The Ultimate Guide to Poker Bet Sizing Strategy

The Ultimate Guide to Poker Bet Sizing Strategy

This in-depth blog on poker bet sizing strategy will help improve your game when grinding both cash games and tournaments, in whatever size game you’re playing.

Note: If you’d like to see my complete resource of videos on poker bet sizing strategy, scroll down to the middle of this blog.

First off, let’s start with an overview of poker bet sizing strategy, the theory behind it and how you should think about this subject. At Conscious Poker, we believe in ‘conceptual based learning an approach that doesn’t just teach you to memorize situations and formulas, but rather to strengthen your grasp of poker as a whole so you can apply the theory to any situation you encounter.

Poker Bet Sizing Theory

To better understand bet sizing in poker you need to first learn about poker bet sizing theory, which will teach you how much you should be betting, and why.

To construct a proper poker bet sizing strategy you want to start by structuring your bets not based on the strength of your hand, but rather how strong your range is relative to your opponents. 

What do I mean by that?

Let’s take a look at a situation which you have inevitably faced before, and I’ll illustrate how poker bet sizing theory will help you structure a proper poker bet sizing strategy.

Poker Bet Sizing Theory Hand Example

In a $2/$5 NL cash game, you (Hero) raise under the gun (UTG) to $20 with JsTs. Your lone opponent calls in the Big Blind.

Pot: $42
The flop comes down AdKs4c. Your opponent checks. Now it’s on you.
What’s your move?
Why?

You may have correctly determined that you should bet, and perhaps your reason was something like ‘because I’m the preflop raiser.’

Poker Bet Sizing Theory

While you would be correct in saying you should bet here, the reasoning is insufficient. Making the right play for the wrong reasons is still something I consider a mistake because it will inevitably lead you to make a suboptimal play when the situations deviate from your formulaic approach toward poker.

The real reason you’re betting in this situation is that the board favors your range as the preflop raiser. You have more strong aces in your range (AK/AQ), along with pocket aces and kings, whereas your opponent cannot have these hands because he would have inevitably 3-bet preflop if he did.

Therefore, the situation warrants a bet from you as the preflop raiser.

Poker Bet Sizing Strategy

Now that you’ve determined you should bet, the question is, ‘how much?’

To determine the right poker bet sizing strategy, you first have you ask yourself this question: ‘how often am I betting in this situation?’ Or put another way, ‘what percentage of my range is betting here?’

In the example above, the answer is roughly 100%. As the preflop raiser, we’re always betting this flop because the board and situation heavily favor our range, so much so that we have to bet here almost regardless of our holding in order to achieve a balanced game plan.

How does the frequency of our betting relate to our poker bet sizing strategy?

It’s simple. The more frequently we are betting in a given situation, the smaller our bet sizing should be.  

The logic behind this is quite simple as well. The wider our range is, the more bluffs it will contain. Therefore, the less we can afford to risk in order to win the pot. Since our equity will be lower when our range is weaker, we should be risking less money to win the pot.

Second, the board texture is very dry, meaning there aren’t many hands in which your opponent can check call with. Therefore, choosing a small bet sizing makes the most sense. The reason being your opponent will check/call almost regardless of your bet size if he has any piece of the board, and fold if he doesn’t.

Therefore, betting big is a waste of chips and the same information can be gathered with a smaller bet size.

Poker Bet Sizing Chart

You can use this poker bet sizing chart I’ve created to help you determine the most profitable bet size as well as how often to bet, based on the board texture. This chart will help you with your continuation betting strategy as well.

Poker Bet Sizing Chart

The Ultimate Poker Bet Sizing Strategy Resource

For a complete guide to poker bet sizing strategy, check out our Membership Program at Conscious Poker, with dedicated video lessons on this subject.

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Why You Should Choose a Small Bet Size

Betting small like in the situation above accomplishes two key purposes:

1. It allows us to profitably bet with our entire range. Since we’re only risking a fraction of the pot with our bet size, our continuation bet has to work a lot less frequently in order for us to show a profit.

2. It keeps our range balanced, thereby making us harder to play against. When our range contains more hands, it’s harder for our adversaries to pinpoint what we are holding. Furthermore, by using the same bet size regardless of whether we connected with the board or not, our opponents will be left guessing as to our holding.

What is the Right Bet Size to Choose?

Now that you know why you are betting in the first place, and that you have to choose a small bet sizing, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of exactly how much you should bet.

Typical poker wisdom is to bet 1/3 of the pot in situations like the one above. That said, this is a general rule and the exact bet sizing you choose will depend on the specific board texture, how strong your range is compared to your opponents and his post flop tendencies.

For example, a 222 board is different than a AK4 board. While both board textures are dry, there are naturally many more combinations of hands that we as the original preflop raiser could have connected with on the latter.

While we are still going to be betting both boards nearly 100% of the time, I’d choose a slightly smaller bet sizing on the 222 texture (perhaps 1/4 pot), because there are simply strong hands I can have, and less strong hands my opponent can check/call with than the AK4 board.

How to Choose Your Bet Sizing in Poker

Poker Bet Sizing Strategy on Coordinated Boards

When you find yourself in a situation where the board texture is more coordinated, there are naturally more hands in which your opponent can have that connected. Therefore you will be continuation betting less often, meaning your hand range will be stronger when you do.

In these situations, choose a slightly bigger bet sizing because your hand range will have more equity and to protect against the potential floats and draws that are out there.

Here’s an example to help illustrate my point.

In a $2/$5 NL cash game, we (Hero) raise under the gun (UTG) to $20 with AcAs. The button calls and the flop comes down Ts9s4c.

With a pot of $42, we should bet $30 here, or somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 pot. The reason being that we’re not continuation this flop nearly as often as we are on a AK4 board against a big blind calling range. Since much of our range (hands like AK/AQ/AJ) will simply check fold, this means that our betting range is stronger. Therefore we can afford to risk more money to win the pot.

Second, a T94 board with a flush draw is much more coordinated than an AK4 rainbow board, and there are many more hands that the button can call with. Since we are out of position and our hand is vulnerable, we will want to choose a bigger bet sizing to punish draws, get value and protect our equity.

Poker Bet Sizing Strategy Video Resources

For more awesome content on poker bet sizing strategy and poker bet sizing theory, check out the following videos on my YouTube.

Poker Bet Sizing Theory Video Part 1

Poker Bet Sizing Theory Video Part 2

How to Use Bet Sizing In Poker

Bet Sizing Strategy and Tips

Continuation Betting Strategy in No Limit Hold'em

Value Betting Strategy

Value betting is probably one of the most important, if not the most important skill you need to have when playing poker, especially in cash games. When you are playing $1/$3 NL and $2/$5 NL, the vast majority of your profits will come from effective value bets.

Sure, you will make some money with the occasional bluff, but at the low-stakes, we advise refraining from excessive bluffing, since players at this level simply call too much.

Recreational players do not come to the casino to fold, they want to play poker and gamble. Keep this in mind when running a multi-street bluff. If you do, and then proceed to get called by middle pair, do not say we didn’t warn you!

Psychologically, nobody wants to get bluffed, especially the vast majority of sticky and stubborn recreational players. As a result, you should only look for bluffing spots against players who have the capability to fold.

Poker Bet Sizing in Cash Games

To better understand poker bet sizing in cash games, let’s focus on the biggest mistake  we see player’s make. This is especially prudent for small stakes games such as $1/$3 NL and loose $2/$5 NL games.

The mistake is raising too small. 

For example, you’re playing $1/$3 NL with $300 effective stacks and raise a standard 3x open in middle position with QQ to $9. Four callers see a flop of 8h 7c 4c.

The pot is roughly $40, and you are first to act. How comfortable are you when you see this flop out of position with three players behind you.

This situation could have been avoided entirely if you increased your preflop raise size to thin the field. With one caller instead of three, QQ becomes a much more profitable situation, and you’d be much more confident continuation betting.

If you do raise bigger and still get multiple callers, at least you will maximize your value with your big hands, and reduce your post flop stack to pot ratio, thereby making it easier for you to profitably get all the money in on a myriad of board textures.

Poker Bet Sizing in Cash Games

Preflop Poker Bet Sizing Strategy in Cash Games

As far as preflop bet sizing strategy goes, conventional wisdom says you’d raise 3x the blind, plus 1x per every limper before you.

For example, if you’re playing $1/$3 NL and you’re first to act you’d open to $3 x 3 or $9. If there were a limper in front of you, you’d instead raise to $9 + $3 = $12.

However when playing in small stakes cash games where people call way too liberally and don’t respect small raises, we recommend adjusting your preflop bet sizing strategy to 5x the big blind + 1x per limper.

If you are out of position, (such as in the small or big blind), you’ll have to add an additional 2 big blinds to your raise sizing to compensate for your postflop positional disadvantage.

Most assuredly, game dynamics should dictate your poker bet sizing strategy. The key is to find an opening bet that’s not too large that it only induces premium hands to call and worse hands to fold, but to find a size where you limit the field while still attracting a marginal calling range from your opponents.

Of course, you’ll need to experiment with your poker bet sizing strategy in your local card room to find this leverage point. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and experiment with what works for your specific game. Remember, there are no hard fast rules and your objective should be to exploit your opponents and maximize your profit.

Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments

Before we get into poker bet sizing strategy in cash games, and some examples let’s briefly discuss bet sizing in poker tournaments and how it’s unique.

The fundamental difference between bet sizing in cash games and bet sizing in poker tournaments is that in the former you bet relative to the pot, whereas in the latter you also must bet relative to your stack.

In cash games you’re typically deep stacked, with 100 big blinds or more. Therefore, betting relative to your stack doesn’t make sense because you always have a deep stack to pot ratio.

Contrast this with tournament poker, where, depending on the stage of the tournament, you could have anywhere from 300 big blinds to 30 big blinds or less.

When deep stacked, bet sizing in poker tournaments follows the same rules as bet sizing in cash games. Use the information above to determine how to operate.

Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments

3 Rules to Follow For Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments

Rule #1: Bet relative to the pot.

When you are short stacked and have a low stack to pot ratio, you must bet relative to the pot. You’ll almost always want to choose a smaller bet sizing because there is much less room to play postflop, and any bet size will allow you to get stacks in by the turn or the river.

Rule #2: Bet more often.

You will also typically be continuation betting more frequently as winning the pots you play in tournaments is so important to your survival. This gives you a lot of incentive to fire whenever you’re the original raiser or your opponent shows weakness.

Rule #3. Balance your bet sizing.

You’ll want to bet small with both your strong hands and weak ones, not just for balance, but also from an exploitative standpoint.

Because you’ll be choosing a small bet size, you’ll be getting a great price on your bluffs, which makes betting a profitable strategy. It also preserves your stack which is extremely important as every chip in a tournament is precious.

When you’re strong, betting small allows you to get value or perhaps let your opponent get out of line.

Preflop Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments

The last adjustment you’ll want to make when it comes to bet sizing in poker tournaments is your preflop sizing.

While in cash games we recommend you raise 3-5x as a standard open (plus 1x per limper), in a tournament you’ll raise 2-2.5x (plus 1x per limper).

The logic behind this is the same as that listed above, you’re betting relative to your stack. Since your stack size is typically much shallower in tournament poker, you want to give yourself a better price on your steals preflop.

Raising smaller preflop also reduces your variance since you keep the overall pot size smaller, an important factor to consider. The variance in poker tournaments is already high enough as it is, and a ‘small ball’ approach essentially allows you to have more bullets in the tank.

For more on bet sizing in poker tournaments, watch this ‘Hand of the Day’ video about an interesting hand I played in Innsbruck, Austria which helps illustrate the points above.

Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments Video

Postflop Poker Bet Sizing Strategy in Cash Games

Now that we have covered preflop bet sizing, let’s get into some bet sizing post flop strategy and some hand examples to help illustrate the concepts. Keep in mind that your bet sizing post flop strategy will depend on the board texture, the players involved, and the effective stack sizes and just like anything, there are no hard fast rules.

As a general rule, you will want to bet larger when involved in multi-way pots and smaller when you’re heads-up. As with anything, this isn’t going to be the case 100% of the time, but let’s use some examples to demonstrate when to implement this theory.

Hand Example #1: Coordinated Boards

In a $2/$5 NL cash game, you open to $20 in early position with AKs and get four callers.

There is $101 in the pot, and you see a flop of Kh 10h 8d.

In this spot, you want to be betting quite large, as there are many draws, and you’re up against multiple opponents—so somewhere around ¾ pot ($70-$75) will suffice.

You don’t want anyone getting cute with marginal hands and putting you in a tough spot on future streets. Furthermore, as we discussed earlier, your betting range on the flop will be narrower since there are so many players in the hand (most of your air will simply check/fold), therefore it only makes sense to apply a lot of pressure.

When you bet larger, players will not get out of line as often. Additionally, these larger bet sizes will define ranges and allow you to play your hand very profitably and more easily. Even if you are heads-up, we still advocate using a decent sizing, between 2/3 and 3/4 of the pot.

Poker Bet Sizing Strategy

Hand Example #2: Dry Boards

In a $2/$5 NL cash game, you open AKo under-the-gun to $20 and get one caller on the button. There is $44 in the pot, and the flop comes down Kh 8d 2s.

While it may be game theory optimal (GTO) to bet somewhere between 1/4th and 1/3rd pot here (as we discussed above), from a purely exploitative standpoint, we recommend betting 1/2 to 2/3 pot.

We find this sizing still gets value from weaker hands (any pair will certainly call you here), and betting smaller (such as 1/4 pot), doesn’t really change your opponent’s calling range. If the player is an absolute calling-station like many players are in small stakes games, why not size your bets larger?

Of course, you have to be careful when adopting an exploitative strategy like the one advocated above. If you vary your bet sizing based on hand strength (for example, betting small when you have air and larger when you have a made hand), observant opponents will pick up on this and adjust accordingly.

The above exploit should be reserved for weak players that aren’t aware of proper bet sizing post flop or situations in which you won’t find yourself in often, such as if you are traveling for poker in a random casino.

Hand Example #3: Bet Sizing in 3 Bet Pots

Let’s briefly discuss bet sizing strategy in 3 bet pots, as it differs from a typical post flop situation. I’ll illustrate an optimal strategy to follow using the hand example below.

Middle-position (a standard tight regular) opens to $15, and you 3 bet to $50 in the cutoff with KK. The villain calls, and you go heads up to the flop.

With effective stacks of $400 and $104 in the pot, the flop comes down 9d 7s 2h.

Typical poker wisdom is to downbet here, meaning to make a smaller bet than your original preflop raise. In the example above, you’d bet roughly 1/3 the pot with your entire range. Just like choosing a small post flop bet size, a downbet allows you to bet more often, be more balanced and keep your opponents guessing.

Down betting is a sound approach from a game theory standpoint, which serves to balance your range against strong players (an important factor as you move up in the ranks).

That said, against weak opponents, we prefer a slightly larger leading strategy to get max value from your big hands, somewhere between half and 2/3 pot.

Bet Sizing in 3 Bet Pots

Exploitative Bet Sizing in 3 Bet Pots

Heftier serves two purposes: it gets more value from your opponent, who is likely to call with any pair regardless of your bet size, while also setting up the hand so you can get stacks all-in by the river.

Even if any bet size allows stacks to get in by the river, betting bigger on the flop essentially hangs your opponent, giving him the illusion that he is pot committed. This will make him more likely to pay you off on the end.

Betting bigger also gives you the option to get your entire stack in on the turn if you decide to make it a ‘two street’ hand instead of a ‘three street’ one.

Again, this is exploitative poker at its finest and it works well in small to mid stakes cash games and in general against unobservant opponents or calling stations. As you move up in stakes and play against better players you’ll want to adopt a more balanced post flop bet sizing strategy, which will mean you’ll return to the ‘downbet’, choosing a 1/3 pot sized bet with your entire range.

Hand Example #4: Bet Sizing Against Fish

When it comes to bet sizing against fish, you want to go exploitative to the max! Let’s take a look at an example.

You open to $20 in mid position with JcJs and get called from an extreme calling-station in the big blind. Your read is that this player hates folding and loves to chase draws.

You both have $450 effective stacks and see a flop of Th 7h 3d.
With $41 in the pot, you decide to c-bet to $30, and your opponent calls very quickly.

Bet Sizing Tells

Calling quickly on a coordinated board is a classic example of a bet sizing tell. Typically this means that your opponent is weak.

They almost always have hands that are obvious calls, which are usually weak pairs or draws. If they had something strong they would think about how to play it. Should they raise now or trap? This requires some careful thought which takes time. Furthermore, when players do have big hands they often act more slowly, careful not to give away an obvious bet sizing tell.

A helpful way to determine whether or not your opponent is giving off a bet sizing tell is think about how you would act in a similar situation. 

More than likely when you have a strong hand you take your time and consider your options. A prudent rule of thumb to not give away any bet sizing tells is to count to five before making any decision.

Now that we’ve established our opponent is weak due to his obvious bet sizing tell, let’s determine the best way to proceed in the hand.

With a pot of roughly $100, the turn brings a 2s. Your strong read is that your opponent is on a flush draw.

We see many players bet around $50-$70 here, but we strongly recommend betting the size of the pot.

If the villain is the type of player to never fold draws nor top pair (or any pair), it’s more profitable make him pay full price and exploit him to the maximum. This is especially true since the turn is your last opportunity to get value from him. After all, if he misses his draw, he’ll just check-fold on the river.

Don’t get caught into what others are doing; you can get creative with your poker bet sizing strategy and make maximum profit when the right circumstances present themselves.

Hand Example #5: Thin Value Betting

A common situation you may find yourself in is with a mediocre hand on the river that wants to extract some value. Betting with marginal holdings is a classic example of a thin value bet.

Let’s take a look at an example.

You have QJo on a final board of Jh 9s 3s 8d 3c. There is $110 in the pot and you are pretty certain your opponent has a 9 in his hand, or even perhaps ace high.

Many regulars will just check back the river, assuming they’ll never get called with worse hands.

If your opponent will not check-raise-bluff on the river, why not get some value with a thin value bet? We recommend using exploitative play once again, betting 1/4th the pot ($25-$30), which may garner calls from 9x, mid pairs (77-44) or perhaps even a stubborn ace high that ‘just wants to see it.’

Instead of betting extremely small, had you bet half-pot or more, those hands probably would fold. That seemingly small river bet adds up over time.

Hand Example #6: When to Overbet in Poker

Knowing when to overbet in poker is crucial if you want to develop an advanced strategy that makes your more difficult to play against.

The primary situation in which you’ll want to use an overbet is simple: when you can have it and your opponent can’t. 

A fancy way of saying this is that your opponent’s range is capped, meaning the best hand they can have is limited to weaker holdings. Ideally, you’ll also use overbets when you can have a strong hand, based on how the hand was played.

Overbetting in Poker

Overbet Bet Sizing Strategy

As far as overbet sizing goes and how to size overbets, it’s pretty straightforward. We recommend using 1.5x – 2x the pot and keeping this your standard overbet bet sizing regardless of whether you’re value betting or bluffing.

This will keep your opponents guessing so they can’t deduce your likely holdings. Overbetting also applies maximum pressure on your opponents so you win the most with your strong hands and get the most folds while you’re bluffing.

Here’s a classic example of when to overbet in poker.

In a $2/$5 NL cash game, your opponent raises preflop from the button to $15, and you call in the big blind with AdQs.

The flop comes down Ts Td 7d. You check, your opponent bets $20, and you call.
The turn comes a Jd. You both check.
The river comes a 4c and now it’s on you.

4 Reasons to Choose an Overbet in Poker

The situation above is a great one to overbet for the following reasons:

#1 Your opponent’s range is almost always capped at one pair type hands because he checked back on the turn. If he had a strong hand on the turn (such as trips, a straight, flush or full house), he would have surely bet. Therefore when he checks, you’re quite sure he’s weak.

#2 Given how the hand was played, you can easily have all the strong hands in your range (flushes and boats), because they would all be played this way.

#3 You have one of the worst hands you can have. Given that you have to choose selective hands to bluff with, it’s generally a good idea to choose hands with no showdown value. These are otherwise known as hands that are at the bottom of your range, which are ideal candidates for overbetting.

#4 The Ace of diamonds in your hand acts as a blocker, eliminating all the nut flush combos from your opponent’s range. When choosing opportune situations to bluff, in particular to overbet, having blockers is useful because it makes it that much more likely your opponent will fold.

In this situation, I would advocate making a 2x pot sized overbet to something like $125 – $150. This bet puts your opponent in an extremely difficult situation and allows you to apply max pressure.

For more strategy on how to size overbets, overbetting strategy and when to use overbets, check out these video resources.

Poker Overbetting Strategy Video Resources

Top 5 Moves to Win at Poker in 2019 (Tip #3)

How to Use Overbets to Trick Your Opponents

When to Use Overbets in Poker

How to Play Poker When Facing Massive Overbets

Final Thoughts on Poker Bet Sizing Strategy

When it comes to poker bet sizing strategy there are no hard fast rules. The above guide is just a guideline. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, get creative and experiment with what works best for you. The best strategy is the one that maximizes your win rate in your specific game.

If you liked this blog on poker bet sizing strategy and would like to fast track your progress, consider taking your game to the next level with our Membership Program. One good decision pays for your entire tuition.

Thank you for taking the time to read our article on Poker Bet Sizing Strategy. Please share it with a friend if you enjoyed it.

Cheers,
Alec

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