Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bet-sizing, Part IIc: Making Decisions Easy

Finally, the third and final post on sizing your bets to avoid getting yourself in a sticky situation with your next decision. This time, we look at river play - an area where most people seem to struggle badly. The balance between value bets and avoiding checkraises is not as delicate as it may seem, if you make sure your bet is a good size for what you’re trying to achieve. Most people’s problem seem to come from not really thinking through what they want with their bet before they make it.
An example from last week: $50NL, villain raises to $2 in middle position with AK, and the aggressive button (that’d be yours truly) calls. Effective stacks are $50. The flop comes K-7-2, and he bets $3 on the flop (I called), he bet $8 on the turn (another seven) and again, I call. The river brings a J. What remains of the effective stack is $37, and the pot is about $26. He bets $24.
If his goal is to prevent me from bluffing, $24 is a big enough bet size. It’s big enough that I won’t really have any leverage to try to bluff him out; going all-in would offer him a pot of $87 with $13 to call - hardly something he’ll fold. If he wants to stop me from bluffing, it’s better for him to bet a bit smaller; a size where he doesn’t risk quite as much (if he plans on folding if I raise - because otherwise, the point of the prevention is kinda moot) but still makes the pot big enough that it’s protected. Maybe something like $17…
… But why would he want to prevent me from bluffing? He has a hand that serves as an excellent bluff catcher! Shouldn’t he be encouraging me to bluff?
So his sizing is off. The only hand he will reasonably be extracting value from at this point is KQ, and his bet is a bit big for that, at least if he wants me to call. I sometimes take a passive line with TPGK in position versus opponents who will bet two barrels, but not three, but that’s a different story. So he puts in too much money versus the hand he can beat, and he puts in too much money to give me a chance to try to bluff, and he puts in too much money to be able to fold if I raise him. He simply puts in too much money.
By making a bet that big, he’s committed. But if he’s ready to commit, he should try to get the most bang for his buck! Against an aggressive opponent, you want to call river bets (since they will often be with weak hands/bluffs) not have the other guy call them. If I’m tight and aggressive, I’m not likely to call too often, but I might bluff. And that’s what you want to take advantage of!
Checking to me would accomplish that. But I’d often check behind with KQ and definitely all pocket pairs, which might call a small value bet on the river. With a $26, I might look him up with TT if he bets $8 or so. And the other nifty thing about betting small is that it doesn’t take away my option of bluffing. If my opponent decided he’d be happy to get it all-in versus me, then it’s important that I have enough rope to hang myself with, otherwise I’d only raise when I crush him.
In short, the river bet - versus aggressive players - should be of a size that both extracts value from weak made hands but doesn’t stop us from bluffing. A bet the size that my opponent chose achieves neither of those things, since I’d (almost) never call with a worse hand and he’d be extremely hard pressed to fold if I raised - and I’d never raise with a worse hand, either, given how unlikely I’d deem him to fold.
That’s the kind of problem he’d get himself in if he bets a bigger amount. If I raise, he’s very often desperately behind, but at the same time he’s gotten himself into the mess of being committed to seeing a showdown. With just a little bit of planning - and encouraging the aggressive player to take a stab - he could ironically have had a much easier decision to make! Getting it all-in when I make a pot-sized shove on the river is a much clearer decision than when I raise the rest all-in and he’s getting 7:1 to call with a hand that’s not going to win.
As a final sidenote, the beauty of this is that the same conclusion actually applies if you’re up against a passive opponent! What you want to avoid is being forced to call a passive opponent’s river raise due to pot odds, so instead you set the price so that if he raises, you can easily fold. A small bet on the river accomplishes this (usually), and also extracts value from the same hands as it would from me. You want to be careful with checking, though, because while raising is a clear sign of strength for a passive player, betting when checked to might not be. If you check to him, he might bet ace-ten thinking that he will be ahead.
This is the last of Part II of my bet-sizing series. Next up is bet-sizing when bluffing!
View the original article here

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