Sizing Your Bets Properly

Isaac Baron

Many intermediate poker players suffer from an easily remedied leak: making incorrectly sized bets at inappropriate times.

Instead of carefully determining the best size of bet to use, they mash the bet-pot button or just bet a random number.

Don't fall into this trap.

The game of poker hinges on precision and by making appropriately sized bets, you can increase your edge over your competition.

Know Your Goal

We've talked before about the importance of making every play for a reason.

This is crucial when you're making a bet. Is it a value bet? Or are you trying to make the player fold?

Your ultimate goal will affect the size of bet you decide to make.

Rather than hammering that bet-pot button, take some time and think about your goal.

A little finesse will improve the likelihood that your bet will get your mission accomplished.

A quick note about mixing up your play: you obviously don't want to make the exact same bet in the same circumstances all the time.

Dario Minieri

This will make you incredibly easy to read. You can vary your bet sizes, while keeping your ultimate goal in mind.

So You Want Your Opponent to Fold

You've decided that the goal of the bet you are about to make is to make your opponent fold.

Here's a rule of thumb: bet as little as possible to get the job done.

Now I'm not opening the door for you to start min-betting every hand. Not only will you look like a fish, you'll likely be one.

What you need to understand is that you can save money while accomplishing your goal.

If you raise pre-flop in position and are called, and you wish to make a continuation bet, there's no reason to bet the whole pot.

Often a half- to two-thirds-pot bet will get the job done just as well as that larger bet while risking less chips.

Most opponents will fold to the smaller bet just as often as they will to a full-pot-size bet.

If your opponent is dead-set on calling, he's going to call no matter what the bet size.

So by betting the smaller amount, you save money when you are called!

An example:

$1/$2 NL six-max; $200 effective stacks. You're the button. Folded to you, you raise to $7 with J T. The SB folds and the weak BB calls.

The flop comes K 3 8. The BB donk-bets $2.

You decide that you are going to raise his min-bet. Obviously your goal here is to get your opponent to fold. There's $17 in the pot.

So how much should you bet?

The mistake I see a lot of players making in this spot is making it $16 to go. Massive overkill.

Jamie Gold 4 2015 WSOP

A player like this is probably leading out with a weak one-pair hand or ineffectually trying to steal the pot.

This player is just as likely to fold to a $10 raise as to a $16 raise.

Those times he does call, you're saving $6.

There is no need to risk the extra $6 when the $10 raise will win the same amount of times!

You Want Your Opponent to Call?

When you are making a bet that you want to get called, you're making a value bet.

The idea is that you have the better hand and you want your opponent to pay you off with a worse one.

That said, your rule of thumb, like your goal, is the exact opposite of what it was in our previous example.

You want to bet the highest amount that you think your opponent will call.

This means that sometimes you're better off making a bigger bet that will get called fewer times rather than making a smaller bet that will get called more often.

Know your opponent. You're the one who has been playing with them. You should know their tendencies.

Some players may always think an overbet equals bluff; others will think an overbet always equals the nuts.

Same goes for betting a smaller amount - some players are always going to be drawn in by irresistible odds.

Always pay attention and use the information you've gained throughout your session to decide what bet size is going to make you the most money.

I know this article probably didn't teach you anything you didn't already know.

But knowing something and actually using that knowledge are two completely different things.

Of course we all know how to bet, but I guarantee that most of us do not put much thought into our regular bet sizes.

However, we are making bets every single hand we play.

If you can save an extra dollar here or make a few extra dollars there, all that money adds up over time.

So take a few extra seconds and think about bet sizing. I'm sure your win rate will thank you.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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B. Alvn 2017-07-17 11:35:31

How is AA and J2 the same circumstances, though? I'm pretty sure your own cards are a very big part of what is meant by "circumstances"...I'd say more like, with AA you bet 3x sometimes, 7x sometimes, call sometimes (like in early position hoping for someone else to raise)...that is mixing up your play, and confusing your opponents. Always opening for the same 3x but with a variety of hands is another way to mix up your play, if you are really going to play junk like J2...but if you are only opening with premium hands, I'd say mix up the bet sizing.

B. Alvn 2017-07-17 11:26:37

This kind of play is higher variance than betting for protection. I think you can argue both strategies, depending on your overall bankroll..i'd rather win more smaller pots than lose 40% of the time in big pots when they make their hand. Sure, over the long run it's probably less profitable to bet people off drawing hands, but not everyone plays thousands of hands a week, and not everyone's bankroll is 100x the buyin either.

For a an occasional live 9-handed player like me, I may never play enough to get all the advantages of playing for maximum "theoretical" profit like online players do. Another point about betting for protection is that sometimes bad players or gambling types will make horrible calls that is something you usually want..I mean if they are about 20% to make their hand on the turn and you bet 3/4 pot and they call, you will win a lot of extra money 80% of the time. And if they fold, you get the pot and limit your variance. I don't care what experts say, if you aren't playing tons of hands (which is pretty hard to do live no matter who you are) I think this is better.

troy 2014-07-04 21:32:28

I see a lot of people asking about pricing in the draws.
On a juicery boards sets you up for bluff catching people who miss their draws can from time to time bomb the river adding more ev to your value betting for top top or what ever kind of made hand you have ... in my experience you want people drawing on you remember the only purpose for a bet is to get better hands to fold and worse hands to call and a drawing hand is worse off then a made hand.imo most draws get shut down at the turn due to inexperianced players betting to "protect" their hand when the correct move would be to make the villian call a -ev value bet

ChRiZmOc 2013-09-24 09:09:22

Also something to take into consideration is whether if you get called when you are bluffing on the flop if you are going to fire again on the turn. Sometimes I believe it is good to raise big on the flop, even if you think he is going to call just so you can fire a big bet on the turn to force him out of the pot with a marginal hand. If you make your bet too small on the flop, you might not be able to make a practical size bet to get him off of his hand on the turn. Just make sure you know what you are going to do on the turn before you size out your bet on the flop.

grigoris 2013-07-22 15:19:40

what about when you bet small and give him chip to draw and they make there hand???

Joshua Hervey 2011-02-18 09:23:06

OK,
i understand value betting.......kinda. still fairly new to poker in general but, how do i know if im getting value after the hand is over? If i put someone on a range of hands they can call me with, how do i know how much i can put into the pot for them to call me. I dont know about you guys im happy if i can take down a pot whether or not i get value. What if the board is just so dry you cant bet with nuts because you know the opponent will fold to any bet including a minimum bet?

Artiom 2011-01-06 19:20:55

Won another one already with 3000 entrants, being short stacked throughout the whole tourney

artiom 2010-12-31 06:49:29

I love your articles. After I read two of them, I decided to apply my new skills in the MTT straightaway. and guess what, I won the first place . but the only thing I'm still struggling with is what kind of flops I can c-bet out of position, if I play against a tight player/calling station.

Sean Lind 2010-01-21 20:10:24

Sam,

It's funny you said that. The next thing I'm about to do today is put our incumbent poker glossary live on our site. Check back tomorrow in the poker rules section for a glossary with everything you need to know.

for now:
Fish - someone who is a losing player (gets eaten by the card sharks)
three bet - the third bet in a pot, preflop this is the first re-raise (bet, raise, re-raise)

Sam Lonergan 2010-01-21 01:42:29

Reading your articles has improved my game 10-fold but there are a lot of terms I don't understand as I'm a relatively new player. Eg: what's a fish? what's a three bet?
Maybe you could add a glossary or add links with simple definitions whenever you use a "poker term"

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