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Q&A: Improving 3bet Play and Late Stage MTT Strategies | Episode 190


Sky Matsuhashi

on June 10, 2018

I answer 3 questions about improving your 3bet play, defending against 3bets and late stage MTT strategies.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Q1: Improving Your 3bet Play (2:55)

From: TJ

Q: The one poker skill I need to improve is 3 betting


The most important thing to improve your 3bet game is you must know of what you want to accomplish with it (whether making or defending), AND see signs that you will accomplish it.

Example: You want to 3bet bluff pre-flop

  • Your opponent should have a wide opening range
  • Their Fold to 3bet is high (like 65%+)
  • They are in a steal position to make it more likely they're stealing
  • Being IP makes it more likely you'll get a fold b/c opp's don't want to go post-flop OOP
  • Post-flop weaknesses are great to notice so in case you get called there are more ways to win it post-flop

Example: You want to value 3bet with a strong hand (AA and KK are no-brainers, but TT+ and AQ+ could be questionable)

  • You want them to have a wide continuation range. Maybe you've seen them call 3bets with 77+ and ATs+
  • You want to be IP to make it easier to control the pot post-flop so you can bet to build the pot or check-behind to keep it small.
  • Post-flop weaknesses are always great to notice so you can either go for more value easier or spot when they out-flop you and you can ditch the hand.

Start practicing more. Just have a reason for your 3bet and find signs that you'll get what you want from making it. If things are going in your favor, pull the trigger and make the 3bet.

Regarding sizing, pick a size and stick with it for now. I recommend 3x for IP 3bets (bluffs or value) and 3.5-4x for OOP 3bets. As you become more accustomed to 3bets, you will learn to tailor the sizing to get want (more value, more effective bluffs, etc.). I also have a minimum of 9 to 10bb’s for my 3bets so I’m charging those weak min-openers enough with my bluff and value hands.

3bet MED series of podcasts

Also, take the time to do 3bet pot hand reading practice sessions. When it comes to hand reading it's all about practice, practice, practice. The more you do it off the felt while reviewing hands, the more the skills and insights will come to you during your play. I don't know if you've caught them yet, but I did a whole series on hand reading. Here's the playlist in YouTube:

As you review your hands and practice hand reading, filter for showdown hands where you faced or made a 3bet. Make sure they're older hands so you hopefully won't remember what the villain had.

It takes practice, and I recommend practicing with one or two a day at the beginning of your study sessions.


Q2: 3bet Defense (7:35)

From: Chase Burton

Q: I’m working on my 3bet defense game.


It's critical to have a good reason when calling 3bets. Don't just rely on the ranges. If you're calling because you don't want to fold, then it's a bad call. But, if you call in order to take advantage of post-flop weaknesses later or because your hand is ahead of their 3bet range and they would only continue with better hands versus a 4bet, then calling is +EV.

Before you 4bet, just like 3betting, know the reason for your 4bet: value or bluff. If for value, then you believe they can continue with worse hands. If as a bluff, then you know they can fold often enough to make it profitable.

When either calling or 4betting, doing so IP is preferable to OOP.

Building Ranges:

1. Know your open raising ranges by position. You can’t defend with KTs if it’s not in your open raising range

2. Determine your 3bet defense frequency by position. You need to defend >30% to make your opponents think twice before 3betting bluffing you. If you give up 70% or more, it’s almost a no-brainer to bluff you. But, if you fold less than 70% of the time, then perceptive players will spot this and won’t bluff you as often.

3. Build your total 3bet defense range with calls and 4bets. Build it to the defense frequency you selected. For example, a 20% open raising range contains 265 combos. If you’re defending at 35%, then you need to have 94 combos in your defense range. AA-QQ and AK takes up 34 combos, so what will you fill the additional 60 combos with? Some more pairs, good aces, maybe KQs and some suited connectors and baby Aces for bluffing.

4. Divide the range between calls and 4bets. Consider the range that’s 3betting you and choose which hands play well for calls, which work well as value 4bets and which as bluff 4bets.

Ranges are a starting point. They allow you to bring your off-the-felt analysis to your on-the-felt play. But, never follow ranges exactly. Your response to a 3bet is going to be different when it’s coming from a Nit rather than a Maniac.

Q3: Late Stage MTT Strategies (11:20)

From: Ciprian

Q: Hi, I want to ask if you have any advice on how I can improve my tournament game. In particular late stage of the tournament when you have to open your range. I’m pretty week at this stage.


You want to play good hands and use your opponent reads when entering a pot. If you're opening a pot, consider how the remaining players will react. Pay attention to their stack sizes and be ready for 3bet shoves from anyone below 20bb's. Be ready for who is likely to call as well, so you can start envisioning post-flop play against them. Don't just open a pot because you feel like it. If opening to steal, it should likely work. If opening for value, size it so you get the 3bets you're looking for or the calls you want.

You don’t have change your play based on the stage of the tournament. You should be acting based on the players at your table, the payouts and the stack sizes involved. If you’re at an overly aggressive table, be less active and choose opportune times to enter pots. Let the others duke it out as you ladder up. Your plays should be based on how you can best exploit your opponents.

If you're considering calling an open raise, do so IP. You can defend the blinds, but do so against smaller open raises with weak hands. Against 3bb opens, defend very narrow. Against min-opens, defend wide, especially the BB.

3betting in MTT's

If you're going to 3bet, know why you're doing it. Value: know that your opponent can continue with worse. Bluffing: know that they can fold their open raising hand. Choose sizing at 3x-4x their sizing to make it tougher for them to call light. You want light calls, but if they can call with J8s, then bet bigger to make it a bigger calling mistake on their part.

For post-flop play, think about the board and how it hits their range. Look at their bet sizing and figure out what it means. The smaller the bet, the more likely they're trying to make a cheap bluff. If they call your cbet, think about why they called. Can they call with any pair or any draw, or will they call with only TP+?

Also, be aware of their stack size at all times. If the pot on the flop is 10,000, and they have 15,000 behind, they're much less likely to fold (small SPR).

I know I just gave you some quick and tourney tips, but my friends over at put together this Online Poker Tournament Strategy article that's right up your ally, Ciprian.  I'm sure you'll get a ton out of it.

My 2018 SMARTER Goals Progress (18:10)

Goal 1: SPS Brand

Publish all 3 volumes of my Dominoes of Poker books: Volume 1 by the end of April, Volume 2 in July and Volume 3 in October.

Just released Volume 1! Super stoked about that. Kindle eBook only right now, paperback and audiobook versions are just awaiting approval.

Get Preflop Online Poker as a Kindle eBook by clicking here.

Goal 2: Poker Play

Move up from 25nl to 50nl by June 1st, then up to 100nl by October 1st while following a 40x Bankroll Rule.

May: -$153.37 (MTT’s +99.94) at -31bb/100 hands

YTD: +$27.55 at +.29bb/100 hands and 38,269 hands played

Goal 3: Physical Health

Get down to 170 lbs (from 180) and complete 3 sets of 10 muscle-ups by June 1st.

June 1st at 169.4 (a loss of 2.9 pounds from May 1st). Made the weight goal, but not the muscle-ups goal.

Gonna keep working hard to get the full muscle-up.

Challenge (21:50)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:   Build your own 3bet defense ranges. Follow the 4-steps I gave you and utilize a software like Flopzilla or Equilab. Print them out and test them in your next few sessions. Remember, they’re just a starting point and you’ll make your in-game decisions based on the 3bettor and the sizing they use.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

Laura Sadowski purchased a copy of my Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  Destroy your enemies, Laura!  You can get your own copy of the HUD by clicking here.


Sky Matsuhashi

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