The Goal of Betting is to Make Opponents Fold
Betting is complicated. Many players use the rake calculator to decide how to proceed. Juicy Stakes wishes to simplify betting. We are still in our poker math tutorial. Here, we want to look at the 3-bet rather than the rake as a strong method of deciding to bet or not to bet.
Getting Opponents to Fold Before the Flop
You will miss two out of every three flops. Of the flops you do hit, you might hit them weakly. Getting a huge hit from the flop is not all that common. So, one of the goals before the flop is to scare players off, making them think you have more than you actually do.
A 3-bet often Works
A 3-bet, by definition, is a second raise before the flop. Remember, every player has to at least call the big blind to advance to the flop. A raise before the flop is a powerful bet. That means that the big blind also has to call, raise, or fold. On most hands, the big blind will try to “defend” his or her investment in the pot so it is not unusual for the big blind to call a raise before the flop.
It is unusual for a player betting before the big blind to raise as well. That is a very powerful 3-bet which will probably cause any player who has to call both raises to fold.
What Does Position Have to Do with a 3-Bet?
If the first player betting raises, the other players have to mine their memories to determine if the bet was a massive bluff or a bet from strength. Then, if the next bettor also raises, it will send shivers down the spines of every subsequent player.
There might be two huge bluffs going on. There might be one bluff and one bet from strength. In a situation like this, the second raise will usually be a bet from strength. It will lead the others to see the first raise as a bluff.
Nevertheless, as unusual as it is, a hand with a pair of kings betting first and a pair of aces second can and does happen. Even two hands of lesser strength at first and second position are not rare at all!
Isn’t 3-Betting Risky?
Yes, it is!
In fact, poker in all its manifestations is risky. It is the risk that attracts so many people to the game. Of course, there is nothing wrong with avoiding the highest risks in poker and in life. Still, many people are drawn to the risk.
Poker players need to be aggressive to win more pots, more money, and more often. Raising in early position before the flop is an aggressive move. It might be a bet from strength and it might be a bluff but in either case it is aggressive.
Many new poker players are afraid to 3-bet. This is understandable and common but if we remember that the purpose of betting in poker is to get our opponents to fold, then we can see the intrinsic value in 3-betting.
The key is to develop a sense of when a 3-bet is warranted and when it is simply foolish.
We Need to Think Like our Opponents
It is never enough to use poker math to determine your next move. Poker math certainly is valuable; else why would so many great players use it on every hand and why would we invest so much time and effort trying to teach it in a simple and accessible manner?
In addition to math, we need to use every bit of knowledge about our opponents to our advantage. Here is a great quote from Ernest Hemingway, one of the best writers to come out of the American experience:
“If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”
This quote from a towering writer is about the power of observation. Learning from observing makes a poker player better. It also can point to situations where a well-timed 3-bet is not only justified but “required” for poker success!
What are a Few of the Benefits of 3-Betting?
- A 3-bet often helps you identify weak players.
- A 3-bet complicates the hand for all of your opponents.
- A good 3-bet will often win the pot before the flop.
Weak Players Unmasked
A 3-bet tells opponents that here is either a very strong hand or an unconscionable bluff. Many players will simply fold in the face of a 3-bet. How a player folds, the position he or she is in when they fold, whether the big blind folds, can tell you if this player can be intimidated.
It could be that the player is playing at a stales level that is too high for their bankroll and skill level. It could be that they are simply leery of difficult hands. You need to remember that only aggressive players win in the long run.
Complication Can Work to Your Benefit
Every hand is complicated. There are so many variables in every hand of poker. The more we can complicate the hand, the more likely an opponent will fold and “live to see another hand”.
Can we Overcomplicate Hands for Ourselves?
This is a common mistake of new poker players. Also, any experienced players who have reached their plateau can overcomplicate hands. Poker math is a very valuable tool but we can also use it so much that we crowd out the intuitive and observational side of poker.
Conversely, we can rely too much on intuition and observation and lose sight of how simply counting outs and comparing them to the pot can help us decide if as bet is worthwhile.
A prime example of poker strategy based on observation is knowing the betting and folding habits of the players who will bet next. If you are trying to avoid a difficult situation after the flop, you might 3-bet to force players out. But some players are hard to force out. These are called “calling machines”. When you are up against a calling machine, their very presence complicates the hand for you!
They will often call just to see the flop with nothing to call with. They might hit the flop with nothing or they might suddenly have a good hand that warrants going to the flop.
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