The games today are becoming increasingly aggressive. 3-betting, and 4-betting, something that only 4–5 years ago was not very common, is part of the norm now-a-days. Players are applying more pressure pre-flop, and becoming increasingly aggressive post flop. It’s for that reason you’re going to want to be an expert in how to play in re- raised pots pre-flop, since you’ll likely be playing in a lot of 3-bet pots. We’ll take a look at three primary 3-betting hand ranges and how you’ll use them in common situations.
Just about everyone knows that when you re-raise pre-flop with QQ+, AK, you’re doing it for value against your opponent’s raising range. What is considered value, of course, depends on your opponent and their opening range and calling range from each position. So overall value is a mixture of these two elements.
Some people get confused and think that 3-betting with AQo isn’t for value because your opponent won’t call with worse in certain situations. It will be for value, but not by much because you’ll have only a slight equity edge against a standard cut-off open raising range (say of 30%). And your opponent’s 3-bet calling range isn’t that great against you either, even though their calling range from the cut-off will likely be slightly higher, especially if they have position on you.
What a lot of people tend to not consider is that there are a ton of small pairs that you will typically fold out when playing with effective stacks around 100 BBs. This ends up dropping your equity versus their calling range, but only slightly.
Let’s contrast this with a hand like JJ that you’d typically 3-bet for value in most spots. Sometimes you might look to flat. The exact opposite becomes true with a hand like JJ. You crush your opponent’s equity pre- flop versus the exact same range as above, but your pre-flop equity decreases much more versus their calling range, then the drop in equity with AQo when you 3-bet and are called (AQ loses 8% and JJ loses 13%).
Removing a lot of your opponent’s small pairs and marginal hands increases your equity with a high un-paired hand like AQo, but decreases it with a big pair. So really the argument should be that you should be 3- betting AQo more, and flatting JJ pre-flop more often. Of course poker isn’t this simple. The flopability of your hand and how many streets of value you can get with a particular hand matter. Not to mention that 3-betting decreases your effective stack to pot ratio so that you can comfortably play a slightly bigger pot with a big pair, and reduces your opponent’s hands that can create big pots, like 87s.
The point here though is that certain hands actually gain equity when you 3-bet them versus lose equity. But there are other things to consider besides just equity. There’s fold equity, decreasing the stack to pot ratio, and initiative. All of these will factor into whether 3-betting for value or calling is better.
A baseline for a value 3-bet range is 4.2% of hands, which looks something like this:
JJ+, AQs+, AQo+. Now clearly if you only 3-bet about 4% of your hands, you’re not going to get much action when you 3-bet, and you’re going to be leaving money on the table. You’ll want to add in some more hands as bluffs, and also find ways to add more value hands against certain opponents.