Most people over-invest in 3-bet pots. We looked at proper 3-bet sizing earlier, so let’s assume that the open-raise was 3 blinds and your 3-bet was 3 times that, to 9 blinds. Assuming the blinds fold and the cutoff calls, the pot will be 19.5 blinds.
Almost regardless of the flop texture, there’s no need to bet much more than half pot. You’ll get about as many folds when you bet 11 blinds as when you bet 16 or 17 blinds, and betting 11 blinds is much cheaper. Let’s take a look at an example:
Sitting in the button’s position, have you ever once thought to yourself, “Man, I’m glad this guy didn’t bet $170. That would have changed everything.” No, you haven’t.
That’s because betting $170 would change almost nothing. It would risk more chips to cause the same effect.
There’s a simple reason that the smaller bet size will work just as well as the larger one. The threat is the same. If your opponent calls 11 blinds on the flop, the pot will be about 43 blinds on the turn. You can bet 25 blinds on the turn, putting the pot at 93 blinds after a call. With 54 blinds left in your stack, it’s an easy matter to get the rest of the money in. So the hammer is there, regardless of how you size your flop bet. Your opponent knows that you can force him to commit all of his chips if he wants to see a showdown.
In fact, with the smaller bet sizes, you give your opponent more chances to fold. If you had bet 16 on the flop and 35 on the turn, then you’d be left with only 40 blinds to bet into a 120 blind pot on the river. That third barrel is only one-third pot. (In some situations this is a good thing, and against certain players you would be milking them for more by building a larger pot and then taking it away. But it should not be your default approach.)
By making the larger bet on the flop, you’re effectively reducing your skill advantage on future streets. The larger raise makes the stacks smaller relative to the size of the pot, which reduces maneuverability. It’s this maneuverability which gives you a chance to outplay your opponent. If you happen to be playing against Phil Ivey, maybe it’s a good idea to make bigger bets and cut down on his room to maneuver. But most of the time you’ll want that room to play for yourself.
Consider the following hand, played two different ways:
By betting so much on the flop, you force yourself to commit on the turn. This forces the button to make a decision to play for all of his chips. You’d be better off giving yourself a chance to have a profitable draw, and also the chance to make a significant river bluff. By making such large flop and turn bets, you lose the chance to get him off of his mediocre hands with a river bluff.
By betting less on each street, you’ve left enough money behind to make a credible river bluff. The button’s range maxes out at king-queen. With anything stronger you would expect him to raise the flop or turn. Your $540 bet is enough to push him off of almost his entire range.
Even if you get called on this river, those are chips you would have lost anyway when your opponent jammed the turn. But you’ve spent them intelligently in this hand, instead of carelessly like you did in the last hand. You’ve given your opponent three chances to fold, and put him to three tough decisions.
Online, you usually have 100 blinds. That’s really not that many. If you make large bets in 3-bet pots, you’re cutting down the room to maneuver. If the stacks were 200 blinds deep, you would have a lot more room to make 3 large bets.
An understandable concern is that by betting less, you might encourage your opponent to take more shots at you. Maybe you want to c-bet larger to “define the hand” and make your decision clear if you get check/raised.
First of all, it’s okay if your opponents play back at you to some degree. They can’t do that without spilling off some chips to your good hands in the process. You also have the option of playing back at them when they get out of line. Unless they’re check/raising all in, you get the final word on the flop.
Second of all, a larger c-bet does not always make your decision clear. Good opponents who observe that you frequently make large c-bets and then fold to further action will start playing back at you anyway. They’ll define the hand the way they want, telling you what you expect to hear (but not the truth). Now you’ve only succeeded in building a bigger pot for them to steal.
One flop that deserves special attention is the dry ace- high board. On these hit-or-miss flops, you can bet as little as one-third of the pot, since your opponent will either have a made hand or absolutely nothing.
You want to size all of your c-bets well, but in 3-bet pots the importance is magnified. The pot is larger, so mistakes are larger. Spend what you need to get the job done. No more, no less.