Reacting to 3bets


Obviously, this is a tough spot. You’ve raised and someone acting after you has re-popped you. They are representing a big hand, and, if you were not stealing in LP, you may very well be out of position for the remainder of the hand. It’s a hard spot to play for a profit. In fact, if you check your database, you will probably see that you are losing money in this spot. Don’t worry about this, most people lose money in this spot.
It is possible to profit in this situation, but, in my experience playing and analyzing databases, only the very best players at their level can show even a small profit in this situation, and even then, you only see people showing a profit if their pre-flop stealing range is on the tight side.

Thus: It may sound defeatist, but realistically, we are usually not looking to make a profit on this situation, we are looking to have the smallest loss rate possible.

The math is simple: You have raised somewhere between 3 and 4 big blinds and the villain has 3 bet you. If you reacted to all 3 bets by simply folding, your loss rate would be your average raise size times 100. Lets call that a loss rate of 350bb/100, or 1.75ptbb/hand for you PT3 users. Our goal when we get 3 bet is to use a combination of folds, calls and raises to reduce our loss rate below 350bb/100 or 1.75ptbb/hand. If we achieve this, then we have a +EV loss mitigation strategy for reacting to 3 bets.

Playing AA and KK

I want to do this first, because I want to get it out of the way and focus primarily on playing close decisions where we do not necessarily welcome the 3 bet.

Obviously, when you have a big hand, you are glad your opponent is cooperating with your intent to play for stacks. The question here is almost always simply whether it is more +EV to 4 bet pre-flop or to flat call and trap.

Not surprisingly, my database for the last 180,000 hands I have played at NL $50 shows that it is more +EV to 4 bet than to flat call. When I flat call a 3 bet with AA or KK, my win rate is 1541bb/100 hands; when I 4 bet, my win rate is 4327bb/100. The numbers change significantly when I filter for just KK, but the 3 to 1 relationship stays the same.

Conclusion: When you are holding AA or KK, you should almost always 4 bet. You should only flat call with these hands in specific, unusual situations. I might suggest flatting when you are in against an aggro maniac whose 3 bet percentage C-bet% and AF are super high, but who you have reason to believe will fold to a 4 bet. I might flat with a comparatively high frequency against regulars I trust will make a note to that effect. Otherwise, go ahead and 4 bet these hands.

All Other Situations
1. Reacting to a 20bb Short Stackers’ 3 Bets

Often, you are simply calling or folding to a shove, but sometimes you can see pretty silly things like a short stacker who min 3 bets your button steal. Either way, for all practical purposes, you are making a commitment decision pre-flop.

For the most part then, we are making pure value plays. We fold when we are behind his range (taking dead money into consideration,) and we get it all in when we think we are ahead.

My Hold ‘Em Manager is not working correctly, and it will not let me filter for these hands at the moment. I will fill in this section when I can figure out what the problem is. My intent is to look at some short stack ranges and which hands I have been profitable and unprofitable with.

Edit: CMAR let me off the hook on this; for playing against short stackers, just read his excellent post linked below. I could not possibly improve on that.

2. When Effective Stacks are between 20 and 80bb

Things get really tricky when the villain’s stack is in this range. At the bottom end of the range you have essentially no room to do anything fancy, and at the top you are almost, but not quite, playing full stacked. But at 80bb, the difference is crucial, simply because there is no way you can convince yourself that calling a 12bb 3 bet with your pocket pair to set mine is profitable. Thus, if you are going to play against these people, you have to be prepared to NOT fit or fold. And because SPRs are so low in these situations, you should err on the side of folding marginal hands that prefer deeper stacks–suited connectors, small to medium pocket pairs and such like.

99-JJ are pretty tricky to play in these situations. You have a really good hand, but it is going to get out flopped a lot of the time. Against the shortest stacks in this range, I usually shove or fold based on the villain’s stats, playing a 30bb stack pretty much exactly the same way as i would play against a 20bb stack.

When stacks get to 50 or 60 big blinds, I start to think about seeing a flop, and when stacks get up to 80bb, I am playing these hands essentially the same way as I would play them against a full stack.

The only exception is that I tend to think that somebody playing less than full stacked is more likely to bluff the whole thing off with AK or AQ unimproved than somebody playing with a full stack (both because they are, on average, less skilled, and because they are simply more willing to lose their stack because their stack is smaller). Thus, I am more inclined to call an all in bet with 99-JJ than I would be against a full


A careful database review shows that 80bb stack guys are, on average, stronger than full stacks when they three bet. This revelation turns out to be a significant aid to playing against them and is going to plug a significant leak in my game.

You can call and semi-set mine decent pocket pairs. You might play 99, for example, and call a flop bet if you don’t hit a set, and then tend to shut down to further aggression, but look to steal the pot if he shuts down after the flop. You would be compensated for this by knowing that you are going to get paid off with his entire stack at a slightly higher rate than you would against a 100bb stack when you do hit your set.

Just assume the opposite of what I have been assuming: that an 80bb stack knows his hammer of future betting is smaller, and, therefore, he is not relying on FE as much as a 100bb stack. Rather, he is playing an 80bb stack because he thinks it will be easier for you to double him up when he does have a hand; so, in general, if he is trying to get his stack in, he probably has it.

To play middle strength hands like 88-TT against a 70-80bb stack, you are going to have to be able to win a high percentage of the time unimproved. Thus, you shouldn’t do it if his 3 betting range is tight or the situation dictates that he have a tight range. Obviously be more inclined to call when you have position, and, in general, respect check raises.

You should err on the side of folding these hands if the villain looks reasonably tight and solid with his 3 bets, or if you honestly appraise your post flop skills as not up to being able to win a high percentage of the time the villain has 3 bet a drawing hand and missed the flop. Stack to Pot Ratios will be very low in these situations, so one decent-sized C-bet from the villain is going to get you to the commitment threshold. So you’ll want to look for a villain who makes an unusually small C-bet on a low flop or some other indicator that the hand may be winnable.

3. General Considerations playing 100bb Deep

In reacting to 3 bets, I generally look at the following factors in the following order to determine whether I will continue with the hand:

a. Villain’s 3 bet %. I honestly do not think you can come close to an effective strategy for reacting to 3 bets unless you display on your HUD and use the villain’s 3 bet% stat.

For example, last night I found myself out of position relative to a LAg (he wound up the session at 24/16/3) unknown who sat and immediately started three betting most spots where there was a raise in front of him and he wanted to play the hand. After 76 hands at the table, he had 3 bet 24% of his opportunities. This stat was a bit misleading, though, because up to the point where we played this hand he had not flat called a single raise. he folded or 3 bet.

Based on this stat I knew that he had a wide range, and that a lot of it was going to be weak stuff that would not necessarily play well post flop. Here I called figuring I was flipping a huge part of his range and way behind a fairly small part of his range. I was not necessarily going to go away at the first sign of aggression. If villain has been paying attention, he knows I am running at about 13/10 on this table.

Hero (MP1): $68.15

MP2: $50.00 CO: $50.50 BTN: $49.40 SB: $42.25
BB: $50.00 UTG: $69.75 UTG+1: $73.75

This is a really good flop for me. I raised and called a 3 bet, so AK and maybe AQ are definitely in my perceived range. Far from being concerned about the ace, it gives me bluffing opportunities against a lot of his range. Also, because the ace is not the ace of hearts, if he doesn’t have it, he has to be concerned that I have it. If he does have it, he’ll let me know.

Hero checks, CO bets $5.50, Hero calls $5.50

At this point, I feel pretty good about my prospects of winning this hand. His bet size is the primary reason: a half pot c-bet into a two-flushed flop lacks credibility. At this point, I assume that he is worried about the ace and is “one and done”. I’m planning to fire any turn card to pick up dead money; I may still have the best hand, but I am certainly not beating anything he calls a bet with

Had he called the turn, I still would have had the option of shoving any non-heart river representing the flush. I probably would not have, but this is certainly an option. Had a 4th heart fallen, then I would definitely have made a small value-bet- looking bet, which I would be certain was a bluff.

This is just a standard call-bluff, all in a day’s work, but you have to be willing to do this sort of thing to be able to play your small and mid pockets profitably. The key is to not do it indiscriminately, but, rather, to look for any sign of weakness; in this case, it was the small c-bet.

I’m not going to lie to you–normally I fold pre-flop and if i do call preflop, I normally check/fold here. But here I had a villain with a wide range who showed weakness on the flop, and that made the hand look winnable.

b. Position

Obviously being in position is a good reason to call a 3 bet, but you have to be careful with this. When you are on a steal from the cut off or the button, your range is really weak, and most of the time you have to suck it up and fold, or occasionally 4 bet.

So, for instance, here is a hand I played when I was in the small blind against a solid TAg 15/12/6 3 bet 3.1% (5,5% in BB):

Hero (SB): $103.00

BB: $50.00 UTG: $142.95 UTG+1: $67.10 MP1: $50.00 MP2: $32.65 CO: $75.00 BTN: $100.00

My thinking here is that even if I flop my set getting marginal set mining odds against his pretty wide 3 betting range, it is going to be hard to extract a profit out of position against a good player, so I can’t call. If I fold, i am folding the best hand a lot of the time, so folding is bad. When you can’t call and you shouldn’t fold, ldo, you raise.

On the button, though, I would be strongly tempted to flat call this smallish 3 bet from this player.

So out of position, while I sometimes do call, i am usually folding, but sometimes 4 bet bluffing.

When I play on the button, or any time I am going to be in position relative to the 3 bettor, I am willing to call with a very wide range, but not all of my stealing range, obviously. I’ll call with all pocket pairs that have a decent chance of flopping as an overpair, and semi-set mine, or I will call a very tight 3 bet range with any pocket pair and set mine, and, of course, I will call with suited connectors some of the time, intending to shove most of my good to very good draws:

UTG+2: $106.65
MP1: $97.20
MP2: $54.25
CO: $124.45
Hero (BTN): $100.00 SB: $76.15

BB: $40.00 UTG: $41.45 UTG+1: $50.00

Villain in this hand was a little short at 80bb, and that fact probably makes this a preflop fold. I probably failed to glance at his stack size before I made my decision. But villain in the hand had a 3 bet % of 5.3% (8% out of the BB), so maybe I was just calling planning to try to take it away.

c. History with the Villain

Sometimes, for whatever reason, we find ourselves the target of a villain, or we find ourselves targeting a specific villain, and a dynamic gets created between the two of you that is way outside of the norm. There are quite a few players at $50 with whom I have an ongoing feud, and who I know are looking to outplay me simply because of our history.

In this hand, the villain is a a solid reg at $50 (14/9/4 ATS 4% Edit: this is his 3 bet%). he had position on me, but I didn’t want to leave the table because there was a 76/32 or something that we had position on. The solid reg had 3 bet a couple of my iso-plays against the donkey, leaving me no choice but to fold like a lawn chair.

When he branched out into defending his button, I knew I had to make a stand. And, because he would notice that this was the first time I made a stand, I figured he’d give me credit for a hand.

BB: $106.85 UTG: $202.00

UTG+1: $105.10 MP1: $44.20
MP2: $53.30
Hero (CO): $100.25 BTN: $97.50

SB: $96.15

4 folds, Hero raises to $1.50, BTN raises to $5.25, 2 folds, Hero calls $3.75 I called rather than 4 bet because no good comes of a 4 bet here. He may have a premium hand, in which case I’ve got a lot of money in really bad, or he may be pretty light but read the 4 bet as a tilty bluff and look me up anyway, or he may just assume that I have a monster, quietly fold, and go back to the business of 3 betting my iso-plays. In a way, what I am really looking to do here is just send the message that i will call a three bet, so he needs to make sure that he has a hand when he 3 bets me. Actually winning this hand is a somewhat secondary consideration–I just need to show him that my fold to 3 bet % is less than 100.

The turn is really interesting because I pick up 4 probably clean outs, giving me a total of 9 all of which are probably clean. So now I have a situation where:

i. I will improve to the best hand about 20% of the time;
ii. A lot of his range is king-free, so I have decent fold equity; iii. A not insignificant amount of the time I have the best hand (AQ, AJ, randomness he is “outplaying” me with).

I decide to split the difference between a blocking bet and a value-bet looking bet which may be a value bet but which may also be a semi-bluff. I’ll fold to a shove. Feel free to quibble with the bet size, just understand that my intent was to make a bet that was a little high to be a blocking bet, and a little low to be a value bet. This wasn’t the best size for anything; it was a compromise bet size that could look like either.

Hero bets $13.50, BTN folds

Final Pot: $25.25 Hero wins $24.00 (Rake: $1.25)

d. My Image

Meh, in a way I have already covered this. Probably all of you think of me as a nit, and it is easy to jump to that conclusion when you see me at the table playing 11/8 in a big sample, or a card dead 8/6 in a small sample.

This gives me quite a bit of freedom to make plays like some of the ones I have shown here, and to get credit for them. I use this most frequently by 4 bet bluffing with marginal or trash hands from mid and late position when a call would leave me out of position and the 3 bettor is likely light.

4. A Word on Frequencies
Thus far I have not really talked about how often to do what.

here is where I do that.

The fundamental point that I hope has been driven home is that your strategy in reacting to 3 bets is entirely dependent on your post flop skill.

If an honest appraisal of your post flop skill leads you to conclude that you are average skill for your level, then you should start out by folding most of the time. A fold to 3 bet of about 65-75% would be about right. You could flat JJ (maybe), QQ, AK and AQ in late position against most villains (go ahead and shove them against the maniacs and shorties) 4 bet KK and AA always (don’t trap, trapping is for people who can get away cheap post flop when they get out flopped) and fold pretty much everything else.

If you consider yourself slightly above average for your stakes, and are looking to improve, do this:

First, steal more in LP. This will put you in more marginal spots in smaller pots. Once you get your win rate back to where it was with your tighter stealing range, then you can consider opening up by calling 3 bets with decent drawing hands and decent pocket pairs and look to play post flop.

In general, when you call with pocket pairs, you are looking for low flops that, even if they didn’t hit your set, missed the drawing hands people 3 bet (KQ+) and a raise on the flop or a call followed by a bet when the villain checks a brick turn.

When I hit a set in position after calling a 3 bet, I almost always play it extremely passively, often taking the line call/call/call (the third call assumes the villain puts his whole stack in). If the board is drawy or monotone, then I jam it.

When you play suited connectors, look to be in position, usually, and plan to shove big draws as a matter of routine, and look to shove good draws against people who you suspect may be 3 betting light and who also have high c-bet %s.

If you are looking to play more 3 bet pots, aim to be getting your fold to 3 bet down to somewhere between 50 and 60%.

Once you feel like you have a significant edge at your stake, you should be looking to get the fold to 3 bet down as low as possible. In my last 180,000 hands at $50, excluding my traps with AA and KK, I:

4 bet 14% of the time for a win rate of 190bb/100 hands

call 45% of the time for a win rate of -70bb/100

fold to 3 bet 41.3% for a loss rate 0f -357bb/100

Thus, by calling, I am saving myself 2.87bb/hand every time I call a 3 bet versus folding to it.

knn05 has similar stats. She has said that she would post her actual figures in this thread, but from what I recall discussing this with her, her fold to 3 bet is right around 40% also.

To a certain extent, your fold to 3 bet is dependent on your ATS; but only to a certain extent. knn05 and I are both pretty close in folding to only 40% of 3 bets, but her ATS is at 32% and mine is only at 28%. But, in general, the less you steal, the better your average hand, and, therefore, the more willing you should be to call a 3 bet.

5. A word on Ranges

There are no rules. Or rather, there are very few rules.

You cannot set mine profitably in 3 bet HU pots. You probably cannot set mine profitably in multi-way 3 bet pots. But: You don’t need to; if your loss rate in these hands is better than folding, keep calling with them.

I like to call with suited connectors and pocket pairs. I will have position when I call a 3 bet with suited connectors >90% of he time; I need a really, really good reason to call oop with suited connectors.

In position, my range is heavily weighted toward pocket pairs, but I play suited connectors also. The reason for this is not because I am set mining, but it is because I have a hand with made value, and I often don’t need to improve to win the pot when villain bricks the flop.

I would have no problem with someone changing this mix, and I suspect that, for example, knn05’s range is very different than mine, but I know my range works for me, so I am pretty satisfied with it (well, except that I haven’t flopped a set in a 3 bet pot since April 5 ).

in general, I look for lower suited connectors. I disfavor (but will still sometimes play) the suited connectors that need aces kings or queens to make their straights. usually, if you get all in drawing with one of these hands, the villain has two of your outs. Thus, I am much more inclined to call a 3 bet with 76s than I am with T9s.

5. Conclusion this post feels a little disorganized, but i hope it has given you some ideas on how to open up and lose less to 3 bets. I’ll leave you with what, in my opinion is the best way to improve your results in 3 bet pots; do this at every opportunity:

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