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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.

3-Betting Ranges – Hand selection

3-betting ranges: polarized ranges and merged ranges
The 3-bet preflop has become a standard feature in no-limit hold’em poker in recent years. The art, the 3-bet with the right hands for each situation to perform, it is in today’s article.

No-Limit Hold’em real money games have changed fundamentally in recent years, especially online. If solid ‘tight-aggressive’ poker was enough to play a few years ago, this is usually not enough today. Especially the 6-max games have become extremely aggressive and the players better than ever. In this environment, the 3-bet preflop is one of the most frequently used moves.

Reasons for the 3-bet preflop
Whenever you bet on a 3-bet, you should also know why you want to make that 3-bet. There are really only two reasons for this:

o you want to get value
o you’re bluffing

Your value 3 bet range and your bluff 3 bet range should not be constant. Depending on factors such as your position or how your opponents play, you’ll need to make the necessary adjustments. For example, if you have no position, then you should have a larger value range for your 3-bets.

Furthermore, it is very important that you adjust your range to the respective range of your opponent. A button raise can be hit from the big blind with a much larger value 3 bet range than a UTG raise.

Polarized range
A polarized range is referred to as consisting of value-hands and bluff-hands. If you have position in hand, you should make his 3-bet range more polarized

Merged Range
From a merged 3-betting range one speaks, if this consists mainly of value hands. If you bet a 3-bet from the blinds, so you have no position in the hand, then you should make his 3-bet range preferably merged.

Criteria for selecting the value range
The following three questions you should ask yourself when choosing hands for your Value 3 Bet range:

o Which hands fold my opponent?
o With which hands does my opponent call?
o With which hands does my opponent bet on a 4-bet?

Your goal must be to ‘create’ situations in which you have an equity advantage. If your opponent folds AQ, then a 3-bet with AK would be a waste of your good equity. If your opponent calls with hands like AT or A5s, then a 3-bet with AJo can be very profitable. If your opponent often counters with 4-bets, then a 3-bet with KQ would be disastrous (you would have to give up the good hand against the 4-bet), but maybe 55 would be profitable (you can start a 5-bet-shove with very good equity).

Criteria for selecting the Bluff 3 Bet range
First, you should always think about which hands your opponent opens, whether this opponent has already developed a special dynamic and, in fact, the most important point with which hands your opponent will play back. The range with which your opponent will play back is of more importance than the actual range with which he opens. You need to figure out how many times your opponent folds on 3-bets to decide if a bluff will be profitable or not.

Your Bluff 3 Bet range should be made up of hands that are just not good enough to make a profitable call, such as hands like 68s, A8o or K7s. Of course, this varies from situation to situation and from opponent to opponent. Hands like QJs are often good enough to justify a call, and you should not waste those hands on a 3-bet.

Another important point is once again your position. Your Bluff 3 Bet range should generally be much larger in position than in position. In position, your 3-bet range is then mostly polarized. It consists of bluff hands and value hands.

You should also make the selection of your bluff hands dependent on your position. Since you can control the size of the pot relatively easily in position, it is no problem to 3-bet hands like A8o. Without position, you can easily get into trouble with such problem hands as you regularly run into better kickers and your opponent has control over the pot size.

Merged Ranges and Polarized Ranges
Against opponents who play back at a high frequency, you should keep your bluff range rather low, but you can expand your value range for something. So you are playing with a merged range. This will very often be the case if you have no position

Against fish, which are very bad players who preflop many of your 3-bets with relatively weak hands, you can do without a bluff range and expand your value-3 bet range quite a bit (both in position and without Position). You play with a merged range and can include hands like AT or QJ (hands that have very good equity against the calling range of the fish). Your 3-bet has the added benefit of isolating the bad player and playing pot heads-up with him.

Against opponents who fold too much, you make your range very polarized. This usually happens automatically when you are in position.

Example 1 – opponent fish
A bad player opens in the cut-off with a raise. You are on the button.

Note: Bad players call 3-bets with a wide range of weak hands. Against these opponents, your 3-betting range should only consist of value hands.

Your 3-bet Range: 88+, AT +, KT +, QT +

Example 2 – Opponent TAG (good tight-aggressive player)
A DAY opens with a raise in the cut-off. You are on the button.

Note: TAGs fold relatively often on 3-bets without position. If they play back without position, then mostly with a 4-bet. These opponents can be 3-bet with a wide range – but the range should be very polarized.

Your 3-betting range: Value Range: QQ +, AK Bluff Range: 57s, 68s, 79s, K9s, K8s, K7s, K6s, K5s, A9o, A8o, ….

Proper use of polarized ranges and merged ranges is essential in regular use of 3-bets. With which range you 3-betest depends mainly on your respective opponents and you must try to analyze their play style as exactly as possible, in order to get the maximum advantage.

Moves of a poker professional

In our section “Professional moves” you will find many strategies that are intended for the advanced player. These are very often “moves” that many poker players would not do on their own. Most of the moves are not intuitive for the amateur or hobby player, but still have the highest (or very high) expectation after detailed analysis.

In some moves the “problem” is predominantly psychological: Since they feel “wrong”, one often has inhibitions about using the tactic as well. Here is often the best solution to take some time off the poker table and objectively analyze the action and calculate. The most profitable “moves” often hide where you would not intuitively guess.

The following tactics and strategies are subdivided into preflop moves and post-flop moves. Before you include a turn into your strategy, of course you should understand it too. In addition it is inevitable, theoretically also to deal with it and if necessary also to make your own calculations. It’s best to go slow and not add new moves to your arsenal until you can safely and profitably implement any included moves.


A good preflop game will save you many problems postflop. Especially since the no-limit hold’em games are played very aggressively preflop, we are also focusing on the preflop 3-bet.

Preflop – Blind Stealing

Stealing blinds with a very wide range is among the most profitable tactics in the small-stakes and mid-stakes no-limit hold’em games.

Preflop – Blind Stealing: The Right Defense

Even in the blinds it is important to find adequate defensive strategies against players who open with a very wide range from late position – so you regularly steal the basic bet. Otherwise, the small lost missions quickly add up to a sizeable loss.

Postflop – play with preflop aggression

Aggression is one of the keys to successful poker.

Postflop – game without preflop aggression

Even if you should have the initiative in your hand as often as possible – that is, the aggressor – it is of course always the case that you call preflop only an increase – that is passive play. So you have postflop (initially) the passive role.