Don’t get into a rut with the size of your bets

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Lit­tle TRI­BUNE CON­TENT AGENCY

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.

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