There are various different types of poker bet you can make, all with different intentions. Each specific one serves a unique purpose and has its own name. It’s important to not only know what they are and their meaning, but it’s also crucial to implement them into your own game. If you know what the different bets are and how they are used, you can better judge what your opponents may be doing in certain situations and make better decisions.
Pre-flop poker bet types
The 3-bet – one of the strongest types of poker bet pre-flop
Let’s start by talking about some pre-flop bets. One of the most common bets you will face pre-flop is called the 3-bet. A 3-bet is defined as raising another player’s raise. For example, if you open the pot and get raised before the flop, your opponent has just 3-bet you. This play is meant to show great strength but it doesn’t always mean a player has a strong hand.
Most low limit players will only perform this bet when they actually have a strong hand. Once you start facing tougher opponents, a 3-bet will become less telling and often leave you guessing. Some players will protect their blinds by 3-betting a wide range of hands making it difficult to attack them. To combat against this type of 3-bet we should be 4 betting and calling their 3 bets more often. A 4-bet is just a term used when someone raises a player’s 3-bet. The 3-bet will also be used post flop but it’s most important to know when and why players 3-bet before the flop. We explain 3-betting in more detail here.
Isolation raise – narrow down the field with this type of bet
Another common pre-flop bet is called the isolation raise. This is defined as a player who raises when someone has limped in before them. The general concept of this bet is to get the pot heads up against the limper by raising a larger than standard amount to get everyone else out of the way. This bet is effective for a few reasons. The first being that weaker players are the ones who usually limp into pots, so getting the pot heads up against them is very advantageous. The second reason for its effectiveness is because the weak, limping player will almost always call the isolation raise and play very poorly on the flop and later streets. This earns you extra money when they call the isolation bet and fold post flop.
It can backfire at times if you are not careful or paying attention. Some players like to get tricky on occasion and limp big hands like Aces. If you have a player who raises most of the time and all of a sudden limps into a pot, it’s likely they have a big hand.
You can also use this knowledge of knowing what the isolation bet is by spotting other players doing this. Better players will be the ones using this play so it can be easy to spot. When a weak player limps in and a better player keeps raising the pot to isolate them we can sometimes make a 3-bet and pick up a nice pot by getting everyone to fold. Since the better player is likely to be weaker than usual and is just looking to get the pot heads up against the fish, he will fold a large percentage of the time. This is a bit more advanced however, and it’s not to be used every time a better player makes what appears to be an isolation raise.
The numerous types of poker bet post-flop
C-bet/Continuation bet – eliminate players who have missed the flop with this bet
A continuation bet is defined as a bet made on the flop by the pre-flop raiser. The goal behind a c-bet is to get your opponent to fold or to get value from a made hand. The c-bet should not be used 100% of the time though; you will need to weigh many factors to determine what makes a good c-bet.
The very first thing we need to look at is how often our opponent will fold. If you play online and use tracking software, this stat is easily available and will display exact percentages. If you see someone who folds over 70% of the time to a c-bet, it’s almost always profitable regardless of what the cards you hold are. For someone who rarely folds, we need to only be c-betting our value hands.
Once you determine how often an opponent folds, we need to look at the board texture. If we hold a hand such as , and the board is , this board texture is very wet and our hand does not look so good. This board will connect with a large portion of hands and making a c-bet in this spot is likely to backfire.
We also need to determine when our opponents are making c-bets and what they are trying to represent. If a player c-bets every time he is the pre-flop raiser, we can easily raise them as a bluff since it’s very unlikely they have a hand every time.
Bluff – take down a pot against weak opponents with this type of bet
A bluff is basically betting with no made hand with the goal of getting our opponent to fold. There are two very different types of bluffs. The first is a plain bluff or sometimes called a stone cold bluff. This bluff bet is made when we have no absolute strength to our hand. Meaning the only way we can win the hand is by forcing our opponent to fold. This bet is only to be used when we believe our opponent is bluffing themselves or when we think they will fold a made hand when the board texture is scary enough. It takes time to develop the hand reading skills to pull off a successful bluff but will be a must have play in your poker arsenal.
The next type of bluff is called a semi-bluff. A semi-bluff is a bet when we do not yet have a made hand but have some type of drawing hand such as a flush or straight draw. We are betting to get our opponent to fold since we don’t have any real strength, but we are also building a pot for when we do hit our hand. If we look at this in math terms a semi-bluff can be very profitable. If your opponent will fold 40% of the time, it means he plays 60%. When we add in the fact that we will win 1/3 of the 60% he plays by making our draw, our semi-bluff is profitable ~60% of the time, so a long term winner (40% [the opponent folds] + 20% [Our winning 1/3 of the 60% of the time he calls] = 60%).
Bluffs are to be used very rarely when first starting out and especially at lower limit games when players won’t fold ace high at times. It’s best to have some sort of outs when making bluff bets as well. There will be times when we have a read and an all out bluff will work, but most of the time its best to have some backdoor draws, over cards or gutshot draws. Having these outs will increase the overall win rate on your bluffs by making a real hand and winning the pot at showdown.
Over bets – the best type of bet for getting value from big fish
An over bet is a bet that is larger than the size of the pot. If the pot contains $20 and someone bets $40, this is an over bet. You will not see this type of bet often from non-beginners, but when you do it can really throw you off. It’s most commonly made by weaker players who have the nuts and are hoping to trick you into calling. Sometimes better players will do this as well to make it seem as if they are trying to steal the pot when they have the nuts as well. A good time to use over bets is when you are against a weaker player who calls often and you have a strong hand. If we feel our opponent will call almost any size bet we can make an over bet and get maximum value from our hand.
Value Bet – this type of bet helps you to build pots when you believe you are ahead
A value bet is a bet made when a player has what he believes to be best and is hoping a weaker hand will call and pay him off. Say you have top pair and believe your opponent will call with second pair or a weaker top pair; you make a bet hoping to get a call. You can vary your value bet sizing as well depending on what we believe our opponent has, board texture and what we think he will call with. If we use the top pair example again, and we believe our opponent has a very weak hand that is unlikely to call a normal value bet, we can make a super small value bet hoping to get a crying call from bottom pair or other weak hands. For example, if the pot is $20 and we have four Aces we have the board locked up and there isn’t much our opponent could have that will call a bet. By making a bet of $2, this may entice them to call with King high or even a small pocket pair out of sheer curiosity or just because they are getting 11-1 odds on a call.
You may also hear the term, “thin value bet” used at the tables. This is a bet made from a player who has a made hand yet is vulnerable to many other hands that could have them beat based on the board texture. If a player has and the board looks like, , there are many hands that could have Aces beat. However, they believe their opponent only has a pair of Jacks and thinks they will call a small bet. This is going for thin value on a board that is not very favorable to our hand.
These are some of the more commonly used and spoken types of poker bet you will hear and come across at the tables. Study this well, start using them in your own game and notice when other players are using them to improve your overall skills and start making more money.