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Understanding the 3Bet


What is a 3Bet?

poker tips3bet is when a player decides to re-raise a pot that has been raised twice already.  Virtually every times there’s a 3bet pre-flop in 10-seated game, it signals at least one player’s holding a monster hand of JJ+/AQ+.  In short-handed cash games or tournaments with looser players, 3bets can possibly mean a slighly wider range of hands.  Some one blind-stealing or value shoving in late position in a tournament for example migh only have mid-pairs at best. 

For tourament articles on 3betting, see 3betting in tournaments.

The Gap Concept

A common mistake for amateur internet poker players is that they overlook/don’t understand the theory behind 3bets pre-flop, so call them down with too many marginal  hands especilly when out of position e.g. on the blinds. This is really bad for two reasons because a) they’re probably behind, b) they’re in a positional disadvantage post-flop.  In either case upon losing the pot they usually say “how was I meant to know he had such a strong hand?”  An experienced poker player will tell say you should have known to fold your hand – because of what’s known as the “gap concept”. 

The gap concept, originally espoused by poker author David Sklansky states that players have a stronger hand in order to call or re-raise a pot, than they would to have opened to the raising.  For example, if I had AJ and I get raised twice infront of me, I should fold – particularly in Limit or No Limit Texas Holdem.  If no one previously raised the pot however, then I’m fine opening with it because I’m most likely holding the best hand.

Example of a 3Bet:

An example of this happening in principle can be seen at the WSOP Main Event.  With two tables left, a player raised with pocket 8s, this was then re-raised by Steven Begleiter holding pocket kings.  The next three hands which included JJ, AK and 1010 all folded, and Begleiter won the hand.

Credibility of Gap Concept

A lot of players are becoming sceptic of the value of the gap concept in online poker – especially in tournaments where agressive play like this is the norm.  There are a handful of players who will tell you that in loose-agressive games like these, the 3bet concept becomes blurred because rather than signalling strength, it can just be a sign of weakness or someone bluffing. 

Using the Gap Concept to Your Advantage

Because of the respect 3betting gets, you can use adopt this play with a looser range of hands in position (AJ+, pocket pairs and suited connectors).  This is because it it forces most hand ranges to fold, and the worst that can happen is that you get called by someone on a marginal hand-hand, who’s out of position for later streets.

While the value of the 3Bet can never be understated, I don’t personally recommend new players using it as a bluff outside of tight games or tournaments.   When holding a monster hand, a 3bet provides greater value and increases your chances of winning the pot by eliminating drawing/limping opponents.  However, as a bluff the 3Bet lacks the common advantages most bluffs entail.  For starters, you are not playing against signs of weakness but instead opponents who have already opened the raising.  This means there’s a high chance of a player hitting back at you – or even holding a range that has you crushed.  Secondly, although you’re in position, you aren’t receiving the “information” that gives you an advantage.  This is because you cannot know the particular strength of the first two players who raised.  Whether they are holding A10 or KK, you cannot really tell if they flat-call.  They could could be limping or set-mining, or they could have a monster hand that they were limp-shoving with. 

3Betting light is something that becomes more common as you move up to the mid and high stakes cash games.  This is 3betting without premium holdings and it has a number of advantages that good agressive post-flop players can exploit.


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