Poker Bet Sizing Correctly is Everything

Poker Bet Sizing

How much thought do you give to the bets you make when playing poker? It’s not a trick question. Effectively sizing your bets is everything when it comes to playing for the long run. Most online poker sites offer automatic buttons like 50% pot, 75% and full pot, but players often just click any and are not giving enough consideration to board texture, number of opponents and relative hand strength. This article will highlight and explain why accurate poker bet sizing is important to your ability to earn lots of money both online and in casinos.  

What Does Good Poker Bet Sizing Do?

Forces Errors

Whilst the small ball style of poker has been popularised in recent years, it does fail to enforce mathematical errors from your opponents. Consider a wet board texture. This type of flop requires a large sized bet to make your opponent pay to outdraw. Anything less than 70% of the pot is unlikely to get a fold nor is it mathematically correct. Any time you are betting 50% of the pot, you are giving your opponent fantastic pot odds. They only need 25% equity in the hand to continue. Put another way, any time you size your bet too small, you are losing money. Even if you win the actual pot, you are making a mistake, allowing your opponent to play correctly and losing yourself money, in the long run. Good poker bet sizing strategy makes your opponent’s make mistakes.

Gets Value

Bet sizing properly doesn’t just mean betting big. It may also mean, putting in that sweet sized bet that gets you paid. Consider a hand where you are betting every street with top set. You get to the river and are automatically reaching for the ¾ pot bet, hoping to get paid. Is that the right bet though? With reasonable estimate, you can predict how often this bet will get paid by a certain player and weight it against a smaller bet. If a bet of $100 gets called 20% of the time and a bet of $50 gets paid 100% of the time – clearly the latter is the correct bet as you are making more money in the long run ($50 x 100% vs 20% X $100). The value of the bet is worth $50 vs $20. Are you beginning to see how important bet sizing is?

Continuation Bet Sizing

Bet SizeBoard Type
25% (1/4 of Pot)The driest of boards e.g. 3-3-9 rainbow
33% (1/3 of Pot)Dry rainbow flops e.g. Q-7-3 rainbow
50% (1/2 of Pot)Mixed flop type e.g. K-9-6 rainbow
75% (3/4 of Pot)Suited and connected e.g. Js Ts 4d
100% (Full Pot)Wettest of flops e.g. Td 8d 9c
Overbet Those special occasions you know you’re getting called and you have monster or conversely you know an overbet bluff will work as your opponent can’t have “it”.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

Does Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments Change?

We need to make exceptions to tournament poker. This is especially true for online poker tournaments that have shorter stacks and quicker blind levels. Generally, you can size your bets smaller in tournaments. It is better poker bet sizing strategy to risk less of your chips, as a bigger bet will often accomplish the same as a smaller one.

Open Raises in Cash Games vs Tournaments

Cash GamesYou should open raise between 3 and 4 big blinds in a cash game. You can raise even more if the game is wild and you want to thin the field out. For each limper, add an extra big blind to your raise.
TournamentsIf you are a member of poker training video membership (see banner below), you will know I opt for a min raise from early position, 2.2x the blinds from middle and 2.5 x the big blind from late position. The reason is simple – I want to play bigger pots when I have position advantage. Add an extra big blind for each fishy limper.

Perceptions of different bet sizes

Small Bet

A small bet used to be a sign of weakness when perceived from a strong player. Poker has evolved though and this is less the case these days. Strong players will no longer assume you have air. They will still throw in the occasional re-raise or poker float to test you but I am noticing a lot of pro’s folding for cheap flop bets.
Awful player’s don’t really think much about what you have and likely perceive it as a weak hand, if anything. it won’t dissuade them from continuing in the pot.

Standard Bet

The standard open and standard 1/2 pot bets are generally considered “usual” by strong players. They will look at the board texture and whether it marries up with your range of hands. This will guide their judgement on what cards you have.
The weaker players are more likely to give some credit for a hand when they see the standard opens and bets. They will probably assign you a top pair type hand but not much better. Again though, the fishes are not really thinking too much about what you have.

Large Bet

Intermediate players and even some experts will make incorrectly assume you are super strong or super weak when they see a large bet. They will polarise your range. This is one thing that makes professionals exploitable, if you can balance big bets with hands that aren’t bluffs or the nuts.
Weak players will usually pause for thought and think you have a strong hand but call anyway if they have a top pair or better hand. That’s why grinder’s don’t care if they pot bet for value on the river. They know the fish will call it.

One of the best things about poker is the freedom you have to choose your bets. Don’t waste it! Sizing your bets accurately is arguably the most important thing that separates winners and losers.

What are the Consequences of Poorly Sized Bets?

The consequences of sizing your bets poorly can’t be understated. If you’re one of the many players prone to auto-betting the same %, you need to stop and reflect on your game. Miscalculating your bets will the following:

  • Getting outdrawn more often
  • Less successful bluffs
  • Less value from premium hands
  • Lower hourly win rate
  • Less tournament cashes and final tables
  • More perceived “bad beats”
  • More multi-way pots – less chance of winning

Conclusion

In order to earn money from poker, you will need to have a solid grasp of bet sizing. You can skirt by and win a little if you’re in fishy games and know about other things, but it won’t cut it in other games. Perhaps you have no interest in bet sizing and just want to gamble. That’s fine, there are plenty of casino sign up bonuses available online that give you the chance to make money and entertain you too. This article is merely a guide on poker bet sizing. The intricacies of how much to bet on the turn to force a bad call from a flush draw or to thinly value bet 3rd pair is just as important. If you are interested in learning more about bet sizing, feel free to contact us to see how we can help.

Pot Odds – The Easy to Understand Basics

What are Pot Odds?

You have probably heard of pot odds but maybe you’re not sure what they are or how to calculate them? Don’t worry, everyone has been there. Basically, pot odds are the comparison of the cost of making a call compared to the size of the pot. It is usually expressed as a ratio; however, the far more valuable tool is the conversion of ratio to percentage.

How to Calculate Pot Odds?

Pot Size Versus Amount to Call = Pot Odds as Ratio
$100: $10 or 10:1
I think it is more valuable to see this as a percentage. To convert this, we simply add the pot size and the amount to call and divide the amount to call by the pot size. Using the example above, it would be:

$100 + $10 = $110
$10 / $110 = 9%

What is the Point?

Understanding the maths is very important to being a long-term winner at poker. Decision making is often based on the maths aspect, is a call profitable? Are they bluffing often enough? etc. In order to use pot odds effectively, a poker player combines the context of the situation with the odds at hand. It also allows one to manipulate the pot odds and enforce errors on the part of your opponents – a key skill requirement.
Let’s look at an example of how pot odds could be used for important decision making.

pot odds
Photo by Chris Liverani

Example Hand

With a pot size of $50 and one card to come. Player A has a flush draw holding Kc 10c on a board of Ac 8c 2s 4s. Player B has Ad 8d with top two pair and is considering how much to bet. By betting $30, the pot will be $80 and Player A will be getting $30 for a pot of $110.   Using the method above, we can see this can be converted to represent 27%. With a flush draw and one card to come we know there is approximately 18% chance of Player A making the best hand, thus, the bet enforces an error on the part of player A as Player A is not getting a sufficient price to make the call.
On the other hand, if Player B bets $10, Player A will have 16.6% and a turn call becomes profitable.

Conclusion

As we can see from the above example, pot odds can influence decision making and affect your long-term profitability. They should be used in combination with your hand reading, context and implied odds (look out for future article on implied odds). One of the great things about poker is you are in control of your decisions. By understanding odds and relative hand strength, you can learn to manipulate pot sizes (something not possible with slot odds) how you want to and enforce mistakes from opponents.

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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.