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Today, we’re going to get into two of the most common situations in Texas Hold’em poker games. In this piece, we’ll consider 3-bet pots and single-raised pots. Along the way, we’ll see whether or not your strategy should differ when faced with these two situations.

Two piles of poker chips, white on the left and blue on the right, are stacking together, interlocking.
What are the strategy differences when playing a single-raised pot compared to one that is 3-bet?

What Are The 3-Bet Pots and Single-Raised Pots?

Before we proceed any further, we need to fully understand the two situations we are comparing. To be clear, a single-raised pot means that someone has open-raised preflop and at least one player has called. With 3-bet pots, we are referring to those spots where someone has re-raised the initial aggressor and at least one player has called.

With that cleared up, let’s dive right in.

Concepts to Consider

There are two key concepts that underpin our entire strategic approach when comparing single-raised pots with 3-bet pots. These considerations are:

Preflop Ranges

The easiest of the two to deal with concerns preflop ranges, so let’s get that out of the way first. Unless you’re a complete newcomer to poker, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a hand range. Well, the main difference between a single-raised pot and a 3-bet pot is that of your opponent’s range.

Any fish can tell you that it takes a much stronger hand to raise than it does to call. Naturally, if you’re going to re-raise, you are telling the table that you have a very good hand indeed. Therefore, a single-raised range is much wider than that of a tighter 3-bet range.

What does this mean? Essentially, the player who 3-bet can afford to make very aggressive continuation bets. The weaker hands in his range are still strong, but they’re backed up by the most premium of hands that can handle plenty of action. So, be prepared.

Stack-to-Pot Ratio

The second concept to consider when comparing 3-bets to single-raised pots is that of Stack-to-Pot ratio, also known as SPR. First, let’s look at how to calculate SPR.

Take the effective stack, which is the smallest stack size involved in the hand. Divide that by the number of blinds in the pot to get the SPR. You calculate this value from street to street. For instance, let’s say that you have 80 big blinds on the flop compared to your opponent’s 60 BBs. And we’ll assume there are 6 BBs in the pot.

Effective stack size (60) / 6 = 10.0 SPR

Your opponent now bets 4 BBs and you call. So what is the SPR on the turn?

56 / 14 = 4.0 SPR

In a 3-bet pot, you’ll find that the SPR is far greater than when there’s only been a single raise. That much should be obvious. But this simple fact influences how you approach the two different situations.

So What Do We Do With This Information?

Well, the simple conclusion is this. With a lower SPR, whoever is in position should tend towards playing with less aggression. Why? Because the shorter the stack depths, the easier it is for the player out of position to simply check-raise and put you to the test.

When stack sizes are short, hands increase in value. There’s far less room to get creative and really play poker. Therefore, shoving with something like a weak top pair or a draw makes much more sense when the SPR is low. You’re far less likely to encounter such aggressive check-raising with deeper stacks.

Without going too deep into the mathematics, most solvers suggest that the player out of position should check-raise around 50% more frequently when short-stacked, if the opponent c-bets often. In other words, if the opponent is betting at a frequency more associated with deep stacks than short stacks, it’s correct for the short stack to check-raise aggressively.

SPR Dictates Your Bet Sizing

Since there is less need to get the money into the pot when the SPR is low, this dictates the size of your bets. If stacks are smaller, you are more likely to end up all-in by the end of the hand anyway. This will happen naturally, with no need to force the issue. As such, bigger bet sizes are not required.

However, if the SPR is high, the player with positional advantage should be looking to bet much bigger. This will allow the creation of a sizable pot. The intention being, of course, to make it easier to get all-in by the river and be paid off with a good hand.

Again, without diving deep into the mathematics, solvers back this up. Running simulations with lower SPRs, the solvers will usually suggest a c-bet on the flop of around 50% of the pot. However, when SPRs are higher, they’ll recommend something more like 65% to 70% of the pot.

Conclusion

To sum up, there is definitely a need to vary your strategy when playing a 3-bet pot compared to a single-raised pot. Keep in mind your opponent’s range, but the primary concern should be the Stack-to-Pot ratio.

In short, if the SPR is lower, players in position should bet less aggressively. And when out of position and defending, you should check-raise with more aggression.

Now that you have learned something new, why don’t you try applying it by signing up for a free Natural8 account and start practicing? After all, practice makes perfect.

Man Playing Cards

How to Successfully Play Against Limpers

As is so often the case in poker, the first thing you must do when faced with a limp is to assess the table. Every opponent and scenario is different, and in this case, you should do one of two things. This decision will shape the rest of your strategy for successfully crushing limpers moving forward.