The most common post-flop mistake you’ll see amongst weaker players is using a bet sizing which is indicative of the strength of their hand. Betting big with a strong hand and small with a weak hand allows capable players to quickly pick up this read, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to exploit it.
Post-flop bet sizing tells and mistakes exist amongst decent players as well. Not getting the maximum value with strong hands or betting too big or small with bluffs are two examples.
This article should give you the basic theory to help you pick optimal bet sizings post flop instead of telling you how big to bet in certain spots. The reason for this is that you will stumble upon so many unique spots in poker that it’s much better to base your decisions on sound theory rather than using standard sizing as that tend to lead to automated and suboptimal plays.
Exploitive vs Balanced plays
A balanced play is a play that you do with an appropriate ratio of bluffs and value hands. For example, if you make a pot bet on the river you give your opponent 2/1 odds on a call. This means that you opponent needs to be calling with the winning hand 1/3 of the time to break even. A balanced play should always strive towards making the opponent indifferent to calling or folding. This way, which ever option your opponent chooses he will never be exploiting your strategy.
So when you bet the river in this spot you should aim to have a range consisting of 1/3 bluffs and 2/3 value hands (hands that win when called). In terms of bet sizing you need to be balanced as well and bet the same size with your bluffs as you do with your value hands.
If you know your opponents weaknesses you can change from a balanced play to an exploitive by for example only betting for value knowing your opponent is calling way too much. An exploitive strategy means that you do what you think is optimal versus an opponent in a certain spot without caring about balanced. The reason you want to use this strategy is that versus weak players it’s more profitable to exploit their weaknesses than it is to be balanced.
An exploitive play can for example be over-betting the river all in with [Tx][Tx] on a boards, when you know your opponent is to loose and will never fold an ace. Whilst versus a tight player you would probably need to bet something like half-pot to possibly get a call from a weak ace in the same spot.
• Versus capable players make sure you bet the same size with your bluffs as you would with your value hands and vice versa.
• When you play against a weak player on the other hand bet the minimum required to get a fold with your bluffs and the maximum you can bet and still get called with your value hands.
Factors which should affect your bet sizing
• Pot Odds – Bet or raise big enough to make your opponents call incorrectly. Target a range of hands to get called by or to fold out and make sure you use an optimal bet sizing as mentioned in the previous paragraph. A general rule of thumb is to bet between 1/2 pot and pot as this often gives your opponents incorrect odds with draws while getting worse made hands to call. But be wary to use other sizings when appropriate and not “auto play” your hands.
• SPR (Stack-to-pot ratio) – With shallow stacks (50bb or smaller) you can bet smaller and still succeed with your bluffs as well as get it in by the river with your strong hands. With deeper stacks (50bb+) you can bet bigger the deeper the stacks. If you are 200bb deep for example you need to bet bigger in order to “set up stacks” (get it all in). Re-raised pots will diminish the SPR and this also allows you to get away with smaller sizings.
• Board Texture – make sure you charge draws with your strong hands on wet boards. Keep in mind to bet the same size with your draws against certain opponents. Another benefit (apart from balance) of betting big with a draw is that you gain more fold equity.
• Setting up a river shove – If you have a value hand or a bluff for which you plan on betting the river, it’s important to use such bet sizing that the SPR isn’t too high (with value hands) or too low (with bluffs) by the river. For example; if you only have a 1/3 bet left for the river with a bluff you will find it hard to get any folds and if you need to bet 2 times the pot to get it all in by the river with a value hand you are likely to either be forced to bet less or force your opponent off a strong hand.
Betting to induce bluffs
Sometimes you can make an exploitive play and bet very small to induce a bluff from your opponent. These spots would occur on dry flops and turns or on rivers where your opponent is unlikely to call a bigger sized bet while being capable to bluff with weaker hands or missed draws when shows weakness. This means that very Loose-Aggressive shall be the main target for this type of bet.
Check out more of Josef’s excellent strategy articles
Josef has written a number of superb strategy articles that are designed to be easy-to-read and absorb, despite being crammed full of advanced concepts.
If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Ultimate Guide to Betting Part 1 – Four Reasons For Betting and Ultimate Guide to Betting Part 2 – Preflop Bet Sizing
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