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Preflop Bet Sizes Based on Stack Size

By: JWK24 @ 19:11 (EDT) / 601 / Comment ( 10 )

In this blog, I’m going to go into why we want to vary our opening bet sizes based on our stack size.   In most tournaments, we start out between 75-125bb, so I’ll start out opening 3bb+1bb for each limper.  In deep stack tournaments (especially the deepstacked hypers that we commonly run into, say for example in the PSO homegames), I’ll start out at 4bb+1bb for each limper or even 5bb+1bb for each limper.

As the blinds go up, we want to keep in mind how many bb’s we have in our stack.  When I get down to around a 50bb stack, I’ll lower my opens to 2.5bb+1bb for each limper.  The reason for lowering it is that if we don’t, we lose a lot of the playability in our hand as we’ll be pot-committed too quickly, which doesn’t leave us an out if the board goes bad. 

For example, if we raise to 2.5bb and get a call and neither of us are in the blinds, there will be 6.5bb in the pot going to the flop and we’ll have 47.5bb behind.  If we then bet the flop for say half pot and get called, now we have 13bb in the pot and 44.25bb behind.  If we make another value bet on the turn and get called, the pot will be 26bb with 37.75bb behind, so a river bet pot-commits us and we’ll be able to get our chips in.  This also allows us to get off the hand on the flop or turn if we miss.

Now, let’s say we didn’t lower our open raise sizing and used 3bb for our open and have say a stack of 40bb to start with.  Going to the flop, there will be 7.5bb and we’ll have 37bb behind.  The flop bet brings the pot to 15bb with 33.25bb behind, so now, even if the pot is only HU, we’re close to being committed on the turn.

The third example is say 50bb and two opps (can easily happen at a full table).  If we use 2.5bb, there will be 9bb going to the flop.  We’ll have to bet a bit larger since two opps, so let’s make it 6bb and say one opp drops.  This creates a 21bb pot with 42.5bb behind, so the turn bet will not pot-commit us.

On the contrary, watch what happens if we use 3bb and two opps.  The pot will be 10.5bb going to the flop and then let’s make a 7bb bet on the flop.  This puts 24.5bb in the pot and we only have 40 behind.  Now, the turn bet basically pot-commits us against one opp and it absolutely will if both opps stay.

The next spot where I lower my open sizing again is at near 30bb.  Here, I lower it to 2.2bb+1bb for each limper.  Once again, let’s see what happens with one opp.  We have 5.9bb in the pot going to the flop, bet 3bb on the flop, which puts basically 12bb in the pot and leaves us with just over 24bb.  A turn bet of 6bb doesn’t pot-commit us.  

However, if we didn’t drop our open sizing down, we’re at 7.5bb in the pot and 27bb left going to the flop, then 15bb in the pot after the flop and only 23.25bb left.  Here again… the turn bet needs to now be a shove or fold due to being pot-committed.

As we continue to get shorter in chips, I then lower it again to a min-raise+1bb for each limper when I get down near a 20bb stack.  If I didn’t lower it and still used 3x, then if I’m ever in a multiway pot, I now only have two options on the flop… shove or fold.  But, if I use a min and get 2 callers, there is now only 7.5bb in the pot, so I can make a standard flop bet, I don’t have to shove. 

There is one spot where I don’t lower it past 2.2bb though and that is and open from the button or SB.  If I just min-raise, then the BB gets the right odds to play back at me with basically anything and most opps are getting smarter and realize this, so that’s the one spot where I avoid it (of course if I’m constantly using a min-raise, I may screw up and misclick and just hit raise instead of 2.2bb but I’m trying to get out of that habit).  On the other end of it, if someone is min-raising me from the button or SB, I’m calling with basically two blanks out of the BB since I’m getting the right price to do so.

The moral of the story is that as poker has evolved over the years, we want to be able to make more plays than we used to, but then to also be able to get off the hand if the board goes south on us.  By using the lower opening raise sizes (especially with lowering our c-bet frequency and those bet sizes accordingly too, which you can find in my previous blog), it allows us to be more active in hands and to take more chances to make chips.  The more opportunities we take, the better our chance for a greater potential chip gain.

We’ll see how this holds when playing live, as I didn’t see much of this last year in Vegas in the WSOP Colossus nor in any of the three HPT main events that I played (didn’t expect to see any of it in the lower buy-in side events), so I’ll find out in less than two weeks, as I’m registered in and playing the WSOP Marathon that starts on June 12th.  I’ll be in Vegas from June 10th to 18th, so if any of you are going to be out there, send me a PM and we can try and meet up.

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