Winning at poker isn’t all about fundamentals.
There are a handful of special moves that, when mastered, can make the difference between winning a little and winning a lot.
In this 10-part beginner poker strategy series we’ll show you exactly how to use these powerful poker moves to make more money.
Today we’re talking about the light three-bet. This is another way to pick up pots even when you don’t pick up a big hand.
By incorporating light three-betting into your pre-flop repertoire you’ll not only exploit loose open-raises, you’ll also balance your range to help you get paid off when you do pick up premium cards.
How to Make a Light 3-Bet
The What: Light three-betting refers to putting in a re-raise before the flop with hands that are probably worse than the opening raiser’s hand.
The When: Try to identify and attack loose players who are open-raising too often.
The Where: When you’re three-betting light you’re going to be in one of two spots -- either re-raising in position or from the blinds. It’s important to understand both scenarios.
The Why: Loose players who raise too much before the flop can be exploited because they’ll be forced to fold a lot of their marginal hands to a three-bet.
Light Three-Betting Done Right
To make things easy, just think about a light three-bet as a semi-bluff. You’re raising with a hand that, while not the best hand at the moment, has fold equity and can become the best hand on later streets.
Because one of the first things poker players learn is to be more aggressive, you’ll encounter a ton of players open-raising too much before the flop.
Once you’re able to identify these players you can exploit them by putting in a re-raise, even if you don’t have the cards to back it up.
It’s important to remember, however, that you must harness the power of the light three-bet or it could quickly become a big leak. The biggest risk for beginner players is not understanding how to play the hand post-flop when your opponents do call.
Don’t let the hand get away from you by automatically firing a continuation bet and multiple bullets on later streets. One way to deal with this is by only three-betting very good hands and very marginal hands with good flopability.
Pro Tip: Polarize your three-betting range to make things easier post-flop
By staying away from hands like weak aces and big paint cards you’ll be faced with easier decisions later in the hand and you’ll cut down on times when you do flop something, but are dominated.
Good Hands to 3-Bet Light
Just because you’re widening your three-betting range doesn’t mean you should be re-raising every hand willy-nilly.
Going back to the analogy of the semi-bluff, you want to choose hands that have a good chance at becoming the best hand on the flop or on later streets.
Small pocket pairs are great hands to three-bet since sets are going to be the best hand the vast majority of the time. The same goes for small and medium suited connectors.
And as we discussed before, when you miss the flop with hands like these you’re less likely to get dragged into a big pot holding the worst hand.
Light Three-Betting Balances Your Range
Balancing your range is a fancy way of saying that just because you’re raising pre-flop, it doesn’t mean you have a premium hand.
If you’re only three-betting with aces and kings your opponents will catch on and it will be impossible to get paid when you do pick up a monster. By raising with premium hands as well as speculative hands you have a more balanced three-betting range.
Imagine you’ve three-bet light with 89 and ended up making a flush on the turn. When you show down that winning hand your opponents will take note that you three-bet with a marginal hand.
Then when you do pick up aces they’ll be much more likely to pay you off.
Why Light 3-Betting Works
Light three-betting is one of the first intermediate Texas Hold'em moves you should add to your poker skill set because it helps counteract a common problem you'll find in most Hold'em game: aggressive opponents.
It's also especially important in tournaments when the blinds and antes get big and you can't just sit and wait for a premium hand. A lot of players understand that they need to open-raise a lot of pots but when they start doing that too often with weak hands they leave themselves open to getting four-bet.
If you can pick out these profitable spots to 3-bet light you can re-raise and force them to fold regardless of what your cards are. Watch the video below to see how it's done and continue your studies with our more comprehensive article on raising and three-betting before the flop.
Light Three-Betting in Action
If you’re still not convinced about the power of the light three-bet check out this video featuring Phil Ivey, Lex Veldhuis and Barry Greenstein. This hand takes the concept to the absolute extreme with a light three-bet, cold four-bet and a massive five-bet bluff jam.
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