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Three Betting Light

Three betting is a term which has become almost synonymous with the modern game of poker. Spend even a little time on the poker forums, or watching videos at one of the training sites and you’ll hear it again and again.

If you’re unsure what a “three bet” is don’t worry, it’s nothing technical. In fact, you probably three bet all the time without even realising that’s what it is, because a three bet is simply a reraise. The big blind is the first bet, an opening raise is a second bet, so a reraise is a three bet. Similarly, if another player raised again behind you, that would be a four bet.

There was a time when a three bet signified a very strong hand – either a big pair, or maybe AK. The reason for three betting a hand like AA or KK is obvious, you’re betting for value and to thin the field. Against a single random hand AA or KK is a big favorite, but in a multi-way pot you’ll be up against a hand that can beat you more often than not. So, you three bet to try and get heads up or maybe into a 3 way pot, while also building the pot to increase your potential gain for the hand.

The problem is of course, if you only three bet when you have a very stong hand, your opponents adjust and start folding anything other than monsters. To counter that, you need to balance your range by three betting “light”, that is to reraise with a non-premium hand.

The problem here is that once again, opponents can adjust. If they believe you are three betting light, a good aggressive opponent will four bet light, forcing you to fold. The key then is to learn to three bet at the right time. What you’re looking for are situations where:

  • There is a preflop raise before you.
  • The raiser is known to be loose.
  • The raiser is capable of folding (don’t try this against a calling station!)
  • You have position.
  • You have a Tight Aggressive table image (i.e. you’ve not been playing loose and fast since you sat down)
  • You have a hand that plays well post flop, like a small pair or a suited connector.

If all (or at least the overwhelming majority) of those conditions are met, then a light bet bet can be quite profitable. If you’re called, you will most likely need to fire a continuation bet, and maybe 2 barrels to take down the pot.

Of course, sometimes your opponent will hit the flop well and you won’t get them off the hand, or else you’ll find you’re up against cowboys or rockets, but if you choose your spots wisely (reraising opponents who are loose and are opening a lot of pots) then it will be a profitable play in the long run.

If you’re not already three betting light, try adding it to your repertoire. If you’re using a HUD then look for players who fold to three bets a lot (75%+) and who are stealing 40%+ as good candidates to start with. Once you’re more comfortable you can experiment in other spots, but keep the basic rules ahead in mind.

And finally, if you suspect that an opponent to your left is three betting light, then to counter it you need to four bet light yourself! You won’t need to do it too often, just enough to let them know you’re capable of coming over the top will be enough to force them to tighten up a little.

 
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