As I’m sure you know, defending against 3-bets can be quite difficult in a lot of situations. It’s especially true when you hold a hand that would be in a quasi 3-betting range itself. Calling, folding, or 4-betting can all be close decisions at times. How you properly vet out which decision will the highest EV line can be the difference between being a marginal winner/loser, and crushing the games.
Typically speaking, we’d all prefer to play in a re-raised pot, or any pot, when we have position. In a re-raised pot with marginal hands it’s not as simple as saying to fold most of your hands out of position, and call in position. Typically most opponents will have a wider 3-betting range in position, and quite a bit tighter out of position. So like most poker decisions, where you open from (and how often), and where your opponent 3-bets from (and how often) will be of the upmost importance in determining a 3-bet calling range.
Easy Folds to 3-bets
There are some very obvious spots to dump a hand, and some obvious spots to continue. There aren’t static rules to defending against a 3-bet, but some situations are clear cut folds. Here are a few of them assuming roughly 100 BB effective stacks:
You open a normal range UTG, action is folded to the small blind who 3- bets you and has a normal to tight 3-betting range.
Comments: If you open say 15% UTG, and your opponent has an overall 3-bet percentage of 6%, then you’re folding almost all of your hands except for: QQ+, AKs, AKo. QQ may even be a fold if your opponent’s overall 3-bet percentage is smaller than 6%. Your opponent’s 3-bet percentage from the small blind is irrelevant, and it’s unlikely you’ll have an adequate sample to have stats for 3-bet from SB vs UTG. On average you’ll be looking at an opponent with a 4% 3-bet range or less. So you should be proceeding only with the very top of your range.
You open a normal range UTG, action is folded to the big blind who 3- bets you and has a normal to tight 3-betting range.
Comments: Similar thing as in the small blind, except you can call with slightly more of your range. Since the big blind is last to act, the 3-betting range will be slightly wider on average, but not by much. That just means you can call with TT+, AKo, AKs and sometimes AQs.
You open a normal range UTG, and your opponent on your immediate left 3-bets you, who has a normal 3-betting range.
Comments: You should be folding most of your range except for JJ+, AKo, AKs. Against some opponents, TT and AQs can be called. In general though they should be dumped unless they are somewhat on the looser 3-betting side of a normal 3-betting range.
“Easy” Calls to 3-bets
Defending your opening range is a must in today’s games. You just want to make sure you’re consistently doing it in the highest EV situations obviously. Some spots that come up often that are “easy” calls to a 3-bet with 100 BB effective stacks are as follows:
You open on the button, a normal open button range, and get 3-bet by the big blind who has a fairly wide 3-betting range.
Comments: You both know your range is going to be wider and lighter than normal. This should be one of the spots you defend against most aggressively since you’ll have position and you have options between calling or 4-betting light. Assuming your opponent is 3-betting about 15% of his range, you should look to call with roughly an equal percentage of your range, or slightly more depending on how confident you are in outplaying your opponent. All things being equal, having position is your biggest advantage. If you assume a somewhat polarized range from your opponent, then you should be calling with a range similar to this (assuming you’ll 4-bet JJ+, AK most of the time): 88–JJ, A9s+, ATo–AQo, KJo+, KTs+, QTs+, J9s+, QTo+, T9s, 98s, T9o, 87s. You’ll have anywhere from 47%–52% equity depending on how polarized your opponent’s range is.
You open on the button, a normal open button range, and get 3-bet by the small blind who has a fairly wide 3-betting range.
Comments: Very similar to the above. You will both have wider ranges, but the small blind will have a slightly tighter 3-betting range on average with the big blind still left to act. You should still defend liberally, unless your opponent is on the tight side of a normal 3- betting range for this situation. So assume a roughly 13% 3-betting range, your defense range should look similar to defend the blind with a few more hands cut out: 88–JJ, ATs+, ATo–AQo, KJo+, KTs+, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, T9o. The goal is to have yourself around the 47%–52% equity range against your opponent’s 3-bet range.
You open in cut-off, a normal cut-off range. The action folds to the big blind who 3-bets a fairly wide range.
Comments: Despite the fact that your range will be significantly tighter in the cut-off, your opponent’s 3-betting range will be almost as wide as if you had opened from the button. Somewhere between 10–13% on average for normal aggressive regulars. So assuming a 3- bet range of about 11.5%, then a good defending range would be: 88– JJ, ATs+, AJo–AQo, KQo, KJs+, QJs, JTs, T9s. Again, the goal is to get between 47–52% equity versus your opponent’s range. In this case you’d be pretty close to 50% equity.
You open in cut-off, a normal cut-off range. The action folds to the small blind who 3-bets a fairly wide range for this situation.
Comments: Same as above, and your opponent’s 3-bet range should be slightly tighter as opposed to 3-betting from the big blind, but not by much. A range of 8.5–12% would be average for this situation. So assuming a 3-bet range of 10%, a good defense calling range would be: 88–JJ, ATs+, AJo–AQo, KQo, KQs. This would be slightly over 48% equity versus your opponent’s 3-bet range.