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Answers to a PM... - Thu Jul 07, 2011, 11:13 AM
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
I received a pm today with some interesting questions. As I was answering, I ran a-foul of the 5000 character limit on PM's (surprise surprise for me huh?). So it was either truncate my reply by 1/3rd, or post in the forum. I picked posting here...

I invite anyone else to supply YOUR answers to these questions as well.

Your individual questions are somewhat "large", so please allow me to answer 1 at a time.
Here is the first:

Question. How is the best way to determine an opening bet size? How do you avoid being predictable? If someone reraise you? If some goes all in preflop in the opening hand? ( I folded AA and KK both in one tournament. The AA in hand 3, and KK at the bubble.)

There are 3 generally accepted methods of pre flop raisie sizing.

1) Adopt a STANDARD raise, and do it no matter what your hand strength.

The positive of this is it "disguises" your strength, since you will raise AA or KQ or 22 in exactly the same way (if you do see a reason for raises with KQ or 22 ).

The negative of this is you do not get the "benefits" of raising a larger amount with your better hands, when you can do so versus loose calling opponents who WILL call more.


Usually, this standard amount would be somewhere between 2.25 x BB (total to go) and 4 BB (total to go).

The operative thoughts in the size you do select is: Will it be sufficient to deny odds to the blinds, and will it cause the "action" you want (in terms of few or many opponents).

The "old school" standard was a raise to 4 x BB to go. This was good sizing because it denies the "magic" price of 2 to 1 to the BB...2 to 1 is "magic" because it is the amount needed to make play of live under cards vs un-paired overs "ok". This raise also makes for more heads up pots.

With increased aggression at MTT tables, 4 x BB raises became frequent "targets" of re-raises.

Since the standard raise was being made no matter the start hand (if you were GOING to raise, of course), the loss of 4BB to a re-pop was often damaging. This tended to push the amount of the standard raise down to around 3BB (to go). A Raise to 3BB to go still causes the BB to receive "only" 2 to 1 odds exactly for a call (if BB is the only caller). 3BB is also less damaging if you must fold it to a strong 3bet. Obviously, more people might come along versus this size open, but it is still pretty decent at limiting field size.

NOW, at some "advanced" tables, raises of 2.25 to 2.5BB to go are becoming more of a standard. These are "small ball" type raises.

The vastly smaller sizing of these raises makes more frequent raises possible, and this ties into the more LAGgy style of very good MTT players today. The reason these sizes "work" best versus good players is that in those dynamics you will generally see re-raises, not flat calls with odds; so your decisions tend to be clearer in that you can fold a very small amount, or 4bet or flat in a more "controlled" pot.

Better players also tend to recognize that ANY raise might represent "strength", and they will dump some of the more "troubling" hands regardless of appearent odds more often...poor players would have a difficult time releasing a hand like QJ versus a 2.25BB open raise, see?

Also, if you tend to play versus weaker players found in micro stakes, you generally see more benefit by raising the slightly larger 3BB amount because that puts more value into the pot, and better exploits the higher tendency of weaker players to CALL more...see?

2) Size your raises based upon the EXPLOITATIVE aspects of who is in the BB/SB, and who is left to act AFTER you (or in ahead of you).

This would entail you configuring your raise size based upon "observations" you've made of your opponents.

Versus someone who will call a small amount, but fold to a larger raise, you'd configure your raise with AA to get them to call, but a raise with AJ might be sized to make them fold.

Versus someone who will call too often and too much, you'd raise more.

Versus someone who will call only very rarely, you'd strengthen your raise range, and only raise your best hands.


Obviously the drawback to this method is that it will be designed to exploit the weaknesses in your opponents, but it also throws off "patterns" in YOUR play. Throwing off those decernable patterns to "aware" players will tend to make you counter-exploitable. This means you really should only try this method at tables were it seems NO ONE is really "aware" of what their opponents are doing.

3) Raise a standard amount, but base it upon POSITION.

This method tends to combine benefits of both style above: it "disguises" because you'll raise the same from EP no matter your hand, but it also allows BIGGER raises in later position, to potentially "exploit" weak players in the blinds.

You would be raising the low end, 2.25BB to 2.5BB, in EP, move to 3BB in MP, and to 4BB in LP with this method. The key to this is to not allow too great a widening of your EP and MP raise range simply BECAUSE your raises will be smaller. This can be difficult if you tend to struggle with "patience" issues in your play (a very common malady).

Also, the smaller raises in the dis-advantgeoues positions does not tend to "protect" your bigger hands, those hands which tend to play less well in multi-way pots, by ensuring a manageable field. The EP small ball raises at weaker tables may result in un-wanted multi-way pots versus your hands like AA/KK/QQ...see?

So those are the basic ideas behind pre-flop raise sizing decisions. For the REST of this question...

How do you avoid being predictable?

I think I covered that above. doing the same things, but with different hand strength, "disguises" your play very effectively. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you realize that doing the SAME THING throws off no patterns at all, then it is up to the opponent to "guess" if you are at the top end, or the bottom end, of your playable range on THIS hand...see?

If someone reraise you?

No simple answer here...You must know what that person's has done in the past, what hands he has held when he does that, and what the playability of your current hand is against his range. There will be times someone will re-raise you, and you should only consider 4Betting with AA or KK. there will be other times ATo might be "enough" to 4Bet. There will be other times when you may have an opponent you are unsure of, but you might CALL with a "fit or fold" hand like 77. The question is REALLY BIG, and requires experience for any answer to become effective for you.

If some goes all in preflop in the opening hand? ( I folded AA and KK both in one tournament. The AA in hand 3, and KK at the bubble.)

Pre-flop, I am NOT folding AA...ever (ok, IF the event means a big increase in my Bank Roll from just a min cash, and IF it is an extremely slow structure, and IF 4 or more people have gone all in in front of me, I MIGHT fold AA...but other than this, never). Post flop is a totally different story, but pre-flop...never.

You see, hands tend to either "prefer" play in large pre-flop pots, or small ones. This is seperate from the multi-way vs heads-up preference of certain hands.

Hands that prefer "small" pots are hands like AJ/KQ/TT. These hands MIGHT be worth flat calling versus certain opponents' 3Bets (if the 3Betting opponent is pretty loose and aggressive), but they are almost never (unless you are on a very very short stack) worth a 4Bet.

AA/KK are not hands with the same concerns. If an opponent 3Bets you while you are holding them, you are pretty confident with either holding that you are "best", and can 4Bet in that confidence. The only thing which may PREVENT you from 4betting is if you feel by flatting his 3Bet you can extract more value form him. See?

These are PRE-FLOP thoughts though, after the flop, AA or KK might be "just" 1 pair, so it takes totally different thoought processes...

I THINK this answers your questions, next multi-part question coming soon...
Thu Jul 07, 2011, 02:38 PM
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
Question: If you are sure of what youir opponent is holding, can you discount those cards from your calculations? I dont get fancy betting post flop. If I have a hand I'll bet the pot, if someone reraises I bet 4 times their bet ( all in if bet >1/3 of my stack..etc...If I have limped in with med/low pocket pairs; no set and I am out of there. Generally I bet strongly, and only with hands I am sure of. ( Looking at my stats, i see the flop on 16% of the hands I play). How can I improve my pse and post flop betting. It feels very blunt. It seems to work in tournaments though. Getting through to the first break and ITM is well within my grasp (at microstakes level). But I realise that I have to improve my gane if I want to win consisyently. I seem to be clumsy in short handed play. in thoses tournies I had 4 1sts, 7 final tables (in the 40-seaters) and finished ITM 44 times. After the bubble I get loose in a bad way. I am not 100% sure of what I am doing or why, and thats when I get into trouble.

First thing, about this: If you are sure of what youir opponent is holding, can you discount those cards from your calculations?

Yes and no. It is kind of "un-clear" what you are asking here...

If by "discounting" outs because an opponent MIGHT hold 1 or 2 of your suit when you are flush drawing, no; you do NOT "assume" 7 outs, and calc on that basis instead of 9 outs.
When calcing draw odds, ALL "unknown cards" are equal. Be those cards in the deck, but never in a spot to hit the board; be they in an opponent's mucked hand; be they in a "live" opponent's hand...they are all EQUALLY unknown.

If making a flush is going to give you the best hand, and you've seen the flop, then there are exactly 5 "known" cards and 47 "unknown cards", and of the unknown cards, exactly 9 of them will make you the best hand. This NEVER changes.

If by "sure" you mean your opponent's cards were inadvertantly exposed in live play, and you are 100% "sure", then those cards are NOT "unknown" any longer, right?

Poker is a game of "incomplete information", and "knowing" that some of your potential outs are held by a live opponent is often almost impossible. As such, you simply classify outs of yours he MIGHT be holding the same way as you would cards at the bottom of the deck that will never hit the board; they are "unknown", and you have "x" number of those unknown cards which will improve you to a winner.


Knowledge of how to read "board texture" CAN lead you to situations where you might want to "discount" the VALUE of some of your outs.

You hold AsKd on a board of Qs Jd 9c
You think you "know" your opponent is on AQ.

If he ISN'T on AQ, but instead is on Q6o, you hold 10 outs (3 x Aces, 3 x Ks, 4 x Ts)
If he IS on AQo, you hold 7 outs (3 x Ks, 4 x Ts)
If he is on QT, you hold 6 outs (3 x As, 3 x Ts)

Somewhere amongst this "cloud of possibilities" lies the actual number of outs you do have to beat his paired Q. (I'll not complicate it even more by considering the chances the opponent does NOT hold a paired Q)

Obviously, if you spike a T you will make the "nut" hand. At that point you only need to worry about re-draws.

This means you can consider the 4 x Ts as "clean outs", because hitting any of those guarentees you at least a chop (until the river comes of course )

Your A may, or may not be good enough if you hit it though (the opponent might be holding AQ/QJ, not "just" Q6).

This means the 3 x As are "dirty outs", because they may improve you only to a better "2nd best" hand.

The amount you'd "discount" the value of an A coming on the board is largely based upon the number of potential BETTER HANDS it might make for your opponent, as well as the potential his play has shown for him to have better than a top pair hand here, now. If the opponent is "tight", and the action before this has narrowed his range to where AQ is a bigger part of that range, you'd "discount" an A coming more; if he is wider, and will play just about ANY single face card hand on the prior action, then you'd discount it less.

There will always be a chance the A will not make you the best hand, so you should always discount it by some amount though.

With the only potential straight to be made with an A coming is already "there" (KT would already have made a straight on the flop), and with "standard" pre-flop action by our AK lowering the chance the opponent holds T8, our only "real" threats are AQ, or a flopped 2 pair+ hand by the opponent.

We'd make top pair/top kicker with an A, and that does have a good chance of being best, but we'd probably still "discount" an A coming and count it as "worth" about 2/3rds of an out.

The coming of a K puts up a few more "threats" than the A, as it now will tend to make straights for hands like QT or JT (plus any "naked" T), as well as carrying the potential for hitting hands like KQ and KJ. The chance the opponent started with 2 pair+ is still there, so to reflect the slightly greater "risk" from a K top/top hit, we probably would discount the Ks to 1/2 an out.


We have 4 "clean" outs (remember, we cannot "know" if our opponent has a T, so we do not discount it on that fact), plus 3 x .66 = 2 discounted outs (from the 3 x As), and 1.5 discounted outs from the Ks.

Out total outs would then be: 7.5, and we would base out odds drive decisions based on this fact.

Thu Jul 07, 2011, 02:52 PM
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
Now, for this:
I dont get fancy betting post flop. If I have a hand I'll bet the pot, if someone reraises I bet 4 times their bet ( all in if bet >1/3 of my stack..etc...If I have limped in with med/low pocket pairs; no set and I am out of there. Generally I bet strongly, and only with hands I am sure of. ( Looking at my stats, i see the flop on 16% of the hands I play). How can I improve my pse and post flop betting.

It sounds to me like you are on the right track, especially for micro-stakes play.

First thing to note: "Fancy Play" is lost effort against players who are not equipped to notice it, or respond to it effectively.

for betitng ON THE FLOP, if you feel you hold the best hand, your goal should be to bet an amount which DENIES odds for likely draws, but that INVITES calls. Afterall, you WANT to get paid if you hold the best hand, right?

To accomplish denial of drawing odds, betting pot is often not necessary, and doing so makes it "easier" for opponents to fold worse hands than yours. Consider...

An 8 out draw (open end straight draw) will hit roughly 32% of the time if the opponent gets to see BOTH cards. On the face of it, you might think you must lay worse than 2 to 1 to deny him correct odds...not true.

You get a chance to bet on EACH STREET, therefore all you must do is deny odds for him to hit his straight on the TURN. That is roughly a 16% chance, so as long as your bet does not lay better than around 4 to 1 to call, it is denying odds to that straight draw...assuming, of course, if a non-straight card comes you intend to bet again.

There will be situations where the opponent will have a 2 way draw, with more than 8 or 9 outs. In those cases you'll obviously have to bet MORE to deny odds, but most typical situations will call for no more than a half pot to 2/3rds bet to be "ok". Additonally, since that bet sizing is usually above what is "needed" (actually a 1/3rd pot bet will often work to deny odds), you are not losing that much in value.

Secondarily, betting pot denies odds, but makes it easier for an opponent to fold a worse hand. You really WANT them making a "mistake" by calling without proper odds. If they make that mistake after you've bet full pot, and they get lucky and hit, you will tend to lose a lot more. The 2 conflicting goals of MTT poker are chip accumulation, and chip preservation, so bloating a pot with a full size pot bet on the flop will actually cause you to win less (when they fold because it is obvious they havent got draw odds), and lose more (when they screw up and call, and get lucky). Try googling "The Fundemental Theorem of Poker", and see if you can see why a half pot bet on most flops is "better" than a full pot bet...


If you read the post on pre-flop odds, a very new player asked what he should do in a multi-way raised pot situation. The answer given by myself, and JWK, was essentially: "RAISE your big hands, fold everything else."

This is a very BASIC suggestion, and a good one for a person not yet equipped for more fancy types of situations. It is not what I myself would do in most cases, but it is a very fitting suggestion to balance chip accumulation versus chip loss in an MTT situation. It is "good" because not only does it "save" a newer player from making rash mistakes on drawing hands, but it will also tend to make his less skilled opponents PAY when the newer player has a solid hand. This does not mean there are not ways to extract MORE value in these types of spots, but it does mean the newer palyer has a "play book" of things to do which he can easily understand at his current level of play.

The way you BEAT weak opponents is not trying to bluff them, it is not trying to draw out on them (unless their weakness is in the form of bet sizing that is too small, and lays excellant drawing odds), but is waiting for a hand you are almost positive is "best", and betting to make them PAY.

You bet for value much more often because they will tend to call too much.

You do not try to bluff them very often because they will tend to not "know" a truly strong hand (like top/top) from a much weaker one (top pair/5 kicker), and will call too much.

You do not try representing a bigger hand than you have very often because they call too much.

You do not river bluff busted draws, because they call too much.

Are you sensing a "theme" here?

With that said, weak players will also DRAW OUT on you a lot; it is just the nature of the beast.

There is an old saying which goes: "There is a 100% SURE way to NEVER lose a pot you might have won on the river. Never fold."

Sure, you will never lose a pot you might have won, but you will ALSO lose a lot more pots than you win!

Because weak players call too much, the wierd things they hit to draw out on you will be varied and frequent. Never forget; you WANT THAT!

No, you don't want 'em sucking out, but you want to know they will TRY! Because when they try, they will hit occasionally, but far more often they will lose...and who comes out on the plus side in that situation?

Something you will have to look into for your own improvement is something called "pot control".

From the above statements you've made, it looks like your "standard" betting line is a bit too "heavy". While weak player will call, and your line will tend to give you more value when they do, when they suck out it will also tend to be much more DAMAGING to your stack in MTT play. Don't forget, MTT play is about a BALANCE between chip accumulation and chip preservation.

A more "standard" pre-flop betting line (for when you think you hold the best, but when someone might have better, or be on a strong draw to better) would be:

A) Open raise to 3 x BB (to go). Add roughly 1/2 the pre-flop ante amount to this raise once antes have begun.

B) Raising over limpers should be for an amount of 3 x BB PLUS 1 BB for each limper (amount to go). Again, adjust slightly once antes have begun (same as above).

If there are EXTREME "calling stations" (people who are likely to call anyway, creating a multi-way pot) who have limped, consider raising your strong hands even more; along the lines of 4 to 5 BB +1 BB per limper. This is because once one person calls, it will often create a "chain reaction" that may not be good for hands you'd prefer to play in a limited person pot.

C) Raising over a raiser should usually be to an amount of between 2 and 2.5 times his initial raise amount OVER his raise. If his open raise makes it 1000 to go, you should consider a raise making it 3000 to 3500 to go.

4 times his amount is a little bit too much, as it will tend to get him to either FOLD when you likely have a better hand, or get him to PUSH, potentially making you fold more than you have to(if you hold something like AQ/JJ when you raised him).

Your 4x raise amount is not "bad" versus someone loose enough to call that with LESS than you have in your hand, but you gotta remember that the default setting for bad players is CALLING; if he raises you, then he probably has a very good hand (because even "morons" can wake up with AA). If you MUST fold, you want it to be as cheaply as possible.

Also, if your raise makes HIM fold when you hold AA/KK (and you do not CARE if he 4Bets), you lost value there.

D) If ANY of these raise amounts take you above 33% of your stack in, consider going all-in immediately instead. If you do not go all-in pre-flop, then you will be going all-in on the flop...any flop. So do NOT raise for 33%+ of your stack and expect to FOLD at any point in the hand. (you seem to know this already, so good on you!).

The way you are playing small to medium pockets seem spot on...

Your pre-flop entry stardards are really pretty good. 16% is tight, but not "uber-nitty", and is a really nice target to aim for.

As for improving your pre-flop betting, the above info serves to do that quite a bit. About the only thing you can do there beyond what is written is work on improving your ranging abilities of opponents.

This will work to give you a better handle on what they are limping and raising pre-flop. Doing that will tend to allow you to ADJUST your entry hand standards based on opponents already in the pot, and keep you from raising versus tighter players with your bottom end hands, and failing to enter with the bottom end of your range against opponents who are likely to be well behind those hands. This, of course, assumes you understand that Poker is a game of INFORMATION and DECISIONS, and the later your position, the more information you will have upon which to make your decisions.

In EP, since you are still working on your reading ability, you should probably stick with the hands at the very top end of your range.

From middle position, just knowing that there are tight or loose players behind you who MIGHT enter the pot is enough (for now) to adjust your start hand range. If a tight or loose player does enter behind you when you are in MP, most of your adjustments should be to how strongly you "value" the top pair type hands your reasonably tight 16% range will tend to bring you most often.

From LP, you'll have the most information, both pre and post flop, and you should be willing to play the entirety of your range from LP.

Your POST FLOP betting is an entirely different story. Post flop is MUCH harder to explain, because it is so much more situationally dependant. The MAIN you need to work on to improve that is:

Your reads of opponents.

This includes betting patterns, their ability to bluff or be bluffed, their calling standards, whether they are observing you or not, what they consider to be a "good" hand, how they see kicker improtance, how often they will chase draws, etc...etc...etc...
(not to blow my own horn, but I have a thing posted in the blog section on reading your opponents that I think is pretty good)

All this info will be useful in guaging the current strength of your hand, the chances you have to improve your hand, the chances the opponent MIGHT have to improve his hand, and the chances you have to get him to fold a better hand than your current one. Until you begin to sharpen this ability, you should probably consider staying pretty "ABC" in your play.

That means:
Top pair is good, top pair/top kicker is BETTER, but both are just 1 pair.

By this I mean much of your play should be focused on hands which will tend to make top pair/good kicker hands. When you get those sorts of hands, you should bet them. When you run into callers or raisers, you need to re-assess the strength of your hand, especially if you get a caller who has called bets on 2 streets by you.

The major thing to note (besides your reads of opponent tendencies) when you re-assess your hand strength is "Board Texture". Board Texture is the number of potential hands which can be ahead of you, and the number of potential draws there might be to beat you. It boils down to simply this: "KNOW THE NUTS".

Hold 'em is a game which employs community cards, therefore the "strength" of your hand is only there in relation to the best hand POSSIBLE on a given board.

Try answering these questions...

On which board would you RATHER Hold AsKh?

A) Kc 4s 9h
B) Ad Kd Qd

AsKh is MUCH better on the first board in terms of being "ahead", than on the 2nd board.
The first board is pretty "dry" (few threats to top/top), while the 2nd board is very VERY "wet" (multiple threats to even your top 2 pair hand).

Next question...

If the pot is 1000 in each situation, which board are you more likely to bet 750 on, and which are you more likely to bet 500 on?

You would probably bet 500 more often on the "A" board, and 750 more often on the "B" board. Why?

On the A board, you are going to want an opponent to CALL more often. Betting 1/2 pot will deny odds to any draw likely to be present, and will tend to get you calls from weaker Ks, and sometimes even 2nd paired hands. There are no real "threat cards" which could come to prevent you from feeling "comfortable" betting on the turn, so betting less to INVITE a call is much safer here too.

On the B board, you do NOT want an opponent calling very often to draw another d, or another broadway card to make a straight. Half pot is "enough" to deny odds to most draws, even 2 way draws, but if you get called after a 500 bet you CANNOT feel "comfortable" about betting again on the turn (this is because you may already be beaten). This may lead you to check, thus giving "infinate odds" to draw, or by betting you may bloat the pot, thus giving reason for an opponent to try a BIG "semi bluff" bet at you. So on this board, you want more "definition" of your hand, so a larger bet would be called for more often.

Last Question:

If you bet the amounts above on the flop, and your opponent RAISES YOU 3 times more than the amount you bet, which board are you more likely to keep playing on?

Answer: It depends.

On board A, with fewer potential "threats" there from a semi-bluff stab, the chances increase that the opponent is on a MADE HAND bigger than top/top. Whether he is or not is really a matter for your reads of his tendencies to decide, but what you CAN know is that his range is pretty "polarized" here. He is either on a hand that has you crushed right now, or one that you have crushed. There simply are not any likely draws he might semi-bluff.

On board B, you hold top 2, but that hand is NEVER the "nuts" on a flop (top set is at the least). Your opponent is not nearly as polarized here, as he might hold anything from the mortal nuts (a royal flush), to just a single 9d. Your larger bet bloated the pot more, so it brings in a greater chance for a semi-bluff try on this coordinated board texture, and the fact that top 2 pair is ahead of any single pair hand (or any other 2 pair hand like AQ that might think it is "best"), means you'd have more REASON to call even though you might be behind here too. Obviously, your stack size in an MTT, and your reads play a BIG part of whether you will RAISE (you'd not be served well by calling, for the same reaosns you'd not fail to C-Bet), but the chance you will be "right" to keep going here is probably better than on board 1.


Improving your reads on opponents is going to allow you to do more things in your game. Starting to realize board texture will also help you with forming reads on opponents. When you can effectively do both, you will have made great strides in improving your post-flop play.


I suggest reading the following books:

"The Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky
"No Limit Hold 'Em, Theory and Practice" by Sklansky and Ed Miller

Both will give a good grounding in some much used poker concepts.


"Harrington on Hold 'Em Vol 1, 2, and 3" by Dan Harrington.

Vol 1 and 2 are in the form of "lessons", and Vol 3 is a book entirely of hand exercises.
Taken together they are a very good source of information on Tournament play.

Last edited by JDean; Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:04 PM..
Fri Jul 08, 2011, 08:57 AM
topthecat's Avatar
Since: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,962
Excellent stuff, JDean

Ever thought of writing a book on Poker yourself??

Fri Jul 08, 2011, 11:19 AM
mtnestegg's Avatar
Since: Feb 2011
Posts: 1,336
good thing you gave the short answer jdean lol good stuff man

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