Home / Strategy / What is a 3-bet (and when should you 3-bet?)

When a player opens preflop and you raise them, you have actually three-bet them. A three-bet is therefore the first reraise (i.e. the second raise) before the flop.

If you watched a lot of poker on TV during the poker boom, you would have heard the word âreraiseâ a lot in the commentary (and even from the players themselves when announcing their intentions). But poker players and commentators rarely say âreraiseâ these days, as this play is now commonly referred to as a three-bet.

Although widely used as a No Limit Holdâem term, the three-bet actually originated in Limit Holdâem, where players can only raise in fixed limits. So the initial open (double the big blind) is called the âtwo-betâ, and the reraise is then the âthree-betâ.

This also continues with the âfour-betâ (the second reraise, or third raise preflop), âfive-betâ, and so on.

Sometimes one of these bets is an all-in, in which case you might hear someone refer to it as a âthree-bet shoveâ or a âfour-bet shoveâ. This lets you know there has been a certain amount of raises prior to their action.

Click this link or the image below to watch an example of a three-bet in action.

The great Phil Ivey opens to 500 with his pocket aces and the player on his immediate left three-bets him by raising to 1,300. Another player calls the three-bet, only for Ivey to then four-bet to 5,500. Both players fold and Ivey collects the pot.

## When should you make a 3-bet?

This is where things get trickier as players will play certain hands differently.

One thing thatâs for sure is that three-betting should be an integral part of your poker game. If you only call open-raises preflop, youâre not only letting other players call for cheap, but youâre not charging the initial raiser anymore to see a flop.
There are plenty of benefits to three-betting instead of calling:

• You can win the pot uncontested without ever seeing a flop
• You thin the field and increase the likelihood of winning at showdown or via fold equity post-flop
• You can build a bigger pot when you have a strong hand
• You can win big pots with disguised hands when you hit the flop

But how do you decide which hands to three-bet with? First, we have to construct a three-betting range and this will depend on our position and stack size.

PokerStars Schoolâs Pete Clarke says our three-bet range should be linear or polarised.

âThree-betting with a linear range means three-betting AA and then all of the hands weaker than AA down to a certain hand which is deemed too weak to three-Bet. It might look like [88+, all suited broadways, all suited aces, AJo+, KQo+, T9s, 98s] or in another spot, it might be tighter and exclude the weaker hands in that range. Linear essentially means âno gapsâ. When weâre three-betting linear, we will never favour a weaker hand over a stronger one.â

According to Clarke, there are two circumstances where we three-bet with a linear range:

â˘ When we are not building a calling range against the open. In this case, we are entering the pot with a three-bet or not at all. It would not make sense to choose to play a hand that is weaker than one we are folding, so we three-bet from the top down.

â˘ When Villain or population does not fold much to three-bets. In this case, we want to only increase the size of the pot for value and not for fold equity. 3-Bet bluffing is not advisable and so we 3-bet all and only those hands deemed good enough to be value three-bets.

## So what about a polarised three-betting range?

âA polarised three-bet range is one that has a value component and a bluff component,â says Clarke. âThese two groups of hands are separated by a calling range. Therefore, when we three-bet polarised, we must have a calling range to serve as a buffer between value hands and bluffs.â

A polarised range might look like: [JJ+ AQs+ AKo, A2s-A5s T9s 98s 87s] in the most extreme example.

âIf our range is purely polarised, then it means we are flatting the hands in between these two groups and folding all hands weaker than our three-bet bluffs,â Clarke continues.

âOne more modern option is to play a mixed polarised range. This still entails having a chunk of very strong hands that you always three-bet for value. The difference with this range is that some of the weaker hands get mixed between three-betting and calling. This has the advantage of increasing the calibre of the bluffs, but the disadvantage of playing fewer hands overall. We only have a finite amount of space for bluffing in our strategy before it becomes too bluff heavy and exploitable. This might be okay against weaker players who fold too much but is a concern against stronger opposition. So when we three-bet A5s as a bluff, we have less room for K3s.â

We opt for a polarised range when:

â˘ We want to have a calling range

AND

â˘ We think Villain or population folds a decent amount of the time to 3-Bets