How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide [2024]

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide
Learning how to defend against 3-Bets well in today's small stakes poker games will be a big key to your success. This is when you raise preflop and then somebody re-raises you back.

It is important that you find that fine balance between knowing when to call, fold or get even more aggressive by re-raising them right back (also known as a 4-Bet).

We don’t want to become one of those easily exploitable regs who fold to 3Bets way too much. But we also don’t want to just mindlessly call 3Bets with no plan on how to win the pot either. Because this is an even faster way to lose money!

So the real key to a successful 3Bet defending strategy is knowing when to call, when to 4Bet and knowing when to simply back down and choose a different battle to fight.

Now of course nearly everything in poker is infinitely easier to do while in position. So I would certainly suggest defending wider when you are in position as a default strategy.

This means that your calling range when you are in position should always be a little bit wider than when you are out of position. Let's break it down a bit further than this though.

What Should Your 3Bet Calling Range Be?

So what range of hands should you actually defend against a 3Bet with then? Well, it depends a lot on our position but even more importantly on the player type.

We want to know exactly how wide their range is when they 3Bet us. This is where your observational skills will come into play if you play live.

How active have they been lately? Have you seen them 3Betting frequently before? What hands have they shown up with when they 3Bet?

If you play online then you can just refer to the 3Bet% stat on your HUD. Most Nits and TAGfish (tight regulars) will have a 3Bet of somewhere around 5% at the most.

Here is an example of what a 5% 3Bet range might look like:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

However, many of the TAGs, LAGs and Maniacs (aggressive regs and aggro fish) at these stakes will 3Bet you with a much wider range of 8%, 10% or even higher.

Here is an example of what a 10% 3Bet range might look like:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

As you can see there are a lot more weak pairs, broadways and even purely speculative hands like suited connectors in this range.

So clearly, we are going to need a very different strategy versus these two ranges. Also, keep in mind that in some cases we will be 4Betting. More on that in the next section.

  • IP = In position
  • OOP = Out of position
  • S = Suited only

1. My calling range versus a 5% 3Bet when IP:

AK, AQ, AJs, KQs and 66+

I will keep it relatively tight versus a 5% 3Bet even when I am in position due to how strong their range is. It doesn’t matter what the player type is, getting somebody to fold their aces or kings isn’t easy!

With that said though, there are still many more combos of hands like AK and AQ in their range which will miss the flop 2 out of 3 times. I expect to be able to outplay a lot of my opponents in position, especially the bad regs.

2. My calling range versus a 5% 3Bet when OOP:

AK, AQ and 88+

When I am out of position I will tighten up my calling range even more because it will be a lot harder to move somebody off of a strong hand while having to act first on every street.

Also, another key drawback to being OOP is that it is much more difficult to extract full value when we finally do hit our hand.

3. My calling range versus a 10% 3Bet when IP:

AK, AQ, AJ, ATs, A9s, KQ, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 22+

I will defend a lot more often versus a 10% 3Bet because of how much wider their range is. They are 3Betting us light frequently and therefore I will take advantage of this by calling a lot wider as well.

I will be looking to use my position in order to outplay them after the flop on many different board textures.

4. My calling range versus a 10% 3Bet when OOP:

AK, AQ, AJs, ATs, KQs, 66+

Even though I know they will be 3Betting me wide I have to tighten up my calling range when OOP a little bit. And this is for all of the same reasons that we just discussed above.

It is just simply much harder to outplay someone when you have to act first on every single street. Also, it is much more difficult to get paid off when we actually do make a hand.

Example - Calling a 3-Bet From a Tight Player

You raise from middle position with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A Nit in the big blind 3Bets you

You should CALL

This hand is a little bit close. We already know how strong of a range some Nits can have when they 3Bet. Therefore, there is a decent chance that we are a mathematical underdog at the moment.

But given the fact that we are in position against a weaker reg we can probably turn this into a +EV call. And we will accomplish this by making some plays at the pot after the flop even when we miss.

If you are not prepared to make a few light calls and bluffs postflop then you would be better off folding preflop here.

Luckily there are tons of easy ways to take away pots from the tight players.

Example - Folding Versus a 3-Bet from a TAG

You raise from middle position with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A TAG on the button 3Bets you

You should FOLD

Even though we know that this tight and aggressive (TAG) player’s range is going to be very wide here, I still prefer a fold in this situation.

The reason why is because it is going to be very difficult to win the pot after the flop with a small pair OOP versus a good player.

Unless we happen to flop a set (only happens 1 in 8.5 times), we are likely to be looking at a board full of overcards. This will make it very difficult to make any plays at the pot especially when OOP.

Sometimes the smart money in poker is knowing when NOT to fight back. This is one of those spots where it is going to be difficult to turn a profit. The great play is simply folding and cutting your losses now.

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How to Dominate 4-Bet Pots

Truthfully though, one of the best counters to a 3-Bet is actually just to 4-Bet them. This is one of my biggest money-making plays in recent years because it lays the hammer down especially on the aggressive regs.

The beautiful thing about poker is that there is always a counter to any style of play. If they are going to 3-Bet you wide, then you can just go ahead and 4-Bet them wide as well.

However, it is important not to get too ahead of ourselves here. Remember that a 4Bet tends to commit nearly 1/4 of our stack. So it is very important that we don’t just go randomly 4Betting people whenever we feel like it.

As we just discussed above, many of the weak/tight regs (Nits and TAGfish) that you will find at the lower stakes are 3Betting with a strong range. Therefore it would be a really bad idea to start 4Betting them light a lot.

In fact, against these kinds of players there really is no secret 4Betting strategy here. Your hands are completely tied. You really should only be 4Betting them for value with strong premium hands.

The same thing goes for the recreational players (the fish) but for different reasons. Since we have such a massive skill advantage against them, unless we have an absolutely huge hand it is better to just keep the pot small and outplay them after the flop.

So you can probably guess by now that we will be 4Betting most frequently versus the good regs, TAGs and LAGs. These are the players who are most likely to be 3Betting you with a wide range.

And therefore, they won’t be able to stand a re-raise.

It is a really good idea to start learning some higher level advanced poker strategy like this in today's games if you really want to start crushing good players.

What Hands Should You 4-Bet Bluff the Regs With?

Now the key to this strategy is to 4-Bet them with all of our big value hands but also to throw in some bluffs on occasion as well. I like to employ a roughly 2/1 ratio of value hands to bluffs.

This means that roughly 1 out of every 3 times that I 4Bet them, it will be a bluff. 2 out of 3 times though, I have a monster.

This makes it very difficult for them to find an effective counter strategy. They know that we have bluffs in our range but they also know that they are going to get stung more often than not.

This in turn will cause them to think twice about 3Betting us light in the future. There are just too many other regs out there who are easier targets for them.

Here is my 4Bet range versus a TAG or LAG with a high 3Bet%:

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ, A5s, A4s, A3s

So we have all of the usual big premium hands in this range. I won’t always 4Bet all of these hands. Sometimes I will just flat depending on the situation and in order to mix things up. But for the most part, I am 4Betting all of them for value.

But then there is also a grouping of small suited aces in this range as well. These are the bluff hands. There are a couple of reasons why I choose them in particular.

Firstly, small suited aces act as good blockers versus other ace hands. When we have an ace in our hand it just makes it statistically less likely that our opponent also has one.

Secondly, small suited aces tend to have some decent equity (roughly 30%) versus big pairs like KK, QQ, JJ or TT. Not only can they make top pair against these hands but also the nut flush and the wheel straight.

So this gives us a better chance of simply “getting lucky” sometimes which is always a good thing.
Lastly, it should be noted that position isn’t really that important when 4Betting because most of the time I expect the hand to end right there.

Let’s look at an example.

Example - 4Bet Bluffing an Aggressive Reg

You open raise from the cutoff with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A TAG villain 3Bets you from the button

You should 4Bet BLUFF

This is a spot where we don’t really want to be calling out of position. Our hand is simply too weak and playing OOP versus a good player sucks.

However, instead of just folding (which is a guaranteed LOSS) there is considerable value here in 4Betting light versus this player once in a while.

The reason why is because we know that an aggressive TAG like this is likely to be 3Betting us very wide here especially in a button versus cutoff situation.

The better regs are often fully aware that our range is going to be wide from a steal seat. Therefore, they will adjust by widening their 3Betting range especially when IP.

But since we know this as well, then we can take it to the next level and make the great play of widening our 4Betting range.

This play puts all of the pressure back on our opponent to show up with a real hand. And since they know that most of the time we will actually have the goods here, it makes it very difficult for them to call us or shove all the money in.

They know that they are going to get snap called by hands like AA, KK, QQ or AK plenty of the time. Find a spot like this to outplay a good reg preflop even just once a session and you have yourself a very nice new profit source.

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Final Thoughts

Learning how to defend against 3-Bets efficiently in today's micro stakes games is an extremely important part of your success. The real key is learning when to call, when to let go and when to shove it right back in their face with a 4-Bet.

As with nearly everything in poker, the most important consideration is what type of player you are up against. As we saw, the aggressive regs and aggro fish will have a much wider range than the weak/tight regs. It is very important to know the difference here.

Position also plays a key role because if we decide to call, then we need to be able to take away our fair share of pots after the flop as well. This is infinitely easier to do when you have the advantage of acting last on the flop, turn and river.

The 3-Bet defending strategy and the example hands in this article were actually taken from a sample chapter in my brand new poker book - The Micro Stakes Playbook.

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You can pick up your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook at this link.

Let me know in the comments below how you defend against 3bets.

poker 3bet strategy


  1. Great article. Loved your new book by the way, especially the postflop parts. I am already seeing some big improvements in my game!

    1. Thanks TJ and I am glad the book is helping as well!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great article . Regarding the 10% 3bet range I would add A2-A5s as well .

  3. yu did not talk about sizing oop or ip (4bet)

    1. Hey LP,

      4bets are usually just more than a miniraise. Example raise to $3, 3bet to $10, 4bet to $22.

  4. Excellent guide/article but if we're up against a big 3 bettor but do not have enough information (50+ hands or so), should we default to the 5% calling?

    1. It's tough without information but generally yes, better to be too tight than too loose when you don't know for sure about someone yet.

  5. Jut what I needed, thanks !

    I actually blew up a shot at NL5 basically only because of excessive 4betting...I have huge trust issues when people 3bet my steals :p

    1. Haha happens to the best of us. Hope it goes better next time!

  6. Would you mind giving the 4bet ranges for those 4 situations? You're giving the calling ranges, but they even include AA and KK, which doesn't makes much sense to me...

    And, in "Here is my 4Bet range versus a TAG or LAG with a high 3Bet%"

    What's your range of calling a 5Bet?


    1. Sorry but I don't understand your first question. 5Bet calling range depends 100% on the player type and any history, impossible to give a range for all.

  7. So what's the response to a re-shove against a LAG when we are oop with A5s? Are we really folding 25% of our stack pre?

    1. Yup fold. Sometimes you run into the top of their range.

  8. good job, very well, thank for your work

  9. Nice stuff as usual Nathan, really looking forward to buying the new book in the next few days. Take care!

    1. Thanks Jorge and I hope you enjoy it!

  10. Hey Nathan,

    Thanks for the article! Helpful as always. Question about the 5%ers - When 4 betting them with premium hands (as you suggested) is this 4Bet range basically QQ+? Would you also include AK?

    1. Hey Jason,

      This really depends on the situation. For instance, if I raised in early position and a 5%er 3-Bet me, then I am pretty much never going to be 4-Betting AK here because his play is so strong.

      If I opened on the button though and he 3-Bets me from the blinds, then I will be much more likely to 4-Bet with AK because his range is a lot wider in a spot like this.

      Hope that helps.

    2. Great reminder about position! That definitely helped.

  11. Hi Nathan,
    Okay, I bit the bullet and bought The Microstakes Playbook. Hopefully, I can reverse this 2017 losing trend. I'll try and give you some feedback/results in 6 months (if I remember).

    1. Hey Ray,

      Awesome I hope the book helps! Keep me updated.

    2. 4betting AQ? Why? Worse hands are not calling, and there are only couple of better hands that fold (like 99-TT). If we just call, we keep the worse hands like KQ or AJ in the pot. Can you clarify this little more?

    3. Sometimes,Iam calling 4 bets with multiple blockers, for example KQs or KJs, so it‘s not wrong to 4 bet with AQ. It often depends on the history with the 3bet aggressor. AQ is a hand that blocks massively QQ,AA and Qks and AK- Hands. If you hit the A on the flop(if the 3 bet aggressor calls), your are the winner most of the time.

  12. Great article, but I have a couple of questions.

    First, you mentioned that a 4-betting range against an aggressive player should consist of a 2/1 ratio of value to bluffs. However, the value range consists of AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010, AKs, AKo, AQs and AQo, which is a total of 64 combo's. The bluffing range however only consists of A5s, A4s and A3s, which is a total of 12 combo's. Am I missing something or is this not the right ratio?

    My second question is about the 4bet-calling range. When you 4bet against an aggressive opponent and he 5-betjamms, what hands should you call in what position? For example in $0,02/$0,05 NLHE zoom (6-max) 100BBs effective:
    -You raise the button with JJ to $0,15
    -Aggresive player in SB 3bets to $0,50
    -You 4bet to $1,25
    - SB jamms $5,00.
    Do you still call it off in this spot, or do you 4bet-fold?

  13. I would call him if he 3 bets with a merged range.Because of his positional disadvantage he should also shove TT, AQ and perhaps AJ. If he only would shove AA- TT you would have the Pot odds for a lucrative calling.