Knowing how to size your bets properly is one of the most essential pieces of strategy you’ll need to master to succeed in Texas Hold’em. With so many options available to you on every street, the margin for error is always large, and these errors directly influence your win-rate.
There isn’t a magic formula that will get all your bet sizing dilemmas out of the way, but tools like Holdem Manager 3 can assist you greatly in seeing what is/isn’t working in different situations so that you can build a proper strategy accordingly.
On top of that, there are several fundamental ideas that can help you greatly improve this specific skill. So, without further ado, here are my top 3 tips for good bet sizing in No-Limit Texas Hold’em.
1. Use bet sizing to exploit weaker players
While it is essential to understand how unexploitable bet sizing looks to be able to apply it against competitive players, you should also learn how to exploit weaker opponents.
Many new players make the mistake of betting random amounts or sticking with the same sizing no matter what, which can be quite costly.
Even if you know that as a standard, you should be betting small on dry boards, you can bet big against passive players who are calling too much and do not care about your sizing. While this is a straightforward adjustment, many players fail to make it, which leaves a lot of money at the table.
There are many applications to this concept. You can be betting small with your bluffs if you know that your opponent is playing “hit or fold,” or you can massively overbet the nuts if you know that your opponent is keen to keep you honest and will look you up more often than he should.
But as a standard, you should make all your bet sizing a function of the pot size, i.e., 33%, 70%, or even 100% of the pot to keep things simple.
2. Vary your bet sizes based on the board texture
Instead of looking at the strength of your hand when deciding how much to bet, look at the board texture. Tracking software can help you analyze your c-bet success on different boards with different sizing, so you can easily determine what is working and what isn’t. Also, there are many solvers that can show you optimal bet sizing for various boards, so make sure to take advantage of available software.
Think about how a particular runout corresponds with your opponent’s range. How likely are they to connect well with a certain board-type?
If you think along these lines, you’ll have a much better idea of how to size your bets. If a particular board is more favorable to your opponent, you might want to skip a continuation bet. Or, if it’s a wet board that you’re still likely ahead on, you’ll want to bet bigger to protect your hand.
Thinking in terms of ranges is generally good in poker, and that doesn’t change when it comes to bet sizing. The only correct way to plan your strategy is by thinking about ranges and board textures and combining these thoughts with what I’ve talked about in the first tip.
That way, you’ll be able to come up with bets that do what they’re supposed to do, be it extracting value, bluffing, or protecting your hand.
3. Take care of effective stacks & stack-to-pot ratio (SPR)
Keeping effective stack size in mind is critical when tailoring your bet sizes. With shorter stacks, you’ll want to bet on the smaller side simply because you’ll achieve the same results without risking too much. If your opponent has only a few chips left, they will be giving up a lot to your small bets, so you don’t have to risk many chips to bluff them off their hand. Likewise, they’ll be more inclined to pay off smaller value bets.
When stacks are deeper, you can start sizing up your bets as there is more value to be had. With deeper stacks, your opponents may have better implied odds to call as well, so you want to charge them more for chasing their draws.
Finally, think about the SPR, i.e., how your stack relates to the size of the pot. Make sure that you size your bets in a way that leaves enough chips in your stack for the bet on every street to be effective. Try not to get to the river with only a one-third pot bet remaining.
Take a few moments when deciding on your bet sizing on every street and think in advance what it means for the future streets, and how the whole hand will play out. Much of the time, your most critical decision will be made on the flop, which determines the entire hand, so better to take some time before acting than to be sorry later on.