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The Proper Way to Bet in Poker
When your turn comes up in poker, you have three or four options – call (or check), fold, and bet. Betting is of course the more interesting part of the game because it means increasing the value of the pot and making the stakes more interesting. This article will focus solely on betting.
When to Bet
Generally speaking, there are four reasons why you would want to bet:
• Betting to get opponents to fold
• Betting to increase the pot value because you think you’ll win that pot
• Betting to get information
• Betting to entice someone else to bluff
Let’s explore these options in greater details.
Betting to Get Opponents to Fold
The only way to pull off a bluff is to bet. If players simply call one another to the end, then the best hand will win. If someone bets to make other players fold, then the best hand “may” win, but it often doesn’t. The reality is simple: There are many hands where nobody hits top pair and some hands when nobody hits ANY pair at all. Take Texas Hold’em for example, when the flop shows an ace, don’t think that someone else automatically has an ace. You can play like you have one to intimidate others, but the odds are that nobody has one. The lesson here is simple: When you sense weakness in your opponents, you must pound on them regardless of what cards you hold. This is how you win pots.
Betting to Increase the Pot Value
When you have a big hand, you have two options – trapping by acting weak, or betting. There are pros and cons to both options. For instance, I often see players go all in when they have a huge hand, but they bet 1K into a 100 pot. Naturally, people tend to fold when this happens and the player wasted his good hand. Trapping could mean taking a risk of losing the lead and losing the hand at the end of the round. So here’s what you need to consider: Are you facing a danger flop where you may have top pair but there is a flush draw, a straight draw, or another pair on the board? That is a huge risk, especially if you have a lot of players in the hand, so you will want to bet to get some to fold, and others to chase cards. Hopefully, you’ll remain in the lead. The other factor to consider of course if how many players are in the hand, and how interested are they in the hand? If everyone checks, then a small bet is in order. You want people to call and make that pot grow, as opposed to chase them away.
Betting to get Information
When you’re completely lost in the hand, meaning you don’t have a read on your opponents and can’t tell how strong or how weak they are, betting is a great option. By doing so, you can study how they react. Betting is actually the most powerful tool you can use to read opponents. It will give you information, and sometimes it will give you the pot right away. These are called “feeler bets” and are typically 2.5 x the amount of the BB.
Betting to Entice Someone Else to Bluff
This last one is actually a bit tricky. The goal is to raise when you have a very strong hand in hopes that someone will try and “steal” the pot with a reraise. By attempting this strategy, you are risking wasting your big hand because everyone else may in fact fold. To help you decide if this is the best play, look for the following conditions:
• Are you facing an aggressive player that frequently goes all in, or frequently raises and takes down pots without showing his cards? If this condition isn’t met, don’t ever consider this play.
• Is the pot size big enough for a greedy player to want to risk it all?
• Do you have the opponent covered in terms of chip value? It’s ironic, but some bad players think that if they go all in against a big stack, it gives the message that they are “that” strong that they are willing to risk it all. These overly aggressive players will often attempt to bluff in this fashion, especially when they are starting to run low on chips and desperately need more.
The Size of your Bet
OK, so now you know when to bet. Let’s talk about how much to bet. There is no formula per say because every situation varies. If you’re betting to get others to fold, obviously a minimum raise won’t cut it. If you’re betting to entice someone to bluff, a pot size bet will scare them away. My suggestion is to always bet in relation to the value of the big blind on the first betting round, and in relation to the pot on subsequent betting round. Typically, if you’re going to raise on the first round, you should raise by at least three times the big blind value. On subsequent betting rounds, think of betting in terms of pot (1/4, ½, or pot size bets). Obviously, if you’re looking to get callers and increase the value f the pot, you may need to bet less than ¼ of the pot, so again it all depends on your objective.
As a general rule however, the key is to be consistent. If every time you bet you make it a ¼ pot value, you become difficult to read. As long as you’re consistent in how you bet, you’re not giving away information and you become a puzzle. Opponents will know that you sometimes bluff and sometimes have the goods, but they will find it very difficult to discern what that is.
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