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Spenda’s 5 Biggest Leaks of a Losing NL Player – Leak 3

Spenda’s 5 Biggest Leaks of a Losing NL Player – Leak 3

#3 Value Betting and Bet-Sizing

Being able to size bets correctly in No-Limit Hold’em is a critical factor in improving your win-rate. Bet-sizing as a concept is not the easiest to explain or master but I will do my best.

There are many different types of bets one makes. Value-bets, protection-bets, and bluffs all serve a purpose and the sizing of these bets is as important, if not more so, than their reasoning. Breaking down these bet-types and what sizes work best will help the losing player improve the amount of pots they win and how big the pots are when they win them.

Value Bets “A bet with a marginal, strong, or nut-hand that when called figures to be the best hand more than 50% of the time.”

1st Theory of Bet-sizing


The optimal amount to choose when value-betting is the largest bet-size which does not significantly change your opponent’s calling range.

Simply put, when value-betting, if your opponent will call a $10 river bet with the same hand he will call a $25 river bet, then $25 becomes far and away the better choice. Value-betting is more of an art than a science (unlike protection-betting). Some opponents will call any size bet on the river disregarding its size. An example of this is when we hold the nuts and it is very likely our opponent holds a strong second-best hand.

Here is a great example:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $1.00 BB (3 handed) – Poker-Stars Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com

Hero (Button) ($106.45)

SB ($114.35)

BB ($100.00)

Preflop: Hero is on Button with Q 6

Hero raises to $3.00, SB calls $2.90, 1 fold

Flop: ($7.40) 8 9 J (2 players)

SB checks, Hero checks

Turn: ($7.40) 10 (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $6.00, Button calls $6.00

River: ($19.40) 6 (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $91.00 (All-In), SB calls $91.00

Total pot: $199.00 | Rake: $2.00

SB had 7 5 (straight, Jack high)

Hero had Q 6 (straight, Queen high)

Outcome: Hero won $199.00

In a pot of only $19.00 Hero decided to over-bet shove all-in with the higher end of the straight. There were a few key factors working for Hero.

1.It was obvious from the turn check/call that villain did not have KQ or even a Queen.

2.Villain had proven to be a bad poker player in his time at the table.

Both points are key. If our opponent seems to be competent, this bet has very little chance of being called by someone holding a 7 or even 2 pair. However, against a bad player who has trouble locating the fold button, this bet is certainly a viable option. Remember the largest bet possible that will not significantly change their calling range. Typically this type of play is much better when holding 78 on a 3456 board as 7x will certainly never fold to any bet-size.

Remember, the biggest mistake players make when value-betting their big hands is choosing too small of a bet.

There are times where smaller bets are a better choice. This will typically happen when betting with a non-nut hand. Betting a hand for value that will be called by better hands every so often is typically called a “thin” value bet. In order for these bets to be profitable, your opponent needs to have a wider calling range than they normally would. This is where a smaller bet comes into play. By betting smaller you entice a larger range of hands to call, thus turning a thin value-bet into a standard bet for value. Betting an amount equal to one-third or one-half the pot will typically help keep your opponent’s range wide enough that, when called, your hand will still be ahead more than 50% of the time.

Protection Bets“A bet with a marginal, strong, or nut-hand with the purpose of charging an opponent to draw to a made hand with insufficient pot odds.”

2nd Theory of Bet-sizing

The optimal amount to choose when betting for protection is a bet that offers an opponent insufficient immediate and implied odds to draw to a made hand.

Understanding pot-odds or pot-equity is critical when determining the proper bet size in order to protect your hand. For example, on the turn the pot is $20 and we hold a pair of aces. Our opponent called $15 on a flop of Ah 8h 3s and we deduce that he is drawing to a flush. The turn card is a Kd, missing the heart-flush draw. The pot is now $50. If we understand pot-odds and equity the bet-size becomes fairly easy. There are 9 hearts remaining of the 44 cards in the deck. Our opponent will win the pot 1 in 5 times on the river. If we wanted to make drawing to his flush incorrect we would need to bet an amount that when presented to villain is more than 1/4th the pot. A bet of $17 would make the pot $67, giving our opponent 67:17 odds to call, or just about 4:1, which is what he needs. 4 times he loses, 1 time he wins.

However, the mistake many make here is assuming villain will only call with the current pot if he hits his flush. Certainly he could gain more bets on the river. This is why we should bet much larger on the turn, to significantly reduce his “implied odds.” A bet in the range of $35-$40 drastically reduces his immediate odds and implied odds. He is no longer calling $17 to win the rest of our stack if he hits a flush. Villain now has to call double that amount, slicing his implied odds in half. This is a critical point to understand, and in NL games players tend to not protect their hands and bet too small.

The biggest mistake players make when betting for protection is choosing too small of a bet.

Bluffing“A bet with a hand that when called stands little to no chance to win the pot.”

3rd Theory of Bet-sizing


The optimal amount to choose when bluffing is the smallest amount possible that does not significantly increase your opponent’s calling range.

Simply, a bluff becomes much more profitable if it works the exact same amount of times but is smaller. An example, on the river, the pot is $100 and we have decided to bluff. We are deciding between $60 and $90. Let’s look at how much we lose if our opponent calls half the time regardless of our bet-size.

[(.50*-$60) + (.50*$100)]=+$20

[(.50*-$90) + (.50*$100)]=+$5

You can tell either way if our opponent calls 50% of the time our bet is profitable. However, it is $15 more profitable if $60 works just as often as $90.

Generally this is not exactly correct. If we bet $60 our opponent might call 50% of the time but if we bet $70 our opponent will call only 40% of the time.

[(.50*-$60) + (.50*$100)]=+$20

[(.40*-$90) + (.60*$100)]=+$24

You can see here that the larger bluff is the correct move, if our % estimates are correct it stands to make $4 more each time it is used. So, why is this so? Well, it is because our smaller bet significantly changed our opponent’s calling range. Our $60 bet enticed more calls from weaker hands that normally would have folded to a $90 bet. Some opponents will call regardless of bet-sizing, others calling-range will change drastically due to it. Against someone who disregards the bet-size the proper adjustment would be to make your value-bets with your made hands large and bluffs much smaller.

Working on your bet-sizing and value-betting abilities will only help to increase your win-rate. Take note of your opponent’s calling tendencies. Some opponents tend to call more against bigger bets while others tend to fold to large bets where their entire stack is being put at risk. Take note of these trends and then adjust to exploit them.

Be sure to see the other parts of this article, which is a 5 part series!

Spenda’s 5 Biggest Leaks of a Losing NL Player

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