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.
Poker Bet Sizing: 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. 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!
How to Size Your Poker Bets 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 we see a lot of players making in this spot is making it $16 to go. Massive overkill.
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.
Why Bet Sizing Really Matters
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.
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