Betting in poker is not just something that happens from one betting round to the next, but it’s also a required function of becoming a winning player in the game. By betting, not only are you able to win a hand at showdown, but you can also make your opponents fold. This strategy gives you another avenue to rake in pots and build your stack!
Betting is a very dense and comprehensive topic. This article aims to serve as a compact guide, touching briefly upon many of the aspects to think about regarding betting.
Table of Contents
Poker Betting Rules: How To Bet In Poker
The rules of betting in poker consist of the following points and topics:
- Wait Your Turn: A systemised approach exists in each betting round in a game of poker. Pre-flop action begins with the player to the left of the big blind or straddle. Post-flop action starts with either the small blind or first player still in the hand who is seated to the left of the small blind. Play each round proceeds, one at a time clockwise, until everyone’s had a turn to act and until all players have checked or bet the same amount.
- Bet Correctly: While in online poker, you can easily just click a button to make your bets. However, in live game play, you must adhere to proper betting etiquette and rules. Verbally declare your bets or put all your betting chips forward in one smooth forward motion, to avoid angle shooting and any confusion of what you might be trying to do. (For more info on angle shoots – what they are and why they’re unethical – check out this article.)
- Forward Motion/Across-the-Line: Adding on to the last point, some card rooms have different rules on what constitutes a formal “bet” in their games. Sometimes there is a circle drawn on the table felt that the chips must cross for those chips to be considered a bet. Other times (more commonly), the action of moving your chips in a forward motion towards the centre of the table constitutes the chips being considered in play for that round. Know the rules of wherever you’re playing.
- Don’t “Timebank” Unnecessarily: Don’t take longer than necessary to make decisions in poker, especially if you know what action you want to take anyway. “Hollywooding” is the term given to players who take lengthy times before folding (even though they know they’re going to fold anyway). It slows down the game and will also ruin your hourly rate by cutting into the number of hands you can play per hour. Plus, other players won’t appreciate it at all.
Basic Strategy: When To Bet In Poker
There are three general reasons for betting in poker:
- Value Betting: Where you aim to be called by a weaker hand.
- Semi-Bluffing: Where (with your draws) you can win the hand now, if your opponent folds, or win at showdown in the case that you improve the strength of your hand.
- Bluffing: Where you bet with a weak hand and try to get your opponent to fold a better hand.
With regards to value betting, you should generally bet if you think you will get called by a worse hand 50% of the time or more. (This number can even be increased to anywhere around 60% of the time for betting in Hold’em poker tournaments, due to ICM considerations – more on the topic of ICM can be found here.)
With regards to bluffing, the number of hands you bet with will be related to the number of value hand combinations you will have, and which bet size you choose to include.
On the river, the best bluffing candidates will be hands that:
- Have no or very little showdown value (SDV)
- Hands with good blockers (i.e. holding the Ace of the same suit as the 3-flush on the board, which means your opponent can’t have the nut flush)
In addition to ensuring that your “story makes sense” when you bluff, you also need to consider your opponent(s), as this will profoundly affect your bluffing tendencies and frequencies. Exploitatively speaking, whether you choose to bluff or not will come down to what hand(s) you put your opponent on, and the likelihood of them folding their hand if you choose to bet.
For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to bluff someone who will call you down at a high frequency with almost all “one-pair+” hands that they may have.For a more in-depth article on bluffing, check out my Ultimate Poker Bluffing Guide.
Betting Flop, Turn, and River: 4 Hand Categories
Adept players may use this Starting Hand Charts to determine which preflop hands to play from which positions. But what poker betting strategies should one use for post-flop play regarding choosing which hands to bet?
The simple answer is to divide the different hands in your range into the following four categories.
- Strong Hands
- Medium-Strength Hands
Once that’s been done, bet with your strong hands and semi-bluffs (Categories 1 and 3), and check your medium-strength hands and trash hands (Categories 2 and 4).
There will always be exceptions to the rules (i.e. slow playing monsters on a dry board that you have “locked up” so-to-speak, or hands that you may wish you check-raise with instead of betting outright). However, this simplified system is a great tool to use to help you bring some initial clarity to your post-flop game plan.
How Much To Bet In Poker: Bet Sizing Guidelines
The best bet in poker is one that maximises your expected value (EV). In this section, we’ll cover a variety of different aspects and factors to consider about betting in poker, in terms of sizing.
If you’re value betting, you want to choose an amount that will nett you the highest amount of money in the long-run. This fact might not always mean you should select the largest-sized option, though.
Imagine you have the nuts and make a value bet of $50. You think your opponent will call 50% of the time. Here you could say your bet will make you 0.5 x $50 = +$25 from your opponent, on average.
Now imagine you make a bet of $150 which you think your opponent will call only 10% of the time. 10% x $150 = +$15 on average. Even though you used a larger bet sizing, you won’t see the same average profits with the larger bet as you did with the smaller bet.
So, in general, remember to bet an amount that will yield the highest average profits when you bet for value.
NOTE: Remember also to take your entire range into account (and not just your specific current hand) when deciding on appropriate bet sizing(s) to use, to maximise your EV.
The general concept for bluffing in poker is that you want to bluff with the lowest monetary amount possible to get your opponent to fold. For example, if a bet of $20 will make your opponent fold 80% of his hands, and a bet of $100 will make your opponent fold the same 80% of hands, then using the larger bet sizing option will only have you lighting money on fire – in this case, the additional $80! Quite obviously, you should choose to bluff with the $20 option.
Of course, this is a generic principle, and as your bet size increases, the more bluffs you can include in your range and (theoretically speaking) the more of your opponent’s range you should able to fold out. But most players will fold the hands they consider “weak” to a small bet or a large bet just the same (i.e. busted flush or straight draws).
As such, you can always take the time to choose an appropriate bet size to try and influence the result. But also remember that you should try bluffing with the lowest amount of money required to elicit the fold by your opponent(s).
SIZING OF BETS
Bet sizes are always chosen in relation to the number of big blinds already in the pot.
While much more on the specific topic of bet sizing in poker can be found in this comprehensive guide, here’s are some general concepts for bet sizing that you should follow:
- Small Bets v. Large Bets: Large bets usually suggest a very polarised range, meaning you either have a monster hand or are bluffing. Smaller bets typically denote more of a merged hand range, meaning you can have a broader range of value hands that you may choose to be betting with, with fewer bluffs typically included. Therefore, in deciding which bet size to use, always consider the entire range that you want to be betting with, instead of merely just the hole cards that you currently have.
- How Bet Sizes Manipulate Your Opponents’ Hand Ranges from Street to Street: Bet sizes affect the ranges that both you and your opponents should have. Using large sizes should help make the continuing ranges of your opponent quite narrow. Oppositely, small bets should typically get called by a wider hand range. (Some players are inelastic with their continuing ranges versus different bet sizings, and you should subsequently seek to punish them accordingly). In these typical instances, you can sometimes manipulate your opponents’ actions and ranges from one street to the next with the bet sizings you choose to use to obtain the desired result, whether it’s a fold or call.
- Bluffing vs Value Betting on the River: Once you know which value hand combos you want to bet, it’s now time to choose an appropriate size and amount of bluff combos to include. This strategy will make your bet balanced and unexploitable. In general, the larger you bet, the more bluffs you can add in your range; the smaller you bet, the fewer bluffs you should be including.
Your opponents’ tendencies should influence EVERYTHING about how you play poker – not just the bluffing aspect mentioned earlier. Away from the table, you can study different elements of the game to discover the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) way of doing things. But you must remember that the game of poker is played against people,not computers!
While it’s good to know the strategy driving your basic baseline game play, it’s essential to understand how to deviate from that to counter your opponents’ tendencies and account for their “human element” of the game. That is to say, how to maximise your EV by adjusting your strategy based upon fundamental leaks in theirs.
Against stronger opponents, you should fall into more of a default GTO strategy of play. Against weaker opponents, it becomes easier to develop counter-attacks:
- Don’t bluff bet poker players who call wider than they should.
- Value bet a wider range of hands yourself vs these calling stations, too.
- Value bet bigger against calling stations in general, as their range is inelastic, meaning it doesn’t matter what size you use; they’re going to call with the same hands anyway.
- Cbet poker players who “fit-or-fold” the flop at a high frequency.
- 3bet fish more pre-flop to try and isolate them for post-flop play.
- Use your hand-reading skills to deduce your opponents’ likely possible hands, and then choose an ultimate bet poker sizing that will help you get a desirable result (i.e. calls by worse hands/folds from better hands).
Betting in Poker FAQ’s
In this section, we’ll take a look at three commonly asked questions with regards to betting in poker.
- What is a straddle bet in poker?
A straddle is essentially another blind bet that’s added into a poker game. It’s most commonly done by the “Under The Gun” player (the player to theleft of the big blind), but sometimes casinos allow for any player to straddle from any position. This format would allow pre- flop play subsequently commencing with the player to the left of the straddler, and post-flop play continuing as usual.
It should also be noted that because the person straddling is essentially placing forward another blind bet pre-flop, they will be the last player to act in the betting round. (They’ll still get to act after the player in the big blind.)This fact makes a straddle different than a blind raise.
Most typically, a straddle amount is going to be double that of the big blind; however, there are always exceptions. In live 1/2 games, for example, it’s not uncommon to see the house implementing a $5 straddle instead of a $4 one.
Double straddling – that is to say, having a second straddle bet – can also occur, with the player to the left of the UTG player placing forward a blind bet that is equal to double the amount of the original straddle. This additional straddling (triple straddle, quadruple straddle, etc.) can occur up to and including the player on the button if players desire.
In most cases, straddles are entirely optional. While they help to bring action to a poker game by boosting the size of the pot and effectively halving everyone’s stack size, straddling is usually going to be -EV in the long-run.
- How often does a bet need to work in poker?
This question essentially asks how often your opponent needs to fold for a bet (bluff) of yours to be profitable automatically. This answer comes down to the bet sizing you use, relative to the current size of the pot (and also, exploitatively-speaking, the likelihood you give to your opponent calling).
The formula to use for your “Break even Bluff %” is as follows:
Your bet / (Pot Size + your bet)
Therefore, if you use a pot-sized bet, for example, you’ll need to have your opponent fold more than 50% of the time to make a profit automatically! For a ½-pot bet, you’d need to have your opponent fold 25% of the time.
- Poker what is minimum bet and raise?
The minimum bet size in poker in a No-Limit Texas Hold’em game is determined by the size of the big blind. For players to enter a pot, they must at least call (or match) the size of the big blind. For every subsequent betting round, the minimum amount that they must bet, if they so want to, is the size of one big blind.
The minimum raise size in poker is equal to at least double the initial bet. The only exception is when a player is all-in. For example, if Player A bets $25, Player B must raise to $50. However, if Player B only has $40 total left in his stack, then he can go “all- in”.
If there is already a raise in play, any further raise must be at least double the increment by which the previous raise is made. For example, let’s say Player A bets $25. Player B raises to $75. Because the difference between Player B’s raise size and Player A’s raise size is $50, the minimum size for a re-raise must be to $125 ($50 more than $75).
In some poker variants, the betting and raising limits vary from street to street (such as in limit games) and are clarified accordingly in the title/stakes of the game being played.
Summary: How to Bet Aggressively in Poker
Rounding out this article, betting means that you’re taking an aggressive approach to your poker play, which will help you add dimension to your game. Remember, you can win by making the best hand or by getting your opponents to fold.
Always betting an amount that puts your opponents in tight spots will make you into a feared player at the felts. You’ll keep players guessing as to whether or not you have the goods, which will make you extremely tough to combat.
That said, you don’t need to be reckless with your betting, as it’s easy to punt off one’s stack. But developing an aggressive play style will certainly help you be on your way to becoming a poker winner.