Bet-Sizing Principles for Different Hands
Hey there, guys! It’s Coach W34z3l from the Red Chip Poker Podcast. In this article, we’re going to talk about the bet-sizing framework. The goal is to provide you with a structure for deciding on the appropriate bet size in any given situation whether you’re playing online poker or in a us casino. Here’s a full video on the subject in case you want to watch it first:
Now, here’s the thing: in 2023, we face a unique problem. Let’s say someone shares a hand on the forum, and it seems like the bet sizing is off and the hand has been misplayed. Another player offers to run the hand through a solver, and the result is surprising: the solver actually takes this line some of the time, with a frequency of about 0.43 percent of the time.
So, what should our conclusion be in this situation? Should we assume that our play is correct because the solver does take that line, even if it’s at an extremely low frequency? Or should we conclude that the best line is probably the higher frequency line that the solver takes since it hardly ever takes the rare line at one every 200 times?
Well, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In Solverland, where we play a perfectly balanced game, all the different lines a hand can take will have the same expected value (EV), and the hand should be mixed into those different lines to maintain balance. However, in real life, if a solver takes one line 99% of the time and another line 1% of the time, we should generally favor the higher frequency line for that type of hand.
If you’re presented with a frequency option, it’s best to ignore the really low-frequency option. Even though the solver technically approves of that line with an extremely low frequency, considering it is a mistake.
That’s what we’ll discuss in this episode of the Red Chip Poker Podcast. We’ll focus on the highest frequency things you should be doing – the principles that govern your day-to-day sizing selection strategy.
Betting Large With Strong Value Hands is Key
When it comes to strong value hands, the question of sizing becomes important. The general principle is simple: bet large with value hands. This might seem obvious, but many players are still using small sizings with strong hands.
For instance, some players are using a simplified C-bet range of one-third pot on the flop. This strategy has become quite popular in online games. However, it’s important to note that not all players are following this strategy.
In fact, some players are still making use of large sizings with their value hands. This is something to keep in mind when you’re playing. Always be aware of your opponents’ betting patterns and adjust your own strategy accordingly.
By betting large with your value hands, you can increase your overall profitability in the long run. Of course, this is just one aspect of a larger strategy. To truly succeed at poker, you need to have a deep understanding of the game and be able to adapt to different situations as they arise.
Think about this: if an opponent is betting one-third pot with their entire range, they likely have some very strong value hands in that range. However, those hands may not be maximizing their EV with such a small bet size. Generally, strong value hands should bet large to grow the pot as much as possible.
Of course, solver models can show us situations where strong hands bet large, but also mix in smaller bet sizes. We acknowledge this, but the principle remains the same: when we have a strong value hand, we want to use a large sizing to maximize our winnings in most cases.
Bet Sizing Strategies for Non-Polarized Ranges
Let’s talk about perfectly polarized ranges. The theory concept suggests betting an equal proportion of the pot on each street. This approach aims to get our stack in smoothly by the river and result in the highest EV for our range.
However, in the real world of flop and turn play, we can also do the opposite, which we can refer to as a “later street heavy” sizing plan, where we start off with small sizings on the flop, but then we increase the sizing as we go throughout the hand.
The opposite of this is instead of using a linear bet sizing structure, we might want to consider an “early street heavy” sizing plan in certain situations.
Consider that we’re looking at second set, which is essentially the best hand we can have right now. However, there are a lot of potential flush and straight draws on the flop, although none of them have been completed yet. This would call for a early street heavy plan.
For a different example, if we flop top quads on the Ace-Ace-Deuce texture, we have everything completely locked up. Our opponent is unlikely to have many hands to continue with, and we have a blocking effect. We want to have our largest bet sizings on the river, so we need to start off with a lighter bet size.
In this scenario, it makes sense to bet small with our strong made hands. By doing so, we can extract the most value from our opponent’s weaker holdings and maximize our profit in the hand.
The choice is when our value hand is extremely vulnerable, we should seriously consider sizing up, such as 1.5 x pot on the flop, to have an early street heavy sizing plan. On the other hand, if we have a non-vulnerable, unlikely to be outdrawn value hand, it may be okay to start with a smaller bet sizing range and then drastically size up on the turn or river.
It is important to remember that the reason the solver is protecting its strong value hands with small bet sizes. The solver wants to infrequently use smaller bet sizes instead ot the larger bet sizes we advocate here, to balance against extremely sophisticated and observant opponents. We do not meet those opponents very often at all.
Mastering Poker Bet Sizing Principles
It’s important to have a principled understanding of what’s happening in the situation to make use of these bet sizing principles. Board texture is another theory concept we can draw on to determine our bet sizing range.
For example, if we are the PFR and the board texture comes down two Broadway cards, we are supposed to have an overbetting range. If the board texture comes down monotone or paired, we’re mostly supposed to use small sizings.
Thin Value Sizing Principles
In terms of thin value or medium-strength hands, we want to look at how robust our hand is, meaning how vulnerable it is to being outdrawn if it were to be checked down. If our hand is very robust, its value comes from being called by our opponent. However, if our hand is not robust, it’s likely to be outdrawn, so we want to size up and make it difficult for our opponent to continue with weaker hands.
Reducing bet size can lead to more calls, but it’s not the only way to extract value from thin hands. Thin value hands that rely on fold equity are worth considering.
When value betting, we don’t always want our opponents to call. For example, we might have a strong, yet vulnerable, made hand that’s still ahead of our opponent’s range. However, there are many cards that can beat us on the next street.
If we calculate the expected value (EV) of that situation, we might find it more profitable if our opponent folds. Of course, it’s still profitable if they call, but the overall EV is higher when they fold.
We can’t force our opponent to fold, but if we have the choice, we’d rather they fold since we gain the most from fold equity.
This means that we may sometimes bet larger with slightly weaker made hands because they get most of their value from fold equity or equity denial. For example, if we have pocket threes on a king-nine-deuce board, we might use a larger bet sizing than we would with a 9x hand because the pocket threes are more vulnerable and we don’t necessarily want our opponent to call. We’d prefer to deny their equity share.
We may see some mixing of bet sizing with the solver, but we can size individual holdings at the ideal bet sizing based on basic principles. When we have a thin value hand, we should think about where the value comes from – does it come from getting called or from equity denial? If it comes from equity denial, we can try sizing up slightly and see what kind of results we get.
Mid-Strength Hands in Poker
The mid-strength category is similar to thin value, but assumes that these hands are weaker on average.
When considering which hands to bet in poker, it’s important to evaluate their vulnerability or robustness. If we have a mid-strength hand that’s unlikely to be outdrawn, we may just check or bet with a small size. However, if the hand is vulnerable, we should bet and consider sizing up to deny equity. Protecting a made hand is valuable, even if we expect to be an underdog against our opponent’s calling range.
Betting Semi-bluffs in Poker
Semi-bluffs should be sized based on the strength of the draw. Backdoor equity can use small sizings, while flush draws and straight draws should use larger sizes. It’s important to keep the pot small when we have a dominated draw and grow the pot when we have a nut draw.
This strategy may not be balanced, but it helps avoid awkward situations. This means that the ideal approach of perfectly polarized ranges may not be applicable in all situations. We are not solvers, and we are not playing against solvers so this imbalance is a useful compromise.
While a solver may use a different strategy, we don’t need to always follow it.
We should consider our opponent’s skill level and adjust our strategy accordingly. We may not want to use the solver’s strategy against the vast majority of opponents, as it may not be the most effective. By understanding why the solver makes certain decisions, we can make informed choices about our own play.
When it comes to betting, it’s important to remember that we don’t always have to follow the solver’s strategy. In fact, we often deviate from it based on our knowledge of our opponents.
For instance, the solver might suggest betting small with strong made hands to play balanced poker. However, we know our opponents aren’t perfect GTO opponents, so we can sometimes disregard this suggestion.
Instead, we focus on the overriding principle of limiting the pot size when we have a dominated hand. This allows us to avoid costly mistakes and maintain control over the game.
When to Bluff with Air in poker
Finally, let’s think about our last category, which is air. The basic rule with air is to bluff fairly small if it’s a good bluff spot. So part of this is understanding in which situations it’s going to be good to bluff on average versus a typical player pool.
There are some spots where we could just fire out all of our air, and there are other situations where we shouldn’t really be firing with air because our opponents are simply not folding enough according to the data.
When we have complete air and it’s not a good bluff spot, it’s okay to give up. Bluffing isn’t necessary in every situation. Our betting range doesn’t need to have a lot of garbage, contrary to what the solver might suggest.
Solvers may over-bet with complete air in certain scenarios, which is a GTO strategy. But we don’t have to follow this unless we’re playing against a very skilled opponent.
Understanding why GTO requires certain actions is important, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to our game. We can adjust our strategy accordingly based on the situation and opponent we’re facing.
Mastering Bet Sizing Principles: A Quick Recap
Let’s just go for a very quick recap of everything. If we were to give the 30-second version of bet sizing principles:
Strong value hands: mostly just bet very large. Think about over-betting.
Thin value and medium-strength hands: bet if they’re vulnerable or they can extract value. Otherwise, check. If we’re betting because they are vulnerable, we may be able to size up slightly.
Semi-bluffs: if it’s a strong semi-bluff, use a large sizing. If it’s a weak semi-bluff or air, use a small sizing.
If it’s not a good bluff spot, then we can check with air, and we can also check with our semi-bluff holdings if they are dominated or weak.
As you’re playing, think about these basic bet sizing principles. Try not to get bogged down too much with all of the mixing that we see if we run a solver model. If you can stick to these basic principles, you’re going to do very well in the vast majority of spots with your chosen sizing. Thanks very much for listening, guys. This was Coach W34z3l, and this was the Red Chip Poker podcast.
About today’s poker author: W34z3l
Meet Coach W34z3l, a professional poker player hailing from Manchester, U.K. He’s been honing his craft for over a decade and streaming his gameplay for the past three years.
Not only is he a skilled player, but he’s also a top consultant in technical analysis, with a specialty in database work and the application of game theory to various card games.
W34z3l is also an author who creates educational content through videos and articles to help players, software designers, and card game enthusiasts elevate their strategic understanding.
Before W34z3l begins, I want to let you know about the Complete Bet Sizing course available in Pro. It’s a highly recommended resource for those looking to improve their bet sizing game. The course includes 15 videos that provide in-depth content suitable for both cash game and tournament players, whether they play live or online.
Bet sizing is essential in No Limit Hold’em, and improving your skills in this area can have a significant impact on your results. To access the course, sign up for Pro today by going to redChipPoker.com/membership. Once you’re in, you’ll find a link to the course on the Pro dashboard. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your game to the next level!
I’m going to kick it over to Coach W34z3l for today’s episode. Enjoy!