No matter if you play cash games or tournaments, winning chips is what it’s all about in Texas Holdem. However, you can also increase your win rate by losing fewer chips when you have to let go of the pot, and that is also a vital part.
Of course, this is a simplistic view of the game, but it’s not wrong. You play to win as many chips as possible, so your strategy is heavily connected to this idea, and bet sizing plays a major part here.
How you size your bets in different situations is one of the biggest considerations in your game-plan.
Properly sizing your bets on various boards and at different stack depths is what makes great players stand out from the rest. It’s not the only thing, of course, but it definitely plays a huge role.
Inexperienced players will often size their bets in a way that doesn’t fit the situation. They’ll make their value bets way too small or their bluffs way too big.
Instead of relying on the math and ranges, these players tend to come up with random amounts they “feel” are good, but random strategy seldom works in poker.
Preflop Bet Sizing
The hand of Texas Hold’em begins with the preflop round. Once you’re dealt two hole cards, you first need to decide whether you’re going to play them at all. Of course, that’s not the topic of this article, but if you are not sure what hands you want to be playing, you can always get some help from opening tables.
When you know what hands to play and get one that deserves your attention, you are likely going to raise, so the real question is HUM MUCH.
When it comes to preflop bet sizing, most players agree that you should have a pretty consistent sizing regardless of the strength of your hand. A common size is anywhere from 2x to 3x the big blind depending on your position and the game that you play.
The strength of your hand shouldn’t influence the size of the raise.
Don’t make it 4x with pocket Aces but 2.2x with 67s. It won’t take a long time for competent opponents to figure out what you’re doing and start exploiting you. Of course, if you’re playing in a soft game where no one is paying attention, you can resort to this exploitative style, but we’ll talk more about that in the final section of the article.
Instead of looking at your hand, you should look at two critical factors:
- Your position
- Effective stacks
When it comes to position in poker, you could make your EP raises a bit larger, for example, 2.5x. When you raise from an early position, you’re representing a strong range already, so you’re not really giving away any information.
Likewise, you can make your cutoff and button opens smaller (2x – 2.2x) since your range is inherently weaker in these spots.
Stack sizes are another vital consideration. If you’re playing 100+ big blinds effective, having a strategy with larger preflop bet sizes, in general, can make sense, especially against weaker players.
With shorter stacks, though, you won’t be achieving much with big raises. In fact, against weaker players, you’ll be giving up some of your postflop edge by making a big pot before the flop and reducing stack to pot ration and playability later on.
This can clearly be seen in tournaments, where players often just min-raise to open the pot for all previously mentioned reasons.
Postflop Bet Sizing
Proper postflop bet sizing is even more essential than preflop, which will help you get more value from your opponents and increase your win-rate when used correctly.
Once the flop is out, you usually bet for one of three reasons:
- To get your opponent to lay down the best hand (bluffing)
- To get them to pay you with a worse hand (value betting)
- To give them a wrong price to try and out-draw you (protection)
Inexperienced players will often look at these reasons and use them as their guide when making decisions about how to size their bets.
As I’ve mentioned, they’ll often fire big with bluffs to “scare you” or put in a tiny bet when they have the nuts because they want to get paid.
The problem with this approach isn’t just that it gets very predictable. The more significant issue is that you’re hurting your equity if these are the only factors you look at when betting.
Instead of these static factors, you should be looking at dynamic ones, such as:
- The wetness of the board (board texture)
- Perceived hand ranges in a given situation (range advantage)
- Stack to pot ratio (SPR)
You should size your continuation bet based on the board texture and the opponent’s perceived range.
Certain board textures are going to contain many more likely draws than the others. Let’s look at a typical scenario where you open from a button, and the big blind just calls.
In this example, Poker Snowie suggests betting 25% of the pot as the optimal strategy when it’s checked to us. There isn’t much to protect against, especially since we’re holding the Ad.
Thus, there are fewer flush draws in the opponent’s defending range, so betting smaller makes sense because there aren’t many turn cards we’re concerned about.
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On this board texture, Snowie suggests 50% of the pot bet as the best option. This board connects much better with the defending range, and there are more cards on the turn we don’t want to see. So, we’re betting for value and for protection at the same time.
From these two examples, you can see that bet sizing in the function of the pot size. While you might occasionally deviate from this approach, you’ll usually want to size your bets to be a certain percentage of the pot.
Having a few fixed values, such as 25%, 33%, 50%, and 75% of the pot for different scenarios, makes it easier to stay consistent and harder to read.
Importance of SPR and bet size
The stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is a significant factor to keep in mind when sizing your bets.
For example, if the pot is $400 and you have $2000 behind you, the SPR is 2000/400 = 5.
SPR number that tells you how your stack relates to the pot at any given point, and by looking at this number, you can plan your actions for future streets.
Your overall bet sizing strategy needs to be such that a bet on every street is effective. If you bet huge on the flop and the turn, leaving yourself with a small bet on the river, you’re are putting yourself in the spot you will not be able to bluff.
Instead, think about future streets and how your SPR will look after each street. For example, you are playing a hand in NL200 with $100 effective stack:
- You open to $5 and get called by the big blind ($11 pot)
- The BB checks to you, and you bet on a larger side ($7), and they call ($25 pot)
- On the turn, they check to you, and you bet $14. They call. ($53 pot)
You’ve arrived at the river with the $53 in the pot and $74 in your stack. You now have all the options available to you on the river: small value bet, a larger bet, or even an over-bet shove.
On every street, you sized your bets in a way to be effective, extracting value and creating protection, building the pot, and maintaining a good SPR.
Had you bet $20 on the flop instead and $40 on the turn, your SPR would be much smaller, and you would have to bet all-in on the river. Even that bet wouldn’t achieve much given how much money is already in the pot.
If you’re somewhat new to poker, you may feel like you need to make huge bets to scare your opponents and make them give up “chasing,” but that is not the case.
You’re giving them the wrong price by properly sizing your bets without over-betting the pot. At the same time, you’re giving yourself much more playability and make it possible to win more hands without a showdown. SBR has a good list of reputable sportsbooks that offer poker so you can try it out to practise.
Exploitable Play: Adjusting Your Bet Sizes
From a GTO (Game Theory Optimal) perspective, you shouldn’t change your bet sizes based on your hole cards or your opponents’ tendencies. You simply play the ranges and positions and stick to it, making your game unexploitable.
There is nothing wrong with this approach, and if you’re up against very good players, it is your best option. However, often, you’ll find yourself up against weak opposition that doesn’t adjust well. In these scenarios, you’ll want to change your strategy and go for the maximum value.
In this scenario, Snowie is suggesting betting a 0.25 of the pot to let your opponent continue with more hands, even though bigger sizing has slightly more EV.
However, if you’re up against an opponent who’ll continue with any piece of the board, you want to bet bigger and get more value while you can. Don’t downsize your bet just because you have such a big hand. If they fold, so be it.
But if they’re someone you have pegged as a type of player who continues with any sort of equity, they’re likely to call, and they’ll call regardless of the bet size.
I do think that this idea is often overlooked in today’s poker, mostly because it is assumed that most players know the strategy and will play well in any situation.
But this isn’t always the case, especially in live games. So, when you find someone you can exploit at the tables, you shouldn’t be afraid to test your theory and go for the maximum profit.
Of course, it goes the other way around. If you’re up against someone who never folds, there isn’t much point in c-betting with air.
You can simply play it safe and reduce your continuation bet percentage against that particular opponent. The odds are, they won’t even notice the shift and will still continue to pay you off when you hit big.
Conclusion: Take Advantage Of Proper Bet Size
Bet sizing is an integral part of No-Limit Texas Hold’em strategy. Since the game is played in no-limit format, you can bet whatever you want, whenever you want.
Thus, you need to have a good plan for your bets and make sure every single one of them counts.
Always consider board textures, pay attention to effective stack size, plan in advance, and adjust versus specific players!
If you think about all these elements when playing, you should be doing well at the tables. Of course, you won’t become a master of bet sizing overnight, but players in smaller stakes games are often clueless about these things either way.
So, solely by being aware of them and incorporating them into your decision-making process, you’ll give your win-rate a serious boost.
- Keep consistent bet sizing preflop with all of your range
- Adjust it based on your position and stack depth
- Plan how many streets you will bet in advance
- Deviate from GTO strategy against weaker players