3-bet pots are extremely important, and the tips in this article will help you play them more effectively.
Let's dive in straight away.
1. Defend more hands in position versus a c-bet on the flop
After your opponent 3-bets, he will usually c-bet on the flop at a high frequency, including with many weak made hands or hands that missed completely. Therefore, you should oftentimes call versus the c-bet to avoid letting him win a lot of pots without good hands.
Even if he has a pretty tight range to begin with, you have to be aware that a lot, if not most of his range will miss the flop. Let's say, for example, your opponent 3-bets with the top 10% of hands. This screenshot from Flopzilla shows how often that range of hands will miss the flop:
The 3-bettor's range will have an unpaired hand 45.7% of the time. Of course, this is an average across all board textures. On Ace-high, King-high, and Queen-high boards, he will hit much more often. On such boards, you will need to tighten your calling range because those boards favor the 3-bettor.
On the flip side, when the board is Jack-high or lower, you should not let him off the hook as easily. You should be significantly more willing to fight for pots on such boards.
For example, say you have 4♠ 4♣ in position on J♠ 7♣ 5♥ and your opponent bets 1/3rd of the pot (Button vs Small Blind). Even though you have an underpair and no strong backdoors, you should call versus most opponents because so much of their range has missed the board.
Note: This tip is valid unless you have a read that your opponent is the type of nitty player who will only 3-bet with premium hands. If that's the case, you should frequently fold versus the flop c-bet (and versus the preflop 3-bet as well).
2. Fold more out of position on the flop
Position is a really big deal in poker. Whether it’s a single raised pot or a 3-bet pot, the player who is in position has a significant advantage in the hand.
When you couple the fact that we are playing out of position with the fact that the 3-bettor's range is relatively tight, it becomes clear that calling with a wide range on the flop is not a profitable endeavor.
Your opponent is going to be able to maneuver as precisely as a Swiss clock on later streets -- bluffing you when you think he’s strong (think of Ace, King, Queen turns and rivers) and checking back when your range improves. Since you're out of position, you won’t be able to do anything about it.
As an example, say you have T♦ T♥ out of position on K♥ J♠ 6♠ and your opponent bets 1/3rd of the pot. You may have a premium preflop hand, but you usually have to fold on this flop.
A good rule of thumb in this scenario would be: You whiff the flop, you dump the pot.
3. Slow-play your strong hands as the defender
In single raised pots, slow-playing your strongest hands is generally a bad idea because the stack-to-pot ratio is so big. With so many chips behind, it’s extremely difficult to get all-in by the river if you don't raise on the flop or on the turn.
But 3-bet pots are very different. The stack-to-pot ratio is much lower, which allows you to more easily get all-in. In other words, there is already enough money in the pot to get your whole stack in the middle without having to overbet.
Not only will a well-timed slow-play help you extract more value, but it also helps protect your range when you take a passive line. Your opponents won't be able to relentlessly bluff you when such strong hands are in your potential holdings.
As an example, say you have 8♣ 8♥ in position on Q♣ 8♦ 6♣ and your opponent c-bets. Depending on the positions, you should generally lean towards raising with your set in a single raised pot. In a 3-bet pot, however, you should lean towards calling.
Note: On boards that are low, very connected, and draw-heavy, it’s generally a good idea to fast-play with a raise on the flop. On such boards there will be a lot of turns on which your opponent will slow down, which will prevent you from getting your stack in as effectively.
4. Fast-play your strong hands as the aggressor
Given that the stack-to-pot ratio is so low, you might be tempted to play tricky with your strongest overpairs. Although this might be right in certain conditions (such as on low, dry boards), by regularly doing this you will miss out on value.
If you slow-play, you'll often find yourself in spots where the runout doesn't cooperate with your plan to get money in on later streets. If the turn is a super scary card, for example, you will miss value from hands that would’ve called a bet on the flop but not on the turn. You also leave the door open to being outdrawn for free.
As an example, say you have J♣ J♦ (or a better overpair) out of position on T♣ 8♥ 5♦. You should heavily lean towards betting rather than checking.
5. Attack when an Ace or the King rolls off on the turn
What do most players put you on when you 3-bet? AK, baby!
This means that when either an ace or a king rolls off on the turn or the river, your bets will render a ton of fold equity. Sadly, this means you will struggle to get value when you do have AK, but at least you get to bluff with most of everything else!
For example, say you have 6♦ 5♦ in position on J♣ 8♣ 3♦ and the A♥ rolls off on the turn. You should double barrel that sweet scare card and take the pot down.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you play a 3-bet pot and you will see that they are not as difficult as you initially thought.
As usual, if you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to use the comment section down below.
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Until next time, good luck grinders!
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