In poker, every action you take should have a purpose. The beauty of no-limit play is you have a wide range of bet sizes. How you take advantage of those opportunities and correctly size your bets and raises will go a long way to determining your overall win rate.
Factors to consider include hiding the value of your hand, protecting your hand, inducing action and forcing opponents to make mistakes. Poker never is played in a vacuum and how your action affects others is of paramount importance.
I’ll share a recent hand to illustrate some common mistakes. The blinds were 400-800 (with 100 antes) and I limped from under the gun with pocket sixes.
The player to my immediate left makes a min-raise to 1,600. The action folded to me. With 4,500 in the pot, it was easy for me to call 800.
We both had deepstacks, close to 20K each to begin the hand. Plus, I knew my opponent and knew he had a big pocket pair. He loves to make min-raises preflop with aces and kings hoping to induce action.
The problem here was he was risking me seeing the flop to get an incremental 800. He also foolishly thought he was hiding the value of his hand. Once he defined his hand, I’m not giving him any postflop action unless I hit a set. The flop came perfectly for me with 9-6-2 rainbow. I checked and he made mistake No. 2 by betting 8K. At this point in the game, a 3K bet would accomplish the same thing.
I check-raised all-in and he snap-called with pocket kings. I had him slightly covered, the rest of the board brought blanks and out the door he went all the while lamenting his bad luck. He could’ve easily avoided going broke with bet sizes that made more sense.
First, a bigger preflop raise would’ve eliminated me. You can argue if I didn’t hit a set, his strategy would’ve worked. However, with so many players behind, he also was inviting speculative hands into the pot including any ace and a wide range from the blinds. If he sees the pot four-handed, he’s going to have a real hard time determining where he stands.
He ended up getting the match up he wanted, heads-up with a weaker pair. The problem is he stood to gain an extra 800 while potentially risking his stack.
On the flop, he could’ve bet 3K to see what I did. That would have given him more options. When I check-raised all-in, he had to realize I hit a set. It’s unlikely I had an overpair considering my preflop limp.
Make the size of your bets matter.
— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books including Tournament Poker and The Art of War. His latest, You are the Variable is available on Kindle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.