How to Size Your Three-Bets Properly

Chip Stack on WSOP Main Event 2015 Day 1A

In today's LAG and TAG-dominated online short-handed games, three-betting is as common as non sequitur flashbacks on The Family Guy.

There are two reasons to three-bet:

1) for value, i.e. you have a good hand (AA, KK etc.) and would like to get value from worse hands, or

2) as a bluff/semi-bluff - in which case it's known as a light three-bet.

When you three-bet light, you're making a semi-bluff at the pot. You know that your opponent is raising light, you can three-bet him light and have him fold, winning you the pot immediately.

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This leads to you winning more pots without showdown as well as getting action on your real, three-bet-for-value-type hands.

How to Size Your 3-Bets Correctly

But although the practice of three-betting light is commonplace these days, many players still routinely size their three-bets incorrectly.

Some players size their reraises on the strength of their own hand.

They bet a bigger amount when they have a weak hand and want their opponent to fold and bet less when they are betting for value.

This is incorrect thinking. A skilled opponent will pick up on this and exploit you.

Your bet sizing should not be determined by the strength of your hand.

How Position Dictates Everything

So if hand strength isn't the deciding factor, what is? The answer is position. You hear it over and over again - position dictates everything in poker.

For determining the size of your three-bet it's no different. When you're in position you can get away with a smaller three-bet size.

This is because you will be last to act for the entirety of the hand. Since acting last is such a huge advantage, you can punish the out-of-position player often, regardless of your hand strength.

When you are in position a good reraise size would be around 3x to 3.5x the original raise. It's big enough that your opponent does not have an automatic call, yet it doesn't risk an unnecessary amount of chips.

Let's look at an example:

Six-max $1/$2 No-Limit game; effective stacks $200. You're on the button with A Q. Action is folded to the cut-off, who makes it $6.

You reraise to $18. Your opponent calls and you see a flop of J T 3. Your opponent checks and you bet $24. He folds.

Since you're in position, you gain information with him acting before you.

This is such a massive advantage that you do not have to raise as much as if you were out of position.

Rayan Nathan
Let them know you mean business with larger out-of-position raises.

Up Your 3-Bets Out of Position

When you're out of position, life is always tough. Your decisions need to be made without the advantage of knowing your opponent's action.

Since he always has the last say, he's in control and you're at a disadvantage.

To make up for this you always want to reraise more from out of position.

Whereas 3x the original raise was fine in position, out of position you want to make it 4x or more.

You essentially would like to charge him for the privilege of playing in position against you.

When you're in position, you don't mind seeing a flop and letting your edge manifest itself. When you're out of position, you want to discourage him from calling as you will often be left guessing post-flop.

Giving your opponent good odds and position is a mistake, so let them know you mean business with larger out-of-position raises. The larger raise helps negate your positional disadvantage.

Another example:

Six-max $1/$2 No-Limit game; effective stacks $200. You have Q Q in the big blind. Action is folded to the button, who makes it $6. You make it $26.

The $26 bet is going to get the job done a lot more effectively than the $18 bet is. You want to minimize your time playing out of position, so with the bigger reraise you're saying, "Fine, if you want to play this pot in position, you're going to have to pay."

Rules of Thumb for 3-Bets in Multiway Pots

If you're reraising a raise and a call, you have to make your reraises even larger. That's because your reraise will have to make it through two players instead of just one.

You don't want to size your bet so that the original raiser calls and then the other caller overcalls. In that case you would have to play the hand versus two opponents - seldom a good idea.

When you're in position versus a raise and a call, you should add 1x the original raise for every caller in the pot. So if one player calls the first raise, go 4x; if two, then 5x; etc.

If you're out of position and against multiple players add 1x for every caller and then at least another 1-2x the original raise for being out of position.

Remember: In today's games you're going to be three-betting fairly frequently. If you routinely make mistakes with your three-bet bet sizing, you're ultimately making it more difficult to win.

Keep your three-bets sized properly to your position and to the number of players left in the hand, and you will make it easier on yourself in the long run.

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Paul 2015-04-03 02:49:34

I'm confused with the advice of how to do play QQ out of position. Do you really want to raise so much? If the other player calls or reraises then you have invested a lot in the pot preflop with potentially the second best hand. If they fold then you have only won a small pot with a premium hand.

moi 2014-06-03 22:41:37

I am laughing so hard at the "position is key" photo... ;)

Max 2011-11-13 08:40:10

Who is the brunette in the photo?

SM 2011-04-16 12:21:27

Smooth call with small pairs and let an opponent misplay his AK or over-pair when you spike a set; that is unless you get a particularly good read. An opponent with AA will usually call all in on a dry board when you hit sets.

Mark 2011-01-31 22:27:45

I don't know what the relevance of that photo with the gorgeous brunette is, but thanks.

Daniel Skolovy 2009-08-17 19:35:00

Js Tran.
In your example you almost never want to be three-betting small pocket pairs. There is just far too much value in seeing a flop and flopping a set.

But in general you want to be three-betting light out of position very in-frequently.

Meaning most of your three-bet hands from OOP are going to be for value. And when you think you have the best hand you should absolutely build the pot even when OOP.

That means those few times you DO three-bet light from OOP you want to balance your range by three-betting the same as you would with your value hands.

If you three-bet your value hands strong and your bluff hands weak then its going to be pretty easy to tell what your hand is.

Thus you should always be three-betting more from OOP.

Zut boF 2009-08-16 14:18:00

Its strange but position do not mean alot for me because even if u first to talk u can talk back so u regain the position unless the other player is all-in or pot commited. The best position is when u have the best hand lol

J.S. Tan 2009-08-16 13:10:00

In your article you stated that you should raise more when you are going to be first to act to charge your opponents for their positional advantage.
But isn't this the opposite of what you should be doing if you decide to 3 bet with something marginal, like a low pocket pair, against a strong aggressive opponent? If they are on to you they will often call regardless of the bet sizing, so wouldn't it be pointless to build a larger pot out of position?


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