Facing 3-bets pre-flop in tournaments
I decided that my learning topic this week would be facing 3-bets pre-flop. I don’t think I have ever thought about how to deal with these strategically, so this is my attempt at approaching the topic methodically and giving myself a framework for dealing with 3-bets.

Harrington on Hold’em is a great series of books for tournament players and I would definitely recommend picking it up. Some elements are slightly outdated (he recommends opening 3x, and sometimes even 4x or 5x), but on the whole it is so sound and really helps build a solid game. I am working through it for the third time at the moment and he has a great framework for dealing with 3-bets. Here are the things Harrington says you should consider:

• Your hand. Do you have a solid hand or was it a marginal open for your position?
• How many players are left behind the 3-bettor. The more players left to act after them, the less likely they are 3-betting light. However, if they are the last to act, and you have already shown an ability to fold to 3-bets, then their 3-bet is less credible.
• How many players are in the pot. The more players in the pot, the stronger the 3-bet is.
• What will the positions be post-flop. You can call with slightly weaker holdings if the 3-bettor is in the blinds and you will have position post-flop.
• What are the pot odds. Calculate the pot odds. Even if the 3-bettor has a range that is stronger than your hand, if you are still getting enough equity against that range then it might be correct to call, depending on the situation in the tournament.
• How aggressive the 3-bettor. If a villain has been 3-betting a lot and being generally loose aggressive then it might be correct to call.
• What is the situation in the tournament. If it is pre-ante and both you and raiser are deep then it is probably correct to play more conservatively, particularly with hands where you might be dominated (AJ, KT, QJ). By contrast, if stacks are shallower and the blind pressure is increasing, it might be necessary to make a move.

Here are three hand histories from my previous play to analyse my play against these factors.

PokerStars - $5+$0.50|10/20 NL (6 max) - Holdem - 6 players
Hand converted by PokerTracker 4: http://www.pokertracker.com

CO: 4,940 (VPIP: 100.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 1)
BTN: 4,320 (VPIP: 100.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 1)
SB: 5,800 (VPIP: 100.00, PFR: 100.00, 3Bet Preflop: 100.00, Hands: 1)
BB: 4,940 (VPIP: 100.00, PFR: 100.00, 3Bet Preflop: -, Hands: 1)
Hero (UTG): 5,000
MP: 5,000 (VPIP: 0.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 1)

SB posts SB 10, BB posts BB 20

Pre Flop: (pot: 30) Hero has Qs Ah
Hero raises to 60, fold, fold, BTN raises to 210, fold, fold, Hero calls 150

Flop : (450, 2 players) 3c 7c 8c
Hero checks, BTN bets 225, Hero calls 225

Turn : (900, 2 players) 2d
Hero checks, BTN bets 450, fold

BTN wins 900

1) My hand is ok but it is not a made hand and could be dominated by AK. It would be an easier decision if suited.

2) There are still two people to act behind the villain, but the villain will have position on both of them so that widens his range slightly.
3) There is only myself in the pot, so the 3-bet does not have to be as strong.
4) Post flop the villain will have position on me, so I am almost certain to be facing a continuation bet.
5) I am getting exactly 2:1 so I only need 33% equity. If villain is holding AK I am only getting 25%. If villain is holding KK I only have 28%. Again JJ or lower I am getting 43%.  If we give villain a range of TT+, AQ+, I have 34% so I am getting just about the right odds to call.
6) This is only the second hand of the tournament so we have no information.
7) We are 250bb deep and pre-ante.

It is a pretty marginal spot. Although I am UTG, it is 6-max, so the 3-bettors range could be pretty wide.  He has position, we are deep, so it is a good spot for him. I think a call is ok. The flop should have been a fold though: against the assigned range I only had 18%.

[PokerStars - $5+$0.50|30/60 NL (6 max) - Holdem - 6 players

Hand converted by PokerTracker 4: http://www.pokertracker.com

Hero (UTG): 6,348
MP: 919 (VPIP: 43.48, PFR: 4.35, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 23)
CO: 6,702 (VPIP: 42.31, PFR: 15.38, 3Bet Preflop: 9.09, Hands: 27)
BTN: 4,566 (VPIP: 73.08, PFR: 34.62, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 26)
SB: 7,115 (VPIP: 46.15, PFR: 30.77, 3Bet Preflop: 13.33, Hands: 26)
BB: 4,115 (VPIP: 16.67, PFR: 11.11, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 1

SB posts SB 30, BB posts BB 60

Pre Flop: (pot: 90) Hero has Ah Td
Hero raises to 150, MP raises to 919 and is all-in, fold, BTN calls 919, fold, fold, Hero calls 769

Flop : (2,847, 3 players) 9s 4c 5c
Hero checks, BTN bets 360, fold

Turn : (2,847, 2 players) Jc

River : (2,847, 2 players) 9h

MP shows Th Kd (One Pair, Nines)
(Pre 72%, Flop 81%, Turn 75%)

BTN shows Kc 8s (One Pair, Nines)
(Pre 28%, Flop 19%, Turn 25%)

MP wins 2,847

1) My hand is marginal and easily dominated.
2) Still 4 players to act behind the 3-bettor.
3) I am the only person in the pot.
4) Post-flop position is irrelevant initially as villain is all in. However the cold caller has position on me.
5) After the cold-caller joins in I have 2.7:1 which are good odds. I may well not have the 27% I need though.
6) Both players are playing very wide: 43/4 and 73/35 respectively. The 3-bettor only has 15bb though so he is at push fold. If he were competent I would expect him to only be shoving with hands that have ATo beat, although given his loose-passive play I am not assuming he is competent.
7) I have over 106bb, we are pre-ante, and with ATo you are only likely to win small pots and lose big ones.

Given the dynamic, this should have been a fold. I will make a big note that the player on the button cold-called an UTG open and an MP shove with K8o, and that he bet into the pot with air when there no side pot, so he does not seem to have a sound understanding of the game.

PokerStars - $5+$0.50|50/100 Ante 10 NL (6 max) - Holdem - 5 players
Hand converted by PokerTracker 4: http://www.pokertracker.com

Hero (SB): 5,954
BB: 4,780 (VPIP: 50.00, PFR: 50.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 2)
UTG: 3,857 (VPIP: 58.97, PFR: 23.08, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 39)
CO: 16,279 (VPIP: 51.28, PFR: 33.33, 3Bet Preflop: 15.00, Hands: 39)
BTN: 3,895 (VPIP: 19.35, PFR: 12.90, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 31)

5 players post ante of 10, Hero posts SB 50, BB posts BB 100

Pre Flop: (pot: 200) Hero has Jd 5d
fold, fold, fold, Hero raises to 200, BB raises to 700, Hero calls 500

Flop : (1,450, 2 players) 7h Qd Ts
Hero checks, BB bets 700, Hero raises to 1,900, fold

Hero wins 2,850

1) My hand is obviously trash even if it is suited. This was a blind and ante steal.
2) There are no players behind the 3-bettor so his range could be just as wide as mine, although probably it has some semblance of strength.
3) It is just me in the pot which again means his range could be wide.
4) Post-flop he has position, again his range could be wide.
5) His 3-bet was large so I am only getting 1.9:1. Not good odds.
6) I only have two hands on the villain.
7) We now have antes so there is more money to fight for, although there are only 5 players at the table so the pot isn’t huge. I have 60bb and the second largest stack at the table so things aren’t time critical.

This should have been a fold because of the bet sizing. If they had made it 400 I wouldn’t have minded calling and trying to take it away post-flop.