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 9 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.