3bets

This is everybody’s favorite topic these days. If there is one area of the game that has changed the most in the past 5 years 3betting is probably a pretty good candidate. “Back in the old days” a 3bet used to mean AA or KK almost exclusively even at much higher stakes. Then people started realizing just how profitable it was to 3bet with some other hands as well. This allowed them to take down the pot right then and there or gain initiative after the flop. And we know how profitable that is.

As more and more people started to notice this and 3betting increased, the obvious counter strategy of 4betting light against habitual 3bettors came about. But even though 4betting light seemed like a good solution, it does have one major drawback. It requires that you risk a fairly large (and almost critical) amount of your stack in order to win the pot. 3betting does not.

This doesn’t mean that I think that you should go out and start 3betting up a storm. In fact I am going to argue that you do just the opposite at the micros. But 3betting is absolutely a great strategy because it wins you a lot of pots and it is difficult to counter.

Large amounts of 3betting still hasn’t really trickled down to the micros just yet however, at least at NL2 and NL5. And usually the people who are 3betting a lot are doing it too much and in the wrong spots. They often don’t know why they are 3betting. They are just randomly clicking buttons to appear aggressive.

I think that you should be 3betting at the micros for value the large majority of the time. It’s ok to toss in the odd light 3bet against the right opponent but it should be the exception rather than the rule. The real key with 3betting is to do it in the right spots and against the right opponents. It’s not so much about having certain stats. That said, there is probably still a general range that you should try to keep it within. I 3bet at around 3% at the micros and I think anything in the 2 to 4% range is fine.

There are a few reasons why I don’t like 3betting too much at these stakes. Firstly, my edge is enormous after the flop a lot of the time. Here are just a few of the mammoth mistakes that almost all players at these limits make on a regular basis.

  •   Slow playing their overpair
  •   Betting way too small
  •   Betting way too big
  •   Overvaluing their overpair
  •   Overvaluing their top pair
  •   Overvaluing a draw

If I am confident that I can outplay my opponent badly much of the time after the flop, artificially inflating the size of the pot and reducing the SPR is not going to help me. When the stacks are deeper, the more highly skilled player is always going to be at an advantage. 3betting inherently reduces SPR, creating shallower stacks, which favors the less skilled player.

If my opponents played more correctly postflop, then there would be much more benefit in just getting more aggressive preflop. This is the case at higher limits and that is why I absolutely advocate a much more liberal 3betting strategy there. But these are the micros and they make awful mistakes postflop all day and twice on Sunday.

Secondly, one of the biggest leaks that microstakes players have is an inability to fold to 3bets. They also like to call a lot postflop. You can probably see the issue here. The whole point of a 3bet is to try and take down the pot right then and there or on the flop with a bet.

When you just don’t have a lot of fold equity against many of your opponents, this really reduces the effectiveness of the play. This isn’t a bad thing of course because eventually you will pick up a big hand, 3bet and get called the whole way with it.

My approach with 3betting is to keep my range polarized. By this I mean, I 3bet the very top of my range. That would be hands such as,

And then I also 3bet a bunch of reasonably decent speculative or high card hands that aren’t strong enough to call a raise and are an easy fold to a 4bet. These would be hands like,

I try to stay away from 3betting hands such as,

too much. These hands in particular have loads of value but can’t stand a 4bet. They can also put you in all sorts of difficult spots after the flop against players who don’t fold much. By calling I keep the pot smaller, keep my decisions simple and give myself the opportunity to outplay them after the flop with a really good starting hand.

The main point here is that my 3betting range is polarized. It has amazing stuff and some fairly junky stuff that can flop huge sometimes. By constructing my range like this, I don’t put myself in difficult spots before or after the flop. Keep things simple. Don’t just 3bet for the sake of 3betting.

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