Bigger 3-Bets Get More Folds

In the strictest sense, the above statement is true. If you re-raise all in over the top of a 3 blind open, you’re likely to get folds from everything except for aces or kings, and the occasional curious opponent. That is, until you start doing it all the time and your opponents take notice.

So yeah, you can shove your whole stack in and get lots of folds. The problem is that it’s extremely expensive. You’ve invested ten times as many chips as you usually would, but is your opponent folding ten times as often? It’s not even close. Your opponent would have to be folding less than 10% of his range to your regular re-raise for that to even be possible. (If your opponent folds 20%, then ten times that is 200% – an impossibility.)

It’s clearly not worth shoving all in as a bluff against a single raise. If you’re reading this book, it’s unlikely that’s a mistake you’re currently making. But there is a common, related mistake that many players make.

When the cutoff opens to 3 blinds, it rarely makes sense to 3-bet to more than 9 blinds from the button. The cutoff will fold a similar number of hands against a 9 blind re-raise as he would to a 12 blind re-raise. So why do so many players insist on making the larger 3-bet size?

As discussed in Misconception #1, the motivation is often fear. They don’t want to get their big hands cracked, they don’t want to have their bluffs called, and they don’t want to face tough decisions later in the hand. As you’ll see, making the smaller raise size sets your opponent up for tough decisions.

It doesn’t make sense to raise more for value, at least not with 100 blind stacks. If the cutoff calls the re-raise, it will be easy to get the whole stack in after the flop with one-half to two-thirds pot sized bets. That’s part of the reason that the raise size shouldn’t matter so much in terms of getting folds. The threat is the same. As shown in the example below, the 3-bettor has position and the choice to get all of the chips in postflop.

The larger raise size doesn’t make a ton of sense as a bluff, either. Perhaps you’ll shake loose a few more hands from the opener’s range. Those are usually hands that have a hard time getting to showdown anyway. You actually want those hands to call before the flop so that you have an opportunity to make a more profitable bluff later in the hand, once there’s more money in the pot.

In the following example, you give your opponent three chances to fold. Despite your modest preflop re-raise, he’s always facing the threat of committing a full 100 blind stack after the flop.

There are two important exceptions to the guideline of tripling your opponent’s raise size. The first is when you’re up against a weak player who calls a lot preflop, but gives up a lot postflop. Now you want to make a larger re-raise because you think he will call with the same range he’d call against a smaller 3-bet. You want to take as many flops with this player as you can, and you want the other players behind you to fold. In this case, you should raise as much as you can without pushing the guy out of the pot. Get as many of his chips in the pot as you can before taking it away from him.

The other exception is when you’re out of position to the raiser. When you 3-bet from the blinds, you should make your raise a little larger, since raising three times your opponent’s raise size will now result in more calls. That wouldn’t be such a problem if you had position, but as we’ve already discussed, you don’t want to play too many big pots out of position. Good players don’t often call 3-bets when they’re out of position, but that changes when you give them position. By raising more, you also make the stack size shorter relative to the pot size. This usually benefits the player out of position, since there is a bit less room for postflop maneuvering. (This last effect is relatively minor here, since we’re not suggesting that you re-raise to something like five or six times your opponent’s raise. Still, it’s something you should often think about when you’re out of position.)

While you should size your raise larger when out of position, don’t take it too far. Add one or two blinds, making it no more than four times your opponent’s raise. A re-raise to 10 or 11 blinds is usually good against a 3-blind open.

One mistake a lot of players make here is to re-raise to 10 or 11 blinds even when the opener just makes a min-raise. Why use the same 3-bet size against just 2 blinds sitting in there? You’re charging yourself too much when you’re bluffing, and discouraging marginal hands from playing along with your value hands.

Don’t be afraid to see some flops when you 3-bet. Whether you’re in or out of position, you’ll have initiative and a stronger range. Create profitable postflop opportunities, and don’t spend more than you need to get the job done.

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