When playing pre-flop it's important that you mix it up
between three-betting good hands for value and also three-betting weaker hands as a bluff. As we explored in this article there are many reasons why having a wider value range can result in bigger profits. Another essential part of your Texas Hold'em three-betting strategy must be to include weaker hands as bluffs too. If you only ever three-bet with strong hands you won't get value from them – players paying attention will simply fold! – and it's also often overlooked that three-bet bluffs can be very profitable so long as you pick good spots.
The ideal scenario when three-bet bluffing pre-flop is that your opponent just folds and you pick up the small pot. Increase your chances of this happening by bluffing in spots where it is likely your opponent doesn't have much. For example, if you're facing a pre-flop raise from the cut-off or button it will be much less likely to be a strong hand than if the player had raised from under the gun. Target the position the raise comes from then, but also pay attention to who it is raising. If the raiser hasn't played a hand in a long time they're more apt to have something that will defend against a three-bet, whereas if the raiser has been playing very loose they are more apt to have a weak hand that can't stand the pressure.
Hand selection is crucial when attempting a three-bet bluff too. In theory, your hand shouldn't matter when bluffing but this would only hold true if the hand would end after the pre-flop action. Instead, things don't always work out as we would like them to – sometimes we will be called and have to navigate the flop, turn and river too. In this case, it's much better to have a hand with some playability, such as
than complete junk like
. When you have a playable hand you may actually get lucky and outflop your opponent or at least pick up a draw that you can play aggressively. In this case you would have two ways to win, either by hitting that draw or by forcing your opponent to fold. The more playable a hand you bluff with, the better the chance you have of navigating a path to winning the hand if it does go to a flop.
Usually when your three-bet is called you should follow through with a continuation bet on the flop too. This is especially true when the flop has a high card on it, such as K-5-2. By three-betting pre-flop you've wrested the initiative in the hand and it makes sense that you would have an Ace or a King. When that is the case you must follow through with your bluff, regardless of what you actually hold. Remember that your opponents can't see your cards, they can only see the story you are telling. In this case, it makes perfect sense for you to have a strong hand so the bluff is likely to work.
Experiment with three-betting pre-flop in all manner of situations and see what works for you. There will be bluffs that go wrong – losing you money in a cash game or getting you KO'd from a tournament – but the experience and knowledge you gain from opening up your game will be supremely valuable in the long run. So start your bluffing adventure today!
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