Every expert player has a fundamental knowledge of betting in poker and all of the table- & player-specific dynamics that determine optimal play. For this reason, you should review this page and the advanced-strategy pages on bet types and bet sizing, pot manipulation, and lines of play before proceeding to the sections on poker tells and game-specific strategies.
The Golden Rule of Betting in Poker
When there are more betting rounds to come, the Golden Rule of Betting for no-limit and pot-limit games is to either “push all-in or fold if your bet/raise/call >= ½ of the effective stack size” (i.e., >= ½ of the smallest remaining stack of the players involved in the hand). When considering a bet or raise when your remaining stack is <50% of the total pot size, barring very good reads and extremely strong/unbeatable holdings, this will also be a push. The Golden Rule of Betting doesn’t necessarily apply to river bets, especially “value bets” where you want to get called, but if you deviate from the golden rule on the river, do so skillfully such that observant opponents won’t immediately know (due to your small bet with respect to your remaining stack or the total pot size) that you’re holding the nuts or close to it.
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Poker Bet Types: Equity Calculations & Bet Sizing, 7-Part Playlist
Always be mindful of the following on all betting rounds (i.e., “streets”):
- Planning a hand is always game/limit/player/position/table-specific.
- Every move you make should be part of a comprehensive multi-street plan.
- Respective positions (in-position play = $$$) and effective stack sizes
- The bet-size “pain levels” of your opponents, so-called “villains”
- Pot odds you’re giving opponents, the odds they likely need & your fold equity
- Type of opponent (player profiling) and key statistics for the situation at hand
- Estimate villains’ hand-ranges, which you constantly update as action proceeds.
- Speculative hands increase in value with effective big and deep stacks & full-ring play.
- Speculative hands decrease in value with effective short stacks & short-handed play.
Novice bet size = perceived hand strength
Don’t turn your cards over with your bet-sizing, i.e. (almost) always be completely consistent with your bet-sizing and deviate skillfully in accordance with table conditions
Pot-size raise formula: current pot + twice (2x) the amount to call
This bet size always give the player to act after you 2:1 odds (i.e., s/he needs 33% equity to make the call if going all-in or a 33% probability of completing a draw).
- Open-raise example preflop: 1.5 for the blinds, 1 to call: your max pot-size raise = 3.5 BBs
- Flop raise example: pot = 8 BBs, SB bets 6 BBs –> your raise size = (8+6)+(2*6) = 26 BBs
Full ring (7-10 players)
- Small Blind (SB)
- Big Blind (BB)
- Early Position: “under the gun” (UTG), UTG+1, UTG+2
- Middle Position: MP1 (UTG+3), MP2, MP3
- Late Position: “cut-off” (CO — the position directly right of the dealer), “button” (BU — i.e., the dealer)
Note: In games without blinds, “under the gun” is always the player directly left of the dealer button or with the respective weakest or strongest “up-hand,” and you should adjust the respective early and middle positions accordingly.
- Small Blind (SB)
- Big Blind (BB)
- Early Position: “under the gun” (UTG)
- Middle Position: “hijack” (i.e. UTG+1)
- Late Position: “cut-off” (UTG+2), “button” (UTG+3)
Heads-up (i.e., only two players at the table)
- Small Blind (SB): always on the button in Hold ’em and Omaha (i.e. OOP pre-flop, IP post-flop)
- Big Blind (BB): IP pre-flop, OOP on all post-flop streets
In position (IP) means your opposition has to act before you. This is always a great ally to have on your side and is fundamental to understanding advanced play.
Players are generally much looser (i.e., they play a much wider range of hands) from the late positions than they do from the early and middle positions. This is why steal scenarios and blind battles have their own special dynamic. In tournaments, most players are generally much looser in the early phases and tighten up as the “money bubble” approaches only to loosen up again after they are “in the money.”
The initiative is always with the last bettor/raiser on the previous street. Going all-in (i.e., “pushing/shoving/jamming”) early in the hand nullifies positional disadvantages on later streets as well as differences in skill (“edge”).
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