Bet Sizing in Poker
To become skilled at poker, it’s vital to understand how to use bet sizing effectively. This skill distinguishes experienced players from beginners. One common mistake among new poker players is improper bet sizing, revealing their lack of experience. Beginners tend to make bets that are either too small or too large.
In poker, it’s crucial to consider the outcome you want before placing a bet. With this lesson, we’ll understand how much you should bet, concentrating on basic bet sizes before and after the flop.
So, What Exactly Is Bet Sizing in Poker?
Bet sizing in poker is about how much money or chips a player puts into the pot during a hand. It involves deciding the right amount to bet or raise based on factors like the strength of your hand, what cards your opponents might have, and what you want to achieve with your bet. Basically, it’s the choice of how big or small your bet should be at any given moment while playing poker.
How Do You Measure the Size of A Bet, Like Whether It’s Small or Big? | How Do You Determine Bet Size?
In poker, the size of a bet depends on how much money is in the pot. This is often shown as a fraction or percentage, such as half the pot (written as ½-pot) or 50% of the pot. Many new players make a mistake by deciding their bet size based on how strong their hand is and how much money they have. Sometimes, they completely ignore how much money is already in the pot.
However, this strategy puts them at a disadvantage and often makes it easy for opponents to predict their moves. For instance, if they bet small with weak hands and large with strong hands, it becomes easier for others to figure out their hand strength.
What Is the Rule for Bet Sizing in Poker?
Rule #1: Boost how much you raise before the flop when there’s a weak player in the blinds. The main idea behind this change is to get more out of the weak player. Players who aren’t as strong often stick to the same set of hands when they respond to raises, no matter the raise size (known as a ‘static’ calling range).
If the weak player would call with the same set of hands against a 3.5bb (big blind) raise as they would against a 2.5bb raise, it’s smarter to go for the former. Why? Because it’ll help you win more money, on average.
Rule #2: Raise more before the flop (3-bet) when you’ll have a worse position after the flop. When you’re in a good position, you should 3-bet around three times the amount of your opponent’s raise. But when you’re in a tough spot after the flop, go for about four times your opponent’s raise.
Being in a worse position means your opponent can make better use of their hand strength, so it’s better to raise more. On the other hand, if you’re in a good position, you want to make things tricky for your opponent by using smaller 3-bet sizes, especially with decent but not very strong hands.
Rule #3: Go for small bets (25-35% of the pot) on boards that aren’t changing much. Apart from aiming to win, betting on the flop and turn stops your opponents from getting a chance to win if they fold. In simpler terms, you take away their shot at the pot by making them fold with a bet.
When denying them a chance to win isn’t a big deal, smaller bets make more sense. This often happens on boards where most of what your opponent has doesn’t stand much of a chance against what you’re betting.
Using small bets on these boards also works because the chance of your opponent folding won’t change much regardless of how much you bet. Why risk a big bet with your bluffs when a smaller one can do the same job?
Moreover, smaller bets are a good move against players who fold too often. This is especially true in casual games and places where players easily give up after the flop.
Rule #4: Bet at least two-thirds of the pot on the turn when making the second bet. The key thing to remember when playing on the turn is to have a good mix of strong hands to bet confidently on the river and hands that could become stronger on the river.
Hands in the middle, usually part of smaller betting ranges better be checked for a few reasons:
- If the turn goes by without a bet, these middle hands will be good enough to bet on the river for a win.
- You can use these middle hands to catch your opponent bluffing on the river.
- They also shield the weaker hands that might only win with high cards (like an Ace or King) from being exposed.
- By holding back on betting with these middling hands on the turn, you can make believable bluffs with very weak hands on the river.
This way, all your hands work together to make sure your overall strategy brings in the most expected value (EV).
Preflop Bet Sizing in Poker
When you’re playing poker, it’s generally a good idea to take the lead whenever you can. This gives you the chance to have your opponents fold and snag some chips without relying on having a strong hand.
Unlike some weaker players who just call, you should kick things off by raising the pot.
Here’s where the size of your bet comes into play for the first time in poker. You’ve got to figure out how much to raise. In poker tournaments, a raise of 2 times the big blind or 2.5 times the big blind usually does the job, as long as no one has just called before you.
But if there are players who have called before you, you’ve got to bump up your raise. Add one big blind for each player who’s already called. For example, if two players have called, your raise should go up to 4-4.5 times the big blind.
In cash games, start with a default raise of 3 times the big blind. For every player who’s called before you, add another big blind to your raise. Also, it’s important to know which hands to start with from each position at the table, but try to keep your raise consistent so you don’t give away how strong your hand is.
Since we’re focusing on bet sizing in poker here, let’s move on to discuss how to size our bets after the flop.
Postflop Bet Sizing in Poker
When it comes to betting after the flop in poker, getting the bet size right is crucial. So, how much should you bet? Generally, a good rule of thumb is to bet between half the pot and the entire pot. This range typically makes draws less attractive to call, convinces weaker hands to call, and often pressures stronger hands to fold.
Your post-flop bets should relate to the pot size. For instance, imagine you’re in a no-limit cash game and the pot holds ₹20 after the flop. A solid bet would be around ₹15. But if the pot on the next hand is smaller, let’s say it’s only ₹12, sticking with the same ratio means your bet should be around ₹9, aiming for about three-fourths of the pot.
Now, what about betting on the turn? If you bet on the flop and get called, there’s more money in the pot. When you decide to make another wager on the turn, it should again be based on the pot size. Your turn bet should typically be more than your flop bet. Many beginners forget to adjust their bet sizes based on the pot—they overlook this, so try to avoid this mistake.
What Is a 4 Bet in Poker? and What Is Optimal 4 Bet Sizing?
In poker, a 4-bet is essentially the second re-raise in a betting round. It’s more frequently seen before the flop, but it can also occur after the flop. For instance, let’s say you raise before the flop, and then a player after you decide to re-raise (also known as a 3-bet). If the action comes back to you, and you decide to raise again, that’s when it’s called a 4-bet.
The optimal 4-bet sizing would depend on whether you are in position or out of position. You would want to use bigger sizes when you are 4-betting out of position so that you can mitigate some of their positional advantages. And when you’re in position 2.2x would be the optimal 4 bet preflop sizing. This specific size for the 4 bet works well because it sends a strong message to your opponent that you mean business with your hand, nudging them to consider folding. At the same time, it’s not so large that you can’t step away from your hand if they decide to re-raise you again.
Bet Sizing in Poker — Strategy
To figure out the right bet sizing strategy in poker, start by asking yourself: “How often are you placing bets in this scenario?” Or put differently, “What portion of your possible moves involves betting here?”
When you’re the one who raised before the flop, you almost always want to bet on this flop because the cards and situation strongly favour the range of hands you could have so much so that you need to bet here almost regardless of what cards you’re holding to keep your overall strategy balanced.
How does the frequency of your betting connect to how much you should bet in poker?
It’s simple. The more often you’re placing bets in a particular situation, the smaller your bet size should be.
Here’s the reasoning behind it: When your range of possible hands is broader, it includes more bluffs. Therefore, you shouldn’t risk as much to win the pot. Since your chance of winning is lower when you have a weaker range of hands, it’s smarter to risk less money.
Another factor is the dry board texture, which means there aren’t many hands your opponent can comfortably call with. So, opting for a smaller bet makes the most sense. Why? Because your opponent will likely call almost regardless of how much you bet if they have any part of the board, and fold if they don’t.
That’s why going big with bets would just waste chips. The same information can be gained by betting smaller.