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Poker Life: Bet Sizing in Different Situations

Thu, Mar 23, 4:54pm by Poker Guru

Bet sizing is a very important tool for a no-limit poker player to maximise their winnings. I would also say that bet sizing is a more complex decision than deciding whether to call or fold after someone else has bet into you. In the latter case your opponent’s bet size has decided the odds for you.

There are of course some rules of thumb that most of us follow. Pre-flop our standard raise is 2-5 big blinds (nowadays 2.5-3 big blinds is usually the norm, it was 3.5-5 big blinds a few years ago). And when we make a continuation bet we normally bet 40-80% of the pot.

Let us look at an example. Suppose you have A-J suited in the small blind, it is folded to you and you decide to raise to 3 x big blind. I hate being in the Small Blind—by definition you will be out of position on all streets post-flop. I even hate when it is folded to me, it is like playing heads-up but you have to act first on all four streets (unlike real heads-up play when the Big Blind acts first post-flop). Anyway, with a strong hand like A-J suited I would always raise and let us say that the Big Blind calls.

The flop is Q-9-4 with two of your suit. You make a continuation bet and now the Big Blind makes a standard raise. You will obviously not fold here so the question is whether you want to call or three-bet. And if you want to three-bet what is the right bet amount?

Let us say that this is a $5/$10 NL cash game and you both started the hand with more than $2,000. You pre-flop raise was to $30 and your continuation bet was $40 and the Big Blind raised to $120. A pot sized three-bet would be to $420 and you probably do not want to raise more than that. Let us go through what he can have:

  1. He has a bluff, a hand like 8-7 or A-7.
  2. He has a weak draw, like a gutshot straight draw, or a middle pair.
  3. He has a good draw, typically J-T or a flush draw, or top pair.
  4. He has a set or two pair.

If you three-bet your opponent will fold all hands in category 1. He will probably also fold all hands in category 2 unless you make a really small raise. The interesting hands are in category 3 and 4. If he has a category 3 hand you want him to stay in the hand, i.e. you do not want to raise too much. If he has a category 4 hand you do not want to build the pot for him.

The answer is you do not want to raise too much. Maybe $250 is right.

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