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Important Things to Remember:
1.) MINIMIZE LOSS, MAXIMIZE WIN
2.) WHAT IS UR BETTING ACCOMPLISHING?
3.) POTT (Plan based on Our range, Their range, and Texture…an acronym I created as a simple thought framework for our actions)
4.) OUR BET SIZING IS NOT THE SAME Vs. EVERY OPPONENT
5.) WHEN BLUFFING, BET WHAT IS NECESSARY, NOTHING MORE
6.) WHY DO WE BET? WE BET BECAUSE OUR HAND HAS VALUE…OR TO BLUFF, WHICH SUBSEQUENTLY GIVES OUR HAND VALUE.
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Bet sizing, as I’ve estimated in one of my videos, can be one of the biggest determinants in a long-run (LR) win-rate (WR). Most people spend little to no time thinking about bet sizing, and because of that, they miss out on lots of value. I think that getting bet sizing as close to “perfect” (maximizing value) can net a player between 1.5-1.8ptbb/100. Obviously, to be a well rounded player, you have to know how and when to use certain plays (i.e. when to c/r over b/3b, when to CB, etc.), but bet sizing will help these plays make more sense, and also help them max value for you.
Getting value can be done in two forms, making the most on your winners, and minimizing loss on your losers. A very important thing I need people to understand before I begin is an economic principle that states “minimizing loss is the same thing as maximizing value”. (please…continue saying this for a few moments…let it truly sink in) This will be important when I go into what your sizing truly accomplishes. In this post I will look at preflop sizing, postflop sizing, and also VB/CB sizings. Another very important thing to take into consideration is that bet sizing, along with everything else in poker, often cannot be “perfected” real-time. How we size our betting/raising pf, postflop, or otherwise, is still player dependent. Some people have thresholds of comfortability in calling bets/raises, other people have no care in the world, others use math so precisely that we must counteract that by giving incorrect odds. Please remember that while reading this, this is post assumes quite a bit (and I will try to make sure I explain what/why I’m assuming) and your actual play needs to be adaptive, like everything else in this game.
There are 3 main times that we bet size preflop; opening, 3b-ing, and ISO-ing.
For opening, I generally advise being a little more rigid in your sizing. The times to change your sizing are against 1.) bad players or short stacks in the blinds when you’re stealing 2.) if your sizing is more variable preflop (you range from 3-5bb) or 3.) if you’re very active at the table. Preflop is the most simple step of our hand that is sometime made out to be difficult. People have very distinct ranges so we should therefore not stray too far from the parameters that are given.
When there are short stacks in the blinds and we open as a steal, I suggest going to 2.5-3. Most short stacks are playing so many tables that they cannot/will not differentiate your sizing from strong to weak hands, and most importantly, they are going to shove over with any good range (so why bet 4bb when 3bb gives the same info? (we lose more when behind, win the same amount when ahead). Also, when you’re very active I suggest 2 things 1.) make your preflop sizing smaller (3-3.5) and 2.) CB smaller than PSB (will go into this more in the next section). Minimize that loss…
3b-ing is very stack size dependent. If a fullstack (100bb) opens to 4bb, then we should be sizing our 3b roughly around 13-15bb (pot is 4bb+1bb+.5bb, so 5.5bb+our call is 9.5bb)(this size gives opponents about 2:1), we should size up with big hands to a.) increase pot size, b.) leave a nice SPR (Stack-2-Pot ratio, concept made popular in Professional NLHE that gives a framework around planning and commitment ranges), and c.) get direct value on our hand). When the opener gets to be about 70bb, it becomes a little different because of the SPR left after their call. Also think about what odds you are giving yourself if they 4b (if you 3b a raise with 76ss, and they 4bshove, then you have to call a TT+/AK range getting 3:1), what SPR will be left if they flat call, and what your plan is for the hand. I suggest 3b-ing a little larger OOP. It will lower SPR and make your postflop decisions a little easier. The main exception is against very loose players that raise a lot, but don’t necessarily call a 3b often. I would size this down (so they open to 4bb, I would go to 10-11bb with AA) to give them perceived odds.
Now the important thing to to remember about 3b-ing, and about all betting in general, is to think about what you are trying to accomplish with it. Will your 3b only polarize their range? If a tight player raises EP, a 3b from us will probably isolate their range to QQ+/AK (which will often 4b, sometimes fold, and sometimes call). If this is the case, we would want to 3b a bit bigger with our bigger hands (make the most if we have AA and they have KK and board comes A hi, or if they will fold whiffed AK, but wont fold it pf, etc).
Against stealers, we can 3b how we wish. KNOW YOUR OPPONENT BEFORE YOU DO THINGS AND HAVE A GENERAL PLAN FOR UNKNOWNS (this general plan can be to stack off any over-pair, play a small-mid pot with TP, and only small pots with weak pairs). If a tight steal range steals on you, you should only 3b strong hands and size them a bit bigger to max value in case of 1.) bad flop for them or 2.) lower SPR + increase commitment perception. If a wide steal range steals on you, you can 3b normal with big hands, smaller with naked re-steal hands. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CALLING A STEAL OOP IF YOU DON’T SUCK POSTFLOP AND YOU HAVE A HAND THAT HAS a.) SMALL-MEDIUM POT POTENTIAL W/ LACK OF 3b VALUE OR b.) GOOD IMPLIED ODDS WITH DEEPER (than in a 3b pot) STACKS.
Say it folds around to the CO who steals for 3.5bb. SB/BB are tight, and we are OTB, I would only 3b to around 12bb. I would do this because 1.) as a bluff, it’s all I need to raise to for it to be effective being villain is OOP and it doesn’t offer him good odds on his pair hands, 2.) if I have a big hand, the pot will still be 25.5bb with me IP (so about 3.x SPR), which is a very easy pot to play, and 3.) it’s good to have a balance between these. Now, if the button folds, and SB folds and I were in the BB, I would make my sizing the exact same. Most people feel as though they should raise bigger in this spot, however, in general, it is better not to. Most people feel they should raise larger because 1.) it discourages people coming along with more hands, and 2.) we are OOP. Well in general we want people coming along with more hands. Either they come along with 2nd best hands when have a strong one, OR they come along with draw/small PP hands that you can beat with a CB (and don’t forget that because the sizing is a bit “smaller” that it has to work less often as a bluff than if the size were bigger). In general, smaller sizing encourages a more mistake-rich environment, and because of this, we don’t want to size up when OOP.
ISO-ing is a very fun part of preflop play. An ISO is when there is a limper, or a few limpers, and we raise in position to isolate a player, preferably a weaker player (this weakness can be in the form of seeing too many flops, being weaktight pf/post, stacking off light post, etc) in a HU pot. There are issues with ISO-ing though. For instance, say 3 people limp, and we are going to ISO TT in the CO, there is 4.5bb in the pot, so we make our sizing to 7bb. If one of the people call the raise, we can expect that at least one person behind them will call as well, as pot odds + perceived implied odds have been given. I would not suggest ISO-ing with weak hands if there the first of the limpers is much looser and calls lots of raises, as better players will call behind them for the reasons stated above. Doing this would leave you in a large pot, with a weak holding multi-way…obviously things we don’t need to force upon ourselves.
For ISO-ing I suggest making bigger sizings when the limper is a weaktight/fit-or-fold player. In the previous example with TT, a standard pot size raise would be to 6.5bb total. We raise to 7.5 to get more value. Inversely, against a more weak-loose player, I would size it down to around pot, possibly a tad bit smaller. In doing this we are in position (as we should be a large % of the time while ISO-ing) and can play a pot out. This play doesn’t end with just a CB the way an ISO v a weaktight player does. Because of this, we want to give ourselves as much playability as possible, and smaller raises leave deeper stacks so we can play poker and utilize our full play-book.
Pre-flop sizing isn’t nearly as important as postflop sizing. However, it does set you up for SPR decisions postflop (with big hands we want to commit sooner than later, having a small SPR in a big pot makes our decisions very easy while retaining high value), attract or dissuade calls, and allows you to steal in a more LR profitable way. Also, because limping preflop is a function of FR that is generally not seen as much in 6max; we combat it by using isolating to our advantage. ISO-ing gives us direct value on our hand (it’s done in position, can pick up the pot there, and is especially effective against weak/tight players that are very fit-or-fold postflop) and is huge in both changing our image and profitability.
CB sizing is very much dependent on your image, villain, plan, and the board (again, think ‘POTT’). If we raise often (we will say pre-flop raise of 14+) I would suggest making your CB sizing a little smaller. Most people advocate 2/3PSB CB in every instance, which I disagree with. 2/3PSB is a nice number that is easy to remember, but too many people get married to this sizing and even use programs to ensure that 2/3PSB is always used. If you are in position, and open-steal a steal hand running 19/16 on a table, SB (12/8) calls only, despite board texture I would lean towards making a 1/2PSB sizing. This does 2 things. 1.) We lose less when behind and 2.) this type of player will not continue without a hand, wont float often, and will only raise/call with a piece of the board. These fit-or-fold players are very easy to play against, and should be abused while keeping us very profitable.
For example, $100nl, full stacks: say we have 94s and open steal to $3.5 from the CO running 14/9. Only BB calls who is 12/7 (well assume his range is just about only PP’s, which generally isn’t too far from the truth). The flop comes 85J. Now, lets do some awesome math. If we 1/2PSB the flop ($7.5 in pot, so $3.75 bet) we need this bet to work 33%+ to be profitable (your risking 1 unit to make 2 units, 2:1, 33%). Now, if villain only has PP’s, he will flop a set 8.5:1 (or ~12% of the time). Now if BB will never float a PP, and will only call/raise with a set (which again, isn’t too far from the truth for these types of players) and we never put another dollar in the pot if we are given action, then we are making quite a profit on this bet. This figures out to be $7.5(.88)-$3.75(.12)=6.6-.45=$6.15 profit. Picking this spot up ~16x will net us 1BI.
However, lets looks at the more traditional 2/3PSB CB. We bet $5 into the $7.5 pot. We will assume the same information about villain only giving action on sets (so 12% of the time), never floating, and no money going in after action is given. Now watch the formula carefully. $7.5(.88)-$5(.12)=6.6-.6=$6 profit. And for a full PSB CB its $7.5(.88)-$7.5(.12)=6.6-.9=$5.7 profit. Now notice the profit side of the equation stays the same in all the examples. There is nothing more to gain by making a bigger bet…we win the same amount no matter what our bet size. What does change however, is what we lose the more we bet. The loss side of the equation goes up every time we increase our bet. This is obviously bad for us. Now this example is nice and easy because it assumes many simple things, and shows us a very basic example of spending more to make the same amount (something we don’t want to do). However, as we start playing different opponent, the call frequency of our CB will go up, and thus make our minimizing loss target that much more important.
The example just given shows a very simplified hand that doesn’t happen all that often. Yes, there are times that we play a hand like this against a 20 tabling nit, and yes, we can use this plan against them. However, the average regular is becoming tougher to play against, and thus are not as nit as the example. Because of this we have to adjust a couple things.
1.) The tougher the opponent, the more adept they will be at reading your bet sizes if they differ*
2.) The tougher the opponent, the more they understand that poker doesn’t have to end on the flop (aka, they will value float PP’s against you, especially if you don’t double barrel with a decent frequency)
So lets talk a bit about CB-ing regulars, tough opponents, and thinking individuals. With these players we need to be a tad bit more rigid in our sizing. The better the player, the more your betting should be consistent hand-to-hand with them, especially in HU pots. Now I’ve said this a few times, and will probably say it a few times more, but against people that cannot think we can fluctuate our bet sizing to work best for us, against thinkers we have to more consistent as to not tip our holdings off. With that in mind, lets look at a hand.
Example: $100nl, full stacks. Folds around to the Hi-Jack where we open to $3 with 65s at a non 3-betting table. Solid regular is the only caller from the BB. Pot ($6.5) 4h 2s Tc. Solid regular checks, Hero ???
Let us just assume Hero has to bet here.
Now our bet will mean different things to this type of opponent. A smaller 1/2PSB will probably get looked up a bit lighter, especially if Hero doesn’t have a double barrel range (this is very important because having a double range will deter villain from calling lighter in fear of getting doubled off his hand). A lot of the advice on the sizing, plan, etc of this hand are based around our own double barrel frequency, or, villain’s perceived double barrel frequency of us. If a villain knows that we don’t double barrel…then CB-ing naked isn’t going to be a great idea and you will have more value if you check the flop behind against a thinking regular.
Why? Again, it’s easy to float us without a double barrel frequency. In this spot we need to bet as the stipulation stated (just makes the example work better, there are times when checking here is better). We already stated that without a double barrel frequency that 1/2PSB is bad (will get floated more often, and we only fold out bricked overcards, which aren’t really in the range because he would have 3b them pf). So then we can 60% potbet, 75% potbet, or PSB (I’m taking 2/3, or 66%, out of the equation so people stop thinking so narrowly on that number). Lets see what each one might do:
60% potbet might get floated a tad more. Assume when we are floated we are drawing to 4 outs only, which we will probably get 2 cards to hit (this CB effectively gives us 2 cards for the price of 1, because with most of his calling range here he will check the turn either for pot control or to CR). We can assume that villain’s pf range is 22-88, 99-JJ 10%, QQ+ 5%, some SC’s (fairly logical range for a TAG calling OOP from a steal). 60% potbet will get floated by all PP’s/Pairs, assume bluff CR’d 10%, and value raised 7% (this number comes from how often he’ll flop a set here, the most logical value-raise range).
Math: $X = $6.5(.13) + [(.70)(.16)$14.3 – (.70)(.84)$3.9] – (.10)$3.9 – (.07)$3.9
(Assumptions: 13% of the time we take it down without contest, 70% of time we get floated, 10% bluff CR’d, and 7% value CR’d. When we get CR’d, we give no further action and just lose our CB. When we get floated we will win that 16% of the time (2 cards to come as stated earlier). No VB implied in this equation)
.845+1.60-2.29-.39-.273 = -$0.51
if we add in a VB that will get called 40% of the time for $8, we have: $6.5 (.13) + [(.7)(.096)$14.3 +(.7)(.064)$22.3- (.7)(.84)$3.9] – (.10)$3.9 – (.07)$3.9
.845+.96+.999-2.29-.39-.273 = -$0.15
75% might get floated a tad less here. However, there are some frequency changes that happen here. The first is that the bluff CR will tend to decrease slightly. Thinking regulars tend to assume that smaller bets mean smaller hands, and are also able to CR those small bets for a smaller price themselves (while maintaining the same perceived strength). Also, some regulars will value float this a little less. They begin to take out 22 and 33 from their float range, and some begin to take out everything 22-99 that didn’t hit a set. While this may seem counter-intuitive because the bet size is only ~$1 more, it does play a psychological role in a villain’s decision making. (This is just pricing in terms of marketing. Certain price points are more appealing and attractive to a customer. Generally (when value-added isn’t a factor), smaller is more appealing.) Lets assume same range of 22-88, 99-JJ 10%, QQ+ 5%, some SC’s. 75% potbet will get floated by some PP’s (60%), assume bluff CR’d 6%, and value raised 7%.
Math: $X = $6.5(.27) + [(.6)(.16)$16.25 – (.6)(.84)$4.875] – (.06)$4.875 – (.07)$4.875
(Assumptions: We will win the pot outright 27% of the time because of lowered float frequency. 60% of time we get floated, 6% bluff CR’d, 7% value CR’d. When we get CR’d, we give no further action and just lose our CB. When we get floated we will win that 16% of the time (2 cards to come as stated earlier). No VB implied in this equation)
1.755+1.56-2.457-.2925-.341 = +$.23
if we add in a VB that will get called 30% of the time for $10, we have: (.27)$6.5 + [(.6)(.112)$16.25 + (.6)(.048)$26.25 – (.6)(.84)$4.875] – (.06)$4.875 – (.07)$4.875
1.755+1.092+.756-2.457-.2925-.341 = +$.51
You notice that earlier we spoke about making smaller bets because the earn is the same, but the loss is increased (thus smaller loss = more value). However, the point we are learning here is that certain betting works best against certain people. People that will value float you more are going to provide more issues. But, as we are doing the math out here, we learn that bigger bets create different action, and thus bigger is sometimes better, even with bluffier type hands.
Lastly, lets look at the PSB. This is going to be a tough bet to use as your full-time CB, but there are strategies out there that do employ a full PSB for CB-ing against regulars. This type of bet should minimize floating, minimize the bluff CR, and strictly isolate their range to bigger hands that all beat us. This type of bet leans on the side of math and combinations. We know the basic idea of a person’s range, and given board texture, can figure out how many combos they could have that hit that board in a way that would call a big bet here.
Math: $X = $6.5(.79) + [(.1)(.16)$19.5 – (.1)(.84)$6.5] – (.04)$6.5 – (.07)$6.5
(Assumptions: We will win the pot outright 79% of the time because of lowered float frequency. 10% of time we get floated, 4% bluff CR’d, 7% value CR’d. When we get CR’d, we give no further action and just lose our CB. When we get floated we will win that 16% of the time (2 cards to come as stated earlier). No VB implied in this equation)
5.135+.312-.546-.26-.455 = +$4.19
Now this should be eye opening. If nothing else, I’m sure you never thought that betting more (and really only $1.63 more) would deviate people’s actions so much, or that in doing so we make ourselves more profitable by a large margin. Remember however, that this is against more thinking players, and that is why the float/bluff %s change the way they do. Against more calling station people, the float % will raise drastically, and bluff raising will almost diminish to nothing. Play with these formulas a bit to see how bet sizes change per player type.
In doing all this calculating, the goal was the show you how frequencies change based on our bet sizing. I’m not saying that one bet size is better than the others in your “everyday CB”…but I am saying that you should keep this formula in the back of your head. Think about what your bet accomplishes, and then what size accomplishes the action you desire. This is a great way to start manipulating opponents, and creating value in spots you may have thought were near breakeven previously.
Quick example to see how this can add up for you:
if a fish will fold 50% of the time, and you always bet 1/2pot (needing to work 33% of the time), we make 17% value, which is about 1.88BB (7.5BB pot, 7.5BB v 3.75BB bets).
Say we do this 1 time per 100 hands (15/12 means we see 15% of flop, minus ones we take down pf, and ones we play MW, etc).
If we CB PSB v a reg and say we make a 4.7BB profit. We can slim this down to 3.2BB for simplicity. And say this happens 1 time per 100 hands.
5.08BB in 2 hands out of 100, so we can expect to make ~25 Buy-Ins, or 1.27PTBB/100, per 100K hands (5.08/2*1000). Now these are fairly large assumptions in the worst-case scenario (not taking into consideration times we hit hands, get paid off, or improve on later streets…just that the CB takes it down and we win, or gets action and we lose), and look how profitable it is to tweak your CB size slightly.
* The obvious counter-balance to this is keeping your bet sizing more rigid, which has been discussed a few times.
VB-ing is very difficult to talk about without examples. However, there are a few types of VB’s. There is VB-ing the nuts (strictly figuring out how much villain will call), VB-ing because you beat like 85% of this range, and thin VB-ing, in which even when getting a call, you won’t be ahead always. VB-ing the nuts is simple and really just revolves around Hero thinking about how much villain will spew off. For instance, say we have 88 on an A836Q board. We CB flop, bet the turn, and are on the river. Well if we think villain has an A, and will hardly ever fold TP, then we should fire ~pot (of course, if we know this info, we should be potting all streets to ensure we make the biggest profitable pot possible). If villain thinks we never bluff, but is still in here to the river, we should either shove or bet 65% pot. The reason for this is that villain is only to the river with a hand like 2pr or set, or is getting very sticky with a TP hand. Against this player I like a shove here because he might flat 2pr if you bet 65% pot, but wont fold if you shove, because people hate to fold 2pr.
When you VB expecting to beat like 85% of their range, and either get called by better or raised 15% of the time, then betting is a bit different. In this spot I generally tend to hover around 70%PSB. The reason we can’t shove here isn’t so much because we could be behind, but because there are hands in the range that are just weak 1pr hands that we don’t want to fold. Think about it this way.
We have 9T on a 94QT6 board. We think he will always call TP up to 100%PSB, but if the price is bigger, he’ll fold it. Also, he will call 1pr hands up (4x, Tx, and 9x) up to ~70%PSB. Obviously he might have a hand that beats us, but we will assume 85% of the time we are ahead here.
The best bet here would be one that hovers between 100%PSB and 70%PSB, leaning towards the lower side of it. The reason being that he will call wider if the bet is smaller. Think back to the CB-ing calculations. So hovering around 70% will ensure we get calls from a wider part of the range, not just the TP hands. It is much more valuable, in general, to get calls from a wider part of the range than just the slim part that might call a huge bet.
Thin VB-ing is a hard thing to talk about. It relies on correct reads and range analysis, and is heavily based on player types involved. For instance, you can thin VB 76 on a 754K8 board against a fish, and you can generally get away with a 30%PSB bet on the river with a flop bet/turn check. (This is thin because if you bet 75%+PSB then he would fold everything, so the thin part is the bet size coupled with the calling range) Thin VB-ing is more useful against fish, and a lot of value can be had by learning to utilize the small bet against them. Remember, a smaller bet tends to get called wider (whether they justify it by “pot odds” or “omg, cheap price”, they still call it more). So learning to take the “donk line” (fire flop, check turn, fire river) will greatly increase your overall profitability in HU pots v cally people. For instance, take a hand where we check the BB with KJ, flop is QJ7, we bet 1/2PSB, get HU with a fish. We check a 5 turn, he does as well. The river bricks off a 2, now the pot is about 8BB. Betting 4BB is a good idea.
Why? Well this bet is 1 / 2 for block, 1 / 2 for value. We think he will call any 1pr type hand for 4BB, and also think that he will raise only hands that beat us (generally true). This limits loss when behind, but also allows ourselves to get value on the times he calls with worse pairs. It’s also good because say we want to show down, if we check, we not only allow him to check back hands we beat, but also he sets the price for SD (which will generally be 5-7BB).
So in this post we really focused on basic preflop sizing, CB-ing, and VB-ing. However, the main thesis of this paper isn’t really to tell you which size to use in which spot, or what VB % is best. The main thesis is to think. Think about why you are betting, what your betting accomplishes, and then how to maximize your betting, both in a single instance and in a general strategy. I have provided some basic thought process tweaks that will prove to be profitable if implemented, but not all exact sizes and frequencies will work well within a given strategy. So try different sizes against different player types in different spots with different hands, and see what works best for you given your style. Best of luck in your thinking adventures…and remember…maximize that value!
POTT = Plan based on Our range, .Their range, and .Texture
When ISO-ing, bigger v weak-tight players
When CB-ing, think about what your size accomplishes
Think about what your bet is doing. Do you only fold out hands you get value from, and get called by hands that beat you? If so, your bet is bad
VB, VB, VB
(Thank you to all that helped proofread and bounce ideas!)