What is your opinion on bet sizing in poker?
Most experienced players will have a ready-made strategy for bet sizing at all points in the hand, and against a wide range of opponents.
Beginners are not likely to have such expansive strategic plans available to them, so it is often an area of the game where a novice poker player can make huge improvements quickly.
When someone new to the game thinks about poker strategy, they often think about the skills required to play specific hands.
For example, how do I play a middle pocket pair against an aggressive but loose player?
What is seldom thought about is how you can strategically use your bet sizing. Specifically, the size of bets you make at various points in the hand, but particularly pre-flop to help you get into situations that are more likely to be beneficial to you.
Remember too, everything we say in this post is applicable both in real world poker, and also the online games that you will find and play at bet365 Poker. You can sign up using the latest bet365 bonus code if you are not already a member of the site.
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So let’s begin by answering the obvious question.
What is bet sizing and why is it important?
Image by Hundankbar from Pixabay
Bet sizing is simply the size of the bet you make at a certain point in the game. You can pick the size of the bet if you are going to raise, but if you call, then you need to match the current highest bet in the pot. Fold and you hand in your cards and play no further part in this hand.
In many cases, when it comes to pre-flop betting, most beginners will likely bet in increments of the big blind.
For example, if the small blind is 5 and the big blind is 10, then a raise would likely be 20.
It’s somewhat strange watching a group of beginners play their initial hands this way before they realise that bet sizing can play a crucial and necessary part of a winning poker strategy.
Why is Bet Sizing Important?
Bet sizing can seem to be arbitrary to a novice player, but a player with even a small amount of poker skill and experience will understand how much they bet is as important as the decision of whether to bet or not in that hand.
This is especially the case when it comes to pre-flop betting when you can use the size of your bets to try and make the situation as advantageous for you as possible.
What do I mean by that? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
Hand 1 – Hero holds 10 Clubs, Jack Diamonds
Action to Hero – SB, BB, Call, Call, Call, Fold, Call
Assuming this is an 8-handed table, the hero here has a decision to make. 10 Jack unsuited is a playable hand here, but not against a huge number of opponents. That’s because your chances of winning here drastically reduce with the more people who remain in the hand post-flop.
Therefore, with six players already having money in the middle, a call or small raise is not likely to make too many of them fold.
So, to try and make this a more advantageous situation for you, you want to try and dissuade many of the limpers from continuing. To do that, you need to make a raise large enough to make them think either one or both of:
1. You have a strong hand that they are not likely to beat
2. Their hand will be the weak hand against you and they are unlikely to win.
As such, sizing your bet here to at least 4x or 5x the current amount will likely dissuade any limpers from continuing in the hand, thus reducing the field and giving you a chance that you can hit a straight or something similar when the flop, turn and river comes down.
Additionally, if someone does call, or raise your bet, you will know that they hold one of the stronger pre-flop pocket hands, such as a pair, or suited high value cards for example.
Hand 2 – Hero holds Ace Diamonds, Ace Clubs
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Action to Hero – SB, BB, Call, Call, Call, Fold, Call
We’re going to play a very similar scenario out in Hand 2 as in Hand 1, only this time the hero holds a pair of aces – the strongest pre-flop hand possible.
At this moment of the game, you know that you are most likely well ahead of your opponents at the table. You could earn a split pot if another player holds two aces, but that is generally unlikely.
Given that you are in a very strong position, now is the time you want to size your bets in order to try and get more money into the pot.
Now, if we look at the action to us, we can see six players have cash in the pot already. But we know that if we slap in a large raise here, we could frighten them off and make them fold.
That’s not what you want when you have a strong hand.
Some players elect to call here, but my preferred call is to make a slight raise, say 2x the value of the Big Blind.
This is a raise small enough to encourage those who are already in the pot to consider calling again, as calling will cost them just the price of the big blind (and they have already bet that once).
It may make some of the weaker hands fold, but having already bet that same amount once, that player could be tempted to bet again.
So by making a smaller raise here, or even flat calling, you encourage more players to go through to the Flop, where if your strong hand holds out, you can use bet sizing once again to get more money into the pot.
What is the aim of bet sizing?
Image by Lucio Alfonsi from Pixabay
The aim of bet sizing is to try and shape the table to your advantage given the situation of the game and the pocket cards you hold.
If you are in a strong position, you want as many people in the pot as possible to add value to that pot so that if you win, you win a large amount of money.
Contrastingly, if you are in a weaker position pre-flop, then you want to get as many players out of the hand as possible to increase your chances of success when the flop, turn and river cards are shown.
Picking the right bet size is more than just comparing the bet size to the current small and big blinds. You have to weigh up how many of your chips you are willing to put into the pot on this hand.
This is a less pressing matter if you have a large stack, but if you are small-stacked, then you need to consider your bet sizing very carefully as there is every chance you may have to go all-in at some point in order to try and secure the win.
Don’t be fooled into thinking bet size doesn’t matter. Learning how to size your bets pre and post-flop is as desirable poker skill as any you will learn as a player!