A Good Decision Is Based On Knowledge, Not Numbers
by Ian Simpson | Published: Feb 11, '13
“How much is that, John?” asked Plato.
“Come on, Plato, it’s me. You know I always raise 2.25x” said Mr Thorn-in-my-side-four-bettor.
I saw this exchange recently at a live event and it got me wondering about bet sizing and its trend over the past few years. The above player, Mr Thorn-in-my-side-four-bettor, had been just that; a very good player, applying a very aggressive game, and generally being a nightmare to his opponents at the table. However he is making a mistake here, as are a lot of very good poker players. He used the word “always”.
If you’ve been playing online for as long as I have (since about 1 minute into my 18th birthday) you will have no doubt noticed the change in trends when it comes to bet sizing. Back in the day 3x the blind was THE preflop raise size. Except with a tricky, but strong hand like pocket tens or jacks, and then it was 4x (Exploitable much?).
As the game evolved 2.5x became the norm. With the sound reasoning that it reduced the pot size when called and hence reduced the variance. It also meant that anyone threebetting you would be doing so for a smaller amount making it easier for you to either call or re raise.
A little later and 2.25 became the norm or even just a “click” raise to 2x the BB, with the same reasoning as above but combined with more people learning that investing more money passively out of position (OOP) from the blinds with marginal hands was a bad thing.
The problem that some players have is that they stick to a rigid bet size with the thinking that people won’t get a read on them based on it. I’ve always considered that thinking a bit woolly. If you aren’t disciplined enough to make sure that when you raise 2x the BB you do so with a variety of hands and not just K-K+ then your problem isn’t your bet sizing, it’s your discipline and your whole game would do well if you improve upon it.
There are a number of factors that make me want to change how much I am raising preflop.
Let’s say the big blind is on 12x the blind and seldom threebets light. He is also at least semi-competent, so you assume he is either going to be pushing or folding, not passively investing any more chips OOP with a precarious stack. You look down and see 7-6 suited and next to those beautiful cards is the dealer button. Everyone folds to you. Does it get more exciting?
You notice that the small blind (SB) has 20x the big blind (BB), which is around the same as you. What is a correct raise size?
There is no need to raise too much here. In fact I would personally min-raise my entire range in this situation. If either player does wake up with a threebet then I lose less when I fold my 7 high. I don’t think raising an extra quarter or an extra half a BB gives us that much more fold equity at all in this specific situation, so there’s no point putting it into the pot. A penny saved and all that. Note it is extremely important to have the discipline to min-raise your monster hands here as well in order to balance your range. That’s how you become unexploitable, not by having a rigid opening raise size for every situation.
If the BB has a bigger stack, and has shown a tendency to defend his BB then make it a larger raise and force him to invest more chips OOP against you. It would be a mistake to stick to a rigid 2x the BB raise here since he is willing to put in more money when you have a positional advantage on him.
Let’s look at a different situation. It’s in the early stages of the tournament and the players are all deep stacked and we look down at A-A. Now with the blinds so small in relation to the stacks I want to be raising 3×. I’m raising larger so that Jonny-set-miner has worse implied odds against me. I make the same raise with J-10 so that, again,
I am unexploitable. The same raise size for each unique situation, not the same raise size period.
When I was in Las Vegas there was often five or more players going to the flop, even if it was raised. In these situations you can go ahead and make your raise sizes even bigger preflop to minimise your number of opponents and to punish the limpers. I’d also put even more focus on exploiting your position vs. loose passive players by widening your range with favourable position.
What’s your thinking on preflop raise sizes and the examples in the blog? Do you have a specific strategy you follow? And how and when do you alter it if at all?