Playing Three-Bet Pots With The Lead

Peter Eastgate
Three-bet pots. Lots of money to be made.

There's a ton of money to be made in three-bet pots by exploiting some very obvious weaknesses in your opponents.

If you've played six-max No-Limit Hold'em online at all lately, you know how aggressive the games are.

There's very little limping and every pot is typically raised or even re-raised.

With so much three-betting going on, you'd think everybody had mastered play in three-bet pots. Far from it.

Why Three-Bet?

The idea behind three-betting is to counter-balance an opponent raising a very high percentage of his opening hands.

Of those hands, only a small percentage can continue on to more action. Meaning he'll be raise/folding a ton of his range before the flop.

That alone creates enough dead money to make three-betting profitable. But that's not the only reason. Three-betting also balances your range.

Think about it this way. If you only three-bet with aces, your opponent would just fold every time you did it. But if you three-bet more than just aces (and kings and queens), your opponents can't be exactly sure what you hold and will be more likely to call.

Specifically we're talking about light three-betting, when you're doing it with a less-than-premium hand. Even more specifically, this article focuses on when you three-bet, get called and then flop nothing.

It's on the boards that you whiff completely where you can outplay your opponents and add a lot of points to your win rate.

Chris Lee
Genius knows all about playing three-bet pots.

The Initiative

When you three-bet preflop and get called, you have the initiative. You have the lead in the hand and with it comes the advantage.

You're the one with the perceived strong hand. You chose to re-raise and he chose to just call. Now what happens if you miss the flop completely?

Use that initiative. Look at the situation and think about his likely holdings. Know your opponent. If you know (or have a good idea) what his three-bet calling range is, then you'll know exactly how much heat his hand range can take.

Your opponent's breaking point is the most important factor in three-bet pots when you have nothing. You have to know your opponent and how he plays. Get a feel for what kinds of hands he will felt in three-bet pots and which ones he won't.

In three-bet pots with the lead, you play your opponent's cards more than your own.

An Example

$1/$2 six-max online; $250 effective stacks. Your opponent raises to $6. You three-bet to $18 with T 8. He calls and everyone else folds.

Your read on your opponent is that he is a thinking, but not great, regular. He tends to over-estimate his implied odds and plays too ABC.

The flop comes J 3 5. He checks. You fire $28. He thinks and calls. The turn comes 2. He checks.

Ilari Sahamies
Exploit the ABC TAGs. PROFIT!

A mistake a lot of players make here is checking back. Checking back in this spot is lighting money on fire.

If you c-bet that flop, you have to bet almost 100% of turns. Why? Because your opponent will be peeling with an extremely wide one-pair range.

Think about it. Say you raise 99 before the flop and your opponent re-raises you. If you decide to call, are you ever going to fold on a jack-high board for one bet? No.

The "standard" play is to peel one street and hope your opponent shuts down. But when you're the opponent, don't slow down. Fire that second barrel. Most of his flop-peeling range is not strong enough to call a second bet.

Players like this are a dime a dozen. They call out of position, hoping to flop a set, and when they don't they resign themselves to calling one street and folding to further action.

These players are free money and are going to donate 25bb to you every single time in this spot. When you three-bet pre-flop and bet two streets, your opponent is regularly going to be putting you on a big hand.

Humberto Brenes
Who you calling an ABC TAG?

So exploit it and fire more second barrels. Think about your opponent's range and his playing tendencies. You want to put him outside his comfort zone.

Common Sense

Like everything in poker, this is situation and player dependant.

You can't just fire every street on every board and hope your opponent folds. That just doesn't work. You need well-timed aggression in the correct spots.

For example, if your opponent is on the tighter side and only flat-calls three-bets with JJ+, you probably shouldn't bother trying to barrel them off on a seven-high board. It's just not going to happen.

By all means though, if the turn brings an absolutely perfect second-barrel card like a king or an ace, then fire a second barrel. But if it keeps coming off bricks, you should probably stop firing without a very specific read.

Your edge manifests itself in three-bet pots when you multi-barrel these multi-tabling, ABC TAGs who are just hoping you'll shut down after you fire a c-bet.

They're easy to spot too. Watch how players act in three-bet pots even when you're not in the hand. Chances are there are a few at every table you play it.

Put them on a range and find the breaking point for their hand. Then bring them to it. it's that simple.

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