for value we are occasionally going to get called by better hands, however it is clear that this situation is still very profitable. As I mentioned above how thin we go for value depends on how wide our opponents will call our 3-bets. Most bad players will call with all PPs, SCs, one gappers and broadways. Against these guys we can 3-bet thin for value with a very wide range e.g. any Ax and plan on taking down a ton of pots OTF. I hope this makes it clear why we should 3-bet versus bad players a ton and why it is so profitable. Ask me if you don’t understand.
Clearly there are some other adjustments we can make here e.g. if our opponent never folds post flop to our c-bets, then we can tighten up a little to ensure we always have an equity edge against his range when going to the flop. In the J8s example a lot of the time we might have 40% equity versus their hand, but the fact they play so fit and fold on the flop makes our equity go up (skill is equity). If our opponent is a calling station then clearly this play is far less +EV and possibly even –EV.
Important to note that we will always use a depolarised range versus bad players both IP and OOP.
The next major time when a depolarised range is used is when we are in the blinds 3-betting a regular who opened OTB or in the CO. Important to note straight away that we could use a polarised range versus regulars who open in late position to. I recommend though versus regulars that a depolarised range will be better because our opponents most like response to our 3-bet when they are in position will be to call. If their response IP was to raise or fold then polarising would be good.
The reason why depolarising is better than polarising is because if we 3-bet say 75s as a bluff and they call us with ATs as expected then clearly they’re killing us with equity + position. However, if we 3-bet AJs and they call with ATs then then clearly we’re doing a lot better now.
The interesting thing about 3-betting from the blinds is that we can end up in a bit of a stand-still where we have the best hand some of the time AJ v AT and then they have the best hand AQ v AJ. The only reason why we can win from this situation is that their opening range to start with will be a lot wider than ours. Therefore if we are only 3-betting Broadways and they are only calling with Broadways then we win because they open and fold the times they don’t have a Broadway whereas when called our ranges have 50% equity versus each other. Position also is clearly a factor here but that’s another story. This is clearly just a theoretical example; it is very unlikely two people’s ranges will be exactly the same like that.
Now imagine if they call us with a wider range than just Broadways. Now we start to have a bigger equity edge but make less from the times they open and then fold. So our profit now comes from thin value bets post flop and taking down the pot OTF versus a weakish range. If on the other hand they only start to call us with the top 50% of Broadways and folding the rest then clearly we should start to adopt a polarised range because more of our profit comes from them opening wide and folding a ton to our 3-bets. People might be thinking how the button can win in this example. Easy, they just have to tighten up their opening range. Then we can’t 3-bet as wide so we play tighter. When they realise this, they should widen there range again. Hopefully this explains how when our opponent does one thing, we should do the other and vice versa.
Against the better regulars that understand that our range is depolarised they may call our 3-bets with big cards some of the time as well as 4-bet bluff us, and 4-bet for value some of the time. This is clearly puts us in a tough spot… I have a fairly good idea of a counter strategy but will leave this one open for other peoples input!
I’m only briefly going to discuss position because I have already written a really long post and briefly gone through it already. Basically against a bad opponent we should only ever 3-bet depolarised, because we know they only 4-bet the nuts and call us with tons of worse hands. Position versus these players doesn’t matter.
Against regulars we should be polarised IP almost always unless they are bad regulars who will call 3-bets OOP, then clearly depolarising is good to take advantage of our initiative and position. OOP as discussed versus regulars we can polarise or depolarise depending on how our opponent reacts to our 3-bets IP. To start with though depolarising will generally be better.
This can be very important when deciding whether or not to 3-bet. Here are a couple examples where we may decide to 3-bet and where we may decide to call instead.
Say we are OTB and a fish opens in the CO. There are two solid regulars in the blinds more than capable of squeezing or taking a flop with a marginal holding because of the fish presence. We hold JTs. Should we 3-bet? My answer would be yes. We can definitely get value from worse from the fish however this is not my main point. The important thing relating to table dynamics is that by 3-betting ourselves we isolate the fish heads up and get to play a pot solely with the fish and not the regulars. To take this one step further, say if we held AA here and we knew that the regular in the BB knew that we 3-bet isolate wide versus the fish and only call with marginal holdings. Then we could call planning on back raising when the regular squeezes, not only coolering his whole value range but also getting value from his bluffs. The main question to ask in these situations would be “Can I get value now?” If the answer is yes then you should go one step further and ask “Can I get more value later?” If the answer is also yes, then clearly calling will be better.
The other example I have is, imagine we are in the BB and a regular who folds a lot to 3-bets opens in the CO and the fish calls OTB. We hold ATs. Should we fold, call or raise? I think we should raise. The regular will fold a ton to our 3-bet and we expect the fish to call with a ton of junk which will fold to a c-bet OTF or call down with worse. Some people may squeeze with junk here which is likely fine versus two regulars but with the fish presence 3-betting junk becomes a lot worse. To take this one step further, swap the seat of the fish and CO around. Now when we squeeze we are likely to get two callers because the fish will call our squeeze and induce the regular to come along based on the amazing odds they are being offered. In this situation ATs may become a call a preflop and we should only squeeze with stronger stuff that we can get cleaner value with in a multiway pot.
Hopefully these two examples give some idea of how table dynamics can severely alter our decisions to 3-bet and with which range.
Feel free to add another example of where table dynamics play a part in our decisions to 3-bet.
The final thing I am going to talk about. Back in the first example I gave in table dynamics, I talked about how we might consider calling an open to induce a squeeze from a regular. Let’s say the same example, we are 200bbs deep with the fish and the regular only has a 100bb stack. Even though we know the regular might be highly inclined to squeeze we should still go ahead and 3-bet the fish. If we answer those questions I recommended before its clear we can get value later from the squeeze but it’s clearer that we can get heaps of value now from the fish because he is so deep and will make so many mistakes post flop. If on the other hand the fish was only 50bbs deep calling is likely better again because majority of our value comes from the regular.
Another example might be say the fish has 30bbs and we are considering whether or not to 3-bet from the BTN with JTs. Some might argue that this should just be a call as stacks sizes are so small that we lose any fold equity(FE) post flop to be able to 3-bet this thin. I tend to agree with this notion and would generally just prefer a call in this spot solely because of the stack sizes.
With this said this brings me to my last point. As stack sizes decrease we lose FE and therefore we can’t 3-bet as thin for value. As stack sizes increase we gain more fold equity as our opponents now have a lot more to lose in big pots.
Important to remember that these are only examples and depend on how the people at your table are actually playing.
I wrote this in like an hour, so there is likely a few grammar mistakes and I know everything I preach is not always correct. I hope you guys take something from this as I really enjoyed writing it. If you like it let me know and I’ll write a post about defence against 3-bets. Oh and clearly this is not everything about 3-betting merely touching on the surface.