Our Poker Betting Guide serves as a comprehensive tool to use to learn the ins and outs of betting on the whole.

But if you’re looking for a quick list of the most essential tips when betting, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll be revealing and covering the most crucial things to remember and factor into your poker betting strategies:

  1. Play Aggressively
  2. Remember Against Whom You’re Betting
  3. Ask Yourself: “What is My Bet Accomplishing?”
  4. Have a Betting Plan Throughout the Hand 
  5. Fast Play Your Strong Hands
  6. Bet and Raise with Many of Your Draws
  7. Raise-First-In (Instead of Limping)
  8. Choose Your Bet Sizing Correctly
  9. Always Bet the Same Way in Live Poker
  10. Evaluate All Your Betting Options
  11. Attack When You Sense Weakness from Opponents
  12. When In Doubt, Fold
  13. Don’t Autopilot
  14. Think About Your Entire Range
  15. Understand Capped Ranges and Nut / Equity Advantages
  16. Learn GTO Play, and Deviate Where Necessary

Let’s dive in!
 

1. Play Aggressively

Playing aggressively with bets and raises allows you to win 1 of 2 ways: 

  1. at showdown with the best hand
  2. by giving room for all your opponents to fold and award you the pot. 

If you play passively, your only chance of winning is with the best hand at showdown. 

Betting allows you to build a pot with your strong hands. It also gives you the potential win pots when you have nothing and are bluffing

So, it’s best to aim to take an aggressive stance instead of allowing your opponents to drive the action.

Remember Against Whom You’re BettingRemember Against Whom You’re Betting

2. Remember Against Whom You’re Betting

It doesn’t make sense to try and bluff a calling station, just as it doesn’t make sense to continuously raise a maniac player when you have a strong hand. (Let him do the betting!) 

Due to human tendencies, players are incapable of playing absolutely perfectly in each situation. 

  • So, all players will have some exploitative tendencies, even if they’re playing at an elite level of the game. 

So, with that said, be sure to make informed, logical decisions based on the type(s) of opponent(s). Aim to recognise how you can exploit their flaws and tendencies to maximise your EV in each situation. 

3. Ask Yourself: “What is My Bet Accomplishing?”

There are a few different ways to approach betting in poker. One method states the following:

  • You’re either betting as a bluff (to get better hands to fold)
  • Or for value (to get worse hands than yours to call), and this thinking undoubtedly has merit to it. 

You could also approach betting as if you’re aiming to deny your opponent’s equity realization. You’d also be taking the initiative and building a pot yourself to win potentially.

So, in figuring out what your bet is accomplishing, there are multiple factors to consider. These factors should all ensure your bet has a purpose and will be effective. 

Some questions to ask yourself include the following:

  • Are you trying to deny your opponent the correct expressed pot odds?
  • Are you trying to get called by worse hands?
  • Are you trying to keep your opponents’ range wide?
  • Are you trying to represent a specific hand (or narrow range of hands)?
  • Are you trying to push your opponent off the pot?
  • Does your betting story make sense for the hand that you’re trying to represent?

Have a Betting Plan Throughout the HandHave a Betting Plan Throughout the Hand

4. Have a Betting Plan Throughout the Hand

It’s crucial to have a street-by-street plan for the hand as soon as the flop comes out. Think in advance what you’re going to try and accomplish with your betting tactics

Creating a loose plan like this can be challenging if you’re just starting to play poker. But with more experience, you’ll begin to develop intuition. 

You’ll learn how you should play on future streets and various runouts as soon as you see a flop. 

Things you can ask yourself include the following:

  • Are you going to bet strong for 3 streets?
  • Will your opponent be inclined to bet/bluff if you check to him?
  • If your hand is medium-strength, 1-2 streets of value, then on which 1-2 streets are you betting for value?
  • What cards on the turn/river are good/bad for your hand and might alter your initial plan?
  • What bet sizes do you want to use street-by-street? How will this affect your opponent’s continuing range?

5. Fast Play Your Strong Hands

There will undoubtedly be some instances where it’s okay to slow-play and trap. 

  • Say, when you have a total lock on the board and/or perhaps block your opponent from having many value hands. 
  • Or if you’re playing against an absolute maniac who always bluffs and bets 3 streets anyway.

But it’s generally advisable to fast play your strong hands with a cbet if you were the preflop raiser. Or throw in a check-raise if you were out of position.

You’re going to build a pot and give yourself a shot of winning much more money than if you play passively.

6. Bet and Raise with Many of Your Draws

Bet and Raise with Many of Your DrawsBet and Raise with Many of Your Draws

Selecting the right hands to bluff and semi-bluff in poker is a key skill. Typically, you should play a good portion of your draws aggressively on the flop and turn. (And carefully select which missed draws to bluff with on the river)

This strategy will make it difficult for your opponents to counteract and keep them guessing whether you have the goods or not.

You should generally have a FLOP bluff-to-value ratio of 2:1, 1:1 on the TURN, and about 1:2 or 2:5 on the RIVER. 

On the river, it’s better to bluff your missed straight draws than missed flush draws. It’s usually more likely for your opponent to have missed flush draws in their range.

7. Raise-First-In (Instead of Limping)

Say the action has folded to you preflop. If you’re going to play your hand, always come in for a standard raise amount (2 to 3xBB is normal).

  • Don’t “just call” the big blind (unless someone else already has). 

This strategy will help keep your range linear and filled out entirely instead of divided. So, your opponents will find it a bit trickier to play hands against you. 

  • It also helps build a pot.
  • To thin the field (usually increasing your equity of winning the pot)
  • Helps you take the initiative in the hand that’ll frequently carry over to post-flop play.

Be sure to keep your open-raise size consistent. So, you’re not just raising larger with your stronger hands and smaller with your weaker hands. 

Strong opponents will be quick to pick up on this.

8. Choose Your Bet Sizing Correctly

A big bet will represent a polarised range (very strong made hands, very weak semi-bluffs or missed draws. You should bet this size when you’re holding a smaller portion of your entire range. 

  • Smaller bets allow for a broader range of value bets (including some medium-strength hands) and fewer bluffs.
  • They will also (in theory) help keep your opponents’ range a little wider when they call than when betting big. 

Ensure you choose effective bet sizes from street to street. Base these bet sizes on what you’ve represented on previous streets. 

If you’ve bet big already on the flop and turn, then you shouldn’t necessarily bet your weakest “strong hands” anymore. Your opponent’s range will already be on the stronger side due to your previous bet sizes).

Lastly, you also need to account for your opponents’ bet sizes when selecting an appropriate course of action. 

Against a small bet, you can raise more often (with medium to good “top pair” hands that might’ve only called against a larger bet)

  • You should also defend a wider portion of your range against a small bet. 

Inversely, against a big bet, you should raise less frequently with your good hands. You can defend less frequently overall, too, due to the polar range that your opponent is representing.

9. Always Bet the Same Way in Live Poker

Always Bet the Same Way in Live PokerAlways Bet the Same Way in Live Poker

To help conceal when you have a strong hand and when you may be bluffing, it’s critical to always bet in the same fashion.

Repeating actions, in the same manner, is especially critical when you’re playing live poker:

  • Take the same amount of time before placing your bet or checking.
  • Always take your chips and bet using the same hand.
  • Cut the chips as you would always do, etc.

10. Evaluate All Your Betting Options

Always contemplate all your betting options. Consider the potential outcomes before coming to your final decision on how to bet in a given situation.

  • Should you check-call, check-raise, or bet yourself?
  • Which bet size will be the most effective?
  • What is the ultimate goal you’re trying to achieve?
     
    1. To get called by worse?
    2. Or to make better hands fold?
  • How will the choice of your bet now affect future streets?
  • What is your plan of action if you bet and get raised – are you planning to re-raise, call, or fold?

11. Attack When You Sense Opponents’ Weakness

Much of a player’s win rate consists of the results of the small pots! Many players focus on the big pots and are captivated by their short-term results.

But, over time, the coolers even out, and most of a player’s skill comes from how they can dominate their opponents in mall pots.

So, whenever you have an opponent showing weakness, it’s imperative to capitalise on this.

  • Pounce on the opportunity to win the pot.
  • Semi-bluff with your draws most certainly.
  • Expand your range further if you’re extra confident your bluff will award you the pot.

Same thing for the river: Be sure to bluff with the bottom of your range. Bet a size that will put pressure where an opponent has shown weakness - such as hands like Ace-high, bottom pair, etc.

12. When In Doubt, Fold

When In Doubt, FoldWhen In Doubt, Fold

Have a decision where you’re unsure whether you should call or fold?

It’s usually better to err on the side of caution and fold.

  • As a general exploit, most players tend to be more value-heavy than balanced or bluff-heavy.

Sure, they may still have bluffs, but more often, players tend to bluff less frequently than they should. This fact is especially the case when it comes to pulling that final trigger on the river.

As such, if you’re ever unsure about what decision you should make, it’s usually best to fold.

You stand to bleed off much more EV from too frequently making bad calls than t by letting go and moving on to the next hand.

13. Don’t Autopilot

Poker is a game of incomplete information. So, players must constantly focus on gaining information to use to their advantage. This knowledge will help them make good decisions.

Look for Tells:

  • Think about how you might play your hand differently against specific opponents.
  • Consider all the betting lines available to you.
  • Factor in how your opponent may react to the betting line you opt to take.

Playing on autopilot is a sure-fire way to make mistakes. You put yourself in less-than-ideal situations later in the hand.

  • Pay attention and don’t just click buttons or make mindless bets.

14. Think About Your Entire Range

It’s critical to build a good betting strategy. It should include good hands in both the betting and checking part of your range.

Also, it’s essential to recognise if particular board runouts are more favourable for you or your opponent.

Consider how you should react accordingly.

  • On runouts more favourable for your opponent, you should play more defensively.
  • For boards more favourable for you, you can amp up the aggression with a larger portion of your range. Put pressure on your opponent.

Lastly, consider your entire range when thinking of minimum defence frequency (MDF).

Account for hand selection and combinations needed to defend properly when your opponent bets or raises. This calculation will help you to remain unexploitable.

15. Understand Capped Ranges and Nut/Equity Advantages

Often, one player’s range is going to remain uncapped in a hand. This situation occurs when they have all the strongest preflop holdings and powerful pocket pairs in their range.

Understand Capped Ranges and Nut/Equity AdvantagesUnderstand Capped Ranges and Nut/Equity Advantages

At the same time, the other players’ hand ranges will be “capped”. This differentiation in ranges leads to particular board runouts being more favourable than others.

Herein lies the need to understand nut and equity advantages in a hand.

  • If you have a nut advantage, it means that you have hand combinations of the nuts in your range (i.e., top set, straights, etc.).
  • If you have an equity advantage, it means that your range performs better overall than your opponents’, relative to the board texture.

Adept players who remain uncapped and/or have an equity or nut advantage often attack their opponents with large bets and raises.

They want to apply maximum pressure when a player’s range is capped and/or weaker than the bettor’s.

16. Learn GTO Play, and Deviate Where Necessary

There has been an explosion of solver-based poker software and tools in recent years. Their growth in popularity has made it easier for poker players to up their skills to a professional level in a short period.

Solvers will help you recognise the correct bet sizes and frequencies to use in various situations. They facilitate understanding what you *should* be doing to play in a GTO/unexploitable fashion.

Once you have a firm grasp of the GTO concepts, use a GTO-based strategy as a baseline. Then you can deviate from it as necessary to allow yourself to exploit your opponents and gain even more EV.

Many good poker players also stream their games on Twitch. As a viewer, you can learn the streamers’ strategies, witnessing how they play their hands in real-time.

This short of close-up view can undoubtedly speed up the learning curve for players looking to improve.

Poker Betting – The  Bottom Line

As you work to better your poker skills, your poker instincts will improve. Seeing various betting lines/sizes/tendencies in many situations will build up your experience.

  • You’ll quickly get a knack of what you should be doing regardless of the cards or how the hand plays out.

Use the above tips to help you get started on the right track to improving your poker betting skills.

They will also help you determine what you should do in a variety of other scenarios in poker.

Good luck!

About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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