by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
Whether playing online or live, it’s very important to mix up the sizing of your bets, raises, and re-raises. There’s nothing wrong with having a good sense of the default amount you’d like to bet on a given flop, but always be willing to adjust your flop-bet. Size up or down from your baseline, depending on the known factors at the time.
Let’s say you like to bet half of the pot on the flop as your standard continuation bet. There will be times where betting smaller or larger will be more optimal. If you’re in a situation where you have air and really need to get a fold, maybe bumping your bet up a little will make it more efficient. It’s also possible that you’ve already decided to only c-bet the flop and shutdown on the turn or river. This might be another scenario where you want to go ahead and increase the size of the bet.
Other times, making a smaller c-bet will work more efficiently than your default bet sizing. Take an example where you hit a set on the flop and only have 18 blinds behind in your stack. Especially in a multi-way pot, betting half the pot will be a high percentage of your stack and likely drive too many hands out of the pot. In a scenario where we have a set and only 18 blinds behind, betting 5 blinds into a 10 blind multi-way pot becomes too big of a bet. If we had bet 5 blinds on the flop, we’d only be leaving ourselves with 13 blinds behind. This would likely create an all in situation on the turn. Instead of betting 5 blinds in this situation, bet 3 blinds. This will leave us with 15 blinds behind on the turn, allowing us to stagger our bets out across all three streets. This will help us get more value from our opponents.
From an online poker standpoint, it definitely adds to the profitability of the game when sites include pre-set buttons such as the “bet pot” button. This makes it easier for bad players to make bigger mistakes and creates a positive situation for skilled players.
Especially in live poker, players will almost unilaterally base their betsizing on the size of the pot. Regarding bet-sizing, I argue that it’s fine to base your bets on all streets mainly on the size of the pot by default. Having said that, it’s also critical that we add other known factors into the equation to give ourselves an opportunity to make the correct decision, especially when it comes to the proper bet-size for the situation. Stack sizes would have to be a close second (behind the size of the pot) in importance when it comes to the size of bet we want to employ. Due to stack sizes, it’s often necessary to make a bigger or smaller bet than our usual default bet-sizing.
Here is an example of when we’ll need to adjust the size of our bet relative to the pot and the chipstacks in play. This example assumes we bet half the pot on the flop of a tournament as our default bet-sizing. Let’s say we have A2, blinds are 100/200, and we raised to 500 from the button with 10,000 chips. Our opponent made a call from the big blind sitting with an unusually small stack like 2,000 to start the hand. Let’s assume the small blind that folded pre-flop had a similar stack to ours, and that’s why we didn’t just shove all in against the shorter stack preflop. At this point the pot consists of: blinds, antes, a raise and a call - which equals roughly 1,300. The flop comes out Q37. We completely miss the flop. Our opponent is 1,800 chips behind. If we bet our standard default bet of 50% of the pot, we would be betting 650 chips. I believe the options of betting smaller, like 375, or larger, like putting the player all in, are better bet-sizing lines to take rather than the standard default size of 650.
Remember also that even though our continuation bet of 375 is very small relative to the pot, it still represents about 25% of our opponent’s stack left behind. Quite often we’re able to use our stack leverage against our opponent by making polarized bets that are very small or big relative to the effective stack in the hand.
This is one of those examples where I’d prefer to see us make a value- oriented-bluff touch-bet on the flop, or put our opponent all in. Just because you’re used to betting a certain size on the flop, doesn’t make it the optimal size for the given situation. When you’re on the felt, don’t get caught playing like a robot. Think everything through, and set out to make the best decisions possible.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com.