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Card Player Pro -- Thinking About Bet-Sizing

by Joshua Pix |  Published: Jan 08, 2010


Game: $100 buy-in 50¢-$1 six-handed no-limit hold’em
Opponent: Unknown player on the button
Stacks: $104.40 (mine); $95.85 (his)
My Cards: JDiamond Suit JClub Suit
My Position: Hijack seat

The beauty of no-limit hold’em is that you can pick any bet size that you like. Depending on your hand, your assumptions about your opponent’s hand, the board texture, and your reads, you can use bet-sizing to manipulate the pot size. This means that you can build big pots when you have the nuts, and keep pots small when you’re weak. The best players in the world are masters at this, and it’s a skill that you should develop and add to your game. In this column, I’m going to look at how we should use bet-sizing to our advantage when we have a big hand.

In a recent poker training video that I produced for Card Player Pro, I encountered an interesting situation with pocket jacks. I was in the hijack seat and opened for $3. My opponent on the button called, and everyone else folded. We took a flop heads up.

The flop came 5Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit 3Spade Suit.

Before I continue, I want to ask you to stop and ask yourself: “How would I proceed in this situation?”

Most players will simply answer, “I’d bet.” I agree, we should bet — but how much?

This is where bet-sizing comes into play. Given the board and the power of our hand, we want to pick an objective for this hand. We flopped an overpair to the board, and there are plenty of worse hands and draws that can call us if we bet. Our plan here should be to build a big pot, and extract value from worse hands.

So, while I think many players would make a “standard” continuation-bet of $4 or $5, I think we should bet bigger, to both protect our hand and get more money in the pot from worse hands. After all, if he has 8-8, 7-7, 6-6, 6-5, A-5, and so on, he’ll likely call a $6 or $7 bet with the same frequency that he calls $4 or $5.
Pix Hand
So, I bet $6, and my opponent called.

The turn brought the JSpade Suit, giving me top set.

Again, what would you do? Check? Bet? How Much?

The turn is really the crux of this hand, as I often see amateur players misplay this situation. Typically, when people turn big hands, their gut reaction is to slow-play and trap their opponent. They have a well-concealed monster hand (a set would be considered a monster in this spot!), and quickly forget about what their plan for the hand was.

With an ace, deuce, 6, 7, and spades all capable of ruining our hand, checking would be a mistake. We need to bet — and not a small bet, a big bet.

Remember the hands that we thought he had on the flop: 6-6, 7-7, 6-5, 8-8; all of these hands are still drawing live against us. More importantly, most of these hands with draws are going to call a big bet with the same frequency that they’ll call a small bet.

There’s no reason not to pump up the pot.

I elected to bet $14 into a pot of just over $18. Without much hesitation, my opponent called.

The river brought the 10Diamond Suit.

What’s your play? Check? Bet? Overbet?

Too often, I see players thinking their decisions are always binary: “I can check or bet half of the pot,” “I can bet $10 or I can bet $20,” and so on. The truth is, you can bet anything you wish! Use this to your advantage.

On the river, I have a big hand and want to get paid off — but I don’t think he has a very strong hand. He has yet to put in a raise, and all of the straight draws on the flop missed. I need to pick a bet size that will get me paid off by the largest number of hands in his range.

I decided to bet $38 into a pot of $45.20 — which could be called by a 10, jack, or even a pair that puts me on a bluff.

Unfortunately, my opponent thought for a bit and folded. He likely had a draw that missed.

Instead of always betting the same amount, think through what you hope to accomplish with your hand — and pick a bet size that best accomplishes that mission. Spade Suit