3-Betting Defense Strategies for Your Poker Game

One of the most exhilarating moments in a poker game is when a player faces a 3-bet. This move can make or break a hand. As the stakes rise and the pressure mounts, it’s crucial to understand how to react to a 3-bet and make the right decision. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of 3-betting and explore the tactics and strategies you need to handle this high-stakes situation like a pro. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, get ready to take your game to the next level as we delve into the exciting world of 3-bets.


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What is 3-Bet Defense?

3-bet defense is a poker strategy that comes into play when you have raised pre-flop or raised over limpers, and an opponent responds with a 3-bet. Your options in 3-bet defense include folding, calling, or re-raising with a 4-bet (if the 3-bet was not an all-in shove). 

Your decision depends on factors such as your opponent’s 3-bet range, their behavior in 3-bet situations, and the strength of your pre-flop hand. Additionally, there are steps you can take to proactively avoid 3-bets from your opponents, which can help save you money and simplify your poker decisions.

Avoiding 3-Bets After Open-Raising

Be Selective

Table selection involves deliberately choosing a table to play at that gives you the best opportunity to leave with profits. The two key factors to consider when selecting a table are the types of players present and their positions relative to yours. 

Typically, loose-aggressive (LAG) players and maniacs are the ones who tend to make the most 3-bets. Too many of these players at your table can make your session more challenging as they will frequently prevent you from open-raising and are more likely to 3-bet you. 

Ideally, you should play at a table with just one or two LAG players at most and ensure that any 3-bettors are to your right so that you have a post-flop position against them. The ideal table would consist primarily of loose-passive fish and just you, whereas a nightmare table would comprise mostly LAGs and maniacs. Therefore, choosing tables closer to the fishy extreme is essential to give yourself a better chance of success.


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Look For 3-Bettors

Thinking ahead and anticipating how other players might react to your moves is crucial before making any decisions during a game. Specifically, when considering an open raise, it is essential to examine the players to your left and determine their likelihood of 3-betting, mainly through 3-bet bluffs. 

There are two methods to identify potential 3-bettors: observing them previously 3-bet bluffing in that position and looking at their 3-bet statistic by position, with a percentage over 7 indicating their penchant for 3-bet bluffing. 

One must also consider the number of opportunities they have had to 3-bet. If you anticipate a 3-bet and wish to avoid it, you have two options: increase your bet size or forego an open raise and fold instead. It may be better to fold a strong hand like QTs in certain situations if it is not solid enough for a call or a 4-bet bluff against players likely to 3-bet.

Use Bigger Open Raise Bets

Using a larger open-raise size can effectively deter opponents from 3-betting, regardless of whether they do so for value or as a bluff. When facing a larger 3-4bb 3-bet, players may hesitate to put more chips at risk if the bet hits their pain threshold. 

Additionally, players who would otherwise value 3-bet with poker hands, such as TT, JJ, and AQ, may need more confidence in the strength of their hands when facing a larger open raise, causing them to call instead simply. Therefore, it is recommended to use a larger open-raise size of between 3-4bb to discourage 3-bets. While some may suggest smaller open raises of 2-2.5bb in certain positions, this can lead to more calls and 3-bets.


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Consider Ranges

Understanding where you stand in your opening range is essential to success when facing 3-bets. To prepare for this, it is vital to create a chart of the hands you will play from each position at the start of the game and keep track of the number of possible combinations for each. 

After considering the level of aggressiveness of your opponent’s 3-bet, you should select a defensive frequency and then multiply your initial combinations by that percentage. This will give you the number of combinations you should defend against an average regular poker player.

Next, prepare which combos you will use to meet this defense frequency and categorize them into value 4-bets, calls, and a few 4-bet bluffs for balance. The bluffs should be hands that are not strong enough to call but have enough potential to flop something occasionally. This tactic represents a powerful method of safeguarding oneself against a 3-bet and is considered the typical approach for dealing with this scenario.

However, it’s important to note that you should drop your 4-bet bluffing range when facing opponents who are too crazy to fold to a 4-bet or too tight to have opened a non-premium hand in the first place.

Consider the Situation

Blindly following charts won’t guarantee success in poker. While using charts to develop a basic understanding of your defense strategy is helpful, we must be adaptable and aware of our specific circumstances. 

For instance, if an opponent’s 3-bet is too small, we must widen our defense range and prioritize hands with high implied odds. When out of position, we should be more conservative with our defense frequency, but we can loosen up a bit when in position. 

The value of sure hands changes based on stack sizes; for deeper stacks, pairs and suited/connected poker cards become more valuable, while big offsuit cards lose their worth.

On the other hand, with shallow stacks, it’s better to defend hands that can potentially make a strong one-pair hand and be profitable to stack off post-flop.


3-bet defense is a crucial aspect of poker that requires careful consideration of multiple factors, such as opponent tendencies, position, and hand strength. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, such as being selective with your table, looking for 3-bettors, using big open raise bets, considering ranges, and analyzing the situation, you can improve your chances of making the right decisions. 

However, note that every situation is unique, and no single approach guarantees success in poker. Ultimately, the key to success lies in developing a deep understanding of the game and making informed decisions based on the available information.