3-betting and Squeezing - Short Handed Poker Strategy
To start off with: A 3-bet is raising someone preflop. So your opponent raises, with or without limpers, and you re-raise him. This is the infamous 3-bet.
Nowadays, 3-betting is a very trendy thing to do. It's a loose-aggressive (LAG) move and LAG is cool, so lets take a deeper look at how we can be cool as well.
While back in the day many hands were decided on the flop, it has become a lot more popular these days for players to take over the initiative themselves. People are playing a lot more loose than they used to, especially on 6-max tables, and this automatically widens the possible range of hands that your opponents are playing. This means that you have less implied odds when playing hands like , because your opponents have weaker hands with which they will rarely put all their chips at risk.
In order to solve this problem, we now prefer to pick up their opening-raise preflop, together with blinds of course. If you do end up seeing a flop, you now have the initiative and can often pick up the pot after a c-bet on the flop. I started getting into 3-betting sometime in 2007. I re-raised a player with (or something like that) and I missed the flop. I c-bet and my opponent folded. Then I thought, since this works so often with hands like AK, AQ and AJ, why shouldn't it also work with . In principle, your are doing exactly the same thing, and to your opponent you are representing the same hand. That's when I started experimenting with 3-betting.
It is very important to always 3-bet the same amount. Of course you can vary your bets to some extent, but one thing you need to make sure is that his implied odds are getting less. If you are in position you can make a very standard re-raise. What I usually do is 3x his raise + 1 big blind. If there was a limper in front of the raiser I will usually make it 3x the raise + 2bb. If I am out of position (i.e. in the blinds) and I re-raise, I will always raise a little more, for example 3x his raise + 3bb. He now has position ,and therefore more implied odds than when he is out of position. By adding a couple of big blinds to your re-raise it will become more marginal for your opponents to call with certain hands.
Just to clarify things, here is the difference between 3-betting and squeezing. When 3-betting, there is a raiser and you re-raise him. When squeezing, there is a raiser AND a caller. You call this a squeeze because the initial raiser still has a player left to act behind him who could also have a hand. You are therefore putting a lot of pressure on the initial raiser and you are 'squeezing' him in between two other players, which will make him fold his hand more easily against a squeeze than against a 3-bet. Your timing here will have to be very strong, because the fact that there are several people in the pot also counts for you. The ideal situation in my opinion is the following: Lets say we're playing a $2/$4 short-handed table and the hijack raises to $16. The cut-off calls and we raise to $60. We have position, there is a lot of 'dead' money in the pot and we are putting a lot of pressure on the initial raiser. The caller of the raise often has a weak hand himself, otherwise he would have probably raised his hand.
If the original raiser folds and the caller is now starting to put up a lot of resistance I usually don't give that player a lot of respect. You will almost always see him have a pair or AQ, AJ. Suited connectors will usually be folded against your re-raise. When talking about 3-betting we are usually focussing on short-handed tables, as it is at these tables where the move is mostly applied. You wouldn't want to re-raise an UTG raiser at a full-ring table. That would be suicide. At 9-max tables, an UTG raise is almost always a sign of strength, so you just have to give the player the respect. Try to focus you 3-betting and squeezing on late-position raisers when at full-ring tables.
Back to short handed games. Now we know round about what amount we are going to raise to. But how much do we bet on the flop? You often see people firing out huge c-bets. I am more a fan of the keeping your c-bet relatively low. This way, you will get more action on your strong 3-bet hands like AA and KK and, at the same time, save money when bluffing. Do, however, make sure to always bet the same amount, otherwise you will become very predictable for your opponents. When c-bet bluffing I would stick to the normal rules that we discussed in the c-bet article. Lets say we're sitting at a $2/$4 short-handed NL table and a player raises to $16. We 3-bet to ($16x3+1bb) = $52. The blinds fold and our friend the raiser calls. The pot is now $110. You will see many players now fire out a c-bet of around $100, while I think it makes more sense to just bet $78 or $80 here. This gives you a lot more leeway for your bluffs and if you have a strong hand you will still get action from the weaker hands. If, for example, you 3-bet with in this situation and the flop comes , I cant imagine you getting any action from weaker hands if you c-bet $110 (pot). Of course hands like KQ and AK will stay in the hand, but a hand like 77 will never make the call. If, on the other hand, you c-bet $80, it will often be the case that you will get called. Nonetheless, bluffs still work fine as well. You could, for example, bet $80 of the flop, check a blank turn and make a valuebet of around $180 on the river. This usually works really well because you are representing pot-control with AK or AA here. Also try to c-bet very quickly. This is a reverse timing tell that often works well when trying to represent strength.
Whenever you find yourself in a 3-bet situation where you are bluffing, just think about how you would play the hand if you had aces. Hereby you will always represent strength and your bluffing becomes very convincing. I haven't yet mentioned a range of hands with which to 3-bet because frankly, the hand itself doesn't really matter. The goal of a squeeze or a 3-bet is not necessarily to play a flop, but to pick up the pot and work on your table image. Players will find you unpredictable and will also give you action with your strong hands. Do make sure, however, that you don't turn into a spew-monkey and just keep on 3-betting everything, because then your opponents will start pushing all-in on a regular basis. You can, of course, give them this impression and then start 3-betting a little tighter and make your opponents run into your strong hands. Timing remains to be very important, especially at short handed tables. If I, for example, already 3-bet a player twice and on a different table this player opens preflop again and I'm in the small blind with , I will often just fold that hand, because I am now likely to get more action than I really want with this hand, and just flatcalling out of position is not an option with a hand like .
Of course there are also the situations where we aren't the aggressor but the opener, and another player re-raises us preflop. I usually play very tight against 3-bets, but in general I don't tend to let hands go. Back in the day I would often just push over his 3-bet, but the problem with that is that you have to do the same thing when bluffing. Today I prefer the nasty 4-bet. I'm calling this a nasty 4-bet because I'm actually re-re-raising very small. Just to stick to the example of the $2/$4 table: We open to $16 and someone re-raises to $52. What you often see in this situation is that players will 4-bet about 3x the re-raise (sometimes even more), which in this case would be $156. First of all, you are not really giving the other players the impression that you are still going to fold, so with monster hands this move is far too aggressive, while you are risking a lot of money when doing this as a bluff. You can often achieve the same effect of a bluff by raising only 2.5x the re-raise, making it $128 or something along those lines. This usually works fine, and in addition you are still giving your opponent the chance to push with his AQ or TT because he thinks you are bluffing. If you were indeed bluffing, you can now still fold your hand. If you get flatcalled (which rarely happens), just pretend to be playing Aces when bluffing, and when you actually have Aces, play them as though you're bluffing.
Also try and vary your 4-bets a little bit, but in general I will fold or call 3-bets. My image is very aggressive, so therefore I usually only 4-bet with very strong hands, and even then people still think I'm bluffing and push over my 4-bet, because I am giving them the leeway to do so.
When calling re-raises, make sure to look at your implied odds. It doesn't make much sense to call a normal re-raise with when both of you are playing stacks of 100 big blinds. The flop just doesn't hit your hand often enough. You also need to watch out with pocket pairs. If your opponent is tight, he will usually have a strong hand when re-raising, so in this case it would be alright to call for setvalue. If, on the other hand, the player is very aggressive, there is often not much point in calling, because when you finally do hit your set he might only be holding 3-high. It's a very irritating feeling to always have to check/fold after being 3-bet. Also try to make sure to be in position as much as possible when playing against 3-bets.
If I do end up flopping something I usually play hyper-aggressive. Even if I flop a set, if my opponent c-bets I will often push. If I flop a flush draw, same story. Or if, for example, you have , they re-raise, you call and the flop comes . If they c-bet now I will also just push, as a sort of semi-bluff. You will be amazed at how often you will pick up the pot as a result. This also makes sure you stay unpredictable and creates a better balance between your bluffs and your monsters, and your strong hands will now also get more action.
It is, by the way, not a bad idea to just flatcall every now and then with your high pocket pair when being re-raised. Of course you need to make sure that you don't get 40 other players into the pot as well, as that would make the rest of the hand rather difficult to play, but when up against just one player, it can be a good idea to just flatcall with AA every now and then. Often your opponent will think that he is holding the best hand with JJ or TT when going to the flop. Anyway, experiment with it a little bit. You can always choose to go down a limit in order to minimise the swings. Confidence is also very important when 3-betting your opponents. You will be a danger at the table and players will think twice before attacking your big blind next time. BOW DOWN