Three-Betting a Polarized Range

Tom Dwan
Hoping to learn some of durrrr's powers by osmosis.

If you're not three-betting light at least some of the time in six-max no-limit, you're playing the game wrong.

Three-betting light works for a variety of reasons. The games, first of all, are so aggressive that your average regular is raising 18% of his hands or more.

Of that 18%, very few can stand up to a re-raise. Meaning your aggressive opponent is going to be folding very often when you re-raise.

Also, when you three-bet light, your opponents take notice. They in turn play back at you, netting you more profit on your big hands: AA-QQ and AKs.

If you only three-bet monsters, why would your opponents ever play with you? They wouldn't. When you three-bet more, your opponents can't be too sure what you have when you do it.

But we already knew all that. What we're getting into in this article is three-betting a polarized range.

Three-betting a polarized range means you still three-bet your good hands for value but your "light" three-bet hands have no value in seeing the flop.

The basic idea is you want to take a hand you'd normally fold and three-bet it as a bluff to try and get your opponent to fold.

What those hands are vary by opponent, position, prior history, etc. It's a sliding scale. The unchanging aspect is it's a hand that's not profitable to call in that very situation.

Player
The best hands to three-bet light with are at the very top of your folding range.

You want to three-bet light with a hand that you would normally fold because it adds value to a hand that would otherwise have none. For example you don't want to three-bet T 9 on the button because there's far too much value in seeing a flop.

So what hands make good polarized three-bet hands?

There's a simple rule for that. The best hands to three-bet light with are at the very top of your folding range.

Say, for example, that a good regular in the cut-off raises and the worst possible hand you could profitably call with is A9o. Your best possible three-bet light hand would then be A8o.

But if I can't call with A8o, why can I three-bet with it?

It's different because when you call with it, you're playing post-flop poker. You either have to hit and somehow extract money from a worse hand, or you have to make him fold after the flop.

When you three-bet him instead, your goal is to make your aggressive opponent fold. But if he doesn't, you still have your hand strength to fall back on.

Which is why we choose the very top of our folding range to three-bet. It's our back-up plan.

If we think about our opponent's likely calling range, it makes perfect sense. Our opponent is going to four-bet AK, AA-JJ, and he's going to call with AQ and some smaller pocket pairs. Everything else he's going to fold.

When we three-bet the best portion of the range we would normally fold, we have that back-up. If our opponent is going to call with TT, we can still flop an ace and win.

If we choose to three-bet a hand like 56o, we'd have to hit both our cards to beat TT. So we pick the hand with the best possible equity should we be called.

How often does our opponent have to fold to make our three-bet profitable?

If your re-raise is three times the original raise, your opponent only needs to fold 66% of the time to make your re-raise profitable.

That means instantly profitable, with no more streets. If your opponent folds to more than 66% of your three-bets, then the second you three-bet him it's a profitable play.

That doesn't even take into account those times he calls and you either out play him on the flop or you hit your hand and win. So take a look at your opponent's "fold to three-bet" stats before three-betting.

Player
Go out there and make your opponent fold.

A word about domination

For a long time the common mantra was to not three-bet dominated aces because our opponent's calling range will crush us and we'll end up flopping an ace and going broke.

But that really isn't the case. Our average opponent's (aka the people we want to three-bet) calling range actually will rarely consist of dominating aces.

After all, he'll be four-balling AK and really only regularly calling with AQ - even sometimes four-betting that. So our opponent's calling range will usually be made up of pair hands, of which we can choose to barrel him off or hit our hand and win.

There's a small risk of domination, but it's just that: small. And our goal isn't to flop a hand and play for stacks. Our profit comes from those times we make our opponent fold before the flop. The rest is gravy.

So keep that in mind. Your goal is to make your opponent fold before the flop.

If he folds to more than 66% of three-bets, your re-raise is instantly profitable. You three-bet the best part of your folding range as a back-up plan.

Those times you do get called, you can still hit and suck out. It's just like double-barreling. When you turn equity, your goal is to make him fold. But if he doesn't, you can still hit and win.

So go out there and make your opponent fold - because he's going to. A lot.

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nick 2013-06-08 13:52:05

Our opponent is going to four-bet AK, AA-JJ, and he's going to call with AQ and some smaller pocket pairs. Everything else he's going to fold. BULLSHIT , I 3 bet and got called with Q5 suited!

daniel 2013-02-18 14:58:58

billy, its a highly situational play. if youvdo not have a solid read, dont do it. timed right its ev+ over a large sampl siz

Angelo 2011-11-07 11:34:04

If you 3bet light just for bluff, why d'you HAVE TO continuation bet?
I agree with 0260N6, the play is break even on a 3:1 base, so opponent shoul fold 75%, not counting post flop play.

billy bob 2011-08-29 01:08:53

I dont agree this is profitable. A lot of peopel think it is but reallly your winning a small pot risking 3 to 4 x times what they are already betting. When they do have a big hand against you your in a bad spot. Because you have to continuation bet post flop when they check and the board is dry. And if you have nothing and they call or raise you just lost about half your stack or 1/3rd of it over a small raise. I think in the long run its not profitable. Only in heads up matches. Then you have to consider players 4 bet bluffing you back. So you win a bunch of small pots but normally a player who 3 bets to much they lose the bigger pots. Tom Dwan right now is losing his ass off and hes seeing its not working. Hes lost a ton of money from what i hear from some pro players. hes been borrowing money a lot this year.

0260N6 2010-12-24 23:49:04

Struggling with the math here. Why profitable 66% of the time with a 3x 3-bet? For example: villain raises to $1, hero 3-bets to $3 and wins (up $1). Second time, same thing 3-bet wins $1. Third time villain raises $1, we 3-bet $3 and lose (i.e. villain 4-bets and we fold). This is a 66% fold rate of villain and we are down $1. I believe it requires 75% fold rate or 2x 3-bet to have the 66%. From an odds stand point: 3:1 (75% investment into pot - or $3 of $4 pot from example). This requires a 75% win rate to break even (disregarding blinds). Did I miss something?

Moocher 2010-03-25 16:08:23

KBYC hit the nail

Nobody should be applying advice like this without first mastering poker 101. Having mastered poker 101 the player would know that there is no 'magic play' to beat all opponents.

All plays (including this one) are only profitable after considering both your own table image and your opponents. This will dictate what moves (even quite wild ones) are profitable from one moment to the next.

Like when sitting at a table of TAG players and changing into a solid LAG at an appropriate time and with appropriate image to milk fold equity to make your marginals and even -EV hands into good +EV plays by adding in the opponents foldout rates.

Once they realise and start adapting you've stolen enough pots and can retighten if they loosen up their range to counter and take more till the showdowns get them rethinking again.

Poker is a DYNAMIC game. You have to spend MORE time reading your opponents trends and appreciating their perception of you from one hand to the next... than reading the cards themselves.

This play IS profitable... but ONLY where table conditions MAKE it profitable... just like EVERY OTHER piece of advice anyone has ever given you about poker! There are NO absolutes.

Not even the advice of playing TAG is appropriate in all circumstances.

Tables have a texture, and the texture changes from moment to moment. And, when it does, knowing when to become a disciplined LAG or even 3-bet the ranges discussed here can really pay off till the texture changes again.

So, pokergirl and those others who state it wont work at a given stake are probably making the mistake of overgeneralising their game. Instead, it is simply enough to nod and accept that against a given opponent at a given time this comes out of the blue and can give serious +EV on fold equity and the additional smaller amount of equity from possibly hitting a long shot if they don't pay you off.

The beauty of that long-shot equity is that although it wouldn't come often, it would be completely under their radar too... leading to some beautiful takedowns when they incorrectly range you out of the running.

See? Huge value!

The disagreements seem to come mostly from people who say it wouldn't work at their table... but that's precisely the moments you WOULDN'T do it. You WOULD do it when the texture of the table makes it profitable

IE: You look tighter than that and your opponent is clearly declining enough 3-bets to make the fold equity worth far more than the poor showdown equity of the hand alone ... leading to a +EV play. Obviously, when you have a +EV play you MUST follow it through... making this a clear play WHEN the time is right to do so.

To evaluate this play theoretically against tables which don't dictate that the play is profitable is like saying that fire extinguishers are, in general, useless because your kitchen is not currently on fire.

However, when it is, the application becomes quite apparent.

So, rather than diss the article based on all the times it so clearly DOESNT apply, why not simply acknowledge the veracity of the technique given its clear table prerequisites and add it to your arsenal of plays.

After all, there are very few, if any, genuinely bad plays ... just poor timing. Most things can pay off when the timing is right... even folding a winner can be profitable.

KBYC 2009-12-26 03:39:39

This type of play obviously may work better in higher stakes, but I don't even think that is that point here... this is mainly opponent based, if you opponent has shown he will fold to 3 bets alot. You're not going to just be firing out 3 bets like a maniac without thought.

mrabatich@Hotmail.com 2009-12-20 01:18:03

So, how often do you guys try to push the opponent out when he calls? If I three-bet just outside my folding range, and a guy calls I generally feel that he is either a super aggressive player who won't let that hand go or a super tight player who has something big. Either way, unless you hit that ace I would pretty much resign from the hand. And even if I hit it I would play it really slow because I know he's probably set mining or has me outkicked, there is the chance he has JJ-KK but that's three hands in a range of 55-TT-AT-AK, I don't like my odds with how aggressive people are at anything 1/2$ or below. Am I wrong in pretty much giving up on anything more than a half pot-sized bet? I like to play a solid game where I don't try to call down people with midpair only, only because I find myself getting called no matter what and a large portion of the time I will get sucked out on and lose half a stack that took me 2 hours to build. Any advice on post-flop play here?

Poker Girl 2009-10-20 16:28:00

Don't even try this in micro no limit games. it won't work.

Daniel Skolovy 2009-09-24 01:31:00

This article is definitely for $1/$2 plus. But I mean if you don't understand something than you shouldn't try and apply it to your own game.

This strategy obviously should not be applied to games where people don't fold to three-bets.

In that game you don't three-bet light at all.

You three-bet for value and for value only.

This strategy is for games that are very aggressive where opponents will open a very wide range and play back with a tight one.

If you don't know which game you playing in then chances are you shouldn't apply this strategy at all.

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