Looking at standard bet sizing in poker

I was having a discussion with a colleague a few days ago about bet sizing in poker and that standard bet sizes don’t work because they reveal too much about your hand. Well I can see the logic and standard default bet sizes are pretty inflexible and anything that is inflexible is by definition weak- or is it? You would say that a bridge is pretty inflexible but you would never call it weak and neither would you call a 100ft tall tree weak either. So just because something is inflexible doesn’t make it weak!

However in certain situations then inflexible bet sizing is sub-optimal but being sub-optimal doesn’t automatically make something weak. The only difference is that there are better options available in certain specific situations. I can think of numerous examples for why fixed bet sizing is very good and one such reason is when you are multi-tabling. If you are multi-tabling then obviously time is of the essence. So you really don’t want to be messing around with your bet sizing when you have multiple actions to deal with on numerous other tables all requiring your attention. It, therefore, helps you in this instance to have a default bet size.

Having standard bet sizes prevents you from having to think. There are all sorts of systems in place for bet sizing and one such system is to have standard bets based on your hand strength. In areas like electronic day trading then many traders have what is called a “staggered entry system”. This means that they will not enter the trade for the maximum amount of money until they know if the trade is going their way or not. This is like shoving all-in UTG with pocket queens when first to speak. You will fold out all hands except the very two that beat you which may be out there at this time.

At various stages of the hand then your hand value can start out being the best hand and end up being the best hand either at showdown or non-showdown. However, it is when you started out with the best hand and it was overtaken or you thought that you had the best hand but the betting action revealed that this may not be the case when you have problems. This is why many multi-tabling players will bet something like two-thirds pot on the flop and then expand the bet sizing if the position goes their way and back off if it doesn’t.

This allows you to play big pots with big hands and small pots with small hands and bluffs. The flip side is that it is an exploitable strategy but only if your opponents are sophisticated enough to know what you are doing. Let us say that you have the Ac-10c and the flop comes Ad-Jc-9d and your opponent checks. There are 8.5bb in the pot and you bet for value for 5.5bb and get called and the pot is now 19.5bb.

You still figure to have the best hand but your position is now much more marginal and let us say that the turn card is the 4c. Any draw failed to get there and weaker hands like ace rag may still call another barrel as would many draws that were getting 3/1 pot odds. You bet 10bb and are called again which if your opponent is tight marginalizes your hand even more. So here you are looking to reduce your exposure and unless the river is an ace or a ten then you would probably check it back


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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