Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dealing With Min 3bets

How to approach min 3bets in poker
Minimum bets in general are something that you will encounter a lot at the lowest stakes, especially NL2, NL4 (Merge) NL5 and NL10. This is because these limits are populated by more recreational players on average than any other. That's the polite term. More commonly they are referred to as fish!

One of the biggest problems that fish or newer players in general face is a deep misunderstanding of the math of the game. Now anyone who reads my blog, has watched my videos, read my book etc knows that I am not a big proponent of the math side of the game.

I advocate knowing just the basics such as pot odds, implied odds and a few basic hand odds such as the probability of a flush draw coming through for instance. All of this information can easily be found with a simple google search and digested in about 20 minutes of reading time. 

While knowing this basic stuff is important and will be crucial in certain spots I have long believed that the majority of the decisions that people make at the poker table really just boil down to logic, also often referred to as "common sense."

For instance, if there is $10 in the pot it does not make any logical sense to ever bet $1 because we give our opponent 11 to 1 on the pot. Virtually any hand possible, in any situation possible, can continue given those odds. But players at this level routinely make these plays. Instead of diving any deeper into the why, as I don't think it's very important, I think we should instead just focus on what to do when facing these specific types of bets.

And for the purposes of this article I am just going to focus on min 3bets.

A minimum 3bet just means exactly what it sounds like. Your opponent re-raised you the absolute minimum. This is also sometimes referred to as a CiB (click it back). Because in most poker software there is a button available to bet the minimum amount on every street. This way you can play limit hold'em while playing no limit hold'em. Fun for the whole family!

Minimum 3bets can mean a lot of different things depending on the player type. Sometimes they are the absolute nuts, AA or KK. But I think plenty of people give them too much credit. They are also some broadway hand such as KJ or even a mid pocket pair from time to time. And of course a certain amount of the time they will just be out and out trash as well. So it is important to view them with a pretty wide range in mind.

Now as I often say, I think the first thing that you should look at before anything else in a no limit hold'em cash game is your opponent's stack size. And by stack size I do not mean money. I mean big blinds. You really should train yourself to think solely in terms of them and be able to quickly interpret how many big blinds certain dollar or euro amounts mean at your stakes. I really, really wish poker rooms would just give us the ability to view stacks in big blinds but that is for another rant (I mean article).

There are wide variations in the actions that I will take when facing min 3bets depending on what stack size my opponent has 20bb, 50bb, 100bb, 200bb for instance.

Let's go from smallest to biggest.

20 big blinds

There are a couple of things first here. In today's online poker environment I believe virtually all rooms have gone to a 35 or 40bb minimum buyin for cash games and moved all the shorties to CAP or shallow games (thank God). So if somebody has 20bb they have likely lost at least half of their initial stack. The reason that this is important is because it tells us that they are not using the auto rebuy option that most poker rooms also offer these days.

These "stack size tells" can give us a lot of information about our opponent before we ever play a hand against them. Serious poker players and professionals will almost always buyin for 100bb or whatever the maximum amount is. And they will also almost always make use of the auto rebuy feature. So if you encounter somebody with a 20bb stack, they are almost certainly a fish.

Against a 20bb stack there isn't much room to manoeuvre after the flop even in a single raised pot. In a mini 3bet pot there is even less.

Say we open to 3bb and the shortstack min 3bet's us to 5bb. Add 1 more for the blinds and the pot on the flop will be 5+5+1=11bb. Since the shortstack only started the hand with 20bb and has already put in 5bb, he has only 15bb left which is just over a PSB (pot sized bet).

In these situations we can't ever really profitably call the min 3bet preflop and then fold the flop. We will be getting nearly 2 to 1 on his shove (15+11/15=1.73 to 1).

So we need to make our decision preflop on whether we want to continue on with the hand or not. And by continue I mean that we should just go all in. I suppose you could get tricky with AA or KK for instance and just call because it's an easy call or shove on any flop. But the only play that makes any sense the vast majority of the time here is to shove or fold.

50 big blinds

Versus a 50bb stack things get a little bit more interesting. Against this stack size we can call a min 3bet in some instances and then fold if we completely whiff the flop. This is because our opponent will have a lot more behind and therefore there is a little bit for us to win.

So while against these guys I would still advocate that you shove or fold most of the time, there is a little bit more wiggle room to call with a decent but not quite premium hand such as,

A♥J♥, A♦Q♠ or T♥T♦

And just get it in when you flop decently well.

100 big blinds

Versus a 100bb stack you will need to be calling quite a bit wider versus a min 3bet. When the stacks are 100bb deep and somebody min 3bet's you, it doesn't really change a whole lot about the complexion of the hand. There is still plenty of room to play all three streets postflop. And of course you have amazing odds to set mine or just hit something cool with a suited connector or broadway hand.

Especially when I am IP (in position) I don't think I fold pretty much anything versus a min 3bet given this stack size. Even if I am on the button and opening the trashiest part of my range. Maybe something like,


I would probably still call. The price is too good and I am confident that I can outplay my opponent (especially with the benefit of position) after the flop often enough to make up for my crappy hand.

200 big blinds

When the effective stacks (the lowest stack size in the hand) are anywhere north of about 150bb or more there is no hand that I will fold to a min 3bet whether I am IP or OOP. There is just so much stack behind to get (implied odds) that it's worth my while to call with anything. And remember that min 3bet's almost always come from really bad players so I expect to win a big pot plenty of the time when I hit something. Against a reg or somebody decent this wouldn't be the case nearly as often. But you also won't find them min 3betting you very often either.

Player Type and What a Min 3bet Means

Now that I have gone over some general guidelines regarding stack sizes when facing a min 3bet it is equally important to know which player type you are up against. Depending on the player type their range can vary widely and thus significantly impact our decision. Now as I said, it is mostly bad players who will be min 3betting us so I won't even talk about nits, TAG's or LAG's here (the broad banner known as regs).

I am going to be talking about
  • SLP's (semi-loose passives, 24/6 stats)
  • Fish (55/5 stats)
  • Maniacs (75/55 stats)
The first two categories, SLP and fish will have a much stronger range than a maniac when they min 3bet. A min 3bet for a maniac is a standard play. Many of them will literally min 3bet every single hand so their range is enormous.

None of this is an exact science of course but against somebody who has literally half the deck or more in their range you should be routinely just shoving over their min 3bet's when they have 20bb or even 50bb with a pretty big chunk of your range. Make sure to be aware of who is left to act behind you however, especially if you are deep.

Versus maniacs who have 100bb or more I will call pretty wide and just use their aggression against them for the most part. So you can easily call with plenty of mediocre hands such as,

A♥9♥, K♦J♠

And just become a calling station when you hit. There is often no point in raising them because they will just barrel the whole way with a ton of air hands and just put the money in the middle for you. Whereas if you raise they will just fold and only continue the few times where they actually have you beat.

Versus SLP and fish things are quite a bit different. There are definitely some really weak players in this category (ones with an extremely low PFR for instance) who will only min 3bet with a huge hand, sometimes AA or KK only. Versus these types of players I will usually just fold everything but my premium hands if they have a 50bb or less stack and cautiously call if they have more.

But against most SLP and fish their range is decently wide enough to warrant calling or shoving with plenty of my range when the stacks are 50bb or less and calling a lot when they are deeper. I don't really mess around with them much when I don't hit. But I don't really advocate messing around with fish much under most circumstances. The reason of course is pretty simple, they don't like to fold! And in "3bet" pots they will be even less likely to fold.

The great thing about players who make these min 3bets however is that they will often make min bets after the flop as well. So you can easily call their "cbet's" with your whole range and try to spike something ultra cheaply or just check down ace high for the win.

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Dealing With Min 3bets


  1. Nice article. Just for the record, players can still buy in for 20bb on the 888 network. There is usually at least one player on each 888 2NL table with just 40c. They are a pain in the arse, but easy to read, as the better shortstackers only seem to play pairs, AQs and AK.

  2. Thanks Arty. And for the info too. Never played there.