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ISF – Strategic Bet Sizing

A lot of people don’t think about their bet sizing much. They have a “standard” bet size they use in nearly all situations, in hopes of not giving away further information as well as not wanting to make a mistake by betting too much or too little. However, some go a step further. They change their bet sizing based on how they think their opponent is going to respond. You should do this as well. But it’s important you also adjust your bet sizing based on your own strategy.



(NOTE: Before you read this, I am not writing any rules here. This is simply a minor factor in considering bet size, and should be taken that way)

We will start with preflop. So you’re a really loose/aggressive player preflop, you play 27/22. What kind of raise size preflop will be best for you? Well as with everything, there is no one right answer. Surprisingly to most, different raise sizes could be more profitable than others depending on how many and what type of players are left.. But with a aggressive preflop strategy, we should certainly be more inclined to raise LESS preflop (3xbb or maybe less if your frisky). The reason is pretty easy to explain. If we have a hand like AA, we want to build a pot, as we feel we have the best hand. If we have a hand like 75s, we don’t want to build a pot unless we have the nuts, so we want to keep the pot as cheap as possible, as we are likely not ahead… for now. This same principle goes for strong and weak ranges, build a pot with strong ranges, keep it cheap with weak ones. You don’t want to be playing in a huge pot with a weak range, it’s like throwing money away. Think about it, would you think raising 50bb preflop with 76s is good? Of course not, so why is 3xBB often considered good (Hint, I just told you!).

For you 100nl and above players, This principle is likely easier to understand with threebetting, as when we raise we get closer to that 50bb… well not quite, many threebet sizes are 12-16bb. If we are threebetting a light range we want to threebet a smaller size. If we threebet too light a range, or have too large a threebet size with a light range, we are too easy to play against. To beat us, our opponent likely doesn’t have to do anything, and someone who is good will kill us with light fourbetting. With a strong range, we are more inclined to threebet a larger size. Think about it this way: T9s can play profitably in position against AA if AA raises 3xbb, but it sure as hell can’t versus a 14bb threebet. Therefore, you should be inclined to threebet larger with a strong range.

I’d like to repeat again: There are no hard and fast rules for exactly what bet size you should use in any scenario, you need to way out all the factors and decide which is best.

Postflop is odd. It is somewhat counterintuitive to preflop strategy. Lets say we raise 4xbb preflop with any two cards, and get a call from a loose/passive BB. The flop comes Q43 rainbow, BB checks, we bet 6bb, he called. Pot is now about 20bb. Turn is a King, opponent checks. Should we bet? Let’s assume yes. Okay so what should we bet? This depends on the range we decide to bet. If we are bluffing a lot, and therefore betting a weak range, we should actually be inclined to bet more. Why? Simple pot odds. Bet sizing manipulates the strength of the range our opponent has to have to call. If we bet pot, he needs to be ahead approximately 25-30% of the time (based on suck out probability and implied odds. This is more of an exact science on the river, and this number is smaller if we are talking about the flop). If we bet half pot, that number cuts in half, approximately 12-15% of the time. So betting harder makes it harder for him to call, as he needs to think you have to be bluffing a good amount, while with a smaller bet size you can bluff very little and it still may be a profitable call for our opponent.

Manipulating probabilities is often the reason behind overbetting. Note if you are to bet twice the pot, which is only really viable on the river, our opponent needs to be winning close to 45% of the time to call. Therefore, even if we bluff with nearly half our hands, and our value betting the other half, our opponent still won’t be able to make a profitable call. Because of this, people tend to be very scared of overbets and don’t mess with them.

So should we bet more with our weak ranges and less with our strong ones? NO! More important factors should be consider. But it is important to understand the strategic concepts behind bet sizing.

Hope you enjoyed this week!

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