If you want to make as much money in poker as possible, you need to be well versed in the most common spots.
In this article, we are going to take a look at the differences between the two most common types of pots in poker: single raised pots and 3-bet pots.
Based on the differences that I will expose, we will see how the optimal strategy changes. Let’s dive in!
What Are Single Raised Pots & 3-Bet Pots?
Single raised pots occur when there is exactly one preflop raise and one or more callers. For example, you raise on the button and I call in the big blind.
3-bet pots occur when a player raises, another player re-raises, and one or more players call that re-raise. For example, you raise on the button, I 3-bet in the big blind, and you call.
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Strategic Differences Between Single Raised & 3-Bet Pots
Let’s compare these two types of pots by going over two major underlying factors that should influence your strategy in both single raised and 3-bet pots:
- SPR (Stack-to-pot ratio)
- Preflop ranges
Stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is exactly what it sounds like: the ratio of the effective stack in the hand divided by the pot. SPR is calculated on a street-by-street basis.
The SPR in single raised pots is significantly higher than in 3-bet pots, which has a major impact on how you should approach each. Let’s look at a couple of examples of heads-up pots with 100 big blind starting stacks.
SPR in a Single Raised Pot: The button raises to 2.5 big blinds (bb), and the player in the big blind calls. The pot is 5.5bb on the flop with 97.5bb in each player’s stack. Therefore, the SPR is:
97.5/5.5 = 17.7 SPR
SPR in a 3-Bet Pot: The button raises to 2.5bb, the Big Blind 3-bets to 10bb, and the button calls. The pot is 20.5bb on the flop with 90bb left in each player’s stack. Therefore, the SPR is:
90/20.5 = 4.39 SRP
How Does This Change in SPR Affect the C-Betting Strategy?
This significant difference in SPR has major impacts.
I will exemplify this with two solver simulations where I input the same preflop ranges with the same flop (K♣ T♥ 2♦). The only thing I changed is the SPR to mimic what you typically encounter in these two types of pots.
(Note that the goal with this comparison is to isolate the variable of SPR to help you understand how it should impact your strategy. Because I am not altering the preflop ranges, this isn’t a direct comparison between 3-bet pots and single raised pots — ranges would be tighter in 3-bet pots, as we’ll discuss shortly.)
First, let’s look at how the solver likes playing with a high SPR, similar to what you’d see in a single raised pot:
Now, let’s compare that to the solver’s preferred strategy with a low SPR, like what you’d see in a 3-bet pot:
The most obvious difference is that the in-position player should play a bit more defensively/less aggressively when the SPR is lower. Why is that, you ask?
The reason is that if you were to bet at the same (very high) frequency at the shorter stack depth, the out-of-position player would be able to check-raise much more aggressively than at the higher stack depth.
Why Can The Out-of-Position Check-Raise More When Stacks Are Shorter?
With shorter stacks, hands like top pair go up in value, which allows the out-of-position player to play more aggressively with such hands. This wider-than-usual value range also allows him to check-raise with more semi-bluffs.
Compare this to playing with deep effective stacks, when getting the whole stack in with a top pair would be disastrous. Not only can the in-position player have a bunch of better hands, he can also call with a lot of disguised hands/draws that have implied odds given the number of chips left to play for.
(Put another way, would you be comfortable getting all-in with KJ on KT2 for 100bb in a single raised pot? Unless your opponent is a maniac, I imagine not.)
To showcase this, take a look at the out-of-position player’s check-raise strategy versus an optimal opponent when short stacked (pot is 6 chips, starting stacks are 28 chips):
Now, let’s compare that to how the out-of-position player can play with the same short stacks if his opponent c-bets at the high frequency that’s more appropriate with deep stacks:
The out-of-position player gets to check-raise about 50% more often when his opponent c-bets too often. This is driven by increased raising frequencies with both value hands (K8o, K7s, ATo, etc) and semi-bluffs (J2s, A6s, J9o, etc).
Differences in SPR also bring about another strategic change: bet sizing.
How SPR Can Impact The Optimal Bet Size
When the board is dynamic and the SPR is high, the in-position player will want to increase his bet sizing in order to build as big of a pot as possible with his strong hands. The goal is to get the whole stack in the middle by the river.
When the SPR is low, there is far less pressure to stuff a lot of chips in the pot right away. This is because the geometrical growth of the pot size is sufficient with a smaller c-bet size. In other words, it will be easy to get all-in by the river anyway, so big bets are usually not necessary.
To showcase this, let’s compare the different c-bet strategies used by the solver in two simulations (with different SPRs) for a T♥ 8♥ 5♠. I’ve given the solver three different choices for bet sizing: 33% pot, 50% pot, and 66% pot.
In the simulation with the low SPR, the solver prefers a 50% pot-sized bet:
Compare that to the simulation with the high SPR, in which the solver prefers betting 66% pot:
Gotta get all that money in somehow!
Preflop Ranges in Single Raised vs 3-Bet Pots
The other difference between single raised pots and 3-bet pots is the ranges involved. In single raised pots they tend to be wider, while in 3-bet pots they are tighter and more condensed.
However, in both types of pots the preflop aggressor will retain an equity advantage on all but the lowest and most interactive flops. The equity advantage will enable the 3-bettor to c-bet very aggressively, as his weaker hands will be guarded by strong hands that can stand some heat.
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As you saw from this article, the biggest strategical difference between single raised pot and 3-bet pots comes from the huge difference in stack-to-pot ratio.
The lower stack-to-pot ratios of 3-bet pots will lead to two main things:
- Smaller c-bet sizes used (in general) by the in-position aggressor.
- More aggressive check-raise strategies for the out-of-position defender in order to counter his opponent.
That’s all for now! I had a blast writing this article as I find these concepts very interesting. FYI, a lot of this advice can be applied to tournament poker strategy where the stack-to-pot ratio is usually low in the late stages.
As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below!
Want to learn more about stack-to-pot ratio and its applications? Check out 3 Hand Histories That Highlight a Sneakily Crucial Poker Concept.
Til’ next time, good luck, grinders!
Note: Ready to join 5,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!