AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 26.08.2021 · last updated 26.08.2021

Elsewhere in our YPD Strategy section you’ll find our article introducing the often underused strategy of bluff squeezing pre-flop with a 3-bet despite being dealt a poor hand. As so often happens, this isn’t guaranteed to end in success, and other players’ ranges and habits need to be taken into consideration when contemplating employing such a tactic.

One reason why we might come unstuck is, ironically, when trying to get the better of weaker, less experienced players who are likely to continue calling regardless of our aggression. In this scenario there would be no point bluffing but, of course, we can absolutely exploit the tendencies of weak players – that is why they’re weak players!

Just as 3-betting such opponents as a bluff is a good way to lose money, (re)raising when we have a strong hand gives us an excellent opportunity to extract profit. Two fundamental questions are how strong should we be in order to justify pumping up the pot, and how much should we be 3-betting. The first can be an awkward one to get our heads around – how long is a piece of string? One thing here that we can be pretty confident about is that most players aren’t 3-betting enough, and many aren’t 3-betting anywhere near enough! With this in mind, we should be looking to expand our range in this specific situation to find a ‘biting point’ at which we’re still going to be ahead of the calling range of players we’re targeting.

I’m not advocating habitual 3-betting against everyone and his dog without planning and due consideration of the relevant factors, rather selective use of an effective play, against a specific type of player who we believe will accommodate us by calling with not-strong-enough hands.

And we don’t need to only be 3-betting against weak players with premium hands, remember. Given that so many of this particular kind of opponent will be happy calling with marginal hands, we can add to those at the upper range of the scale holdings like TT, AQ, and even AJ, while medium pairs can also be considered for inclusion in this tailored range. As long as we think we’re dominating their calling range, we’re good to go.

As for how much to level our 3-bet, some might be surprised at just how much we can get away with here. Contrary to the infamous line from the classic Wall Street movie, greed isn’t good, and many a decent profit in a pot has been missed out on because we’ve (value) bet too much and scared off the opposition when wanting too big a reward. However, in this dynamic, the opposition is not the most discerning, and it’s not at all unreasonable to assume that they’ll be calling, say, a 5X bet rather than a more conservative, less ambitious 3X bet. It can be difficult to ‘dare’ make such bets because we would not call them ourselves, but a big part of poker is building up an understanding of how others think, what their habits and tendencies are, and how we might take advantage accordingly. A sensible approach – especially when first getting used to this specific strategy – would be to initially make the higher bet sizes when 3-betting only with Aces and Kings. Eventually, we get a feel for the level at which weaker players might not be willing to call with their moderate hands. But, however counter-intuitive it might feel to us, we shouldn’t automatically put ourselves off 3-betting big with big hands.

Stack sizes also play a role here because the effective stack is the significant one. Therefore, if we have a monster stack but our intended target has 50BB, then 3-betting is going to leave them closer to being committed, in which case the strength of our hand becomes more of a factor.

As always, we need to be constantly observing so that we’re ready for these opportunities when they arise, and it helps to have an idea about certain players’ calling ranges and how they might react to our stepping up a gear.

Have fun at the tables!

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