Guide to 3-Betting Light Pre-Flop

In no-limit hold’em, there are two main reasons for 3-betting before the flop. It can be done either for value when done with a premium hand like pocket aces, or as a bluff which is referred to as a “light 3bet”. Three-betting for value to build a bigger pot when you can be confident you have the best hand speaks for itself. So, this article will focus on 3-betting light pre-flop.

When 3-betting as a bluff, the primary goal is to take down the pot pre-flop. But you can also steal the pot on later streets with position, so there are numerous reasons why this advanced pre-flop play can be highly profitable. There are various ways you can go about integrating more light 3-bets into your range, and we’ll discuss these below.

Some attack late position opens, and for good reason since a lot of players will raise with a wide range when it folds around to them in late position, making them ideal targets to 3-bet light. It is common to see aggressive players in the blinds re-steal against cut-off (CO) and BTN (button) opens, as they suspect they are just trying to steal the blinds.

Whilst there are other players that like to make the most of position by 3-betting with a wider range in late position, especially on the BTN. This can be hugely profitable, since a lot of players will fold everything but their premium hands when they’re out of position for the rest of the hand. Even when you get called, you can still win the pot when an opponent shows weakness after the flop, as a result of your positional advantage.

Light 3-betting is especially important in heads-up and 6-max poker games, which tend to play more aggressively. Being short-handed, players are raising with a wider range of hands, so to counter this many players have a tendency to re-raise with non-premium hands. If you’re not 3-betting light pre-flop, you’ll be passing up on too many good opportunities to steal the dead money.

If you were looking to incorporate a light 3-betting strategy into your game, one of the biggest considerations you need to make is what type of hands you want to be 3-betting with. Hands with an ace or a king blocker, including hands such as K5s and A3s, can be good to 3-bet as a bluff with, since they act as blockers to premium hands like AA/KK/AK. In other words, there are fewer strong hand combos your opponent can have, so there is a greater likelihood of them folding.

Keep in mind that you will not always get folds when you attempt to 3-bet as a bluff, it’s just not reasonable to assume this would be the case. But if you’re targeting the right players, it will work enough of the time to make it +ev. Even when an opponent happens to call your 3-bet, if your opponent’s 3-bet calling range is lets say 77-JJ/AQ+, a hand like A3s still has 30% versus this range.

Suited connectors are another group of hands which can be good to 3bet bluff with, as they have very good equity versus a tight 3-bet calling range. A hand like 89s has around 30% equity vs the same range (77-JJ/AQ+). They can be profitable to play because when they make big hands like straights/flushes, in all likelihood you will get paid off, especially if you know that an opponent doesn’t like to fold.

When considering to 3-bet bluff your opponents, keep in mind that when light 3-betting with the type of hands described above, you need to consider your opponents and their calling ranges to see if it is profitable to consider 3-betting. You need to be confident that you will get a lot of folds to make it worthwhile. Don’t get carried away with 3-betting as a bluff when playing against loose opponents, they will be call a lot, so it won’t be profitable being more aggressive before the flop.

Even though a light 3-betting strategy is commonplace in the more aggressive heads-up and 6-max games online, it should also be used when playing at a full ring table for the same reasons you are 3-betting in short-handed poker games. When the action gets folded around to late position, the dynamics are exactly the same.

Regardless of whether you’re playing heads-up, 6-max or full-ring games, by 3-betting with a higher frequency, it will also help to ensure that you get paid off with your big hands, since in your opponent’s mind you have always been 3-betting, and “you must be bluffing this time around”. Of course, like already mentioned in this post, you only want to do it against tight opponents, when you can expect them to fold.