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Bet Sizing

To bet, or not to bet, is the first question - then you need to know how much. Why small bets are better when you're building a pot, and why big bets are better to end a hand.

If you decide to bet, it is very important to wager the right amount. The most important thing to know is that the size of a bet is measured relative to the pot: all players should be aware of how big the pot is so that they know how much they stand to win for continuing with their hand.

If you bet $10 into a pot that only stands at $5, you are risking a lot to gain a little. It is a huge bet. On the other hand, if you bet $100 into a pot that is already at $1,000, the bet is tiny compared with the pot.

Although fashions in bet sizing are always changing, and advanced players have different reasons for betting different sizes, the following are widely accepted definitions: 
  • Small bet: about half the pot.
  • Medium sized bet: between half and three quarters of the pot.
  • Large bet: more than three quarters of the pot.
This applies in cash games or tournaments. In the former, the pot will be real money, while in the latter it will comprise tournament chips. But the general guidelines apply in both instances.

Small Bets

The size you want to bet will always depend on the specific situation, but typically players might want to make small bets on a dry board (ie, where there are few connecting cards), on the river (when all community cards have been exposed) or as a continuation bet (ie, following up a pre-flop raise).

(Refresh your memory on how to read flops in the post-flop play section.)

On a dry board - If there are few to no draws possible - for example a flop of  - then it is not possible to have a flush draw or an open-ended straight draw. Therefore it is not as important to protect a big hand because the chances of it being outdrawn are slim. Therefore it is OK to bet relatively little, in the hope of attracting a call to swell the pot. (Remember, if you typically bet small with a good hand then you should typically bluff small as well. Good opponents can spot changes in patterns and can figure out when you are bluffing and when you are not.)

On the river - If all the community cards are out already, no one can outdraw your hand. It follows that it is no longer necessary to protect a big hand. Therefore the situation is similar to an extremely dry board and bets on the river tend to be smaller than bets on other streets.

A continuation bet means to bet on the flop after raising pre-flop. You are continuing your aggression, hence the name. This is a way to pick up the pot if your opponent missed the flop. It's not necessary to make a big bet in order to do so as your opponent should already be convinced of the strength of your hand from your pre-flop aggression. Open Full Lesson
Calculating Outs

Many poker calculations begin with counting your outs - here's a definition of an "out" and how you count them ...

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