Does Big Bet Poker Work?

Big Bet Poker

This term conjures up differing meanings to different people. Big bet poker is effectively the opposite of small ball poker. The ethos of attacking lots of pots with small bets in small ball is flipped the other way with big bet poker. Instead of making probing bets of 40-50% of the pot, you are making bets of 80% or more of the pot and over-bets of the pots. The great thing about big bet poker is that you are often forcing your opponent to decide for a high percentage of their tournament stack or their cash due to the inherent nature of the bet sizing.  

What are the Benefits of Big Bet Poker?

I believe betting large amounts confuses most opponents and leads them to be in awkward spots. In today’s poker world, it is not a common strategy and they do not know how to react. When a player is confused or unsure, they are prone to making errors. I have seen this firsthand on the best poker sites. They will usually resort to one of two ways to counter big betting:

Play it Too Safe

Players will opt to get out of the hand, play it careful and look for a spot to trap you in the future. They know their strategy and will patiently wait for that spot to come, hoping you will make a big error yourself and pay them off. They may say to themselves “I don’t know if he has it this time, I can find a better spot against this donkey”.

Go Over The Top

Opponents will decide that they refuse to be bullied around and will commit, often with a medium strength hand or weaker in a desperate attempt to not get outplayed. Many players hate the idea of getting outplayed and will do reckless moves themselves convincing themselves with “he can’t always have it, if he has me beat here, good luck to him”.

Big Bet Poker
Image by Markus Spiske

The good news is both reactive strategies work in the favour of the big bettor. If they fold, great, winning a pot without showdown is fine. Should they go over the top of you then you are happy too. You have forced them into playing how they don’t wish to. If you have the hand, you are paid off and if you don’t then you can fold and move on to the next hand. Either way, you can be happy.

What are the Downsides to Big Bet Poker?

As with any strategy, there are pros and cons. There is no 100% perfect poker strategy out there. With big bet poker, you are increasing the variance aspect. If you are consistently playing bigger pots than you otherwise need to, you are increasing the variance. This is contrary to what many professionals are trying to achieve. The more skilled you are, the less variance you generally want. The other drawback is that whilst you can expect people to fold to you more often, you are potentially losing action from weak hands that may otherwise flat call a flop or turn bet. It also means you are not playing an optimal bet sizing strategy. Naturally, betting big will force players into mistakes from a pot odds perspective vis a vis draws, but there is a line where you can force an error and increase the likelihood of getting a flop or turn call.

What About Fixed Limit Holdem?

As previously stated, the term “big bet” will mean different things to people. Big bet actually means the turn and river bet in fixed limit holdem. In limit Texas Hold’em, the pre flop and flop betting is usually 50% of the turn and river bet size, hence the term “big bet”.

Final Thoughts

Big bet poker is a strategy that can work, if honed properly. This may seem surprising but consider the make-up of most games today. Poker is evolving and players are trying to replicate what professionals are doing. You need to think of innovative ways to exploit their tendencies and behaviours. Big bet poker is certainly one way to achieve this. Obviously, you can’t be crazily wild and entering every pot and expect to in. But with well-timed and calculated betting, you may be able to find a unique way of playing that makes you money. A word of caution to beginners, this strategy should only be attempted by those with experience. It requires an astute poker mind to pull it off, otherwise you will waste tournament chips or money.

Do you have any questions about big bet poker strategy? Why not ask us? Your question may appear in our blog.

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Is The Over-Bet Underused in Poker?

The Over-Bet

Depending on the situation, an over bet is either an awful play or a genius one. There is not much in between, from a 3rd party perspective. This is because an over bet will force your opponent out of the pot (either lost value or a great bluff) or you’ve been called (lost far more than necessary or got extra value).The truth is, there are scenarios where an over bet is the most profitable bet to make and also the worst bet to make. Deciding when to pull off a successful over-bet takes experience, intuition and thorough of understanding your opponent.

The Bluff Over-Bet

In order to pull off success bluff, sometimes you have to bet a lot. With the right opponent (conservative) and deep stacks, an over bet bluff can be a great weapon to use. Whilst this same player may call 60-80% of the pot, they will often fold to an over- bet shove or 2x pot size bet. They know they are not getting a good price on their money and will look for a more sensible hand to invest in. The over bet bluff is usually best to try on the river when there are no more cards to come. 

You need a few things to be on your side for an over- bet bluff to be successful:

  • Opponent who has demonstrated ability to fold
  • Deep stacks
  • You’ve not shown down an over bet bluff already

The Value Over-Bet

This value bet is not utilised enough really. I am guilty myself and don’t use this move often enough. I think many people think they will waste value and prefer to get something than nothing so they will typically just put in a decent value bet. It’s a great move to pull off against fishy players who can’t fold a medium strength hand or advanced players who are prone to making a hero call or levelling themselves.

  • Fishy opponent who is likely to call an over bet just as much a standard
  • You have shown an over bet bluff
  • Competent player who can level themselves
  • Deep stacks
embarrassed by over-bet
Photo By Wallace Chuck
Don’t be embarrassed to try the over-bet

Caution

Like most poker moves, this is not one to be constantly used against the same players. In fact, against a decent player, you can probably only get away with 2-3 successful over bet bluffs or value over bets before they’ve clocked which you use it for. The trick is to master both. I recommend attempting both in the future when your instinct tells you it will work. Once you have dipped your toe in you will soon incorporating both bets into your game in the future.

I hope you found this article useful and consider the over-bet more in the future.

The Value Bet – Common Mistakes

Value Bet

It is an art that is difficult to master. The value bet in poker is perhaps the most important skill to develop in order to become a long-term winner. It combines the complexity of hand reading, understanding of opponent and maximising value.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a Value Bet in Poker?

A bet that is designed to get called by a weaker hand. The sizing is irrelevant, it’s purely betting for value, hence value bet. It is usually at the end of the hand on the river. Although it’s technically possible to value bet all in before the river.

Common Mistakes

One of the most prevalent errors an inexperienced or unconfident player will make is check back hands on the river that warrant betting for value. They will often check back hands for reasons listed below.

1)Fear of Being Check-Raised

The river check raise is such an uncommon play and rarely ever done on a bluff that it is not to be feared, to the extent most players afraid. It takes incredible patience for an opponent to make their hand on the river then check raise for value. Few expert players have the discipline and skill to employ this and fewer online. The typical online player will often just bet their nut hand on the river. They do this even if their opponent has bet all the way through, purely because they are worried you will check back.

2)Lacking Conviction

Many players who miss out on value are doing so because they lack conviction in their own ability to know their hand is best and assign a range to their opponent. This is because they don’t have the confidence in their own game or lack experience. Perhaps they have suffered too many bad beats or read some hands poorly and it has affected them. Perhaps they are on tilt. Whatever the reason, they lack the conviction to put in the value bet they rightly should.

3)Wanting a Cheap Showdown

Some players just want to show their hand down. They don’t recognise that they are missing out on lots of value in the long run. They are happy to check back on the river and show the winning hand. This is extremely detrimental to their long-term ROI and profitability as they are costing themselves money. I contend that many of these types of players even know they are checking back the better hand, but do so anyway. Don’t be one of these players.

How Much to Bet?

This is the key question you should be asking every time you are considering a value bet on the river. One needs to think what is the most amount of money or chips I can obtain from my opponent. This is a complex question as it involves you assuming the perfect and maximum amount your opponent will call, given their likely hand range. A pot sized bet gives poor pot odds; thus, a strong, experienced player may be less inclined to call with a weak hand. On the contrary, a weak and inexperienced may be happy to call a huge over bet. Correctly judging the amount within a few seconds may seem impossible, but it is it not. It is intuitive and developed off the back of many hands of playing.   

value bet
Photo by Dmitry Demidko @wildbook

Conclusion

The importance of appropriate value betting can’t be stressed enough. This article has discussed the reasons why people miss out on value and to avoid it. In future articles, we will be exploring the different types of value bet and how they can used based on opponent and relative hand strength.

Pot Control

This is a concept that is lost on beginners and even some intermediate poker players. Pot control is about dictating the pot size, or trying to, on your terms. This is achieved by the sizing of your bets and relative position in the hand.

What is Pot Control?

It is manipulating the pot size how you wish, factoring in relative hand strength, stack size and opposition in the hand. Never has “big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot” been more relevant. Pot controlling is understanding that there are multiple rounds of poker, and with each round a decision to be made that will increase the pot size, how much is dependent on the sizing of yours and your opponent’s bets.
Playing in position makes pot control far easier as you are closing the action and it is common for players to check out of position. This allows you to dictate how a hand and pot will flow.

Flop Play

Quite often there are multiple people in the hand at this point and controlling the pot isn’t particularly easy. Your ability to understand relative hand strength will be critical as will your position in the hand.
This is where small ball is useful. Small ball is a style of poker that involves making a lot of probing bets. This accomplishes several things; eliminating players from a pot, narrowing hand ranges, keeping the pot manageable, obtaining value and winning the pot inexpensively.

Turn Play

It’s been said for years that the turn is the most important round of betting in Texas holdem. Professional poker players recognize that this is where the hand has almost reached conclusion, there is just one card left to deal (making pot odds and math even more important). The turn is the round where a player will often make a decision ahead of the river.

pot control
Photo by Chris Liverani @chrisliverani

Intuitively you are often thinking one of a few things on the turn card. Let’s take a look at them:

“I have the best hand and want to build the pot for value and protect my hand”

In this situation, you will typically be looking to bet for value and protection. This usually involves a decent sized bet to enforce a mathematical error on your opponent’s part whilst increasing the pot for value too.

“I am on a draw and want to see the river cheaply”

In this instance, out of position, you are at the mercy of those in position. However, in position, you have the option of semi bluffing when checked to or taking the free card. A luxury not afforded to you out of position.

“I am not 100% sure I have the best hand and want to see the river cheaply or showdown my hand”

This will usually mean checking or betting small. This is a great tactic to employ when your opponent plays ball i.e. doesn’t raise. By betting small you can often get a check on the river and show your hand down, conversely checking back turn cards often means you can bluff catch cheaply on the river too.

Conclusion on Pot Control

Pot control is a key concept to understand and put into practice. You are quite often employing pot control without thinking about it so it is partly intuitive but also considered and methodical. It is important to avoid being predictable with your lines in hands as well though so please remember to have variety to the lines you take, particularly when you are facing strong players. The underlying theme behind pot control is that you are doing your utmost to control the size of pot how you wish; this is accomplished by playing more pots in position and also understanding how to size your bets appropriately. Please contact us if you need help with bet sizing or more information on pot control.