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Choosing the Correct Hands to 3-bet Bluff

05/11/2020 by Matt Affleck

Choosing the correct hands to 3-bet as a bluff to balance your value range can be a difficult task. Many professionals of all levels fail to study enough to know the correct hands to bluff with in certain situations. Mistakes that are made in 3-bet pots are magnified due to the size of the pot being larger. Constructing a proper 3-betting range is the first step in minimizing those mistakes.

First, let’s touch on suited versus unsuited cards when 3-betting. When I see someone 3-betting offsuit combos such as KJo, my first assumption is that this player does not balance their 3-betting range. There are 12 ways to make an offsuit hand preflop and only 4 ways to make a suited hand. If someone is not careful with their frequencies, their bluff ranges can quickly get out of whack because of how many 3-bet offsuit combos they have. So, first rule of thumb is to stick to mostly suited combos when 3-betting and avoid the offsuit hands in order to manage your frequencies.

Next, when choosing which combinations to bluff, you want to choose combinations that block the calling range of your opponent. For example, let’s say the CO opens and you are on the button. To know the best hands to 3-bet, we should first look at the most common hands that the CO calls the 3-bet with. The most important card to have is an Ace. From the CO, I would open every suited Ace and offsuit aces down to A5. At 100bb, I would call the 3-bet with all suited Aces and fold my weakest offsuit aces. Therefore, when button 3-bets with an Ace, it blocks the most hands that I would call the 3-bet with. The types of hands I would 3-bet would be A5s-A9s. Like before, we want to 3-bet more suited hands then offsuit. Maybe I would choose to 3-bet a hand like ATo as well. This gives me the best chance of generating a fold preflop, which is our goal.

Next, we want to 3-bet hands that get dominating hands to fold preflop. For example, A5s is a great hand to 3-bet preflop for this property. When you 3-bet A5s, the CO is going to fold A6o, A7o, A8o, A9o. That is 48 combos of hands that dominated you and folded to your 3-bet. Another example is a hand like K7s, which folds out KTo, KJo and A7o. So, when choosing hands to 3-bet, choose hands that have high equity when called and can fold out dominating hands preflop.

The opposite also holds true. You don’t want to 3-bet hands that fold out the hands that it dominates, but still get called by hands that dominate it. For example, a hand like KQo or KJo is often 3-bet by many people. The problem is that it folds out hands it dominates, but hands like AJ, AQ etc. still call. Hands like AJ and AQ still call the 3-bet while hands such has KTo, K8s, K5s etc fold, which is a disaster for KQ. So these hands just isolate themselves against a stronger range. A hand such as K8s fulfills more properties that we are looking for when 3-betting and is a better 3-bet than a hand like KQo in these positions.

The final topic we will discuss is playing deep stack compared to a shallow stack. When we are shallow stacked, we are more interested in 3-betting hands that can make top pair and have strong blockers to calling and shoving ranges of the opponent. Hands like A7o and KTo fulfill these properties well. Postflop playability doesn’t matter that much when the stack to pot ratio is only 2 after 3-betting when short stacked. When deep stacked, postflop playability matters much more and blockers become less important. Hands such as 87s and A5s help fulfill these properties well.

Follow these tips next time you play to help construct better 3-betting ranges. Have a reason for 3-betting every hand in your range. Questioning why you are making a decision in poker is a great way to improve your ranges and decision making. Best of luck at the tables!