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.

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