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Bet Sizing, Part 2

14/06/2018 by Steve Blay

Qui with his book

In my last article, we talked about bet sizing, and how you want to skew your bets either larger or smaller, based on your opponent’s inelastic calling or folding ranges.

I gave the example of an opponent who would be indifferent to any c-bet size between $10 and $20 (would always call if he hit the flop, always fold otherwise). In this case, want to c-bet closer to $20 with strong hands, and closer to $10 with weak hands. In the long run, this will earn us more money with our value hands, and save us money with our bluffs.

Qui Nguyen used this tactic in the 2016 WSOP Main Event. He often made smallish c-bets when he missed the flop, since his opponents were folding too often, even to small bets. This way, he saved money when they did make a hand (and he also kept the pot size reasonable in case he decided to fire a second barrel on the turn).

For example, let’s look at Hand 171 from the Final Table (reviewed in From Vietnam to Vegas). All three players went to the flop, with $23,700,000 in the pot. Qui missed the flop but fired a c-bet of $9,900,000, which was about 40% of the pot size. Of course, on this particular hand, it didn’t work – his opponents had BOTH flopped sets! You’ll definitely want to check out this historic hand on page 173. But the lesson remains – generally, this bet sizing was enough to take it down when his opponents missed the flop.

Sometimes, however, we have to think ahead to future streets. Perhaps we have a one pair hand, that figures to be the best hand at the moment, but can’t stand to play a huge pot. We might size our c-bet a little smaller against an aggressive opponent, just to control the pot size a little, and give us some protection from getting jammed on on later streets, when we’ll be in an awkward situation with our one pair.

Often times remaining stack sizes have an effect on our bet sizes as well. Suppose my opponent and I both have $500 left. I think the optimal bet size in a particular situation is $150, but unfortunately, I realize that leaves him just enough chips to shove on me, as a bluff, and believe he has some fold equity. In this case, I might reluctantly have to bet closer to $250, just to convince him I’m not folding. (I still might fold when he shoves, I’ll just be much more sure he isn’t bluffing).

Draws should be especially treated with care when it comes to bet sizing. You have to think ahead to how many bets remain until someone will be all in, because you want to be the player going all-in, so that you’ll have fold equity. Suppose you have a flush draw plus gutshot combo. Your opponent and you both have $100 remaining, and there is $20 in the pot. In this case, $10 might be a good bet size. You’re setting up your opponent to raise to $25-$30, and then you’re going to shove for $100, and put a lot of pressure on him. If you had made the mistake of betting $20 originally, your opponent may have raised to $50-$60, and now your shove to $100 has no fold equity. (This may not seem like a major disaster, as your draw will have pretty good showdown equity against most hands your opponent will hold, but still, it would have been much more profitable, to win the entire pot without having to make your draw.)

That’s about all I can say about bet sizing without really getting into it and writing a whole book on it. But as long as you:

  1. Stay goal oriented
  2. Consider your opponent’s tendencies
  3. Pay attention to stack depth
  4. Keep future streets in mind

you’ll be fine!

One final thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that predictable betting patterns can be exploitable. Obviously, if your opponents notice that you always c-bet ½ pot with air, and ¾ pot with a strong hand, they could use this against you. The question is, will they notice? It’s highly unlikely. Your opponents are texting their friends, watching the basketball game on the overhead TV, ordering food, etc. If you doubt me, try this experiment sometime. Leave the table and come back a few hands later. Ask your neighbors what transpired on the previous hand. See if they can tell you anything about it. Even just who showed down what cards. Unless they were in the hand, they probably won’t know.

So don’t worry too much about this. When you start playing $5/$10, you’ll have to start thinking about things like predictable betting patterns. But for now, they can’t even remember what cards were shown down; do you really think they are keeping track of who bet ½ pot versus ¾ pot?