3-Bet in Poker Explained

A 3-bet is an aggressive move in poker that can help you sweeten the pot right from the start if you play it right. Read our guide and master the 3-bet strategy.

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Avatar Author Adrian Sterne
Fact checked by Dusan Jovanovic
Image of 3-bet in Poker ExplainedPlaying aggressively often pays off if you know when to use it, and you’ll notice that the likes of Phil Ivey and his namesake Hellmuth can be pretty aggressive when needed. This also applies to many other professional poker players.

One of the trademarks of this approach is the three-bet (3-bet), a strategy that takes a lot of courage. If you pull it off successfully, though, you’re in for a bloodbath.

But what is 3-bet exactly, and how to use it to gain an advantage in no-limit hold’em? Read on to find more.

What Is a 3-Bet in Poker?

When small and big blinds are placed, the first player to raise the bet will make a 2-bet. If someone re-raises this amount, they’ll make a 3-bet. In short, it’s the third bet in a poker sequence where a player re-raises after the first pre-flop raise.

Any player who decides to 3-bet is considered aggressive, indicating they have a very strong hand or are simply bluffing. Regardless of your hole cards, a 3-bet is also considered a calculated move you should use only in conjunction with a betting strategy.

Why Use the 3-Bet?

First and foremost, making a 3-bet will scare many players into folding, eventually isolating the weak opponents and giving you the initiative. It could also be used as a strategy to sweeten the pot and potentially increase your payouts if other players believe you’re bluffing or want to call your decisions for whatever reason.

Types of 3-Bet Ranges?

When’s the best time to 3-bet? What hands are worth it? It turns out there are three ranges that players consider when three-betting.

Strong range

This is the play-it-safe approach, as you’ll only 3-bet with cowboys and A-rockets. However, more experienced players can create a pattern and turn it against you, so it’s not the best approach.

According to some poker experts, this shouldn’t even be considered a range. Instead, the following two options are the only choices you should make.

Polarized range

This range includes 3-betting the best hands but throwing in an occasional 3-bet with a weaker hand to confuse your opponents. Of course, always ensure the weaker hand has some post-flop potential. Ideally, you should consider three-betting suited connectors. Finally, the polarized range includes occasional 3-bet bluffs, but be extra careful with those.Image of Polarized Range 3-bet in Poker

Merged range

Also known as the depolarized range, it requires 3-betting all premium hands plus the next best ones. Technically speaking, you’ll 3-bet every hand if it’s in the top 5%.Image of Merged Range 3-bet in Poker

When to Use and When to Avoid the 3-Bet?

Playing aggressively and making frequent 3-bets could be an excellent method for building pots and getting the most value from your good hands.

Initially, beginners may believe that aggressive play will cause everyone to fold, eliminating any chance of profit. However, this is only sometimes true. The more you let other players limp into the flop, the more equity you lose, regardless of how strong your hand is. It’s better to 3-bet on hands that seem likely to win to build pots over the long run and to increase profits.

The three-bet is often considered a fantastic pre-flop betting strategy to counter late-position players who aim to steal the blinds. Simply put, a 3-bet can counter their aggression and challenge them, which could scare them into folding as they might not always expect such an aggressive play, especially if you’re in one of the blind positions.

The rule of thumb is to avoid 3-betting if you have a poor hand. With time, your opponents will become more inclined to proceed with dominating hands and fold weak holdings against you if you show that you’re ready to 3-bet low-ranking hands.

Only use this strategy if you think weaker hands will call, better hands will fold, and drawing hands will draw at a disadvantage.

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To sum up, 3-betting is a powerful tool, but you shouldn’t apply it robotically or simply because “aggressive=good.” Instead, try to assess each round individually and decide when a 3-bet will create the most value.


What is a 3-bet in poker?

A 3-bet is a re-raise on the pre-flop. In this case, the blind is the 1-bet, and the open raise is considered the 2-bet.

How often should you three-bet in poker?

The match says you should three-bet 5% to 10% of your hands. Make sure to explore the 3-bet ranges to see which one you feel most comfortable with.

How are a check-raise and a three-bet different?

Check-raise is a form of post-flop raise, whereas three-bet mainly applies to pre-flop. Both are considered aggressive moves.

Should you make a 3-bet bluff?

Making a 3-bet bluff shouldn’t be taken out of the equation. It’s good to make it occasionally, especially if you’ve read your opponents and can label them as tight. In such cases, you must be sure they’ll either fold on your 3-bet or give up to a c-bet. If they see through your bluff, you could lose a lot.

Is the 3-bet a profitable move?

Yes, it can be a rather profitable move if you know when and how to use it. Following the charts won’t do the trick, as you must understand the table dynamic and consider your opponents’ playing tendencies.

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