In last week’s edition, we looked at some very simple basics for 3-bet bluffing before the flop. We focused primarily on how new players could start to open up their 3-betting without feeling like they were getting in over their heads. We’re going to continue this theme this week with more on 3-betting. This week, we’re going to look at how to decide which hands to 3-bet before the flop for value and why.

The Idea of Low-Hanging Fruit

The Pareto Principle tells us that 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our effort. My goal with this discussion of 3-betting in this week’s article and last week’s is to focus on that 20 percent that really gives you a solid foundation to start with. The main point is that I want to start with really simple ideas that are easy to execute so that you can start putting them into practice right away. Along these lines, we’re really going after some low-hanging fruit for the players who aren’t sure about opening up their pre-flop 3-betting.

How to 3-Bet for Value

For the time being, we’re not really going to worry too much about 3-betting for value and then folding to a 4-bet in 100bb games. Instead, we’re going to start with a base assumption that you 3-betting for value means that you’re going to be 5-betting and getting the money in if you face a 4-bet from the person who put in the pre-flop raise.

As a general principle (that you’ll eventually learn when to violate), you’ll only want to 3-bet for value with hands that are ahead of your opponent’s continuing range (the range that he doesn’t fold). So suppose that, for the sake of example, that you’re against a tight opponent who is going to fold everything but JJ+ against your 3-bet. In this case, you cannot 3-bet QQ for value because it only has about 40 percent equity against your opponent’s non-folding range which consists squarely of AA, KK, QQ and JJ. Along these lines, you would also avoid 3-betting with AKs since it only has about 38 percent equity against our opponent’s continuing range.

With all of that having been said, most players don’t play that tight against 3-bets. For example, suppose you have a looser opponent who will continue with {AK-AQ, KQ, 88+} against your 3-bet. In this case, AKs has about 55 percent equity, so that could be a good 3-bet for value. Along those lines, JJ has about 53 percent equity, so that could also be a good 3-bet. On the other hand, AQs and TT are both a little too weak since they have equities in the 45-49 percent range against our opponent’s non-folding range of {AK-AQ, KQ, 88+}.

Accounting for Position

One of the inherent advantages that you can have in poker is that of position, and that’s something you have to account for when it comes to 3-betting for value. An easy way to deal with this that won’t get you into much trouble is to avoid 3-betting with hands that are just marginally better than your opponent’s continuing range when you will be out of position if they call. This will have the overall effect of you 3-betting a little less when you’re out of position, and that’s not a bad strategy to have.

How All of This Works

Now I’m going to try to explain why this approach to value betting works, and I’m going to start with an example. Suppose that you are 3-betting AA-TT for value and that your opponent folds everything but AA-TT. In this example, when you 3-bet for value and your opponent doesn’t fold, you’re going to be evenly matched in terms of ranges. If you want to gain the advantage in that particular scenario, then you could drop both JJ and TT from your 3-betting range and put them into your calling range instead.

Some players might refuse to just call with JJ and TT here with the logic that the opponent is folding often enough to make 3-bets with those hand profitable. Let’s suppose that it’s true: Then you should still call with them instead. If your opponent is folding a lot of the time, then you’re essentially turning JJ and TT into a bluff here when you have much better hands that you could bluff with. If you move those hands to your calling range and add bluffs to your 3-betting range, then you gain a ton of value overall compared to if you just 3-bet JJ and TT.

More on Hand Selection

Last week, we mentioned that your bluffing hands should be picked from the hands that are just slightly worse than your calling range. When you fit that information in with what we’ve talked about here, you get the following four ranges pre-flop when you are facing a raise:

  1. First are the strongest hands that will perform well against your opponent if you 3-bet and he does not fold. These are your value 3-bet hands.
  2. Second are strong hands that aren’t quite strong enough to 3-bet for value. This is your calling range.
  3. Third are the hands that aren’t strong enough to call, but they do have some nominal amount of playability, and you 3-bet with them as a bluff.
  4. Fourth are all of the rest of the hands, and this is your folding range.

The basic process here is as follows. First, you choose your value 3-betting range by deciding which hands have sufficient equity against your opponent’s non-folding range. Second, you look directly under that for your calling range until you get to hands that aren’t quite good enough to call. From there, you add however many 3-bet bluffing hands as you think will be appropriate. That’s really all there is to it.


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How to Decide Which Hands to 3-Bet for Value Pre-Flop
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