Responding to Three-Bets

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There is no doubt in my mind that the game of poker is played much more aggressively today than two or three years ago. Moves that were previously confined to the higher stakes games are commonplace at the very bottom of the spectrum.

Knowing how to respond to three-bets and knowing how your opponents act when they face a three-bet can often be the difference between having a profitable time at the tables or a losing one

With players' opening ranges seemingly growing ever wider, three-betting has become more prevalent as a form of defence. Knowing how to respond to three-bets and knowing how your opponents act when they face a three-bet can often be the difference between having a profitable time at the tables or a losing one.

The most common approach I see at the virtual felt is also the worse approach a player can have. How often do you see a player open with a raise, another player three-bet and the original raiser just call? It is quite a common occurrence I am sure you will agree. The biggest problem with this approach to being three-bet is you are locked into playing fit-or-fold poker and you become very easy to read. 

When you play this way, you will often check to the aggressor and fold when the inevitable continuation-bet comes in or will check-raise when you hit the flop hard and your opponent will be able to get away from his hand relatively unscathed. Furthermore, if you come up against a player who loves to play fit-or-fold in this situation, feel free to three-bet them at will and fire a continuation-bet every single time against them.

A better approach is to adopt a tight approach and fold to three-bets unless you have a premium holding that you are prepared to play aggressively. This approach to three-bets will keep you out of trouble and make your time easier and less stressful at the felt, but the downsides should be blatantly obvious. By only continuing in the hand with strong holdings you open yourself up to being frequently three-bet because you will not have a premium hand often enough to call. And when you do respond with a four-bet, your opponent will be able to play perfectly and either release his hand or try to stack you with a wide range of hands postflop.

Should you find yourself in an aggressive game where three-bets are almost as common as a standard opening raise, you should really start to think about playing your hands much more aggressively yourself. If an opponent is three-betting you seemingly every time you open, then you should be more inclined to four-bet them with hands that you would be prepared to three-bet with - that is four-bet them lighter than you normally would. 

Another move would be to call the three-bet and then check-raise many flops, even if you have not improved your hand. This loose approach does carry with it more variance than any of the other plays described, but it will almost guarantee that you are a complete pain in the rear to play against and that in itself will stop even the most aggressive of player from three-betting you lightly.

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