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 18.06.2021 · last updated 18.06.2021

Given that we’re not dealt big pairs as often as we’d like, it’s important to make the most of promising opportunities when they do present themselves. One way of maximizing our chances is to 3-bet pre-flop with big hands. Note that for the sake of clarity, a 3-bet is when a player raises pre-flop and this is met with a further raise (the 3-bet). Here we are ideally looking to execute this move as a value bet, in that our hand should be ahead of our opponent’s range with which they would continue.

The aim of maximizing value with this 3-betting strategy is to engineer situations where we’re building sizeable pots with our strongest hands, and thus increasing both pre-and post-flop profits over time. It’s clearly going to be to our advantage of we’re ahead of their range whether they call our 3-bet or themselves 4-bet.

Here’s how it works in practice. We’re in mid position and have been dealt AA in a $1/$2 NLH game, and there’s been a raise to $6, to which we respond with a 3-bet. Typically, the standard bet sizing here would be roughly 3x to 4x the original raise, so somewhere between $18-$24. With our opponent’s range in mind, there’s a good chance that our AA is going to be ahead, so we’re already expecting added value by building the pot. And the more likely the opposition is to throwing in ‘loose’ pre-flop raises and continuing with lesser hands when faced with action, the more value we’re getting!

If our 3-bet is met with a fold, then we pick up a small pot. There are worse things that can happen. In the event of their calling or even 4-betting, the pot is being juiced up to our advantage. In terms of bet-sizing, there’ll be times when we might 3-bet higher than usual – this could be against those active players who have already shown a liking for throwing their chips around, or weaker players who simply don’t appreciate the concepts of bet sizing and ranges. When less experienced and less able players are thinking only about the cards they’re holding, it’s imperative that we take full advantage by betting as much as we can to keep extracting maximum value as the hand progresses.

With AA and KK, of course, we’re going to eke out more value when 3-betting because our strong hands are going to be ahead of the opposition’s range more often and win more pots. When we start to go down the starting hand rankings, however, it can get a little tricky. A 3-betting strategy is still going to offer up profitable opportunities, especially against opponents who don’t even appreciate the idea, but the less powerful the hand, the less justification in 3-betting. Moreover, our aim with this tactic might not necessarily be the same. For example, with QQ we might well be prepared to battle on post-flop should our opponent continue in response to our 3-bet, but we’d prefer to simply pick up the pot there and then.


The pre-flop 3-bet strategy is an important part of every serious player’s armory generally, and particularly so when dealt big pairs, especially Aces and Kings. We should be looking for value with these premium starting hands, building the pot accordingly. This is totally logical considering how we’ll be ahead of the opposition’s continuing range. With lesser pairs, the argument for 3-betting is less strong and our decision might be determined more by external factors, while our aim can also be to take down a small pot while being ready to fight for it in the event of opponents coming along to see the Flop.

Good luck at the tables!

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