As titles of articles go, the one above couldn’t be more simplistic in that the eventual size of a pot is obviously going to be determined by the size of the various individual bets from which it’s collectively formed. However, just because a concept seems to be founded on blindingly obvious simplicity, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the typical poker enthusiast has a workable understanding of it.
It’s true that we tend to be aware that an acceptable pre-flop raise might be around, for example, 3x the Big Blind, or that it’s conventionally accepted from the Flop onwards to bet, say, 2/3 pot. Many players also fiddle with software settings so that they have available fixed pre-set bet sizes such as 1/3, 1/2 , 3/4 pot, and so on.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, but it’s important to understand the impact of the size of the bet on the development of the size of the pot. We often hear how poker is situational, and this is particularly true when it comes to bet-sizing. Moreover, there’ll be so many cases where a specific bet size – or, more accurately, a specific bet-sizing strategy – will be more effective than others. My point here is that such instances can be so numerous that we’re quite often better off dispensing with convention, and if we fail to take these opportunities to build bigger pots when the time is right, we’re simply throwing away money/chips. Poker is, after all, not only about making a profit but maximizing our chances when they do arise.
With this in mind, it doesn’t take a maths genius to appreciate that if we bet, for instance, a third of the pot on every street from Flop to River, the final pot will end up being smaller than if we had bet two thirds at each juncture. But how much smaller? Let’s say the pot is $9 on reaching the Flop, and we’re up against a sole opponent. We bet 1/3 pot ($3) and are called, bringing the total to $15 on the Turn. Again, we bet 1/3 pot ($5) and are called, and the pot is now $25 at the River. A final (approximate) 1/3 pot bet ($8) and subsequent call, and we arrive with a pot size of $41. Now we can return to the Flop, and apply a bet-sizing strategy of 2/3 pot bets. So, this time, it’s a $6 bet which, when called, increases the pot on the Turn to $21. We make another 2/3 pot bet ($14) and this is called, to bring the tally up to $49 at the River. We throw in an approximate 2/3 pot bet ($32), and a call is a final contribution to what ends up as a $113 pot. As we can see, the difference is considerable – just by betting 2/3 pot rather than 1/3 at each street, the result is a prize that’s 2.75 times bigger! If we put this in perspective, and factor in just how many times we find ourselves – especially in a two-way pot – with a strong hand that has us in front, it’s quite scary to think just how many times we leave potentially significant amounts on the table.
A cumulative failure to properly adjust our bet sizing when there’s a convincing argument to consistently build the pot is a poker sin. If you still bet without properly incorporating long(er)-term thinking, blindly rely on automatic pre-sets, and generally don’t give enough thought to the impact that bet sizes have on the ultimate reward, then it’s time to change the way you approach hands. With every bet, it should come naturally to envisage how this will affect the rest of the hand in terms of how it impacts the subsequent size of the pot.
Good luck at the tables!