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The Three Bet (3bet) � What it is and How to Use it

Published November 18, 2008 - RSS/XML Feed RSS
The three bet is defined in the following manner:
The “first bet” of a hand (for this example we will go with preflop action) is the big blind. The “second bet” is the first raiser. The “three bet” is the person that makes a re-raise.
For example:
1.       Big blind posts their $1 big blind.
2.       Everyone folds to the Button (aka dealer) who raises to $4.
3.       The Small Blind re-raises to $15. (this is your 3bet)
I’ve done some examining of small stakes players playing limits from 10nl to 50nl and some of the more novice type players never 3bet unless they have AA or KK, and sometimes not even then. Why? They are scared, afraid, cowards … or they feel a hand like AK is just a speculative hand and you have to flop something for it to be of any value. Although in *some* games that might be the case, you are almost always be better off 3betting (with monsters in bad position, and decent hands in late position). It’s a move that shows tremendous strength and at the nitty lower levels (50nl and below) at cash tables gets way too much respect – something that you can exploit.
Let’s take a look at the classic 3bet preflop example that wins it right there preflop. This is just one way of winning a hand with a 3bet.
The plan works to perfection and I take a very sizable pot down for this level. 
Here’s another example of preflop 3betting action with KK. Let’s take a look at the hand and then analyzed what happened.
The villain in this hand, using Holdem Manager which keeps stats at the table for you, is a 50/14/3 (translates to a loose maniac player). Our villain here gets cheeky and raises it up to $14 preflop which is way too much obviously. Our hero has two choices (obviously not folding) here – either call, and hope to avoid the board spiking an A on the flop so he’s pretty sure he’s in the clear, or 3bet it and probably end up heads up or take it down now. He 3bets the right amount he should have (probably should have been to $35 to $40) but the effect is the same – the villain decides that the range is too strong and the pot too expensive for him to continue with his hand (again probably something like JJ, QQ, AQ, AK, etc).
So what type of hands and situations are you looking for to 3bet? Basically it boils down to needing (most times) a good hand (JJ-AA, AQ, AK) with decent position (Button, Cutoff, and Hijack seats) – and keep to that at first as you try this if you are just exploring 3bets in your game. Otherwise you might need to incorporate it into your stealing metagame like in the hand below …
A9 is actually a great hand in HU play which is basically the situation in this hand. The hero has been stealing and our big blind decided to grow a pair and start defending. Unfortunately for him our hero is stubborn, mean, and aggressive and recognize this is probably just someone with a marginal hand trying to defend. So our hero 3bets and our big blind is faced with a huge pot holding a marginal hand – and he folds. This play right here is *very* specialized against opponents and situations, but hopefully you get the idea of the overall holistic strategy.
Remember the goal with a 3bet without AA or KK is to win the hand without a showdown. If you get a caller for your 3bet and that person checks the turn, that’s your queue to pounce on the pot. You can’t 3bet only when you have AA or KK, otherwise nobody will ever give you value for those hands because it’s the only time when you 3bet and plainly obvious you are holding those cards. By opening up your 3bet range you keep your opponents guessing, take control of the pot, and extend value to big hands.

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