I feel that too many players these days look to 3/bet pre-flop in situations where calling would be better. There are many reasons why calling is better in many instances and we will explore what they are. Firstly it has to be said that in today’s modern online NLHE cash games that the average starting stack does not allow for overly aggressive play pre-flop or large doses of flexibility post flop. A 100bb starting stack is not a deep stack by any stretch of the imagination but online poker sites prefer stacks not to be deep anyway.
What they do not want is for players to lose too much money in any one hand of poker and so they limit buy in sizes to 100bb in most cases. This is a medium sized stack in cash games simply because of the relative ease that you can get all in. If it has been raised to say 3.5bb pre-flop then this raise to stack ratio is around 28/1 or so but if you were to say 3/bet to 11bb then it falls massively to only 8/1 or so.
This means that with three full betting rounds to go post flop and the possibility of it being 4/bet pre-flop then you are going to be risking playing for stacks. So if it has been raised by a player in the cut-off and you have a hand like the 10s-9s on the button then calling is a better play than 3/betting. Many players go wrong here and think that just because you have called that you are somehow playing weak poker. This isn’t true because the call is merely done with the strategic intention of getting you and your opponent to the post flop betting rounds where your hand reading capability and position play a huge part.
Also a call means that more flops could have hit your hand and that is going to make life tough for your opponent post flop when out of position. There are many situations in a poker game where your opponent will have contributed money to the pot and then been forced to fold. This is perhaps the single biggest factor that leads to players losing money in today’s modern no limit hold’em cash games. Continually placing money into the pot and then folding leads to strategies being very weak!
So when we call pre-flop, it isn’t done with the objective of placing money into the pot and then folding in a fit or fold fashion…… far from it. It is done with the strategic intention of getting our opponents to place money into the pot and as much of it as possible before THEY fold. So calling fits this purpose a lot of the time more than 3/betting. If we 3/bet pre-flop and get a raiser to fold then we may have won the pot immediately but we have also only gained a small win of 3 to 3.5bb.