Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting 3-Bet Out of Position

Ok here are some of my thoughts on getting 3-bet when out of position in limit HE, specifically against aggressive 3-bettors.

The most important thing to keep in mind, as it is in any hand, is your opponent’s range. There are several things that you can do to identify their range in this spot (in no particular order):

Know what position you are raising from and what position they are 3-betting from. There’s a huge difference between being 3-bet by UTG+1 when you’ve raised from UTG and raising from the small blind and being 3-bet by the big blind. In the first case, your opponent might be raising with 10% of his hands and in the latter, he might be raising with 35%. The earlier the position you’ve raised from and the earlier the position you’ve been 3-bet from, the stronger your opponent’s range will be.

Use your opponent’s 3-betting stat to get an idea of their range. If you use HEM, you can mouse over the % they 3-bet and it will break down how often they 3-bet from each position. The 3-bet % by position accounts for how often they 3-bet in that position against all positions, not just the position you’re raising from so you want to adjust that number based on your position but it’s a good starting point. This stat is one you need a lot of data on and if you have less than 100 trials from that position HEM will list the exact number in parentheses next to the %. Similarly, the overall 3-bet % stat takes into account how often they are 3-betting from all positions so this can be misleading. I don’t know if UTG (where it’s impossible to 3-bet) is included in this stat but it wouldn’t surprise me.

The way I use the 3-bet% stat is by comparing it to my own 3-bet%. I know what HEM lists my 3-bet% as and the default ranges I 3-bet from each position against all other positions along with what % of my overall range these hands constitute. I actually have a text document with all this information that I refer to a lot. For example, if my overall 3B% is 20% and I get 3-bet by a player with a 25% 3B% I will take the range I’d normally 3-bet in his position against my position and add 5% more hands. This isn’t an exact science by any stretch, but it’s what I do.

Know your own opening range from each position and more importantly how your opponent views your opening range. Is your opponent a good regular that you’ve played thousands of hands with? If so, they probably use HEM or PT as well and know almost exactly what % of hands you’re raising from that position. Consequently, they probably have a very specific and easily identifiable 3-betting range against you. Or is your opponent an unknown who has been at the table for twenty hands and seen you raise ten out of those hands. In this case, your opponent could have a very wide 3-betting range incorrectly assuming you’re a maniac.

Know how your opening ranges stack up against typical competition in your games. Are you a lot looser preflop than most or more passive? Your opponent’s 3-betting % is based on 3-betting against all the players in your games. So, if you’re tighter than most, it’s likely they have a tighter 3-betting range than their stats would indicate.

And lastly, as I alluded to earlier is game flow. Have you been playing really tight this session or really aggressive. Players often open up their 3-betting ranges when you’ve been raising a lot of hands or tighten up when you’ve been playing tight. Something that helps a lot with this is looking at your own stats, HEM displays your session stats at each table and this is something I often look at to keep in mind what my opponent’s views of me might be during that session. Knowing your opponent helps here as well. Bad players are more likely to incorrectly assume you’re playing like a maniac or on tilt when you’ve raised several hands in a row. Good players don’t automatically assume this because they understand you could just be getting a lot of good hands.

Enough about hand ranges, so what to do with them?

The big debate preflop is whether you should be capping with some of your range or just calling your entire range. This seems to be pretty evenly split among good players but I’m on the side of flat calling your entire range.

There are a few benefits to calling our entire preflop raising range. One is that we’ve given no information back to our opponent about the strength of our hand. We still have our entire preflop raising range. And since almost all opponents will bet the flop, we always have the option of raising the flop and taking the lead back and winning the same amount of bets with our good hands. The important thing for me is that the less information my opponent has, the worse his postflop decisions will be. In other words, he will make more mistakes on average. There’s no getting around this unless you have a perfectly balanced capping range and I have no idea how you’d even go about this. The other benefit to just flatting is that we now have the option of raising the flop, where we’ve seen 3 more cards, or just calling or even folding. Since our opponent is nearly always betting, the flop is basically irrelevant in determining their first flop action but it’s very relevant to ours because we can use it to determine our best course of action.

That said I do see some benefits to capping, particularly if you’re not confident in your own postflop skills out of position. One obvious benefit is that if you do encounter one of those rare opponents that checks back flops after 3-betting, then you can lose value by not getting that extra small bet in preflop. If I encounter an opponent like this, I make a note, and I have a range of capping hands that I’ll use against them. The bigger benefit I see, is your decisions become a lot easier at that point. You’re always betting the flop, and you’re almost always betting the turn assuming they’ve just called your flop bet. As a result of this, you’ll win a lot of pots where you both don’t connect with the board where you otherwise might not have had you just called preflop and given up at some point. My counterargument to this, and this is where good postflop skills come into play, is that you almost always have the opportunity to take the lead back in the hand, either on the flop or the turn. You also have the added information of knowing the board. So, if you understand your opponent’s range well enough and how well it connects with different board textures, then you can still take back the lead and win those pots where you both don’t connect with the board. In fact, this way is even better because you’re not always getting punished the times your opponent has a big hand by always having the betting lead, you can selectively choose when to take the betting lead back.

Here’s an example of taking the lead back and picking up a pot where you both have nothing:

Let’s say you raise JTo from the cutoff and an aggressive button who isn’t very showdown bound and not very imaginative 3-bets you (there are a lot of these player types in my games). You’ve estimated the button would 3-bet about 23% of their hands against you in the cutoff – a rough range of their hands would be something like:


The flop is 3d 5s 6c

He bets and you call

The turn is the Ah

He bets and you raise

Your opponent will be hard pressed to call in this situation without a pair especially given that your raise is very credible considering you can have your entire preflop raising range going into the turn, at least all of your unpaired Ax hands. I plugged this into Flopzilla and our opponent in this hand has nothing ~40% of the time. By nothing, I mean no pair and no draw. So, you’re risking 2 big bets on the turn to win 5.75 big bets which means you’re getting ~2.9-1 on your raise and it only has to work ~26% of the time. This is a huge victory to get a fold here. Now of course there are some opponents that might call with KQ here (I’m one of them) but most do not.

One other related thought about this hand. A flop raise is also a very viable line with a hand like JT, QJ, KQ, etc. What this raise can do particularly on this type of board texture is “buy” you outs. Let’s say your opponent has AK, AQ, or any other unpaired high card hand. Now if a 4 or 7, and possibly even a 2 in addition to your overcard outs comes, you can often win the hand.

So those are just a couple examples from one hand to give you an idea of ways you can take the lead back and win pots unimproved. What’s great is that if you’re confident you can find enough of these spots, then you minimize losses with your weak SD bound hands like your ace high or bottom pairs because you’ll just be check/calling for the most part instead of capping, leading the flop and turn and getting raised by the top of his range. And you're still able to get value out of your own strong hands because your opponent will nearly always be betting the flop and you have the option of checkraising

The best advice I can give if you’re unsure of what to do in a 3-bet pot out of position is to plug your hand into PokerStove along with your opponent’s hand range to get an idea of your equity. By looking at your equity you can get a good idea of the strength of your hand compared to his range and it will help to make better postflop decisions. This is something I do all the time. I often do it immediately after a hand I played where I was unsure of what the best play was. As a quick aside, there was a hand I played today where I raised UTG with 66 and got 3-bet by the button. The flop was JJT with two diamonds and I wasn't sure whether I had enough equity to call. I called. The turn was the 9d and again I wasn't sure if I had enough equity to call, I chose to fold. So I immediately looked it up and found that I probably should have folded the flop and definitely the turn. Additionally, you can use Flopzilla and plug in your opponent’s hand range along with the board texture to get an idea of how well their range is connecting with the board.

Ok those are some of my thoughts, I have a lot more but this could go on forever. Feel free to ask questions.


  1. Great post!

    I have a lot of questions, I could be asking for an entire month I guess!

    some quick:
    Do you balance your CR between flop and turn? I mean, do you always wait for turn against some ppl and always CR the flop against other ppl? both with draws + made hands.

    What about calling down with Ahigh? ie. you are facing a guy who you have seen 3betting very light against you with hands like 75s. I think, depending on how do you play on 3bet pots, its hard to balance the "calling down Ahigh hands". If you fight hard for 3bet pots OOP, once you call the turn again, you are showing a lot of weakness and any opp could figure your hand is exactly Ahigh.

    btw. I use another approach to evaluate hand ranges: I use a HEM statistic that shows me %3bet against UTG, HJ, CO, BTN and SB. I change these % according what you already said (table image, my looseness preflop, opp aware, etc.)

  2. Thanks for the information. Now i'm going to exploit you like crazy by 3bet bluffing your turn checkraise on an uncoordinated board ;)

  3. Hey Javier,

    For the most part you want to check/raise the flop with your best hands when out of position because it's a huge loss if your opponent checks the turn behind. That said, there are some situations and certain player types where waiting to the turn to check/raise is a good line.

    It's ok to call down with ace high some of the time, it really depends on what the board texture is - there's a big difference between a 2348 board and a KJT5 board.

    And yes by check/calling two streets you're telling your opponent you have a weak hand like bottom pair or ace high. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be check/calling with those hands though. The alternatives of folding or raising are usually worse and that's why we choose to call.

    I don't know which statistic that is. What is the name of it?

  4. Tony:
    When I select the 3-Bet in my HUD configuration, then I select Popup: Default_VsPre. Then its showing me the 3b vs open from positions (EP/MP/CO/BTN/SB)

  5. Hmm, so is it part of the default popup configuration or are you adding it to it?

  6. I'm not sure if it comes as default or if I added it. I'll have a look I can send it if you want

  7. Really good post