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Betting Basics for Beginners
From experience, I can tell you that most beginners don’t know how to bet correctly. They bet for the sake of it or for the wrong reasons. And when they do bet, their sizing is off, which doesn’t accomplish their goals and/or wastes chips.
My goal for the last section of our guide is to go into detail about how betting works in Texas Holdem, and to put you on the path to making correctly sized bets.
Mistakes Beginners Make When Betting
Lets start with the biggest mistakes beginner Holdem players make when they bet. The biggest mistakes I see are:
Beginners bet too big. (You don’t want to bet too small, either, but instead find a balance.) The problem with betting too big is that at some point the extra chips don’t do anything. In other words, at 5/10, betting 200 chips is going to do the same thing as betting 50. So why bet 200?
Your bets are transparent. A mistake players make is bet small with their premium hands (to keep other players in the pot), limp with weaker hands they don’t mind folding, and then betting huge with premium, but vulnerable hands. Betting like this makes it obvious to everyone what you have.
Betting for no reason. Sometimes players bet just for the sake of it.
Beginners make other betting mistakes, too, but a lot of that falls under specific strategies. That’s too much (and too advanced) for me to cover here.
How to (Size Your) Bet Correctly
With the common mistakes out of the way, lets look at the right ways and times to bet.
Pre Flop Bet Sizing
One of the concepts I want to drill into you is that you should only bet enough to get the job done. No more, and no less. So how much do you bet preflop?
The standard is 3x the big blind. With blinds of 5/10, the standard raise will be to $30. Depending on the game and stakes you’re playing, however, your bet sizing can vary from 2-5x. For example, in tournaments a min-raise (2x) bet is very common for the later stages. And in micro stakes games, you can usually get away with betting 4-5x with your premium hands and the other players won’t know the difference.
Note: One important thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep your bet sizes as consistent as possible, especially the higher the stakes you play.
In the scenario that a player limps in before you act, the rule of thumb (if you choose to raise) is to raise 3x the big blind plus 1 big blind for every limper. For example, if 3 players limp into the pot at 5/10, you’d bet $60. I use the same rule of thumb for my 3-bets (re-raises), too.
Post Flop Bet Sizing
When you make a bet post flop your bets should (almost always) be in relation to the size of the pot. And the amount you choose to bet will depend on a number of factors including:
The board texture
To come back to my main point, only bet as much as you have to (when bluffing) and as much as you can (when betting for value). And these should blend (balance) as much as possible, so that your opponents cannot tell the difference. That way you don’t give away any information that can be used against you.
To give you an example:
On a drier flop (like A-T-3 rainbow) with 125 chips in the pot, a continuation bet of 75 chips is reasonable. If the flop is wet (has a lot of draws possible), then betting closer to 100 chips will work.
One thing you don’t want to do is over bet the pot. For example, if the pot has 500 chips in it, your bet should be less than 500 chips. I wouldn’t bet 550, 700 or shove all in (like many beginners do), regardless of the hand you have, or how vulnerable it may be. Betting close to the size of the pot is inducing enough mistakes from players on a draw as is, so only bet as much as you have to. There are exceptions, but these are advanced topics and not something I’d worry about right now.
One important concept to understand is effective stacks or effective stack sizes. You want to understand this concept because it will impact when and how much you bet.
To determine the effective stack size, just find the lowest stack size of the remaining players to your left. For example, if there are 5 players to your left and the shortest stack has 15 big blinds, that means effective stack sizes are 15 big blinds.
In this particular example, with effective stack sizes of 15 big blinds you might choose to fold your hand or push all in, as opposed to raising. However, if effective stack sizes are 50 big blinds, then you can resort to your default (betting) strategy. If effective stacks are 150 big blinds, then you’ll play a wider range of hands and will bet (and re-raise) more.
That’s the basic idea. It does get more complicated than this. But I wanted to give you the basics so that you can determine for yourself when it might make more sense to fold, raise or shove all in.
Have a Reason or Goal to Bet
If you’re ever questioning when you should bet, just remember that there are only 3 reasons for betting:
Value – You think/know you have the best hand and you want to earn as many chips as possible.
Dead Money – Money that is already in the pot, either from antes, blinds, players who folded or a combination of these things.
Bluff – You want the other player(s) to fold the better hand.
These are the only reasons for betting. Many players make the mistake of thinking that you should bet for information or to protect your hand. However, these reasons are byproducts of the reasons I outline above. If you’re betting to protect your hand, you’re usually betting for value. You’re getting value from hands that are drawing. If you’re betting for information, that’s usually a byproduct of all 3 reasons above. You’ll get your information based on what your opponent does.
The bottom line – if you’re thinking about betting, but you can’t decide if you should bet for value, dead money or to bluff, then you probably don’t have a good enough reason to bet and should check, call or fold instead.
Article adapted from http://www.texasholdemonline.com/