What is a 3-Bet in Poker? – Examples and Poker 3-Bet Range

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A preflop 3-bet in poker, both in Texas Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha, is the third bet in the poker sequence, when a player re-raises after the initial 2-bet.

A 3-bet is a form of aggression used to represent a strong hand, whether a player actually possesses a hand at the top of their range or not. We here at Techopedia will break down the nature of a poker 3-bet and discuss it in the context of a Texas Hold’em multi-table tournament (MTT) often found at online poker sites.

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Why is it called a 3-Bet in Poker?

A preflop 3-bet in poker refers to the act of re-raising the original preflop aggressor (initial raiser). The origins go back to the days of fixed-limit poker, when the initial raise is worth two bets, the re-raise is worth three bets, and so on.

What is a 3-Bet in Poker Range?

There are three general types of 3-bet poker ranges in poker, aside from being reckless and/or blindly 3-betting. That’s just not how to play poker.

  • Strong/Premium range – Some players do not have a balanced 3-betting strategy and only re-raise premium holdings like QQ+ and AK. This is considered to be a terrible way to play as your opponents will very quickly notice your small 3-betting percentage. This will most-often result in your opponents over-folding against your 3-bets or only playing when they have a super-premium hand like KK or AA.
  • Polarized range – Polarized 3-betting hands usually consist of premium hands and bluffs that are at both the very top and bottom of our continuing range. You often want to use a polarized range when your opponent has a high fold-to-3bet percentage. You’ll often want to do this when you have a range that contains a ton of hands that play better as calls than 3-bets, such as when you’re in the big blind against a late-position player.
  • Merged range – A merged 3-betting range will not contain any bluffs and consist of your premium hands, very good hands, and hands with fantastic playability like suited connectors. You’ll most-often want to use a merged 3-betting range when you’re in position against a very skilled player, in the small blind, or when you are playing against calling stations.

Examples of a 3-Bet in Poker

  1. Strong/Premium range: You’re 40bbs deep in the cutoff and you have AA. The under-the-gun player opens to 2bbs and you 3-bet to 6bbs. Pocket aces are the best pre-flop hand in poker and you should almost always 3-bet them preflop (unless you’re under 30bbs deep in a single-raise pot).
  2. Polarized range: You’re 60bbs deep in the big blind and you have 54s. The button player opens to 2.5bbs and you 3-bet to 11bbs. Given that this hand can still make the nuts, the button player will fold at a much higher rate than normal, and we can still win the pot often if our opponent calls, it’s a perfect candidate to three-bet.
  3. Merged range: You’re 100bbs deep in middle position with AQs against an under-the-gun player who opens way too wide and is a calling station. The player opens to 3bbs and, while we would often choose to call with this hand, this makes for a great 3-bet to 10.5bbs based on our stack depth and our desire to isolate this opponent type.

When to 3-Bet in Poker – Tips and Strategies

Of course, if we’re going to play poker and 3-bet, we have to know why and how we use 3-betting to maximize our win-rates. Doing so will make us a very difficult player to go up against whether playing live or online.

3-Betting for Value

When we get ourselves a premium hand, we want to build a pot to extract as much value from our opponents as possible.

For example, say we pick up pocket aces on the button with 100,000 effective stacks with the blinds at 800/1,600 and we face a raise of 4,000 (2.5bbs) from a middle position opponent.

We have the best possible preflop hand in poker and we need to get paid if our opponent is willing to do so. We should raise to around 12,000 (7.5bbs) or even a bit more if our opponent is either very tight or a calling station.

3-Betting as a Bluff

Of course, we cannot always have a premium hand when we 3-bet in poker. Otherwise, we’re pretty much playing our hands face up and are easily exploitable.

This means that we have to be balanced with our value 3-bets and our bluff 3-bets in order to disguise our premium hands and win postflop with hands our opponents shouldn’t put us on. Our bluffs want to be with hands that are too strong to fold but too weak to call.

When we bluff 3-bet, we hope to take down the pot without a showdown. Of course, we will get called and 4-bet sometimes, which is totally fine, as poker is not about winning every single hand. If we get called, we’re still in a great position to win the hand postflop.

For example, say we pick up a hand like A4s, A5s, or Q9s on the button with 100,000 effective stacks with the blinds at 800/1,600 and we face a raise of 4,000 (2.5bbs) from a middle position opponent.

These hands all make for solid 3-bet bluff candidates as we block many of our opponent’s potential value hands, we can still make nutted hands postflop, and these hands are too weak to just call. If we were to simply call, we would face a lot of uncertainty against the preflop raiser, get dominated by their bluffs, plus we allow the blinds an excellent chance to squeeze and make us fold.

Reasons for 3-Betting in Poker

  • Isolate weak players – When we have an opponent that opens too wide, plays poorly postflop, calls too many 3-bets, folds to too many 3-bets, and/or is just overall not a good player, we want to get heads-up against them in big pots.
  • Build the pot – If we have a premium hand and the situation is appropriate, we want to create a large pot. Of course, we will have to consider our opponent’s style of play, game dynamics, and respective positions at the table.
  • Thinning the field – There are three main situations when we want to thin the field, both after multiple people enter the hand before the action gets to you. These are: When we have a premium hand, when we want to isolate a weak player, and when we want to squeeze and steal a pot with adequate blockers.
  • Taking control of the hand – When you 3-bet, you get to take the initiative in the hand. Should your 3-bet get called, you will still often be able to win postflop without making a legitimate hand.

How Much is a 3-Bet in Poker?

While there are a diverse range of poker 3-bet sizes for a diverse number of situations in poker, there are a couple of basic rules that you can follow.

This will, of course, depend on the effective stack size and the number of players who have put chips into the pot before the action gets to you. You will have to make adjustments to your poker strategy based on game dynamics, your opponent’s style of play, and many other factors as well.

As a baseline, we want to think in terms of big blinds and not in terms of chips. This will help you a long way in your poker career. We also almost never want to 3-bet more than around 33% of our stack without going all in as we pretty much give ourselves next-to-no fold equity and burn too many chips if we do fold.

When we get down to around 30-35 big blinds and below, we will have to add in a mix of all-in 3-bets and non all-in 3-bets. We also do not want to have many non all-in 3-bets when we are below 20bbs.

In addition to these bet sizing guidelines below, you can add one additional big blind to your 3-bet for every player that calls the initial raiser (2-bet).

  • 60-100bbs+: 3.5x the initial raise, 4.5x from the blinds.
  • 40-60bbs: 3x the initial raise, 4x from the blinds.
  • 30-40bbs: 2.7x the initial raise, 3.5x from the blinds.
  • 20-30bbs: 2.5x the initial raise, 3x from the blinds.

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How to Place a 3-Bet

The following steps explain how to place a 3-bet in poker, which apply to games at both online poker sites and in person.

  1. An opponent makes an original raise (2-bet).
  2. The next players either call or fold. Action is now on you.
  3. Analyze the table dynamics entirely before opting to re-raise, call or fold.
  4. You decide to re-raise.
  5. Choose a bet sizing based on your opponent, your position, table dynamics, and the effective stack size.
  6. Make the 3-bet.

3-Bet vs 4-Bet: What’s the Difference?

A 4-bet is when a player re-raises the player who 3-bets. Whether it is a cold 4-bet (not the original raiser) or not is inconsequential when it comes to the definition of a 4-bet.

A 4-bet is significantly more aggressive than a 3-bet and is much more rare. While you still want to bluff 4-bets, they will make up a smaller percentage of the 4-betting range than, say, a 3-bet bluff.

When it comes to the size of a 4-bet, a general rule of thumb is to 4-bet around 2.25x the size of the 3-bet when you’re in position and anywhere between 2.5x and 2.8x if you’re out of position.

Bets in a Poker Sequence

  • Posting the blinds are the first bet.
  • The initial raise is considered a 2-bet.
  • Re-raising the player who 2-bet is defined as a 3-bet.
  • A 4-bet is when a player re-raises the player who 3-bet.
  • 5-bets, 6-bets, and higher are possible, albeit rare, usually resulting in players moving all in.

Pros and Cons of a 3-Bet in Poker

While 3-betting can lead to a huge stack if done correctly and at the right time, 3-betting can also lead you to a quick tournament exit.

Pros pros

  • Build larger pots with great hands
  • Take down built pots preflop
  • Build an aggressive image
  • Manage table dynamics
  • Dominate weak players

Cons cons

  • Potentially lose a lot or all of your chips in one hand
  • Can be harmful to your game if applied incorrectly

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FAQs

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References

  1. Gamblers Anonymous
  2. National Council on Problem Gambling
  3. Support for problem gamblers (Gordon Moody)
  4. Advice to consider if you’re gambling (Gamble Aware)
Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert
Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert

Blaise is an Expert Gambling Writer and a professional poker player in Brazil. He has played and traveled throughout Latin America for the last four-and-a-half years and recently won his first WSOP Circuit ring! He received his Master's in Sport Management and Sports Analytics from St. John's University. Blaise also holds a Mathematics and Computer Science degree from SUNY Purchase, where he still holds the school's Men's Soccer record for goals in a season. Blaise has worked for Catena Media, OddsSeeker, WSOP, PokerNews, and Poker.Org in various capacities. He has a passion for extensive research and aims to provide accurate…