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3-betting vs calling: Why flatting wide preflop sucks

3-betting vs calling: Why flatting wide preflop sucks

Putting in a pre-flop three-bet when you have a premium hand is like choosing to watch Rounders for the gazillionth time when there’s nothing else on TV. It’s an easy decision that doesn’t require much consideration.

But when we have non-premium hands like offsuit broadways or weak ace-x blockers, think of three-betting like investing in stocks or cryptocurrency.

Most of us gladly put money into a pension plan or low-interest savings account knowing the potential gains on our investment are minimal. But when an opportunity comes up to invest a bit more into a stock with the potential to provide big immediate returns, we deem it “too risky”.

The same could be said of three-betting. Too many poker players opt to just flat-call with non-premium hands they could three-bet with because they’re scared it might not work out.

Here’s what they don’t want to know: flatting wide preflop sucks.

In his ‘Back to Basics’ webinar bundle for BBZ Poker, Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet tells a brief story about a friend of his who is very unpopular at his local card room.

“[The other players] hate him even though he’s the nicest guy because they all want to flat and see flops and he’s always raising. In fact, one day a woman even threw a water bottle at him. Then they all talk about how lucky he gets because he’s a big winner there.

“Three-betting strategies make you tougher to play against. But you know what? When you play poker and you’re playing to make money, you’re not there to make friends. You’re there to make the best decisions possible and to play the best you can.”

Think of what goes through your head when you’re weighing up the decision to call or three-bet.

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“Calling is cheap and I can get away easily when I miss the flop.”

It’s true that flatting is the cheaper option, but you’re going to miss the flop more often than you’re going to hit it. Moreover, by just calling you’re also letting more players enter the pot behind you depending on your position at the table, forcing your hand to work harder.

“[By calling], we let the big blind in for a cheap price,” says apestyles. “[Once we call], the players behind us actually have correct calls, and if they’re making correct calls that means they’re actually stealing EV from us.”

We should point out now that this article is not about playing from the big blind yourself. Different rules apply when we’re in the big blind closing the action.

“It’s fine to defend the big blind wide as we’re going to be heads-up a lot anyway,” apestyles emphasises.

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TIP: If you think you’re playing too weak from the big blind, you’re not alone. So did top streamer and BBZ Poker advocate Fintan “easywithaces” Hand. So he hit up Jordan “BigBluffZinc” Drummond  for coaching.

Check out our ‘BBZ & Fintan: Database Analysis’ video to watch Drummond and Hand analyse his PokerTracker stats, helping Hand plug the leaks in his big blind play.


“What if I three-bet and they four-bet?”

Another problem with calling wide with a weak range? A lot of the time you’re not even going to make it to the flop.

You should always have a plan when three-betting, and that plan should be based on your opponents’ stack sizes (everyone still in the hand, not just the opener), the range of hands you put them on, and their statistics (if you’re using a HUD).

If you’re not three-betting because you fear a four-bet, what are you going to do when you flat and another player (not the opener) three-bets?

By calling, you’re creating excellent squeeze spots for the players behind you and more often than not, you’re going to have to fold and lose what you’ve invested by calling.

We know it’s so tempting to flat for 2.1 big blinds when you have a stack of 40-50 big blinds. It might seem like a tiny investment. But over time, all of those lost investments add up.


“My hand isn’t great so I don’t want to inflate the pot.”

You’re 100 per cent right to be thinking about stack-to-pot ratios.

But remember: many hands, especially offsuit holdings, do much better in heads-up pots than they do in multiway pots.

By just calling, you’re giving other players the chance to make correct calls and see cheap flops–exactly what you’re also trying to do. If you three-bet, however, you get rid of those other players and your hand has a better chance of winning once heads-up.

“Offsuit broadway hands [in particular] benefit from getting heads-up because they’re known for hitting top pair,” says apestyles. “When we three-bet, the stack-to-pot is smaller and top pair becomes more valuable the shallower you are. When you’re deeper you want hands with robust equity, like six-seven suited, that can hit big hands.


“What if I three-bet and they call, then I miss the flop?”

Well, then you’re in the same position you’d be in had you just called, but the difference is you’ll likely have position and the benefit of being the last aggressor. This gives you all of the initiative.

When you flat call, your range is actually rather strong. According to apestyles, your range should be pretty close to that of the opener, if not stronger.

But when you flat, your opponent can remove the top parts of your range. Let’s say the flop comes ace-high. Your opponent can assume you don’t have pocket aces or AK as they are hands which you should almost always be three-betting. But they can definitely have AK or AQ, and sometimes even slow-played pocket aces.

So, to sum up, flatting wide can actually work against you and can make your post-flop decisions harder. Try and avoid spots where your range is capped, as great players will almost certainly take advantage.


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