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Six Ways To Play Better Against Three-Bets From Out Of Position

by Alex Fitzgerald |  Published: Apr 17, 2024

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Flatting a three-bet from out of position is one of the most awkward ways to play a hand. It doesn’t feel good to act first on all of the streets in an inflated pot.

Let’s discuss six ways you can navigate these precarious situations easier. Note: For all of this advice, we are assuming you are heads-up versus one three-bettor who is in position. You have just called the three-bet out of position. You have not four-bet.

1. Don’t Get Overcommitted

When someone three-bets you, they generally have a hand.

I have done thousands of private poker lessons over the last decade. I can tell you it’s super difficult to get most people to three-bet enough. I’m not sure why they won’t three-bet. Perhaps they just want to see the flop? Perhaps they feel ridiculous if they three-bet and then get four-bet off their hand? Maybe that makes them think, “If I had just called, I could have seen the flop for cheap!”

I couldn’t tell you why, but most people struggle to three-bet bluff enough. For this reason, you don’t have to overcommit in many of these pots. If your opponent has not been active all day and suddenly they start gunning for you, then what most likely happened is they just picked up a hand. You don’t need to play a big pot with them out of position.

2. Are They Even Capable Of Triple Barrel Bluffing?

If you’ve never seen your opponent get caught bluffing on the river, then it is unlikely that they are capable of triple barrel bluffing.

No one pitches a perfect game. Even great triple barrel bluffs get caught sometimes.
It’s easy for someone to three-bet preflop. That’s cheap. It’s easy for someone to fire on the flop. That’s not much more expensive.

A triple barrel bluff is massive. It’s hard to teach people how to bluff all their chips off. Most people don’t like how uncomfortable that play makes them feel.

If you’ve never seen your three-betting opponent get out of line, don’t give them credit for a tremendous bluff without evidence. They likely just picked up a hand.
Don’t pay them off if they end up firing down.

3. Did They Check Back On A Coordinated Board?

Let’s say you open and your opponent three-bets you. You call out of position.

The flop comes with flush draws and straight draws. You check and your opponent checks back.

They likely would have bet there with a set, two pair, or an overpair. They would have bet to simultaneously protect their hand and get value from it.

Additionally, they’d often fire if they flopped a draw, because they’d be fine with ending the pot right then. Their draw isn’t a made hand, so winning a pot outright is never a bad outcome.

When they check back, their most likely hands are decent high cards and pairs. You can use this information to bluff them more on later streets.

What cards does that range not want to see? Can you overbet on some of these cards? Experiment. You’ll like the results.

4. Trap More When You Flop A Good Hand

Let’s say you do authentically have a maniac to your left. You’ve seen this person get caught bluffing before in large pots.

You open A-10 offsuit. The maniac three-bets you. You call. The board comes AHeart Suit 10Heart Suit 5Spade Suit. You check. The maniac fires.

Don’t raise here. The maniac assumes you will raise with your sets and two pairs. When you just call on that board, they will think to themselves, “Hmmm. I think I like this situation. My opponent would have four-bet A-A and A-K preflop. However, those hands are still in my range. I also believe they would have check-raised their two pairs and sets for protection and to get value from their hand, so I can rule out A-10, A-5, 10-10, and 5-5 here. I believe this player is capped at one mediocre top pair. I bet I can get them to fold that by the river.”

Most maniacs depend on you playing your best hands fast. They know most people will check-raise their sets and two pairs because they’re terrified of having to call huge bets on later streets versus an aggressive opponent, especially if a lot of the time the turn or river will have scare cards.

However, if your opponent is going to bluff with way too many hands, you can exploit them by trapping them with your best combinations.

Give them the greenlight. Watch them bomb their way through it. Call down.

5. Check-Raise Prolific Three-Bettors

This play in my experience works against guys at low stakes well.

In low-stakes games, you’ll often play against players who have read a few poker books, but they’re still trying to put all the pieces together. They know they’re supposed to be three-betting more in position, but they’re going overboard with the idea. They’re three-betting too many hands, which means they’re going to miss a number of flops.

Here’s a great check-raise you can use against them.

Let’s say you open some Broadways without an ace in your hand. You get three-bet by the prolific three-bettor. You call. The board comes with low cards and a flush draw like 6Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit or 7Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 3Club Suit. You check.

Your opponent fires. You then check-raise the size of the pot with your K-Q or J-10.
This play works a large percentage of the time, because your opponent didn’t likely three-bet their low cards. This board probably missed them.

Additionally, you could be playing fast with a set or a draw. Many people would check-raise those hands on this board.

Finally, if you do get called, you can still hit your overcard on the turn and start betting for value. Your opponent likely didn’t three-bet 10-3 offsuit or Q-6 offsuit, so those overcard outs are often good. If you turned an ace, however, your opponent likely would have made a number of two pairs, because A-x hands are popular for some players to three-bet raise preflop.

6. Check-Raise Overpairs Versus Regulars

One final play you can use in these spots involves check-raising overpairs versus aggressive regulars.

Let’s say you have pocket aces. You raise. The loose-aggressive regular three-bets you to your left.

Instead of four-betting and allowing him to fold all of his bluffs, you instead just call.

The board comes something innocuous like 9-3-2 rainbow or 10-4-5 rainbow. You check. They fire.

If you check-raise a small amount on these boards, your thinking opponents will be confused. “Wouldn’t he just call with a set? There’s no real draw to be worried about. He knows I’m going to keep firing if he just calls.”

Your check-raise looks like a recreational player who got pissed off and isn’t thinking about what they’re representing. Because of this, many of your opponents will flat your check-raise on the flop to see what you do on the turn.

This is your opportunity to check on the turn like you’re giving up with your haphazard bluff. Let them bluff at you again in an inflated pot. Call down. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on ACR Poker. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at PokerHeadRush.com