Making the correct sized bets in no-limit poker is something that beginner players often struggle with. Betting the correct or proper amounts at each stage of the hand dealt to you will allow you to maximize your profits on winning hands, as well as minimizing your losses on hands that you don’t win. What you really want to avoid, depending upon the situation, is betting too big (overbetting) that you scare players away instead of donating to the pot in a hand that you have a high probability of winning, or betting too small (underbetting) that allows other players to easily call on a draw and make their hand. So read on to find out more about the correct poker bet sizes in various situations.
The first point to know in bet sizing is that your bet should be relative to the current pot size. Therefore, you should know how much is in the pot prior to betting because your bet will allow your opponents to determine the current pot odds they are getting. The other players can then make a call with either correct or incorrect pot odds. Whenever an opponent calls your bet with incorrect odds, they are guilty of a fundamental poker mistake that allows you to make a profit. By making the proper sized bets, you’re forcing your opponents to decide if they want to call the bet with incorrect pot odds.
A general rule for correct bet sizing is that if you’re holding a good hand and are quite certain that your opponents are holding cards that don’t match up to your own, your bet should be roughly 3/4 of the current pot size. For instance, if the pot is $20, your bet should be in the neighbourhood of $15, give or take a couple dollars. The actual bet size will sometimes vary according to tendencies and playing styles of your opponents, but 3/4 of the pot is an excellent benchmark to shoot for. If you bet too much, you are overbetting and will likely cause an opponent who has a weaker hand to fold. The same opponent may have called and put more money in your pocket had you made the proper sized bet. You should also not underbet, because this will give your opponent favorable pot odds to call and, perhaps, outdraw your hand. The only time an underbet is the proper bet is when you are familiar with your opponent’s style and tendencies and are certain that he will not call a bigger bet. You should also be sure that he cannot outdraw you.
Some players may wonder why you would bet so big (3/4 of the pot size) and possibly cause other players to fold. Well, the key is to make a good size bet to give your opponents incorrect pot odds if they choose to call with a drawing hand. Remember, forcing them to pay a lot to try and beat you with an inferior hand will win you more money in the long run because they are calling your bet with pot odds that are incorrect. By doing this, you get more value when other players call your bets with hands that are worse than yours. Making a smaller bet, say, less than half of the pot size, is a weak bet that will essentially cause you to lose value on your strong hand by giving other players correct odds to make the call and outdraw your hand.
The advantage, then, of making a big bet versus a small bet, is to get more value. If the hand progresses and you feel that you still have the best hand, its wise to continue betting at roughly 3/4 pot size bets to try to get as much cash as possible from opponents with weaker hands and taking full advantage of your pot equity.
Lets take a look now at the proper bets or raises to make before the flop. Generally, a pre-flop raise should be approximately three or four times the amount of the big blind. However, if you are one of the last to act and one or more players merely called before you, the proper raise would be to add extra bets to the three or four times the big blind according to how many limped in by calling the big blind. As an example, if there were two callers in front of you, your raise should be five or six times the big blind. This is done to prevent the players who only called the big blind from getting good odds by calling your raise.
A huge mistake that beginner players make with bet sizing and raising is to make a minimum bet or raise. Such a small bet pre-flop will often result in several players calling the bet because your small bet gives them decent enough odds to see the flop. Minimum bets and/or raises should almost always be avoided. If a player acting in front of you should bet and you counter with a minimum raise, you are giving him correct odds to call your raise by not raising enough. Either go big or go home.
To summarize proper bet sizing in no-limit poker, you should be betting approximately 3/4 of the pot size after the flop and raising the amount of the big blind by three or four times pre-flop, with additional bets for the number of callers of the big blind. In so doing, you are maximizing the value of your hand by making strong, aggressive bets and reducing your opponents’ odds, should they decide to call your bet or raise. Making passive and weak bets allows opponents to call and get good pot odds, often eventually winning with hands that started off weak, but got stronger since you allowed them to call by not making proper sized bets. Standing your ground and making healthy bets relative to the current pot size will make you a successful and profitable no-limit Texas Hold ‘em player.