Friday, April 11, 2008

NL Holdem Bet Sizing - You Want a Call

It is becoming clear to me that one of the reasons I have success in the blonkaments is because of how I tend to size my bets. I wrote about this a long time ago, but I will touch on it again here.

When you are ahead in NL Holdem, the proper bet size is an amount where you would want the call.

Simply put, when you have the best of it, you want to bet big enough that a caller who is behind is making a mistake. I prefer it to be a pretty big mistake, but it must be a mistake. The call needs to be -EV for the caller, and the more -EV the better. This means that you are considering what your opponent might have, and you price them out of catching up in a big way. When you do this, you take down a bunch of uncontested pots and when called you will be in a +EV situation. It is hard to get sucked out on a long shot when you are taking the pots down early. When you don't take it down early you want the suckout to be a big long shot.

For a tight aggressive player like me it works great. I don't play much preflop, but when I am in a hand postflop, I play it aggressive. This can come off like a bunch of post flop bluffing to a casual observer, and there is some of that going on. The problem is, if they put me on a bluff and call to float, or call to catch they are making a huge mistake most of the time. If it is a bluff, and I get caught, I will minimize the pot size. If it is not a bluff, I will be getting it in way ahead and win a massive pot. I am out there post flop firing away pretty big, and there are players who just can't take it and will play back at me. They are making a mistake that I want them to make.

The disadvantage to playing this way, is that you might chase away someone who would have paid you off on a smaller bet size. I really do not see this as a problem. You can't go broke by winning a pot. When you make someone fold, you win the pot right there. If you let them draw, they have a shot of winning the pot. Taking down a bunch of uncontested pots more than makes up for the few times you push away someone willing to pay a bit more. The risk/reward is just not there. Winning a pot right away adds to your stack immediately, while playing it down to the river, can lose you a big pot. Its hard to calculate the EV for this situation, but I am pretty sure that you can't go broke by winning most of the pots you are in post flop.

Hoy at times takes a completely different approach. He likes to wait until later in the hand to get the chips in. He figures that if he plays the hand to the river, before committing a bunch of chips, he can get it in while he is ahead, and avoid suckouts. The problem here is that if you were ahead on the flop, why not move substantial chips in there. Not betting enough until you are absolutely sure you are ahead does not work that well. If your opponent is on a draw you need them to pay you now before they hit. If they miss by the river they will not pay you. If they hit by the river, you may be paying them. Make big bets the whole way, and let them make the mistake of calling. Don't fear the suckout, just make it a mistake for your opponent to try for one. The bigger the mistake the better!

Sometimes your opponent will make bad calls preflop, on the flop, and on the turn, and then hit on the river. Those are the breaks, but as long as they are making bad calls you will be profitable. Make your opponent make bad calls most of the time and you will be fine.

So what bet size should you use? Put yourself in your opponent shoes, and bet enough that you would not call. Then hope that they do call. Simple but profitable stuff. When they make the call of your bet, don't be upset. It is what you wanted them to do.

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At 9:58 PM, Blogger Mitchell said...


Not sure you'd be interested in this, but I'll ask...I am writing a No-Limit poker book called "Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves" for beginning and intermediate level poker players and I wanted to see if you'd like to provide comments before the book is released on May 1st.

The reason I'm contacting you is that you play the game and you will
have a good idea if it is helpful.

The reason I wrote the book is not because there is not enough
information on how to play the game, but because the information is scattered throughout a gazillion books, articles, forums, etc. I
wanted one place for the top moves and I'm hoping this book will
provide help for players.

If you are interested I can email you the pdf. My book website is

Please let me know. Thanks.


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