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Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke: You Don't Need To Overbet To Make Your Opponents Fold

Cooke Explains How You Can Save Some Chips Without Sacrificing Fold Equity Or Value

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Novice players often erroneously overbet their medium strength hands, wanting to fold the opposition and “protect” their holding from being drawn out on. When successful at “protecting” their hand, they might just as well have been bluffing and missed the flop. When unsuccessful, they often get it down to them and the best hand. Much of the value of making a hand is the positive expected value (EV) value bets you receive from opponents who call getting the incorrect odds. Procuring a fold by overbetting, shuts out that value.

The object in poker is not to win the current pot. Yes, I do understand you can’t win money without winning pots. Instead, playing poker well is about playing your hand in the optimum way in which to maximize your positive EV. If you do that, the chips will come. It won’t always appear that way, but the money will come about over time.

Usually, the optimum bet size is the largest amount an opponent(s) will call that is negative EV for them. But not too much so that they will fold. One important consideration point is that if an opponent is EV neutral to call a $100 wager, betting $105 is plus EV, but a $110 called bet has twice the expectation of the $105 wager. That fact emphasizes the importance of sizing. All that said, if they won’t call a negative EV sized bet, then betting to fold them is usually better than giving them a free card to draw out.

Also, keep in mind the price your bet sizing is laying your opponents is the implied price based on how the hand will play out against his blended range. If he has a flush draw and you’ll pay it off if he makes it, his price is different than if you can accurately read him and correctly fold.

And just because you put a flush draw as part of your opponent’s range, don’t size your bet in relation to him having only a flush draw. If you shut out the weak, high equity calls he would make with non-flush draw hands you have probably cost yourself EV. Make the bet size that is optimum based on his entire range.

I understand that is usually impossible to exactly quantify his range and correct bet-size. But if you understand the concept, give a best guess estimate to what portion of his range is drawing, and what bet-size will he call with his non-drawing hands that you have edge over. Then you can estimate how the implied equity of those two ranges plays against your holding, and if you can make a positive EV wager against the blended range? If you can, then it may be your best play.

For example; say you flop second set on a JHeart Suit 10Heart Suit 2Club Suit board. Your single opponent has a strong range which includes many draws as well as overpairs, paired jacks and top set. Betting large enough to make his draws negative EV is often a mistake if in doing so you will fold his one pair hands in which he will call a smaller bet size. Those one pair called bets will be high-equity wagers for you. You need to size the wager so that any negative EV from the drawing portion of his calling range is more than made up by the calls from the weaker made holdings portion of his range. If he has top set, you’re probably getting felted no matter what.

Players that take the “protect concept” to great extremes and bet large to protect weak holdings create grave consequences. You’ll often end up bloating pots against strong ranges with weak hands. You’ve essentially turned your hand into a bluff. And while your hand may be vulnerable, played correctly, often it can still obtain value.

All that said, I understand that there are many other considerations to bet-sizing, including stack depth, opponent tendencies, pot size, opponent ability, etc… But the point I am trying to make is that you need to size your bets based on the implied odds of the situation based on the range of your opponent(s), not on the fear of being drawn out on.

So, don’t overbet your hands in an effort to avoid getting sucked out on. I understand it’s painful to lose a pot, but your reasons for betting need to be to obtain EV, not reduce the pain of losing. Poker is a hard-hitting game emotionally that requires a high level of mental toughness. Suck it up, stay tough, and make the right EV decision, not the emotional one.

And if you do this correctly, the thrill of winning long-term will overcome the short-term agony of any defeats you may have! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com. Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!