First I’d like to start of with the concept of c-betting, and how it’s been widely overused. In a vaccuum, the c-bet is essentially the perfect play to make at all times regardless of your holdings and playing against a player X. The reason being that since your opponent will hit a hand (including a pair or better or some kind of draw) around 1/3 of the time, you will show automatic profit betting any flop, even hands that have showdown value. The problem is that when taken out of the context of a vaccuum players are still c-betting against players that they have specific reads on with hands that either do or do not have showdown value, and they c-bets aren’t working. This is because rarely can a hand be taken in a vaccuum. Sure, c-bets can be highly profitable, but if you are c-betting 100% of the flops that you’ve raised preflop then your opponents will adjust (even the BAD opponents), and what should be a highly profitable strategy has just become an exploitable one.
This is what is happening with 3-betting.
When player X raises on the button, many players will 3-bet way too many of their hands from the blinds (not 100%, but a number that’s exploitable). While, in a vaccuum, 3-betting every single time is most likely a +ev play, by virtue of the fact that we aren’t playing in a vaccuum, makes it highly exploitable. The reason 3- betting has become so rampant is that many players aren’t willing to battle against 3-betting as they are against C-betting, however, those who are absolutely dominate rampant 3-bettors.
So what hands should we 3-bet against what players? That could turn into a very long post, so I’d like to narrow my focus to one hand: KQ.
Let’s use the example of a 25/22 button opening and we are in the BB after the SB has folded. We know that KQ is doing really well against button’s range and we know that the button is probably raising too often on the button. So what do most people do? They go right ahead and repop right there. Now, unless you have such extensive history with the button where you can go broke on any TP flop, I contend that repopping here is an egregious mistake.
For some reason, many people in today’s games feeling that outplaying someone comes just as much preflop as it does postflop, which leads to some very serious leaks (too loose preflop to work on image, then too passive preflop when people adjust and hero misses everything). It’s more important to think about how someone’s preflop game can HELP someone’s postflop game. So, back to KQ.
So, if we reraise with KQ, we give the button 3 decisions, F/C/R. It’s likely he’s going to fold the majority of his hands, let’s say KT</AT</and other random connectors and small pairs. So what has happened to our postflop game? We’ve won money a decent amount of the time preflop, but only 3 BBs. When we’re called, however, we have a good hand, but we’re now up against a much stronger range than we were before, and while we have aggression, we don’t have position, meaning check/folding often and bet/moaning often as well.
We gave the villain the opportunity to dump hands that we dominate, thereby hurting our chances to get lots of value postflop. I’d also like to point out that there are other hands in this category, but KQ is the most obvious (QJ/AJ/KJ are 3 others, albeit you must be more cognizant of whether or not these hands are as far ahead of the openers range as KQ will be).
While many will suggest that this is much too passive of a play with a hand like KQ, I strongly disagree, as our hand is strong and underrepped we can make hands like KJ/KT/K9/QJ/QT all willingly go way too far with their top pair hands.
Then one can make the argument, that if we’re doing this with KQ, why not with AK/AQ? Because essentially every hand that calls our 3-bet now will be dominated, and we’ll have absolutely no problem getting it ai on a TP flop against an unkown.
Now, having said all of this, it’s also important to point out that against good players, you will have to get to the point where you CAN 3-bet KQ for value and get it in happily on a K/Q high flop. Most people have a hard time understanding how to do that.
First off, it requires the right villain to be in the right frame of mind. You always have to be looking to see what the villain is doing. If the villain is rarely raising his button, then you know what…don’t bother repopping him, there’s not point. He’s not stealing, his range is already pretty narrow preflop, just let it go. But if he’s restealing literally every time, then start going ahead and restealing…but resteal with playable hands. Pockets pairs, suited connetors, (Not KQ!), and of course your legitimate AK/AQ/JJ+ hands. If, after repopping a few times successfully, and villain hasn’t stopped, you can open up your range even more. Poker is a game of seeing how much you can get away with…then doing it over and over and over again. Then, of course, villain will adjust again, either by calling too lightly or 4- betting. THIS is when you can start 3-betting your KQ, but not until you get to this point, and you have to really know you’ve gotten there.