In order to progress to the upper echelons of the poker world you need be one step ahead of your opponents. Amongst other things you need to force your opponents into making mistakes and you need to be able to carve out new avenues of attack at will. One way to accomplish both these tasks is to begin three-betting more regularly.
Sometimes it may feel unnatural to three-bet without the goods so start to open up your range gradually. Start by three-betting premium holdings and pairs 88-TT and then add other hands into the mix such as queen-jack and jack-ten.
A three-bet is sometimes called a re-raise, much to the annoyance of the poker connoisseurs, and takes place preflop. If the player under the gun raises and the button puts in a raise of his own then the button has three-bet. This may sound a little confusing because there have only been two actual bets but the raise from under the gun is actually two actions. First he has called the big blind amount (first bet) and is now raising (second bet) hence the button's "re-raise" being a three-bet. Now that we have that cleared up let us look at why three-betting is vitally important to success, especially in big bet games played to a No Limit and Pot Limit betting structure.
Before you make a three-bet you need to think of why you are doing so. This may seem trivial when you are sat there with pocket aces facing a raise but you still need to think of why you want to put in a raise of your own. Obviously with aces we are three-betting because we not only think we have the best hand but we also think that a worse hand will call us. But what about three-betting pocket queens? The same is probably true here too but let us think about what we can do with a hand such as 7s-6s. It is less likely a worse hand is going to call us so our three-bet is not for value so can we still make one?
Of course the answer is yes. You can three-bet with whatever hand you want to. But whilst the reasons are rather clear cut with a premium hand, three-betting with only premium holdings makes you very easy to read and therefore play against. Imagine playing against someone who you know only three-bets QQ, KK and AA. You would be able to play perfectly against them in three-bet pots. You will either be able to set-mine against them, try to flop a huge draw or simply fold and get out of the way. But what if your opponent is capable of three-betting not only premium holdings but small pocket pairs and suited connectors? They become a real pain in the backside to combat because they could have anything, and more importantly they will have something that is vital in big bet games; momentum.
Pretend you are playing in a cash game or tournament where we an opponent opens from middle position for a standard sized raise. We are on the button and three-bet him putting the action back on him. Our opponent is in a very tricky spot. If he calls then he is going to have to play a pot out of position against someone who has show preflop aggression. A far from ideal proposition. Imagine our opponent made the raise with pocket eights. He is not going to want to four-bet with them and if he calls and the board comes Ac-Ks-5d what on Earth does he do? He almost always check-folds to our continuation bet. Even if the flop comes down 2c-6s-9d and he decided to lead out we can raise him and force a fold enough to make this profitable to do with almost our entire range. Compare this to flat calling on the button. If the flop comes down Ac-Ks-5d and our opponent checks to us what on can we represent that connects with that board? Not a lot. By three-betting we could represent hitting the ace, or king or both even if we are sat there with queen-high.
Sometimes it may feel unnatural to three-bet without the goods so start to open up your range gradually. Start by three-betting premium holdings and pairs 88-TT and then add other hands into the mix such as queen-jack and jack-ten. The best opponents to three-bet are those who raise preflop and call out of position far too much or those who are raising 25-35% of their starting hands because they rarely have a hand strong enough to continue once you have three bet them. Target these players and use them as three-bet practice. You'll be crushing everyone before you know it!