What is a 3 Bet?

If you’re new to playing poker, you may not be familiar with the term “three-bet.” A three-bet (or 3-bet) typically refers to the first re-raise before the flop. Here’s how it works: if a player raises before the flop, you need to call, fold, or re-raise. If you re-raise, you are making a 3-bet, as you are the third bettor in the round. A subsequent raise would be considered a 4-bet, and so on. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Let’s dive deeper.

Gambler man hands pushing large stack of colored poker chips across gaming table for betting

The Types of 3-Bets

You can make two types of 3-bets: the light 3-bet and the value 3-bet.

Light 3-bet

A light 3-bet is when you 3-bet a hand, not for its value, but because you think you can get your opponent to fold. While this is the stated goal of every 3-bet, these hands rely on folds more than value 3-bets since they’re unlikely to be the best hand.

A light 3-bet doesn’t mean your hand is a pure bluff. Sometimes it is, and if you’re using a polarized 3-betting range, it probably will be, but it can also have some value. For example, hands like 54s, 87s, and T9s aren’t being 3-bet because they’re likely to be the best hand, but if they’re called, they have some postflop value.

You’ll want to make most of your light 3-bets against players who are likely to fold, so pick on players who play particularly tight or open a very wide range of hands.

Value 3-bet

On the other hand, a value 3-bet is a type of 3-bet you make when you think you have the best hand against your opponent’s range. While the aim of the 3-bet is still to make your opponent fold, as that guarantees you a profit, you get to play a bigger pot with your strong hand if you get called.

Examples of value 3-bets include hands like AA, KK, QQ, and AK. While these hands are obviously the best of the best, many hands can be 3-bet for value, depending on the type of player you’re playing against. Suppose you’re playing against a very tight player. In that case, they’re only going to continue against your 3-bet with a very strong range, which means you need to 3-bet an even stronger range to compensate. However, if your opponent is a loose player, they’ll continue against your 3-bet with a wider range, which means you can 3-bet more hands for value.

The Benefits of 3 Betting

Now that we know what it is, why should we do it? Well, there are several benefits to 3-betting over simply calling, particularly preflop. Let’s look at some of those benefits:

Put Pressure on Opponents

If your opponents know that you’re capable of 3-betting their opens with a wide range, it really puts pressure on them and prevents them from playing their A-game. Nobody likes having to deal with 3-bets as they put you in an uncomfortable situation postflop, especially if you can follow it up with a c-bet on the flop. They say the key to No-Limit Hold ’em is to “put someone to a decision for all of their chips.” While you may not be doing precisely that by 3-betting, you are putting your opponent to a decision for more chips than they may be comfortable with, given the strength of their hand.

Reveal the Weak Players

Weak players hate facing 3-bets and will often fold when they are 3-bet, even with a relatively strong hand. These are the players you see that have a 75%+ fold to 3-bet stat if you’re playing online–there are quite a few of these players at the micro stakes and in live poker. These players are essentially giving away money to whoever wants to pick it up, and the way to pick it up is by 3-betting. So when you spot these weak players, you can profitably 3-bet almost any two cards. Just be careful, as other players may notice the same thing and will play back against your light 3-bets!

Take Preflop Betting Lead

Almost all poker players play “in-flow,” meaning that if they’re not the last aggressor preflop, they will check to the preflop aggressor when they get postflop. By 3-betting preflop, you take the preflop betting lead, meaning you get the opportunity to c-bet postflop whether you’re in or out of position with the possibility of taking the hand down right there. If you were to call preflop, you would not have the betting lead and would likely have to face a c-bet from your opponent, giving you a trickier decision.

Reduce the Number of Players in Any Given Pot 

When you 3-bet, you’re almost guaranteeing that you will go to the flop heads-up or possibly three-handed if you pick up a cold caller. This makes the hand so much easier to play as not only do you have the betting lead going into the flop but there are fewer people you need to worry about in the hand. If you need to bluff postflop, fewer people need to fold for you to win, and if you have a strong hand preflop like AA or KK, there are fewer people in the hand that can draw out on you. The fewer people in a hand, the easier it is to play, which is why it’s a great advantage of 3-betting preflop.

The Goal of 3-Betting

Ok, so 3-betting has some advantages, but what’s the overall goal? What are we trying to do? Well, just like when we raise preflop, the aim is to get our opponents to fold. You may think that 3-betting is used to build a pot when we have a strong hand, but that’s a side product rather than the overall goal.

Think about it; every time we get a fold when we 3-bet, we immediately win the hand. There’s no risk of losing; we just win. If we could do that every single hand, we’d have a really easy way to make money! However, our opponents won’t fold every time; sometimes they’ll call, and sometimes they’ll 4bet. This is why we must be selective with our hands when we 3-bet. Just like we have specific preflop ranges for different positions, we should have different 3-betting ranges for different scenarios. Whether we’re making a light 3-bet or a value 3-bet, our first preference is that our opponents fold; anything else is just something we have to deal with as a consequence of 3-betting.

3 Betting Examples

Example of 3-betting with a light hand:

If you’re 3-betting pre-flop and get called, you need to use your initiative to stay ahead. You have the perceived strong hand, but what happens if you miss the flop completely? For example, you 3-bet pre-flop with T♠ 8♣ in late position and your opponent calls. The flop comes J♦ 3♥ 5♠. Your opponent checks. Now is your chance to bet. If you 3-bet pre-flop, you should not check back, as it shows your hand is not that strong. The standard is to play and continue betting, hoping your opponent folds.

Example of 3-betting in position:

It’s all about the position when you 3-bet! You 3-bet on the button with A♥ Q♥ and get one caller. The flop comes J♥ T♠3♦. If your opponent checks, use your better table position to your advantage and raise. 

Example of 3-betting out of position:

You are out of position at the table but have Q♥ Q♣ in the big blind. Action folds to the button, who raises. You should raise 4x and discourage further bets. The idea is to minimize your time playing out of position; the bigger re-raise charges your opponent a premium to see your cards.

3-Betting Based on Position

In Position

When you’re 3-betting, table position dictates everything if you’re in a round where hand strength is not a driving factor. If you’re the last to bet, you can apply pressure to the out-of-position player, regardless of your hand. A 3x re-raise of the original bet should be enough to get your opponent to reconsider calling, but not enough to impact your stack if the move proves unsuccessful.

Out Of Position

When out of position, you should re-raise more to wrest away some of the control from a player in late position. The bet size should be at least 4x the original raise amount. The idea is to scare the player off from making the call, as you will often be left guessing post-flop.

3-Betting Ranges

It’s crucial to balance your 3-betting ranges to get the most out of a particular situation. If you 3-bet a tight range, such as only face pairs or A-K, your opponents will suss out your hands pretty quickly since you aren’t betting with a balanced range. 3-betting with a light hand will help switch things up and keep your opponents guessing– you could be sitting with Aces or a modest 3-4, and they could be calling on your good hands and folding on your bad ones.

If you find yourself 3-betting light (i.e., when you make a 3-bet with a less-than-premium hand), you should ensure your re-raises are more balanced. There’s no perfect light hand to 3-bet with, but suited connectors are a great light-bet strategy because you have a better chance of hitting a good hand on the flop. These hands include combos like J-10 or 9-8.

Three Betting Range Construction

There are two types of 3betting ranges a player can construct preflop – polarized and linear. These two ranges are opposites of each other and should be used based on the profile of your opponents at the table. Let’s have a look at the differences:

  • Polarized Range: A polarized range is where you 3bet your best hands and your worst hands — your best hands for value and worst hands as a bluff. You use this range when you expect your opponent to mostly fold to your 3bet, such as when your opponent is weak-tight or is going to be out of position postflop. This is because you don’t want to 3bet a hand like AQ if they’re folding AJs to your 3bet; instead, you want to call with those medium/pretty-strong hands to keep the weaker hands in your opponent’s range.
  • Merged Range: The other preflop 3betting range you can use is linear or merged. This range doesn’t have “bluffs,” but instead 3bets a wide range for value. We use this kind of range when we think our opponent won’t fold very often to 3bets, such as when they’re a loose player or when they’re going to be in position postflop. In these situations, we are 3betting hands like AQ because we think they will be calling with hands like AJ and ATs, which means that we should try and get as much money into the pot while we likely have the best hand.
  • Strong Range: Another type of 3-betting range you can use is a “strong” range. Rather than being balanced and including bluffs and value bets, this range is purely made up of strong hands. Good players easily exploit this range, as it doesn’t take much work to figure out that you’re only 3-betting with good hands. Therefore, make sure that you only use it when playing against recreational players. Use this range against players who are massive calling stations. Bluffing these kinds of players is essentially lighting money on fire, as they just won’t fold, no matter what they have. This means we can get away with just 3-betting our good hands and folding our bad hands.

When Should You Merge Your 3-Bet Range

Knowing when to use each kind of 3-betting range is vital if you want to be a profitable poker player. Conversely, using the wrong kind of range can lead to you making huge mistakes that drastically affect your win rate.

Use a merged 3-betting range when you think your opponent won’t fold very often to 3-bets, such as when they’re a loose player or going to be in position postflop. Of course, just how wide your merged range goes will depend on the exact positions you and your opponent are in and their individual tendencies.

Another reason you may want to use a merged 3-betting range is that you’re in a position that isn’t favorable for calling. The best example is the small blind, where you’re guaranteed to be out of position postflop. If you call a lot of hands from the small blind, you’re forcing yourself to play out of position without the betting lead — a combination that isn’t going to be very profitable.

However, if you choose to 3-bet, you give yourself a chance to win the hand without seeing the flop — which is always good when you’re guaranteed to be out of position. Plus, if your opponent does call, you have the betting lead going into the flop, which puts you in a much stronger position to win the hand postflop.

When should you polarize your 3-bet range?

On the other hand, you should use a polarized 3-betting range when you expect your opponent to mostly fold to your 3-bet, such as when your opponent is weak-tight or if they’re going to be out of position postflop. This is because these opponents will only continue against your 3-bet with a very strong hand, so medium-strength hands lose a lot of their value when they’re 3-bet.

Hands like 77, 88, 98s, and ATs all play much better as calls against these kinds of opponents, as by calling, you keep all of the weaker hands in your opponent’s range. If you were to 3-bet, they would fold all of the hands that are weaker than these hands and only continue when they have a stronger hand. Therefore, using a polarized range where you only 3-bet your strongest hands for value, as well as some bluffs, makes the most sense.

What are good hands to three-bet light with?

When picking hands to make a light 3bet, certain characteristics make some better than others.



While being suited only increases a hand’s equity by a couple of percentage points, it does increase the number of times you flop a decent amount of equity you can bluff with if you’re called. It’s always better to bluff with equity if you can, so having the possibility of flopping a flush draw to bluff with (or even a flush to value bet with), is valuable. For example, it’s much better to 3bet J9s, 76s, or 54s, than to 3bet J9o, 76o, or 54o.



When 3betting from the earlier positions, we need to limit the number of 3bet bluffs in our range. This means we can’t go crazy 3betting hands like Q9s or T8s from middle position; otherwise, we’d be bluffing way too much! So instead, we need to pick hands that flop the most equity when called, and those are connected ones, like 76s, T9s, A2s, etc.


High Card Blockers

When we’re 3betting as a bluff, we want to try and limit the number of strong hands our opponent has in our range. If we can reduce the number of strong hands in their range, our 3bet bluffs work more often, making us more money! This is why it’s better to pick hands with an ace or a king in them, like A5s, A2s, K5s, etc. By having an ace or a king in our hand, we halve the number of aces/kings combos in their range and bring the number of AK hands down from 16 to 12.

3 Betting Strategy Adjustments

card player gambling casino chips on green felt background selective focus

You never know what move your opponent will make in poker, so you have to adjust based on their actions. When you 3-bet, you want your opponent to fold, but you still want to have a decent hand to rely on if they don’t. Therefore, you should play with the top of the folding range to three-bet. Your opponent will likely be four-betting with AK and AA-JJ, and they will call with AQ and smaller pocket pairs. Your opponent will need to fold just 66% of the time to make the play profitable, providing you are raising 3x the original bet or more. Of course, this doesn’t even consider when your opponent calls and you beat him on the flop or hit your hand and win. You should consider your opponent’s “fold to three-bet” actions before 3-betting.

When to Make Adjustments to your three-betting strategy

Now, it’s all well and good knowing that you should make adjustments, but how do you know when to make them? Well, you need to pay attention to how your opponents play. Opponent tendencies are the main reason we should adjust our strategy, so look out for these things next time you’re at the table.

How Often They Open

How often your opponents raise is a big factor in how often you should be 3betting them. For example, suppose they’re the tightest player on the planet and will only play AA preflop. You shouldn’t be 3betting them at all, as they’ll have the best hand unless you also have aces. However, suppose they’re a maniac playing almost every hand. In that case, you’ll want to take advantage of that by 3betting them often and either winning the pot preflop or having an advantage going into the postflop streets.

How Often They Fold

Another factor when deciding to 3bet should be how your opponents react to being 3bet. If they’re the kind of player that doesn’t like to continue against a 3bet because they assume it’s always a strong hand, then you’ll want to start 3bet bluffing more often to win the free money on offer. On the other hand, some people go the other way and never fold to a 3bet as they want to avoid being pushed around. If that’s the case, you should be 3betting a wide but strong range to punish them for that. How often your opponents open and how often they fold should be the two majority factors in deciding whether or not to 3bet.

The Players Left To Act

The final factor you should consider when adjusting your 3betting strategy is the players left to act behind you. Depending on the tendencies of those players, there can be a lot of money to be made by exploiting them. The biggest one to look for is an overly aggressive 3bettor. These players 3bet way too often and can be exploited by calling a lot of strong hands against a raise instead of 3betting them yourself. By doing this, you entice the overly aggressive player to 3bet, and you can either back-4bet and pick up a nice pot or lay the trap and call again, knowing they’ll have a wide range.

Another player type to look out for is the aggressive 4bettor. If you’ve got a player behind you that likes to cold 4bet a lot, you’ll want to limit the amount of 3bet bluffs in your range. By creating a stronger 3betting range, you’re in a better position to punish the aggressive 4bettor by continuing against their raise more often.

However, if the players behind you are all passive and often fold when you 3bet, there’s no need to adjust your strategy.

How to Size Your Three-Bets

Now that we know how to construct our 3betting ranges, the next thing we should consider is the sizing. While your 3bets should be a uniform sizing, regardless of whether they’re as a bluff or for value, certain factors should impact the size you choose. Let’s take a look at what those are.

  1. Position Dictates Everything


    Your relative position at the table should impact the size of your 3bet. The rule of thumb that you should follow at the table is that you should size smaller when you’re in position and larger when you’re out of position. We advise using a 3x size when in position and a 4x or larger size when out of position. For example, if your opponent raises to 3bb, we’d recommend a 9bb 3bet when in position and a 12bb or higher when out of position.

    The reasoning behind this is that we want to discourage our opponents from calling when we’re out of position, and we do that by making our sizing bigger. It also means that if we do get called, the stack-to-pot ratio is lower, meaning that our positional disadvantage has less of an impact on the hand. Conversely, by using a smaller size in position, we get more calls from our opponents and play with a bigger stack-to-pot ratio, increasing the edge we can apply over our opponents.

  2. Size Matters


    We all know that size matters, but the size of your stack should impact the size of your 3bets. While 3betting to 12bb from a 100bb stack is a reasonable play, it’s not so great when you’re on a 25bb stack. When 3betting, you want to 3bet to a size where you can potentially fold if you face a 4bet. If you’re 3betting more than 30-40% of your stack, you will have a tough decision when facing an all-in, and you could end up folding a decent amount of equity. In these situations, it’s better to 3bet to a smaller size or to 3bet all-in. By going all-in, you get to realize 100% of your equity in the hand, and the possibility of making a mistake against an all in is eliminated.

  3. Know Your Enemy


    Knowing how your opponents will react to a 3bet will allow you to make exploitative sizings that maximize the money you make by 3betting. If your opponent is very sticky when facing a 3bet, you can exploitatively size up with your value hands and reduce the number of bluff combos in your range. Conversely, if your opponent frequently folds to your 3bets, you can exploitatively use a smaller sizing with your bluffs. By doing this, you’re risking less with each bluff, reducing the amount you lose when you’re called, and increasing the overall profitability of the play.

But what should you do if you’re 3betting against multiple opponents?

Three Betting and The Squeeze Play

When 3-betting in multiway pots, using the same 3-bet sizing can get you into trouble. This is because more money is in the pot by the time you make your 3-bet, and if you choose the same size, you’re giving your opponent better odds to call. Plus, if the first player calls, other players have even better odds to call. This means you can end up playing 3-bet pots 3-way or 4-way if you’re not careful. One of the best ways to avoid this multi-pot scenario is to adopt the squeeze play.

A squeeze play in poker is the act of 3-betting when there has been a raise and a call in front of you. It’s called a “squeeze” play, as the preflop caller ends up squeezed between the strong ranges of the original preflop raise and the 3bettor. As multiple players are in the pot, your 3-betting ranges should be tighter as there’s a higher possibility that you’re up against a strong hand. 

It doesn’t require a massive adjustment. For example, if you would usually 3-bet 3x when there’s a single raiser, raise to 4x if there’s one caller, or 5x if there are two callers. So, if a player raises to 3bb and your normal 3-bet size would be 9bb, you should increase that to 12bb if there is one caller and 15bb if there are two callers. 

3-Betting vs. 4-Betting: What’s the Difference?

There is often confusion about what 3-bets and 4-bets are, particularly amongst new players. Some people seem to think that the “3” or “4” in 3-betting and 4-betting refers to the size of the bet you’re making. However, this is not the case. Instead, the number refers to the number of bets and raises made in that round.

In the preflop betting round, the big blind is considered the first bet, so if a player wants to increase the bet, this is considered a raise or a “2bet” (but no one really calls it that). If you want to raise again or “re-raise,” it would be the third bet of the betting round, which is shortened to 3-bet. Similarly, if there is another raise on top of that, a “re-re-raise,” that would be the fourth bet of the round, which is shortened to 4bet.


To be a good poker player, you must learn to 3-bet well. After reading this article, you should be well on your way to becoming a 3-betting expert. You should consider all the factors we’ve discussed: your hand, your opponent’s range, your positions at the table, and how they react to 3-bets to decide whether a polarized or a merged 3-betting strategy will be best.

3-Bet FAQs