Betting Strategies for Hold Em

written by: John

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With poker getting increasingly aggressive each and every day, it is becoming imperative that players learn many of the newer strategies to ensure that they avoid being ran over at the tables while at the same time try to run over a couple of their own.

A few of the many strategies that players should concern themselves with would be 3 betting, check raising and continuation betting. All of these strategies are very aggressive maneuvers and can be extremely profitable since it gives the player using them dominance through out the hand.

To gain further understanding of these plays as well as a few tips on where or where not to use them, please continue reading below.

3 Betting

A definition of 3 betting, or 3-bet for short, is where player A makes a raise and then faces a re-raise behind him from player B. This is considered a "3-bet" because the big blind (player C) already put in a forced bet, then there was a raise and then a re-raise after that for 3 bets total. Typically, this is an aggressive move that is done pre-flop with a very tight hand range such as AA's thru QQ's and A-K.

I say 'typically' because a re-raise should be only done with really good hands. But nowadays, the aggression factor in poker has been turned up to high with players opening up pots loosely with wide hand ranges so of course, it only makes sense to adapt to that. So in addition to 3 betting, we also have 3-betting 'light.'

So the common questions that arises are, when do you 3-bet? What do you 3-bet with? What do you do when you face a 3-bet? Well, like anything else in poker this will depend on your opponents.

For example, let's say that you were in late position with A-K and a loose aggressive player opened the pot up in early position. This guy has been active all day long and has shown down less than par hands. So your A-K is of course strong and probably dominating anything your opponent is playing so this would be a good spot to 3-bet. If your opponent put in bet of $30, you would re-pop him to about $80 to $90. This will accomplish a couple of things; one, if he has a hand he will more than likely come over the top and then you can re-evaluate and see if you want to flip with your A-K. Two, if he folds then you win the pot. One way or another you are gaining something, whether it is information or chips. 

Another thing to point out about 3-betting LAG players is that you can 3-bet them 'light.' Meaning, you would suspect that they are opening the pot with a wider range of hands, right. Say, A-6+, K-9+ and most suited connectors and small pairs. So with this knowledge you can actually 3-bet him with much lighter than you would a tight aggressive player because they would have to figure you have a much better hand then the cards they typically open up with. If they of course want to 4-bet you (another raise) then you can assume you're beaten if you're 3-betting light. This can be a profitable move if you can target the right players.

For a different example, let's say you were in the same seat but with A-10 against a tight opponent who opened in early position for a $30 raise. Would you 3-bet here? I probably wouldn't simply because if a tight aggressive player or rock were opening up the pot, I would figure that I would need a good hand to call, much less 3-bet. A-10 is too likely to be dominated by other hands in his range such as A-K, A-Q and all top pairs.

What do you do in the event that you are 3-betted? Say for example you were in late position, everyone folded to you and you were in the cut-off and decided to raise and steal the blinds but the big blind decided to re-raise you. Well, this would depend on a couple things. What is this player's image? If he were tight then it would make sense to think he has a strong hand and then fold or only proceed with a strong hand. What is your image? If you have been stealing blinds all day, maybe the big blind is tired of it and is standing up to you. In short, it will more or less depend on what has been happening at the table. Depending on your cards, there are arguments for 4 betting (only do with good hands) or an argument for flat calling since you will be in position the whole time and can re-evaluate your situation on the flop.

There really are countless examples of when, where and how to act when 3 betting or facing a 3-bet. But the most important aspect if you haven't noticed by now is that all of our examples have been with us in late position. It is very important to be in position when 3 betting so you can evaluate the action before acting yourself and make an educated decision.

Check Raising

The check raise is simply what it sounds like. You decide to check, someone else behind you bets and you re-raise them. This is another aggressive tactic and one that tends to work better out of position.

Check raising tends to work better out of position because you are the first to act. So, if you have a strong hand and check it then it would make sense for your opponent to bet into you in hopes to steal the pot. From here, you would check raise or flat call in attempt to check raise on the turn.

For example, let's say you were on the big blind with a pair of 10s. A villain on the button decides to go ahead and raise it 3 times the big blind and since you have a decent hand and already have some money committed, you decide to make the call. You then see a flop of 10-A-9 which gives you trips. Instead of leading out here, you should go ahead and check to your opponent. Why? Well, chances are your opponent will take a stab at the pot simply because he or she is in position to do so, let alone the fact that they probably connected with the board themselves. By check raising them here, it is possible that you can get your stack in against them or just take down a decent size pot. Both would be great for you.

It is important to note that you should have a good read on your opponents before attempting to check raise. The reason for that is that if you have a very passive opponent that likes to go with the flow, it is very possible that this player will check behind you which of course means you lost money on that betting round with your hand. Always keep in mind that check raising will work way better when you have aggressive opponents behind you.

Continuation Betting

The continuation bet is when you make a raise pre-flop, are called and you continue your aggression on the flop by being the first to make a raise. This is often done regardless of whether or not you actually connect with the flop.

At one point, the c-bet got lots of respect as it was assumed (and rightfully so) that the aggressor pre-flop had a large pocket pair or connected with the flop in some way and was betting for value.

However, c-betting has become a standard play and it is just as standard to call or raise a c-bet than it is to make one. So it is important to make a c-bet against the right flops and the right opponents. Let's look at an example.

Let's say you were in early position with Ah-Kh, raised it to 3 times the big blind and got one caller from a tight player. The flop is 5h-3d-9s. This is a good flop to c-bet on simply because it is very uncoordinated and with your opponent being tight, it is highly likely that he didn't connect with it all. So this is a spot where you'd want to continue the aggression and lead out for a 2/3 pot size bet. In most cases, you would take the pot down without a fight and if you do get played back at, you can simply fold.

For another example, let's say that you have Kd-10d and raise it from MP and the button calls. You see a flop of Ah-9h-5h. This would be a spot that you would want to probably avoid c-betting because the board is so coordinated between a flush draw and the simple fact that your opponent could've have paired the ace. In a situation like this, I would check-fold or check-check and see what the turn looks like.  

Although the c-bet is heavily used and rarely respected anymore, it still holds plenty of value. If you tend to be a player who c-bets every flop there will a come a time when you have a much better hand than what your opponent is giving you credit for and you can easily take advantage of that.

Betting Strategies in Hold'em

Although these examples above were slightly vague, they should still give you an idea of what 3 betting, check raising and continuation betting is and general spots that you would look to use these strategies in.

It is also important to note that even though these strategies can prove to be extremely profitable when used correctly, the exact opposite can also be true when over used or abused in any way. Just be sure to use these strategies sparingly and only after you have evaluated the situation to ensure that then when you do make these plays, it proves to be a money making play.