Vary The Sizes Of Your Flop C-Bets
by Dusty Schmidt | Published: Oct 03, 2012
Many players are under the distinct impression that their flop continuation bets (c-bets) should always be the same size. I suppose there is a certain logic to this. It’s easy to have a standard sized bet, something like two-thirds of the pot. Just like using a fixed preflop raise size, this simplifies a very common decision and prevents giving out too much information, like a pitcher only throwing fastballs in the bullpen so the other team can’t get a read on his stuff. If you bet the same amount every time, then your opponents won’t be able to learn anything about the quality of your hand from the size of your bet.
You’ve probably heard it said that you should vary your c-bet size based on the board texture, but there’s a more important reason to deviate from your regular bet size, and it’s pretty obvious – you want to make more money with a big hand.
Let’s say you have A K on an A 5 5 board against a single big blind caller. Your hand is almost always ahead, and your opponent can never have very many outs. You want to extract as much money from your opponent as possible.
When you’re up against an observant opponent, or a very nitty one, you may want to make a standard-sized bet. This will avoid giving information to the observant player, and avoid pushing the nit out of the pot. But when you’re playing against a mediocre to bad player, you should build the pot up early.
In a $5-$10 game, the pot will likely be about $60 on the flop. If you bet $40, then the pot will be $140 on the turn. If you bet two-thirds pot again, that’s about $100. Now you’re at $340 on the river, so you fire out $290 – close to a pot-sized bet, which may throw up some flags after your smaller flop and turn bets. You’ve put $430 into the pot after the flop, or a little less than half a 100 blind stack.
If you instead bet $50 on the flop, then the pot will be $160 on the turn. If you bet a little larger there, say $140, the pot will be $440 on the river. Now you can bet $390 instead of $290. If all three bets get called, you’ve managed to get $580 in the pot. That’s $150 more than if you’d bet just $10 less on the flop.
Even if you’re playing $.50-$1 instead of $5-$10, that’s still $15. This situation comes up a few times a day. Over the course of a month you could have close to $1,500 extra spending money. In a year you might be able to buy yourself a new car. If you’re playing $5-$10, call it a new house. That’s a big reward for tossing in one extra blind on the flop.
There are also situations where you should bet less than you usually would. Sometimes a “standard” c-bet is going to be very marginal against a particular opponent. Against the right player, a good compromise can be to bet less. Particularly against straightforward opponents, instead of giving up, it’s okay to bet half-pot instead of a regular two-thirds pot bet. Here’s an example:
NO LIMIT HOLD’EM: $5-$10 – 6 players
STACKS: $1,000 effective
READS: Button is tight, aggressive and fairly straightforward.
PREFLOP: You have A 9 in the cutoff
2 folds, you raise to $30, Button calls, 2 folds
FLOP: Q 8 2 ($75 – 2 players) You bet $40…
Your smaller bet size won’t make a significant difference in which hands your opponent folds, but it gives you a better price on your bluff. If you c-bet two-thirds pot, you need your opponent to fold 40 percent of the time (because $50 / ($50 + $75) = .4, or 40 percent). If you c-bet half pot, you only need them to fold 33 percent of the time (because $40 / ($40 + $75) = .35, or 35 percent. Note that $40 is slightly larger than half pot here, and a half-pot bet of $37.50 would only need to work 33 percent of the time). So if you expect your opponent to fold somewhere between 35 percent and 40 percent of his range, your bet size can make the difference between slightly profitable and slightly unprofitable.
The question arises as to whether we’re balancing this play. We’re probably not. But we’re only using it to exploit bad players, so we really don’t need to balance it.
Let’s look at the A K on the 10 9 8 flop. You might feel pretty weak giving up in this $230 pot with a pretty hand like ace-king suited. You have to realize that you’re in a terrible situation against a tough player and cut your losses. But against a weaker player, there may be a way to salvage the situation. Against someone who plays a fit or fold style, you can make very small c-bets on bad boards like these. Something like $75 into $230 only needs to succeed 25 percent of the time. A tough player won’t fold anywhere near that often. But a fit or fold player might. Making a small bet like this can be an alternative to “leaving your kids out there.” It’s basically a compromise between giving up and making a normal c-bet.
In deciding how to size your c-bet, you should always consider the board texture and how your opponent will respond to different sizes. Be careful to balance your plays against tough opponents. But against less observant ones, you can squeeze out some extra value using outside-the-box thinking. ♠
Dusty Schmidt is the author of the new book Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth: Correcting The 50 Worst Pieces of Poker Advice You’ve Ever Heard, as well as Treat Your Poker Like A Business. In his seven-year online-poker career, Schmidt has played nearly 11 million hands and won more than $4 million, without ever having a losing month. He blogs several times a week at www.dustyschmidt.net, and is an instructor at PokerStrategy.com and AmericasCardroom.net.
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