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Betting the Flop

How much?

by Bob Ciaffone |  Published: Apr 09, 2008

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How much should you bet on the flop in a no-limit hold'em game? I am sure there is a variance of opinion on this matter among experts, so I do not claim that what I am telling you is any more than my personal opinion. On the other hand, I find that what works for me is usually quite suitable for the vast majority of no-limit players, even though a fine opponent-reader like Johnny Chan or Daniel Negreanu might do things a bit differently.



My general poker philosophy is that you need to do two things when you select the size of your bet. First, you need to bet enough to help narrow down the range of hands you face, enabling you to make more accurate decisions on later betting rounds. Second, you need to bet more when there are greater drawing possibilities presented by the texture of the board.



Since the actual bet size preflop has such a wide range, we use a percentage of the pot size to be our guide to bet size. I and many others consider the normal range of a flop bet to be half of the amount in the pot to the full size of the pot. A smaller bet than half of the pot may have psychological value, but, technically speaking, it does not protect your hand well enough or sufficiently narrow the range of a caller's hand. Anyone who has made a wimpy-size bet with a big hand and lost a huge amount of chips to a gutshot-straight draw that got lucky will understand my point. Bets larger than the size of the pot are unusual. I do that only when I have a small stack and want to be all in.



Now we are ready to look at specific flops, and go through the process of deciding how much to bet. Let's pretend that we are in a $5-$10 blinds game, have open-raised from early position for $30, and have gotten a couple of callers behind us. The pot is now $105. Note that I did not tell you what your hand is. If you decide to bet the flop, it should make no difference whether you are betting an overpair, a draw, or a joke; you should bet the same amount. To do otherwise would give away key information to an alert opponent.



1. K 8 2: This is a lovely layout for the preflop raiser. It has a king, and no straight draws or flush draws. I would bet half the pot, normally enough to find out if someone has a king. A larger bet to protect your hand is not necessary. Note that half of the pot is $52.50, a sum that you could bet only online. I round off my bets even if I can hit the nail on the head. There's no sense in telling your online opponent that you even know how to count, let alone that you probably know exactly what is in the pot. So, here I would bet $50.



2. J 7 2: Now there's a flush draw, no ace or king for a scare card, and a gutshot-straight draw. I would increase the size of my bet to something like $70, $75, or $80. The added drawing possibilities mean that you should bet more to protect your hand. If someone were to tell me that he bet $100, I would not tell him that he did anything wrong; he didn't. On the other hand, a bet of only $50 or $60 is something that I would criticize.



3. J 10 6: Here, there is no longer a two-flush on the board, but there are a large number of straight draws. I hate facing a flop like this one, where every new card higher than a 6 will make a possible straight. Connecting honor cards in the playing zone are more dangerous than a flush draw. There are 24 cards that make a straight, and only nine cards that make a flush. If I bet, I would bet $100 into this pot – and would seldom be bluffing.



4. 9 5 3: I prefer to bet the full pot size whenever the board is all small cards, even if there is no flush draw on the board. There are several reasons for this: If I have an overpair such as queens, jacks, or tens, I need to protect my hand against an overcard. If I have pocket aces or kings, I am going to bet the turn, which may well shake loose a pursuer, so I want to make a decent amount of money on the flop. If I have two overcards such as A-Q, I would like to get rid of A-K or a pair if possible, and a bet of the full pot gives me the best chance to do so. If I have top set, I do not want it to be easy for a player to hit a gutshot, since I may well lose all of my chips when that happens.



5. J 10 9. I seldom bet a flop like this into multiple players without having a huge hand – and I do not consider one pair a huge hand in a no-limit hold'em game. I cannot tell you how many times I have had one of my students say there were so many drawing possibilities out with this type of flop that he thought it was right to make a big bet to protect his pocket aces. Then he asks me what he should have done when he got raised. My reply is to ask him why he wanted to protect such a trashy hand when at least one of his opponents probably had him beat already. After reading the way that I play two aces with terror in my heart when looking at this flop, you may choose to call me a big chicken – and maybe I am. But you will not be able to call me broke, or say, "A fool and his money are soon parted," with me in mind. Notice that I did not say that I would try to check the hand out all the way to the end. I re-evaluate flops when everyone checks, so I may decide to bet the turn or river.



As I said in the introduction, there are other ways to play besides the way that I do. However, if a good professional player does not see through my eyes in flop-betting policies, he is more likely to be betting on the high side of what I recommend than the low side. There is no such thing as being so good at poker that you don't have to protect your hand.



Bob Ciaffone has authored four poker books, Middle Limit Holdem Poker, Pot-limit and No-limit Poker, Improve Your Poker, and Omaha Poker. All can be ordered from Card Player. Ciaffone is available for poker lessons: e-mail thecoach@chartermi.net. His website is www.pokercoach.us, where you can get his rulebook, Robert's Rules of Poker, for free. Bob also has a website called www.fairlawsonpoker.org.