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Why You Should Care About Bet-Sizing

It’s time to get in the action. You’ve decided that you’re going to put in a raise, either for value or as a bluff, and you’re carefully measuring out the amount of chips that you’re going to fire into the pot. How do you decide how many chips to bet?

There are a lot of factors that go into this decision, and, in truth, it’s one of the most important considerations that we make as poker players. We always want to extract maximum value from our bets, so finding the right bet-size can be the difference between a losing session, a middling session, and knocking it out of the park.

Thinking About Pot Odds

The first thing that you need to think about for bet-sizing is the pot odds that you’re giving to your opponents. Now, what are pot odds?

This fundamental metric expresses the ratio between the amount of chips needed to call and the potential amount of winnings. For instance, if we need to call 50 chips to win 100 chips, then we have 2:1 odds. This tells us that, for a call to be profitable in this situation, we need to win at least 50% of the time.

Basically, pot odds tell us how much equity we need for a call to be profitable. While calculating pot odds is important for calling, it is equally important for betting. After all, the bettor is the one giving the pot odds in the first place.

For example, if the pot is 50 chips and we bet 50 chips, then, just like in the scenario before, the caller has to call 50 to win 100, thus getting 2:1 odds. This is a pot-sized bet.

How to Use Odds to Win More

Now let’s apply the principles of pot odds to see how we can win more chips at the table.

Let’s start with small bets, such a half-pot sized bet or even an under-bet, such as putting 20 chips into a 200 chip pot. If we size our bets in this way, we’re giving our opponents much better odds on a call, thus making it easier for them to call.

This can be good if we have a made hand and want to extract value out of weaker hands, yet it also opens us up to the possibility of getting drawn out on. Straight and flush draws can call bets with 10:1 odds all day, and this means that you might be better off making a larger bet with your pair of aces to protect against this.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have larger bets, such as the pot-sized bet and overbet. These bets are much harder to call because they give much worse odds, meaning that, in general, calls will come from stronger hands. If you’ve got the nuts and you always expect a fish to call your large bets, then bomb away, but you also don’t want to bet so much that you force all the weaker hands out of the pot. Similarly, making a large bet can be effective for certain bluffs, as opponents are more likely to fold.

Unsure of what to do? Consider a standard size of 2/3 pot.

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