Three Betting Light in Tournaments

Three betting light is largely one of the most notable
advents of the new era in poker strategy. Before the poker boom,
very few if any players would have known what a light three bet
was, let alone how to use it most effectively. If you are
unfamiliar with the term altogether, a light three bet means
that you are making a re-raise with a weak hand. Your 3-bet is
being made in an attempt solely to take down the pot before show

Light three bets have multiple purposes, which is
something that some players fail to realize. Ideally you will be
able to force folds right away and take down the pot as a
result. If you get caught making a move, however, it is not all
bad news. If you are caught in the middle of a light three bet,
it means that your image at the table has changed drastically.
You can use your failed moves to your advantage later on.

In tournament play, light three bets have their time and
place. The mistake that many players make is attempting to three
bet light when the situation just doesn’t call for it. Three
betting light in the first hand of a tournament is just not
smart. Can you think of a benefit to a light three bet in this
spot? Probably not a real good one, which means it isn’t worth
doing. Light three bets are going to be particularly risky when
you are in a tournament.

For this reason they tend to be more
widespread in cash game play. In ring games, players can three
bet, fail, and reload. If you fail with a 3-bet in a tournament,
you are out of those chips indefinitely. There is certainly a
real art that is involved in three betting light in tournaments.
One small misstep and you could be in a world of hurt.

Pre-Flop vs. Post-Flop

Your stack sizes, the blinds, your opponent’s stack, their
likelihood of folding, and your position tend to be the most
important elements in pre-flop light three bets. If you are at a
point in a tournament where everyone still has hundreds of big
blinds, it is safe to say that three betting light is a waste of
your time. If the blinds represent 10% of your stack, however,
three betting light might be the best move you could make.
Courageous moves are going to determine who survives in
tournaments. While this is not always true, the chances are that
you are going to be card dead at one point or another. If you
can’t make pre-flop plays in an attempt to
steal the blinds, you may as well give up while you are
blinded off.

If you are three betting light pre-flop, you better be
awfully sure that your opponent is inclined to folding. This is
even more important if you are nursing a short stack. It is much
better to wait an orbit and shove a random ace when you are
super short stacked than it is to 3-bet light with an extra BB
or two. This is because you are much more likely to get called
and a light three bet relies mainly on one player’s folding.
Light three bets pre-flop are most effective when you are able
to spare the chips at hand, and they are the worst when you are
going to absolutely cripple yourself if you are unsuccessful.

Post-flop is a different story than pre-flop in that the risk
vs. reward is amplified. In fact, a light three bet post-flop
could very easily mean that you are investing your entire stack.
If you are making a light three bet post-flop, you should be
confident in your move. Occasional plays can pay dividends
pre-flop whether they work or not, but light post-flop 3-bets
are dangerous territory.

Early Stages

The early stages of tournaments are the worst time to three bet
light. You are going to receive very minimal benefit when you
pull it off and are just going to wonder what you were thinking
when they don’t work. The true premise of a light three bet is
to take a calculated risk in an attempt to win a decent sized
pot. In cash games this is going to be a recurring theme, but
this changes from level to level in tournaments. Where light
three bets can pay major dividends at the final table, they are
all but a total waste of time in the early levels. If it isn’t
clear already, the early stages just aren’t a time for light
three bets no matter how you look at it.

Later Stages (ITM, FT, etc.)

The late stages are a much better fit for light three bets.
As alluded to earlier, you are going to need to be able to
absorb the inherent risk that comes along with this move. The
best time to 3-bet light in the late stages of a tournament is
when you have a big stack. This is the most optimal time to
accumulate more chips and add to your dominance at the table. If
you are short stacked, you aren’t going to have the fire power
that is necessary for the intimidation factor in a light three
bet. You have to have the chips in front of you that are capable
of scaring away the other players.

In terms of effective strategy for light three betting late
in tournaments, you should be trying to pick on certain players.
You will likely notice which of your opponents are playing
scared. These are the players who are either unfamiliar with
late stage tournament dynamics or are simply trying to move up
the money ladder. No matter what the case may be, your goal is
to exploit them as much as possible.

Passive and scared players are prime targets for light three betting. You will be in even
better position if a weaker player is in the blinds and you are
in late position. This will not only give you a chance to steal
their blinds, but you are also going to be set up for play in
position post-flop.

Tangling with bigger stacks and legitimately
skilled players is not going to be the easiest route to
successful light three betting, so go after the players who are
all but handing over their chips. You might get unlucky and run
into a big hand from time to time, but you still need to be
ready and willing to play the odds.