Pre-Flop Three Betting Strategy in Poker Tournaments
Early Stage of a Poker Tournament
It is a good idea sometimes, but not a great idea to risk too many chips with marginal hands at the early stages of a poker tournament. Ideally, you want to feel out your opponent’s early on in tournaments and you should be able to do so when using the three bet effectively. If you are seated on the button or in late position, it is a good idea to test the waters with certain hands like suited connectors. The reason it is better to three bet at the early stage with suited connector hands like 67 suited rather than just calling a raise is because you have gained the power of position and also you will be able to lead at more random flops to collect the pot.
It also tells you how certain players react to three bets, and you can use this information later on in the tournament. The whole idea of a three bet before the flop is to gather information about your opponents starting hand, and at the early stage of a tournament it should have a minimal risk and a maximum reward. If you get four bet and have 67 suited you can either call the bet and hope to hit the flop or just throw it away, but by folding you should also now know that this player is capable of coming over the top of you again. If you three bet them in the future with a hand like aces and they four bet again, you have now put yourself in the best situation in a poker tournament; holding pocket aces to a four bet.
Middle Stage of a Poker Tournament
At the middle stage of a poker tournament three betting gets tricky because most players aren’t short stacked and there is still plenty of room to play. At this stage you can get very creative when picking spots to three bet. Ideally, hands like AQ, AK, and pocket jacks or better should all be three bet throughout a tournament, but some spots will come up where you can be tricky with your three betting range. One spot that always comes up at some point during a tournament is the squeeze play.
The squeeze play is when one player puts in a raise before the flop and another player calls that raise. When you are seated in the small or big blind you will see a raise and a call before the flop pretty often, and you should either choose to go with your hand or fold your hand. Just calling a raise from the blinds is almost never ideal. Most players these days will recognize good spots to utilize the squeeze play, but using the play effectively will be learned over time and thousands of hours of play. The standard three bet size is 2.5 times the original open raise. If the blinds are 500/1000 and the player opens to 2,000, you can put in a three bet around 5,000 to apply maximum pressure.
In online games the three bet sizing is more standard than in live tournaments. In live tournaments some players raise more just because they aren’t educated enough as what the correct raise size should be. Playing effective squeeze plays is very profitable in the long run, but you also have to be weary of trapping players as well as who you are playing against. Over time and hours of playing you should be able to identify good spots to re-steal pots before the flop using the three bet.
Later Stages of a Poker Tournament
At the later stages of poker tournaments you will see more players three betting for a shove. The reason you should also shove is because you force your opponent to absolutely have a big hand. When you move all your chips in the middle, you are applying the maximum pressure necessary to put your opponent to a difficult decision. Most aggressive players open a lot of pots for a raise from late position with random hands and if you pick good spots you can win uncontested pots. The best spot to three bet shove pre-flop late in a tournament is from the button or the small or big blind.
These spots are the best ones because if you see an aggressive player bleeding chips away, you should be able to take down pots without a problem or even show down the best hand if they do happen to call. Most of the time if an aggressive player raises from the button, you can shove from the small or big blind with just ace high or even K10 or QJ. These hands all work out most of the time to induce a fold and even if you get called you could be in a race situation. Your stack size shouldn’t be too big or too small as well. It has to be just right for the play to work. If you have 12-18 big blinds, this is right around where you want to shove in and use the three bet to steal the pot.