3Betting Preflop In The Micro Stakes

Jack Wilcox (Hoodlincs) Profile Photo

By Jack Wilcox

27 Feb, 2011

3betting in no limit hold'em can be a very useful play:

  • It gives you the initiative in the hand.
  • It can generate a lot of fold equity either preflop or postflop.
  • It makes the pot bigger in a situation where your perceived range is very strong.

Essentially there are two reasons to 3bet preflop:

  1. You can 3bet for value with a strong hand, hoping that your opponent puts more money into the pot with a weaker hand, thereby allowing you to profit.
  2. You can 3bet as a bluff with a weak hand, hoping that your opponent folds and you pick up the pot. Of course, even when your opponent calls, you can still either win the pot with a flop continuation bet, or actually improve your hand strength to something which beats theirs.

If you are early in your poker career and not that confident in your post-flop ability, you should be remain tight with 3betting and primarily stick to 3betting for value. This is because when you 3bet as a bluff, you will sometimes find yourself getting called and not know what to do on a lot of flops.

You lose money by putting yourself in situations where you do not know what to do.

So in this article I will start of by talking about 3betting for value, and then expand into 3betting as a bluff.

What should you 3-bet with for value?

A lot of people assume that 3betting for value means 3betting with JJ+ and AK only, but this is not true. Depending on your opponent you can make your value range much narrower or much wider.

For example, if you are playing full ring and a very tight player opens UTG, you may not want to 3bet hands like JJ or AK.

Contrast that to when you are against a huge fish who will open-raise with a lot of hands, then call 3bets with hands like A5 offsuit or 85 suited, and you should be looking to 3bet with a much wider value range than you might normally consider.

A value hand should basically just be defined as a hand which has an equity edge over your opponents pre-flop calling range.

So, there will be 3 main types of opponent that you face in the micro stakes:

  1. Tight regulars who are usually multi-tabling a lot of games.
  2. Loose-passive fish who do not raise many hands preflop, but limp with their less-than-premium holdings.
  3. Loose-aggressive fish who are raising and re-raising every hand.

When playing against the regulars, you will notice that they don't call many 3bets with weak high-card hands such as QT or A9, but that they do call 3bets with hands like KQ and AJ. So 3betting your weaker broadways like KJ/AT is going to put you in a situation where most of their 3bet calling range dominates you and you do not have good equity.

Therefore against tight regulars you will want to make your value range narrow, so that it includes only the strongest hands like TT-AA and AQ/AK. Of course, if the regulars are folding a lot of their weaker high-card hands, then they are going to be folding a very high percentage of the time, and you can exploit this fact by 3betting as a bluff much more often against them.

PokerStove 3Bet Calling Range Of Loose-Aggressive Fish (36%)
3betting range against tight regulars.

When playing against the loose-passive fish, you will find that they are not going to be open raising often, as they will just limp and hope to see a cheap flop with their more marginal hands like A7s or QJs. Therefore, you shouldn't be 3betting as bluff against these players at all because their range is strong and they will rarely fold.

Additionally, since loose-passive players aren't going to be raising very many hands preflop, you also want to keep a narrow value range, whereby you just 3bet your very best hands and call with the hands which have good equity, but not great equity, like AJ or KQ.

Who you should 3bet against the most?

The loose-aggressive fish will be the people that you want to 3bet against the most, because not only will they be opening very marginal hands, but they will also be calling the 3bet and folding the flop when they miss.

How do you identify these players? Usually they will be playing something like 46/32 or 38/26 and will be playing only one table. They will have clear bet sizing tells post flop, and frequently do things like click the "bet pot" button rather than think about a different sizing.

Against these players you will want to be 3betting very frequently when in position, and very infrequently (except for if you have a huge hand) when out of position. This is because making the pot bigger when you are out of position in a situation where you are unlikely to get many folds is going to be a disadvantage to you postflop.

You make the most money when playing pots in position.

You can really open up your value range against loose-aggressive fish to include pretty much all broadway hands, and a lot of suited connectors. Although this makes your range weaker, their range for calling will also be extremely weak, and since you have position and the initiative, it's going to be much easier for you to play against them postflop and extract value or bluff, depending on how the board runs out.

You can usually 3bet a lot of hands which play well postflop but don't have an equity edge pre-flop, such as 89s etc. However, until you are comfortable playing in 3bet pots, you should probably just stick to big premiums.

How widely can you 3bet loose players?

Well, if I assume this is their calling range when we 3bet:

PokerStove 3Bet Calling Range Of Loose-Aggressive Fish (36%)
The 3bet calling range of a loose-aggressive fish.

Then given we are in position and have the initiative, we should be able to 3bet these hands for value and have either an equity edge against their range, or have good enough equity to play postflop profitably against a weak player:

PokerStove 3Betting Range Against Loose-Aggressive Fish (18.4%)
Our wider 3betting range against loose-aggressive fish.

Why 3bet?

Why should we 3bet when our equity values are close?

3Betting Range vs Calling Range Equity
Our actual equity against their calling range.

Why not just call? Then we have even better equity, because they still have some hands in their range that fold to the 3bet?

Basically, a loose-aggressive fish is going to be a worse player than you (I hope). When you feel you have an edge on a player and can outplay them – either by value betting well, or by bluffing – you should want to play as big a pot as possible. This way you win more money, since every time you are in the hand with them you have an advantage.

Usually, the laggy fish is going to be calling your 3bet very wide, and as you can see from their range, on a lot of flops they will miss. Therefore you can bet small and take the pot down. Since you will be betting small, you do not need them to fold very often (a 50% pot continuation bet will only need 33% fold equity to show a profit).

However, when you hit you can also be very comfortable value betting, as they will have so many weak hands in their range that they will either fold a lot, or call down with worse. Either way, 3betting works out very well for you and you end up winning a big pot. Of course, you still should be able to win the pot a lot when you flat-call – either by extracting value when you hit or finding good bluff spots when you miss.

The objective of the 3bet is to make the pot bigger so that your advantage over your opponent wins you more money than flat calling does. Hence increasing your winrate, which is your ultimate goal.


When I have a fish one or two seats to my right, I usually end up 3betting a ridiculous amount. This is because they often open super wide, flat-call my 3bets out of position, and then check-fold the flop.

It is not uncommon for my HUD to have me with a 12-15% 3bet from the cutoff and/or button when there is a fish on my right.

Whilst this means I end up 3betting a lot of "trashy" hands like J8s etc, it doesn't matter because of the principles I have laid out in this article. Even a "trashy" hand like J8s has 39% equity against the range I showed earlier, and I feel against bad recreational players my edge post flop in position more than makes up for that pre flop equity disadvantage.

Obviously I am not suggesting you go from 3betting only premiums to 3betting a crazily-wide range, but you should look for spots where you can play more hands against the bad players at the table. Most of them will not have very big bankrolls, and you should do all that you can to take their money before someone else does!


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