Bet Sizing: A Key Poker Skill

How much you bet can be just as important as the cards you play. The Tip Top Fox shows you how to start sizing your bets correctly and reap the rewards

For most recreational players, their first introduction to the game of poker comes in the form of the poker tournament, be it a single table tournament (STT)/ Sit and Go (SNG), or multi-table tournaments (MTT). This is where the buy-in is set in advance and you only risk the initial entry fee.

A lot of recreational and amateur players are put off at the prospect of playing cash games, which are usually played with much deeper stacks and static blind levels, meaning more complex decisions during a session.

One of the key skills in playing in either poker format is bet sizing. This is an important skill to master when it comes to tournament poker, and will directly affect your win rate when it comes to maximising your profits at the cash tables.

“Don’t bluff if a bet will commit you to the hand, and if you are protecting your hand you should bet more so as not to give your opponent the right price to chase their draws.”

Things to Consider When Bet Sizing

When betting or raising, unseasoned poker players often fail to take into account the various factors that should be used to determine the size of a bet which are:

  • The pre-flop action: Taking note of who raised and who called gives you an idea of the strength of an opponent’s hand both pre-flop and on the flop. If a player just called pre-flop and comes out firing on the flop it’s a good indication that they have hit something. In order to figure out what you need to look at…
  • The texture of the board: If you are the pre-flop raiser you need to consider whether the flop is a good one for your hand. You also need to think about how it may have helped your opponent(s). Is it particularly draw heavy (wet) or uncoordinated (dry)? For example, you raise with A♠ K♥. Against one opponent on a dry board like A♣ 9♠ 2♦ the size of your continuation bet can be a little as 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot. However, if you raise with the same hand and the flop comes down K♣ 9♦ 8♦ then you should be betting around 3/4 pot to full pot, giving players chasing a draw the wrong odds to call. 
  • The number of opponents in the hand: In addition to reading the texture of the board and figuring out how much to bet to protect your hand, you must also consider the number of opponents you are up against when deciding whether or not to make a continuation bet. This is where, if you were the pre-flop raiser, you bet again on the flop. While you do not have to hit the flop to continuation bet you do need to consider the more opponents in a hand, the more likely it is that someone has hit the flop. The probability of being able to successfully bluff other players off a hand decreases the greater the number of opponents in the hand.
  • Stack sizes and the size of the pot: How many chips has your opponent got and how many are you sitting on? In poker, especially when playing tournaments, you will often encounter situations where either you or your opponent do not have enough chips to make a bet in relation to the size of the pot without becoming ‘pot committed’. For example, your opponent has 1,500 chips, there is 1,000 in the pot and you bet full pot. Your opponent will not be able to call without becoming committed to the hand, and should he move all-in you will be committed to the call as, with 3,500 now in the pot, you will be getting odds of 7-1 to call the extra 500. You should always consider if a bet will cause either you or your opponent to become pot committed. Often you do not need to bet the full amount your opponent has in front of them, just an amount that would pot commit them should you wish to continue in the hand. 

In Summary

Bet sizing depends on multiple factors and also on what it is you want your bet to achieve. Don’t bluff if a bet will commit you to the hand, and if you are protecting your hand you should bet more so as not to give your opponent the right price to chase their draws. In general, a standard bet should be around 2/3 of the pot to full pot, but a standard continuation bet can be as little as ½ pot as this only needs to succeed 33% of the time to be a profitable play. 

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