One of the biggest mistakes that beginning poker players make during poker tournaments is sizing their bets. They tend to bet according to how strong or weak their hand is and quickly become predictable.
While there’s many schools of thought regarding bet sizing, we believe that all beginning players should have a core strategy that they can later build upon once they are more experienced and comfortable with their game. Below are a few tips on bet sizing in poker tournaments.
Pre-Flop Bet Sizing
When you’re deciding to enter a pot pre-flop, you should generally come in raising. How much you raise is going to be determined by the number of players already in the pot. If action folds to you in an unraised pot, then a standard raise would be between 2.5 and 3x the big blind.
For example, if you are playing with blinds of 50-100, your raise would be to 250 or 300. The standard for many years has been a 3x raise pre-flop but some players in the modern era stick with a 2.5x pre-flop raise as it typically accomplishes the same goal but with fewer chips committed.
What if there are limpers in the pot? Most experienced players agree that you add 1x to the standard raise for each limper in the pot. Let’s use the prior example but with two limpers in the pot. You would raise to 550 or 600 depending on your preference.
Keep in mind you may have to modify your raise based on your opponents. If you have opponents regularly calling your pre-flop raises, you may want to expand your raise to 5x or even 6x before any limpers. This makes it more difficult for them to make loose calls.
Post Flop Betting
Betting on the flop is where many players make mistakes. Every situation is different and you will want to size your bet according to the situation. Did the flop present drawing possibilities? How did your hand connect with the flop? What can you bet to get your opponent to fold his hand on the flop?
Depending on the situation, you will want to stick with bets between half and 3/4 the size of the pot. In C-bet situations and situations where you think that your opponent missed the flop and will fold, you can probably stick with half pot bets. In other situations where your opponent might be drawing, you want to present them improper drawing odds. This means a 3/4 pot bet.
What about when you flop a monster hand? You don’t want to always check down the nuts on the flop or turn, as that will make your predictable. Some will argue that you should bet smaller to keep people players in the pot, but your play will be more predictable if you keep your betting consistent.
On the turn, you need to make the same considerations. How did the turn change your opponent’s hand? Are they drawing or did they get there? Did your hand change? When betting the turn, you want to stick with the same standard bets. Punish the players that continue to draw and extract additional value for your strong hands.
Mix It Up or Bet Consistent?
Over the years, there have been two schools of thought in terms of bet sizing. One school of thought is to constantly vary the sizing of your bets, changing them each time a particular situation occurs. The other is to make the same types of bets regardless of whether you’re bluffing or have the nuts.
While you’re still learning the game, we recommend that you stick with making the same types of bets regardless of your holdings. When you’re more comfortable with mixing your bet sizing for specific situations, then you can incorporate that skill. However, keeping bet sizes consistent will accomplish the same goal for many of the events you will play in while learning the game. Keeping things simple during your early development as a poker player will create less variance in your bankroll.