3-bet HUNL featured

How to 3-Bet (Like a Boss) in Heads Up No Limit

A 3-Bet is the act of reraising a pot preflop that has already been raised by another player.

The objective of 3-Betting is to extract value when your opponent calls and deny them their equity when they fold.

Constructing proper 3-Betting ranges is especially crucial in heads up games given the positional disadvantage of the 3-Bettor. Since you must play your hand out of position (OOP) when your 3-Bet is called, you want to avoid re-raising with hands that will be difficult to play postflop OOP.

In heads-up games where assessing and adjusting to the actions of your opponent is particularly important, formulating an effective 3-Betting strategy is a fundamental tool when developing a counter strategy.

3-Betting Range and Frequency Construction

Given the importance of correctly adjusting to your opponent when playing heads-up, the range of hands you should be 3-Betting with and the frequency at which you should do so will change depending upon the behavior of your opponent.

While this mutability makes constructing a ‘perfect’ 3-Betting strategy problematic, it is nonetheless helpful to outline the key features of a solid 3-Betting strategy for read-less play.

When sizing your 3-Bets, a good starting point is to re-raise pot plus a big blind or 2. Here are some examples of reasonable 3-bet sizes against various opens:

  • Vs Min Raise: 3-bet to 8BB
  • Vs 2.5x Raise: 3-bet to 9BB
  • Vs 3x Raise: 3-bet to 10BB

This prevents your opponent from getting to see a flop cheaply in position and allows you to get value when your stronger holdings are called. As always in poker, adjust these sizings based on your opponent’s tendencies.

When constructing a specific range for 3-betting, you must first start with your “mandatory” value hands. The chart below represents 11% of hands:

11% value 3-bet range for heads up
It’s important to note that the 11% range outlined above is not based purely upon the equity of holdings.

You’ll notice there are some suited connectors highlighted (87s, 76s) while hands with better absolute equity (ATo) are not. This is because suited connectors realize their equity better than offsuit hands, making them more attractive 3-bets from OOP.

Another benefit of including such hands is ensuring that your 3-Betting range is sufficiently diverse to give you board coverage across a wide variety of textures.

Note: A solid 3-betting strategy is almost useless if you don't know what to do postflop once your 3-bet gets called. Learn effective strategies for 3-bet pots when you get this free guide.

3 bet pot guide

Making Adjustments

As previously mentioned, your 3-Betting strategy should be adjusted as you gain information on your opponent’s tendencies. Good opponents will make some adjustments tailored to your tendencies as well.

If your 3-Betting range is too narrow, your range will become transparent and your opponent can adjust by simply folding all but their strongest hands to your 3-Bets.

Conversely, if your 3-Betting range is too wide, your opponent can exploit you by calling and 4-Betting a wider range.

If you are facing a player who is opening the button at a very high frequency, consider 3-Betting a wider range of hands, including some bluffs, to prevent them from easily stealing your blinds.

If you find your opponent calling your 3-Bets more lightly as a result (an appropriate adjustment given their positional advantage), be sure to adjust your 3-Betting range to consist mainly of value hands.

Again, if your opponent opens a very small percentage of hands, you should narrow your 3-Betting range to consist mainly of strong value hands as the assumption is that their range is also extremely strong.

You should also consider changing your 3-Bet sizing when making such adjustments.

  • If your opponent keeps folding to 3-bets, consider sizing smaller to give your bluffs an even better price
  • If your opponent doesn’t like folding, pump up the sizing and 3-bet strictly value.

Merged Range vs Polarized Range

When 3-betting, a merged range is that which consists only of value hands, combining the top of your 3-Betting value range with both the middle and lower portions of it. The range below represents a merged 3-betting range(17%):

merged 3-bet range for heads up

A merged 3-betting strategy is best against opponents who play loose against 3-bets. The fringe hands like suited connectors and A5s act as thin value bets against an opponent who is likely to call a wide range in position.

By contrast, a polarized range consists of strong value hands as well as bluffs. The range below represents a polarized 3-betting range(16.5%):

polarized 3-betting range heads up

(NOTE: The above chart assumes you are calling all better hands – for example, you would call T5o and 52s vs the raise. Also, this is only an example of what a polarized range can look like. This chart does NOT represent Upswing’s exact recommended polarized range(s).)

A polarized range is best against an opponent who has a medium to high fold to 3-bet. You’ll notice we add in some preflop bluffs in an effort to take advantage of the times they fold. The more often they fold, the more bluffs you should add to your 3-bet range.

Heads up no limit is an incredibly dynamic game and 3-bet pots are one of the most common and important elements to master. Consequently, understanding how to properly construct a 3-bet range in HUNL is mandatory for a winning poker strategy.

(Serious about improving your poker game? Check out the Upswing Lab! Doug Polk and Ryan Fee collaborated on this A-to-Z poker training course and the great reviews keep rolling in!)

Note: A solid 3-betting strategy is almost useless if you don't know what to do postflop once your 3-bet gets called. Learn effective strategies for 3-bet pots when you get this free guide.

3 bet pot guide


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