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The No-Limit Toolbox — The Light Preflop 3-Bet

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Simple Poker Tips from Noted Poker Authority The No-Limit Toolbox is a new series that showcases the array of tactics available to no-limit players.

The Play: The Light Preflop 3-Bet

How It Works: Someone raises, and you have position on them (and are on the button or near it). You put in a semi-bluff reraise, everyone folds, and you pick up the pot.

The Play In Action: You’re on the button in a $2-$5 game with $800. Everyone has you covered. An aggressive player opens two off the button for $15, and the next player folds. You have T :diamond: 9 :diamond: and make it $40 to go. Everyone folds.

Why It’s Good: It can be a great way to use your position to punish players who open too loosely out of position. Even if they call your semi-bluff raise, you’ll often be in a favorable situation postflop with position and the initiative. You’ll have a fair amount of leverage to force a fold on the flop or turn. Obviously, it also mixes up your play so your 3-bets aren’t always strong hands.

When It Works: The Light Preflop 3-Bet works well when you expect to have position on one player if you get called and when the initial raiser is likely to have a wide range. Naturally it will also work well against weak-tight players who will fold all but their best hands to your reraise. It’s a stack size-sensitive play (as are almost all no-limit plays). If the stacks are short, then you’re more likely to get called and won’t have enough behind to gain leverage on the flop. The stack sizes in the above example work well: After your opponent calls your reraise, the pot will be $80-something, and you’ll have $760 remaining which is plenty to put pressure on your opponents when they have marginal hands.

When It Doesn’t Work: The Light Preflop 3-Bet doesn’t work well when the stacks are relatively shallow and your opponent is tight. If you have $300 in a $2-$5 game and a tight player opens for $20, making it $50 with a suited connector (or other semi-bluffing hand) will often get you into trouble. If he’s got a big pair, you may find yourself getting called and then checkraised all-in on the flop. Overall that scenario (shortish stacks/tight opponents) often boils down to too much risk for too little reward.

Variations: You can try the play with some limpers, or even after some people have called the initial raise, a la The Preflop Squeeze.

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6 Responses to “The No-Limit Toolbox — The Light Preflop 3-Bet”

@ Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:19:02 AM

This is a play I have been using more lately. However, I was under the impression that T9s isn’t the best hand to do this with since you can call a raise with it profitably. Specifically, I would be more apt to do with T7s since I don’t mind “wasting” T7s if I am to get 4-bet.

@ Sun Jun 17, 2007 03:29:20 AM

The above comment on the light PF 3 bet has got me thinking . t9s isnt the best hand to do this with since you can call a raise with it profitably….. Now to the big question where can you find the data to support this. I seem to be folding a lot of hands to raises in cash games. I would really like to know . I am talking about playing in B and M cash games not online.Hope youcan help me on this ED Thankyou

@ Mon Jun 18, 2007 02:13:33 PM

I think you’re far better off flat-calling than 3-betting. You have position and a hand that can hit and win a big pot. Also, you’re going to find yourself in situations where you can steal on the turn and river if the board is scary enough and your opponent seems weak. This is better than reraising though because you’re investing less money preflop and saving it for after the flop when you’ll most use your positional advantage.

@ Mon Jun 18, 2007 02:22:24 PM

What’s the difference between The Light Preflop 3-Bet and The Preflop Squeeze?

Ed Miller
@ Tue Jun 19, 2007 01:30:15 AM

threads13 and bsheck,

While I agree that often calling with T9s would be as good or better, I disagree that it’s always or “by far” the better play. It really depends a lot on how your opponent plays. If they’re super loose and likely to go off for a big one if you hit a hand, then calling tends to be better.

But if they aren’t so willing to stack off, then your implied odds won’t be as good, and you may actually be better off playing a somewhat bigger pot (or just wining immediately) because you have to rely more heavily on stealing.

And, just so it’s clear, the light preflop 3-bet can be made “lighter” than T9s, and in those cases I suppose there would be less of an argument about whether calling or 3-betting would be better. (Perhaps I should have just used a weaker hand as the example to simplify things. After all, this is “Poker Made Simple”.)

Ed Miller
@ Tue Jun 19, 2007 01:32:40 AM


Well, there’s no hard-and-fast difference between the plays. Except a squeeze play requires at least one caller, and the light 3-bet doesn’t require any.

And the light 3-bet tends to be more like a semi-bluff, while the squeeze shades more like an outright bluff… as if your squeeze gets called, chances are you’re in much bigger trouble than when your light 3-bet gets called… especially if you’ve followed directions for the light 3-bet and done it in position. :)

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