Bet sizing at low stakes
Originally written for PKR’s Raise your game, by Sofia Lövgren
Bet sizing is fundamental and one of the first things you should learn when you are starting out or making the move from tournaments to ring games. An understanding of the basic ideas behind appropriate bet sizes will save you a lot of money. You can be sure that good ‘regulars’ will quickly spot any weaknesses in your game by your bet size, tag you as a fish and his next victim. Let’s stop that right away!
In ring games, bet sizes should be larger than in tournaments because you are usually playing deeper and have more room to play post flop. In tournaments, you want to protect your life avoid risking your whole stack too often, though with a short stack of less than 20 BB, sizing is no issue – you usually either shove or fold.
Too many players give away information by changing the size of their bets depending on the strength of their hands. This is a common leak which makes it easy for your opponents to play against you eg. raising 4BB with K-K and 2BB with 4-4. Betting the same size pre flop will make it harder for your opponents to read you.
Betting the same size whatever hand you have doesn’t mean that you never adjust bet sizes. On the contrary, you should vary your bets depending on your position, the different opponents’ playing styles and stack sizes. Some players make the same size bet from any position pre flop in a 6-max game. This is common for players who are multi tabling, lazy or just don’t understand the game too deeply. Between 3-4BB in early position and 2-2.5BB on the button is standard today in a 6-max game. If there are bad calling stations at the table, you should choose a little bigger bet size to get better value from your good hands. On the flipside, you could make a smaller bet size if the players are folding a lot, but bear in mind that in both cases, better players may be aware of the reason for your sizing, and you may need to make adjustments if they enter the pot.
In early position, the reason to open with a bigger raise is because you will be raising with stronger hands here and you want to put more money in the pot, and you will also have many players to act behind you and you should avoid laying them good implied odds to call with marginal hands. You should encourage them to fold or 3-bet you. You don’t want to play pots out of position and raising a little bigger can prevent your opponents from cold calling you, or at the very least it will make them think long and hard about doing so with a marginal hand.
You should always consider the effective stacks at the table. Is there a short stack on the BB you could raise 2x. With bigger stacks at the table, you can standardize the open raise a little larger.
Post flop: The exponential effect
Since you seldom have premium hands in poker, it’s important to get paid when they come along. Let’s make a comparison of what happens when you bet 70% of the pot instead of 50% on all streets.
Blinds are $0.50/$1. Here’s what happens with 50% pot bets…
And here’s the 70% pot bet version…
In the end, you will win a pot which is close to 2.5 times bigger. I strongly recommend you bet larger post flop when you have strong hands. It’s important to maximize your value at the lower stakes since very often your opponents don’t have the ability to get away from good hands even if they’re crushed.