The pre-flop 3-bet or re-raise is a valuable and powerful weapon in your arsenal of poker strategy. Simply put, a 3-bet is when there is a raise and then someone else raises again. When this happens pre-flop it means that the 3-bet has occurred after the dealing of hole cards, but before any community cards are on the board.
Here's an example: The small blind and big blind have been posted at $2 and $4 dollars, respectively. A player in middle-position raises $12, and a player in a later position raises again to $32. So, there have been two raises and 3 bets, since the big blind is considered the first full bet.
The main reason people 3-bet pre-flop is to wring the pot for all its worth and push other players out of the pot before any actual streets of action – and it works. The pre-flop 3-bet is a ballsy, scary move that capitalizes on your fear equity. It works because all kinds of players will open with all kinds of hands, so calling on 3-bets before the flop can be pretty off-putting – especially for weaker and/or short-stacked players who don’t want to compromise their stack.
In other words, the 3-bet can super-boost your bottom line – but it has to be executed wisely.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Your Position.
First, you're going to want to be in late position if you want to 3-bet pre-flop with the best (and safest) results. The reason for this is simple: the more people who act before you, the more money in the pot AND the more you can gather about your opponents’ hands. Translation: you collect the blinds and any additional bets in the pot without even making it to the flop. You get more bang for your buck and more intel for your efforts.
2. Your Opponents.
If you want a successful 3-bet pre-flop, you are going to want to primarily use this move against weaker players who are likely to fold under your re-raise. You are not looking for post-flop battles here! TIP: Weaker players should not be confused with looser players; uber-loose players with less than ideal hands are just as likely to see your 3-bet as super tight players with premium hands.
Along this same line, you are going to want to look at how many of your opponents are left in the hand; the fewer, the better. You don't want anyone getting a solid spread of board cards and ambushing you. You are also going to want to use this move against players with shallower stacks since they have fewer hands to call to see the flop.
3. Your Image.
Carefully consider your image when you’re thinking about making a 3-bet. The perceived strength of your hand is a big factor in how often your 3-bet will be successful. Have you been making a lot of BS raises, playing fast and loose? Or have you established yourself as a straight-shooter who only plays solid hands? If your opponent thinks you are attempting to 3-bet with a shoddy hand, they may hit you back with a 4-bet, provided they have a big enough stack to do that without committing themselves.
4. Your Hand.
Last but not least, you are going to want to account for your own hand if you want to 3-bet pre-flop. Ideally, you have a solid pre-flop hand, like AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ. Remember: you’re not looking to take this action past the flop, so you need to be confident you can push everyone out without it going too far. You don’t want to terminally compromise your stack.
Try the pre-flop 3-bet in your next game – just make sure you have a handle on the technique and only push within your limits!