The Three Bet

Published: 20/12/2010

The “three bet” is nothing more than making the third bet in the Limit version of the game Texas Hold’Em. Unlike the No Limit version, bets and raises are limited to three per betting interval, so the player who makes the three bet is taking the last opportunity to raise. The phrase applies to both tournaments and ring games (cash games).

The most common three bet situation is when Player A bets, Player B raises, and Player C re-raises. In this case, Player C would have the three bet. However, it does not require three players betting and raising to have a three bet situation. For example, if Player A bets, Player B raises, and Player A re-raises, then Person A would have the three bet. It also makes no difference how many players call during the betting interval.

One special instance of the three bet involves the blinds. If a player raises the blinds pre-flop, any player who re-raises is making the three bet. That’s because the big blind is treated like an initial bet

Three-Bet Strategy

The most common use of the three bet is with a very strong hand. Because it is always a re-raise, it can have the effect of maximizing the size of the pot, forcing weaker hands out of play, and threatening players in earlier positions who bet or raised. Because it is always the last raise allowed, it ensures that no other player can over-bet it, effectively bringing the betting interval to an end.

More recently, however, and especially in online play, the three bet is being used much more liberally as a function of aggressive play. Skillful use of the three bet requires understanding the most promising circumstances for three betting as well as knowing what an opponent’s three betting range is.

Pre-flop, the three bet can be used as a value bet, seeking to increase the size of the pot relative to the strength of the hand. The player who makes it should be quite confident of having the best hand. When facing tight-aggressive players, a three bet for value should probably be rather tight—one of the top four pairs or an A-K. Against looser players or fish who will call with just about any hand, the range can be wider, from A-A to 9-9 or even A-Q in addition to A-K.

Three Betting Light

When a three bet is not made for value, it is commonly made “light” as a semi-bluff. Such a hand should still have value, but its primary goal is to capture the pot without resistance, hoping that all other players fold to the re-raise. Loose players who raise frequently with marginal hands can often be intimidated in this way.

The temptation to make light three bets often can be great. It builds big pots. But players who overdo it lose the respect of the table and soon find themselves facing a lot more opponents post-flop than they might care to see. Judicious three betting should be the basic style of play.

To defend against light three bettors, several options are available. Calling on a slightly broader range of hands is one. Immediately betting into the three bettor post-flop is another. Check raising the flop is a possibility, too. Mixing up reactions to three bets also aids range balancing.

One caution about three betting is to avoid being too predictable. If opponents know a player only three bets on premium hands, they will play accordingly. Occasionally three betting light on a weak pair or suited connectors can help keep the table honest. Not three betting in situations that call for it can help mask a player’s strategy, too.

Published on: 20/12/2010

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