Players that move across to no limit Texas hold’em experience a totally different dynamic to when they are playing other games like limit hold’em or tournament hold’em for that matter where stacks are usually pretty shallow after rapid blind escalation. The full range of bets that are open to the player at any stage of the hand can alternate from the table minimum to an all-in move. This factor alone injects an awful lot of complexity into the game and many novices struggle with their bet sizing in this form of poker.
Why bets need to be sized correctly
There are several reasons why you need to size your bets correctly. The first reason is to do with bluffing and the ratio of your bet size in relation to the total pot size needs to be tailored so that you are not risking too much in order to reach your objective. Let us look at an example here to show you what I mean. You raise on the button before the flop (hand doesn’t matter) and your opponent in the big blind calls you. The flop misses you totally and the big blind checks. There are seven big blinds in the pot and now you want to bluff at the pot but how much do you bet?
If you bet too much then you are simply risking far too much in relation to what is in the pot. For example if your remaining stack was 95bb deep then you would be unwise to move all in for this amount to win a mere 7bb if your opponent folds. If they were going to fold anyway then simply betting say 5bb would suffice. By getting your bet sizing wrong when you bluff then you make it all too easy for your opponents to set you up by simply check-calling with hands that beat your bluffs.
The flip side of the coin is that if you bet the minimum then you are offering your opponent very good pot odds and implied odds to call with a very wide range of hands. Some opponents could also bluff raise you as well if you were to only bet 1bb into a 7bb pot. This is not only a waste of a big blind but it fails to win a pot that you could have won had you bet a larger amount.
Pre-flop bets need to be small
Whatever hand you hold in no limit hold’em deep stack cash games your bets and raises pre-flop need to be small in comparison with how much you have in your stack. Let us look at the pre-flop nuts here as an example to highlight what I mean. If you open shoved all in for 100bb with A-A then you would almost always fold out every single hand apart from pocket kings. It is even debatable whether pocket queens would even call you for such an amount.
While you would never be involved in a situation in which your opponents out flopped you, this is a far inferior strategy based on the value that you lose out on by having players with inferior hands call your small pre-flop raise. So it is pretty clear to see from this obvious and extreme example that whatever hand strength you hold before the flop demands a small bet or raise in relation to the total amount that is in your stack.
Post flop bet sizing
Just like with pre-flop bet sizing, your post flop bet sizing strategy will be dependent on several factors. These are the amount of money that is already in the pot and the likely hand strength of your opponent or opponents. With hands that involve bluffs and semi-bluffs, you are essentially trying to bet between the minimum amount that you need to get the job done and the maximum amount that achieves the same objective. If your bluff is to ultimately fail then you do not want it to fail because of incorrect bet sizing because that will be your error.
There will be times where you will want to over bet the pot and even shove all in for amounts that are far and away much larger than what is in the pot. In situations like these then you need to have a very good idea of where you stand in terms of what hand strength your opponent is likely to have. For example if you held the nuts but felt that you may lose your market unless you get your stack in the middle very quickly then an overbet may be justified. An example can be seen if you hold say a straight with Q-J and the flop is A-K-10.
If a jack or a queen comes on the turn then that could kill any further action that you may have got from hands that would have been prepared to get all in but would not have do done so with four cards to a straight on board. Another example where over betting the pot is legitimate is when a normal sized bet would leave you with an amount of money that was too small on a future betting round for it to have any meaningful effect. In general though if you are not sure about making overbets then you are better off keeping to normal bet sizing strategy.
Written by: Carl “The Dean” Sampson