Poker Bet Size
Regardless of whether or not you realize it, you’ve used bet sizing in the past to determine your raise sizes. For instance, if you were trying to force somebody to fold and you went all-in, you used bet sizing to force the fold. Of course, there are more considerations to bet sizing than just going all-in beginning with what your goal is.
What’s your Goal?
The first thing you need to be aware of in regards to bet sizing is what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to isolate one opponent pre-flop? Are you making small value bets with the goal of taking your opponent’s stack by the showdown? Whatever your goal is, you need to make appropriate bet sizes to reach this goal.
However, keep in mind through all of this that you don’t want to make the exact same bets in every situation, or else you’ll become predictable. For example, if you make a pot-sized raise in late position every time in hopes of stealing the blinds, players are going to catch onto this. So sometimes it’s correct to vary your bets to sizes that are a little bit outside of your goal. With that being said, let’s look at what you need to do to accomplish each goal.
As you may already know, value betting is raising the maximum amount that you think will be called. To make a sound value bet, you need to have a good idea that your hand is better than the opponent’s, and also keep in mind that you eventually want to take your opponent’s stack. Seeing as how your goal in most value betting situations is to take another player’s stack, there will be times when you will over-bet, thus causing them to fold. But if your value betting skills are good, you’ll make money over the long run with these bigger bets.
Of course, keep in mind that your opponent will play a big part in the size of your value bets too. For example, let’s say that you’re holding AsQs in $3/$6 NL Hold’em on a board of Js-5s-Kc-8s; assuming your opponent is extremely tight and they have a $200 stack, there’s no way you are going to take this entire amount. So instead of throwing out a $60 raise on the turn and a $140 raise on the river, you need to make considerably smaller raises. This way it won’t be so obvious that you’ve hit a flush.
It also helps in these situations if you give your opponent great pot odds to call. For example, in the aforementioned example with the tight player, you’re a lot more likely to get a call after betting $15 into an $80 pot than you are by betting $40 into the same pot. In the end, there are no universal requirements for value bets, and they’ll heavily depend on the opponent.
Forcing an Opponent to Fold
One of the biggest bet sizing mistakes is making gaudy raises in an effort to make opponents fold. Sure these huge raises are more likely to make opponents fold, but they also make you susceptible to huge losses when you’re called. Much like in value betting where you want to bet the maximum that an opponent is willing to call, you bet the minimum that an opponent isn’t willing to call when forcing a fold.
To illustrate this point, let’s say you raise $5 with pocket pair - say 9’s pre-flop and get called by one player; if you don’t like the flop and want to c-bet your opponent, you don’t need to bet four times the pot. Instead, you can bet two-thirds the pot and see if that forces a fold. This way, if your opponent hits the flop and calls or re-raises, you won’t get burned for as many chips.
Betting the minimum that an opponent will fold to takes some practice because you’ll find yourself over-betting and under-betting quite often in the beginning. However, it’s definitely a skill worth honing so you don’t lose massive amounts of chips when you’re called.
Limiting the Field
Sometimes your goal is to limit the amount of players in the pot pre-flop. It's what I personally like to call "thining the herd". For example, if you’re holding pocket aces pre-flop, it’s ideal to have one opponent in the pot instead of a bunch of drawing hands. However, you don’t want to bet so much that you force every player to fold.
Limiting the field is a delicate balance that often depends on the table personality. If the table you’re on is mostly tight, betting fives times the big blind (5xBB) might be too much to keep every player in the hand. So you should keep your pre-flop raises from 3-4xBB to ensure that at least one player calls.
Likewise, on an extremely aggressive table, you may need to increase the size of your pre-flop raise 6-7xBB to isolate an opponent. Whatever the situation is, keep an eye on the table makeup so you’re better able to force players out of the hand pre-flop.
Sometimes you’re in a situation where you can’t execute a goal with bets. This happens a lot when you’re in early position and/or you don’t have much information on your opponents. In these situations, it’s always best to have a standard raise size that you make to show strength or create a table image.
In most cases, a half pot-sized raise is enough to show hand strength, yet not take a big hit if you’re called. As with any other bet sizing aspect though, this standard raise size is subject to change based on how your opponents are reacting. Also, your bet size might vary if you’re in the process of developing a table image.
In any case, you should be constantly thinking about bet sizing no matter whether you’re making a standard raise or trying to make opponents fold. This one concept alone will help you maximize your advantage with value bets, and save lots of chips when trying to make other players fold.