by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
For the most part, we all have a preferred bet sizing given almost any situation we are faced with; call it our default bet sizing. For the purposes of simplicity, let’s assume that betting 50% of the pot on the flop is our standard bet sizing in a tournament. We need to come up with reasons to bet more or less than this amount, in order to squeeze the most profit out of every hand we play.
We might bet larger or smaller to try and extract value out of opponents; betting larger against an opponent we know is a calling machine, or smaller if the opponent is someone that leans towards folding in marginal spots. Some players, for example will call pre-flop and purely base their calling or folding based on the quality of their hand on the flop. If they call pre-flop, you already know you are in a long-run positive situation going into the flop. This is why raising limpers or re-raising openers when we’re in position is so favorable.
It’s nice when they fold to our aggression preflop, but when they call we should also look at it as a good thing for us the majority of the time. We are able to bet larger or smaller in an attempt to mitigate risk; betting larger with a naked draw or betting smaller with absolute air (such as a touch-bet). Sometimes betting smaller gives off the impression that we have a strong hand against thinking players. It’s possible to come up with a bunch of reasons to bet more or less than our normal default bet sizing.
The willingness to be flexible with your bet sizing will allow you to put your opponent in situations they are unaccustomed to being in. Taking a look at an outlier betting situation, let’s say we bet 25% of the pot on the flop and 75% of the pot on the turn. If the pot is 1,000 on the flop and we bet 250 and get called, the pot is 1,500. If we bet 75% of the pot on the turn, it would be sized at 1,125. A typical bet sequence from street to street is 1 to 2, meaning if an opponent bets 100 on the flop they can be expected to bet around 200 on the turn (and then 400 on the river.)
In our outlier example, by sizing our bet small then large from flop to turn, it created a situation where the turn bet was 4.5 times the size of our flop bet. If we had bet half the pot on the flop and half the pot on the turn, we would have allotted 1,500 chips to make the two bets. Either way we play the hand, we are using around 1,500 chips - it’s just a question of how we want to size the bets.
Nothing we do at the poker table is done in a vacuum. Every action or inaction will be connected in some way, if nothing else, through our basic table image. As it relates to bet sizing, recognize that there are many options, and look for reasons to deviate from your standard sizing. Manipulating the size of our bets is one of the primary ways we can control our destiny in a tournament.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former No. 1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com.