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Your Bet Size Matters

19/12/2019 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently told about a hand from a $500 buy-in live poker tournament that illustrates an error many amateur players make on a regular basis. With blinds at 1,000/2,000 with a 200 ante, the action folded to our Hero in third position at a nine-handed table who raised to 5,000 out of his 75,000 stack with KKs-KdK.

I like Hero’s preflop raise to 5,000. The only time raising larger makes sense is when most of your opponents refuse to fold any reasonable hand before the flop, which could easily be the case in a $500 buy-in tournament. A player who is incapable of folding any reasonable hand for any bet called in the hijack seat, as did the button, small blind, and big blind.

The flop came KQT, giving Hero top set. The blinds checked and Hero bet 12,000 into the 26,800 pot.

While betting is certainly the right play, Hero should bet larger, perhaps 17,000. Betting a bit larger sets up Hero’s stack up nicely to go all-in on the turn. Also, this coordinated high card flop is likely to connect well with at least one of the opponent’s hands. Almost no one will fold any pair with a decent kicker on this board to a 17,000 bet. It is worth pointing out that checking, hoping to trap someone, is not a good idea on this board because there are many turns that could easily give Hero the worse hand and also, much of the opponents’ ranges will be medium strength hands, such as Q-J or A-T, that will call a bet, but will not bet if checked to.

Only the hijack called. The turn was the (KQT)-77h. Hero bet 25,000 into the 50,800 pot, leaving 33,000 remaining in his stack.

If Hero decided to go all-in on the turn, it would have been for an over-bet, 58,000 into the 50,000 pot. If Hero instead bet 17,000 on the flop, he would have 53,000 in his stack and the pot would be 60,000, allowing him to go all-in for less than the size of the pot. While this may not seem like too big of a deal, you will find that in practice, many players will happily call a bet for slightly less than the size of the pot but they will fold to a bet of slightly more than the size of the pot. As the stacks sit due to Hero’s flop mistake, I am fine with a small turn bet, but given Hero knows the opponent is not capable of folding any reasonable hand, an all-in may still be best. It is impossible to say without knowing the opponent, but if he is known to happily call off his entire stack with marginal made hands or pairs with draws, Hero should go all-in instead of betting 25,000.

The opponent called. The river was the (KQT7)-22h. Hero went all-in for 33,000 into the 100,800 pot and the opponent thought for a while before folding.

Hero played the river well. When you have the effective nuts as the aggressor with only a small amount of money remaining in your stack, going all-in is the only viable option. It is unfortunate that the opponent folded. Poker is an incredibly difficult game because seemingly inconsequential decisions early in a hand often turn into larger problems later. Also, you never know if a play is definitively right or wrong. That said, I am quite confident that a larger flop bet would have made this hand work out better for Hero in the long run.