Don’t get into a rut with the size of your bets
One of the most common mistakes made by recreational no-limit Texas hold ‘em players is the incorrect sizing of bets. The game is called “no-limit” for a reason. If you use the same bet size in all or most situations, you are leaving money on the table.
Perhaps the most common bet size is a bet of about half of the size of the pot. If there is $10 in the pot, a player will bet $5, while the optimal bet may be $3 or $8, depending on the situation.
For example, suppose you’re playing in a $1-$2 cash game and raise to $5 from middle position with Ac Kc. Only the player in the big blind calls.
If the flop comes Kh 7s 2d, giving you top pair, you should use a small bet because your opponent is almost certainly in terrible shape against you. You are not susceptible to being outdrawn too often. It is highly unlikely that your opponent has a strong hand that can call large bets on the flop, turn and river. So in this situation, you should bet small: $3 into a pot of $11.
While there may not seem to be much of a difference between a $3 bet and a $5 bet, you’ll find that your opponent will call far more often when facing the smaller bet, potentially leading him into further mistakes on the turn and river.
If instead the flop had come down Kh Qs 8s, you would have been better off with a larger bet of, say, $8. On this board, your top pair would be quite vulnerable. Any queen, jack, 10, 9, 8 or spade could easily improve your opponent to the best hand, and other random cards could also be bad if they give your opponent a disguised two pair. There’s also a decent chance that your opponent is holding a king, a queen or draw and could feel comfortable calling a fairly large bet.
As a general rule, when the board is more coordinated, you should tend to bet on the larger side with all your hands, and when it is less coordinated, you should bet smaller.
It is also important that you choose the correct bet size on the later betting rounds. Simply put, if your range on the river is almost entirely premium hands and it is difficult for your opponent to have a worse premium hand, you should bet small. This is often the case on uncoordinated boards, or when your range is mostly premium hands and draws and all the draws arrive. If lots of draws miss, meaning that you could have lots of bluffs, you should instead make a large bet.
Bet sizing is by far the most difficult aspect of no-limit hold ‘em. The next time you play, be sure to constantly ask yourself: “What do I want my bet to accomplish, and does it do that?” You’ll find that generic half-pot bets simply do not get the job done.