Bet sizing sounds like a small topic but its very important if you want to be successful at poker. Improper use of bet sizing most often means that you will lose more, or win less, than optimal and that plays a big part in your overall win-rate.
It can also make your hands more difficult to play by inviting more players into the pot than you would have liked, or giving away a bet sizing tell that your opponent can exploit. Although your bet sizing used post-flop makes a bigger difference, using good bet sizing pre-flop will set you up nicely for post-flop play.
In this article I’ll take your through bet sizing for preflop play and explain what bet sizes are good to use and why.
Standard pre-flop bet sizing
With around 100 big blinds in stack size, you want to raise three-to-four times the big blind from the early positions. Since you should be opening a tight range of hands from these positions you can afford to charge your opponents a bit more to get involved in the pot as they will rarely try to bluff you.
From middle positions three big blinds is good to have as a standard, but once you get to the cutoff I’d recommend reducing this to 2.5 big blinds as a standard raise size. This is because you will be opening a wider range of hands from the cutoff than the early and middle positions. So you risk a bit less when you attempt to steal the blinds and you also keep the pot a bit smaller, which gives you more room to defend against three-bets, too.
On the button the standard open raise should be 2-to-2.5 big blinds as your opening range should be even wider than in the cutoff. Finally from the small blind, between two-to-three big blinds is appropriate.
In the early stages of tournaments the standard open is 2.5-to-3 big blinds from early and middle positions and 2-to-2.5 big blinds from cut off, button and small blind. Once you get deeper into the tournament and stacks becomes shallower a min-raise open is appropriate from any position.
Non-standard pre-flop bet sizing
If the effective stacks are deeper than 100 big blinds you can increase your bet sizing. This way you will charge your opponent more since calling becomes more attractive for him with the increased implied odds, which occur due to the deeper stacks. It’s also good in order to build a bigger pot and make it easier to win your opponent’s whole stack.
For any limper that is already in the pot you should increase your raise size by one big blind. This is because the size of the pot increases for every limper, and if you use your standard sizing you can give your opponents correct odds to call with weaker hands. In poker you want to always make your opponent play incorrectly so giving someone good odds on a call is never a good thing if your hand is vulnerable.
If you are playing against very loose players that will call your open raises even if they are much bigger than what has been mentioned as standard in this article, you should try to exploit this to the maximum. Raise as big as you can get away with and still get called by a wide range of hands.
If stacks are shallow (50 big blinds and smaller) you can keep the bet sizing to 2.5-to-3 big blinds as a maximum. You will risk less when you bluff and you will still be able to quite easily get all the money into the pot with your strong hands. Raising bigger can just scare weaker hands away from calling as their implied odds are worse when you have a shallow stack.
In tournaments when effective stacks are 15 big blinds or less you want to open twice the size of the big blind with the strongest part of your range as well as some bluffs that you want to fold if you get raised. Then, with your medium strength hands which can be hard to play post-flop such as [7x][7x] or you are best of open-shoving all-in so that you fully capitalise on your fold-equity (the chance of your opponents folding).
3-bets, 4-bets, 5-bets
A three-bet means putting in a third bet. So if someone open raises and you re-raise, you are making a three-bet. Four-betting and five-betting follow the same logic.
If you are to three-bet a pot versus a single opponent 100 big blinds deep, you should raise 3-to-3.5 times his opening bet when you are in position and 3.5-to-4 times his bet when out of position. This is big enough to make it unprofitable for your opponent to call with a wide range of hands and it leaves you with enough chips behind to bluff three streets post-flop. If there are limpers in the pot you can increase your sizing by one big blind per limper.
With an open raise and a caller it puts you in a spot to make a so called “squeeze play”. This is a three-bet bluff designed to put the player which initially raised under pressure as he will have a caller left to act behind him when facing your re-raise. The caller behind will also have a hard time calling your three-bet as he rarely has a strong hand (if so he would not just have called the initial raise).
A proper sizing for squeezing is to raise about 4-to-4.5 times the original bet size. So for example; if you opponent has opened to $6 at a table with $1/$2 blinds then you should raise to around $25 when squeezing. If there is more than one caller you will need to increase your bet sizing by two-to-three big blinds per extra caller.
I’d generally advise against squeezing when there is more than two callers already in the hand or if you are uncomfortable playing in three-bet pots post-flop. If you have a short stack you should only squeeze by going all in when your stack is at least five times the opening raise size. Otherwise you won’t be able to make your opponents fold some their marginal hands.
In tournaments stacks are usually less than 100 big blinds deep so you should make your three-bet and four-bet sizing a bit smaller. Three-betting to about 2.5-to-3 times the initial raise in position and three-to-four times the initial raise out of position is good as a standard.
Five-bets are usually all in shoves but if you are deeper than 100 big blinds and a lot of three-bet and four-bet bluffing has been going on it can be a good idea to develop a 5-betting range which is less than an all in shove. Making your five-bet about 2.5 times the four-bet size should push your opponent off his bluffs or allow him to shove with a weaker hand.
Check Out More Strategy Articles Like This One
Did you enjoy this article about bet sizing? If so, and we hope you did, why not check out more of Josef’s work on the partypoker blog? So far, Josef has written some superb articles on subjects such as the reasons you should be betting and produced some excellent videos including one that gives tips on beating tight-aggressive players.
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