If you have read a lot of poker strategy, the odds are that you have been told time and time again that you should understand bet sizing inside and out. In general, bet sizing strategy is quite systematic and routing, and while there is nothing inherently incorrect about this, it leaves a lot to be desired. One of the biggest rules of thumb in poker is that your play should never be see-through or predictable, especially when you are facing the same opponents time and time again. A consistent betting pattern might make your life easier, but it is also going to make it easier for your opponents to capitalize on your playing style.
Bet sizing is an element in poker that comes in many different varieties. Bets before the flop are going to differ from flop, turn, and river bets. Each of these streets is going to create new opportunities for creativity and a chance to maximize profitability. In this article we are going to take a look at how bet sizing can be improved upon from pre-flop play all the way to the river. No situation is the exact same as the next in poker which is what makes the game both great and profitable at the same time.
Pre-Flop Bet Sizing
Pre-flop is the most ideal and logical time to implement a more standardized format when it comes to bet sizing. You can effectively decide that you will raise 3x from a specific position when this action occurs while holding this hand, or 5x when another action takes place while holding a different hand. With that said, however, pre-flop play will also leave plenty of room for maneuverability in which you can skew your typical plays.
If you are sitting at a loose table full of players who always want to see the flop, it doesn’t make sense to resort to your standard open raise. Instead you should be looking to squeeze an extra few big blinds out of these players with every opportunity that you get. If your opponents are hungry for action, they aren’t going to muck pre-flop because the prices is a few dollars higher. While this small bump will go largely unnoticed by your opponents, it is going to affect your bankroll in a very positive way in the long run. Be careful not to reverse this strategy when you are at a tight table. If your normal pre-flop raise sizes tend to work well, you shouldn’t make them any smaller. It is one thing to extract extra value from players by increasing your bet sizing, but it is another to lose out on potential profits by trimming your bets.
Post-Flop Bet Sizing
Post-flop is where things tend to get really interesting. Everything from continuation bets to river check raises will allow for players to mix up their bet sizing. An entire article could be written on continuation betting alone. As is the case with almost any piece of strategy in poker, the two primary factors are going to be your opponent and the board/hand at play. You are not going to be approaching a hand where you are holding the nuts in the same way that you would a hand where you have a small draw.
In the end, the ultimate goal of bet sizing is to throw off your opponents as much as possible. You want the other players to think that your value bets look like bluffs and that your bluffs look like value bets. If you can successfully accomplish this, you are going to have a significant edge over just about anyone that you play.
While you should be trying to tell a believable story to your opponent, you shouldn’t get carried away when trying to be creative. For example, some players think that bombing the pot is the best way to go about bluffing. This might work from time to time, but an overly aggressive approach can very easily wind up costing you a lot of money. You should always be comparing the risk and reward that are inherent in any given situation. Is a huge bet that much more likely to garner a fold than a small one? If the contrast doesn’t make sense, you should reconsider how you are going to play the hand.
The easiest and simplest way to look at varied bet sizing is to realize that each opponent and situation has a unique solution. The most important thing that you can do is to carefully analyze what is going on right now. Do you have a loose calling station who never folds? Make huge bets on every street. Are you facing a player who likes to chase draws? Make him pay to hit his card, but slow down if the board completes. Is a tight player folding to almost every bet that is made? Don’t waste your time placing a large continuation bet, instead bet small and you will likely see the same result (or, at worst, you will save money when your opponent calls).
A lot of poker players fall into the trap of thinking that there is one “best” way of playing poker and they fail to realize that it is an incredibly dynamic game that can be played in any number of ways. Adaptation is absolutely critical, and by varying your bet sizes you will be able to minimize your losses and maximize your gains in one of the most effective ways possible.