3-bet defense – defense strategies

Defense strategies against the ‘Light 3-Bet’

3-betting has become a standard tactic in today’s no-limit Hold’em games and it’s hard to imagine life without it. Especially in the 6max games the aggression is extremely high and it is important to understand the dynamics around 3-bets in order to be able to defend itself adequately.

In the last article about ‘Light 3-Bets’, I’ve already mentioned that there are basically two schools of thought regarding 3-bets: the one group of players tends to use 3-bets rather tight and conservative. This group believes they are superior to the opponents post-flop at high stack-to-pot ratio. With a simply raised pot we still have a STPR of approx. 12 in the 100BB games. In contrast, two-fold raised pots after a preflop re-raise have a stack-to-pot ratio of only about 5. The other group, which uses 3-bets very often and regularly, feels more comfortable with this STPR and above all wants to build up an aggressive image in order to be paid accordingly with the good hands.

Against the second group, ie against the ‘light 3-Better’, it is particularly important to learn defense strategies and their implementation. But how can you best defend yourself? An already often mentioned main influencing factor comes here once again into play: the position.

o you are in position
o you have no position

Defensive strategies against 3-bets in position

If you are in position postflop after your opponent’s 3-bet, then you have mostly opened the pot in the cut-off or button and the 3-bet came from one of the blinds. Your openings from early positions will hardly be attacked by the blinds due to your tight range and their position disadvantage without proper hand.

To react properly now, you should already know your opponent. Your tracking software will serve you well. You should know how often your opponents fold blinds to your steals. Most players in the blinds fold between 75% and 80% of their hands in this situation (cut-off or button steal) and counter 5% – 10% with a 3-bet. If you are dealing with opponents who defend many of their hands with 3-bets (> 7%) then you should definitely make the necessary adjustments in your game.

Counter Merged Range with 4-bets

It is important to know the range of your opponent. He sets his 3-bets predominantly with a merged range, so with a range which consists mainly of good hands such. Broadways, then you should be careful with your calls and tend towards a 4-bet defense strategy. The equity of his 3-bet range is just too good to play a profitable call strategy. However, your opponent will worry about your 4-bets as he has to put away many of his good but not top hands against your 4-bets. If he fails to adjust his game, it can be extremely profitable for you.

25% rule

However, with your 4-bet tactic against your opponent’s merged range, it’s important to keep in mind that the stacks are big enough. You should not invest more than 25% of the effective stack size in a 4-bet. In a 100BB game, this would be e.g. an opening on your part on 3BB from the button, a 3-bet on the big blind on 10BB and a 4-bet on 25BB. So you’re not mathematically tied to your opponent’s hand with your 4-bet bluffs and you can put them down against an all-in.

Counter polarized range with calls

A polarized 3-bet range of your opponent can be countered profitably with a calling strategy. In his range are many bad hands against which you have good hands with good hands like Broadways.

Tip: To reduce the effectiveness of your opponent’s aggressive 3-bets from the beginning, you should make your opening raises smaller preflop. Instead of 3.5BB or 3BB you open the best from late position only on 2.5BB.

Defensive strategies against 3-bets without position

Without position it is very difficult to defend against 3-bets. You have the position disadvantage and the missing initiative against you. Many poker players therefore choose a pure 4-bet defense strategy to avoid the post-flop game in this scenario. However, this can very quickly lead to high volatilities in your winrate against an aggressive opponent. Of course, with the 4-bet defense strategy without position, the 25% rule applies.

The problem with the 4-bet defense strategy

All good players make their 3-bet range polarized in position. On the one hand, they have the position advantage and, on the other, they do not expect to be called very often from your side without a position. Thus, the polarized range is the optimal range to set a 3-bet.

But against this range you have one thing: equity advantage with your good hands. That’s why you should also include calls in your tactics. For this you have to know your opponent and his style of play already really well to compensate for the position disadvantage.

Again, you can consult your tracking software: How often 3-bets your opponent – especially from the cut-off and the button? In most cases the button attacks the cut-off, as it has the widest opening range. However, some players also tend to increasingly attack open positions from early positions as this turn looks particularly strong. So you have to figure out how many times a player attacks which position.

If your opponent has a 3-bet range of more than 10% in an individual scenario, then you should definitely do something. If you do not know your opponent so well, then I recommend a pure 4-bet strategy. It’s best to choose hands with ‘extra equity’. These are hands with so-called blockers, e.g. AJ. With the ace and the boy you take your opponent a lot of possible combinations of his value Rane. Other blocker hands would be Ax, Kx, …

If you know your opponent better then you can also include a calling strategy. Choose hands with good equity and hands to flop draws. Also one or the other very strong hand should not be missing.

Tip: If you call a 3-bet with no position, then many of your opponents put you on a very narrow range of good hands, but you do not want to play all-in preflop (AQ, TT, …). Use this!

If a very good player has position on you and he often 3-bets you, then the best tactic is simply to change the table. Too much pride and ego are often the biggest enemies of a poker player.

In order to be able to defend yourself effectively against ‘light 3-bets’ of your opponents, it is important to know the respective range of your opponents. Polarized 3-bet rank, you can effectively counteract with calls in position. Against merged ranges you defend yourself best with 4-bets.

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