Why make a standard bet of ½ to ¾ the pot?

Why make a standard bet of ½ to ¾ the pot?

By Aaron Hendrix for NeverwinPoker.com

A common question I am often asked is “why should I make a standard sized flop bet?”

Let me start by pointing out some of the advantages to making a standard bet.

#1 – it sows confusion, and can be perceived as a trap bet.
#2 – it is usually large enough to win the pot if other players are playing weak hands or draws.
#3 – it is often big enough to induce a flat call if they have a marginal hand.
#4 – it saves you money when you are re-raised by a player with a much stronger hand. Larger sized bets such as a pot sized or pot and a half sized bet can be expensive and lead to a large pot that leads to more difficult decisions on later streets if you are called. You can usually obtain the same information that you are seeking with the larger bet with the smaller one.
#5 – it nets you action if your opponent perceives your ½ to ¾ pot bet as being weak.

What are the disadvantages?

#1 – it can be perceived as weak and cause a raise by a player holding a worse hand than yours. Depending on the player, you may have to fold some winning hands.
#2 – it allows players with drawing hands to stay in for what appears to them to be a modest amount.

Is the second disadvantage really a disadvantage though? Anytime you bet ½ pot and are heads-up, a person is getting 3:1 on their money to call. If they have a flush draw they are 5:1 (they will hit it 19% of the time) to hit it on the next card. If they have a straight draw they are 6:1 (they will hit it 17% of the time) to hit it on the next card. Make it ¾ the pot and the odds are even more in your favor. You should want people on draws calling.

It's different when there is more than one person in the pot. For every player that calls, the remaining players are going to have improved odds to call. When I talk about making a standard bet, you need to understand that this is for situations where you are facing one opponent, and sometimes two. The bets you make in situations other than these will depend on your hand and the opponents you are facing and what you are looking to accomplish with your bet.
As for the first disadvantage, the only time this usually is applicable is in the early rounds of a tournament and the blinds are low. For example, if four people see the flop with the blinds at 25/50 and you make a bet of 100 or 150 into a 200 pot, that might be seen as weak. However, make that same ½ to ¾ pot bet into a 8,000 pot later in the tournament and it is a different story, especially when a 4,000 bet is 25% of a player's stack. If your opponent wants to think you are weak, they will be playing directly into your hands.

To me, the biggest disadvantage is that it prices people into the hand in multi-way pots. In these instances, the ½ to ¾ pot bet is still correct, but you will need to make an adjustment on the turn if a draw card does not come.

This is not to say that you should bet ½ to ¾ pot each and every time. If a half pot bet will be 3/4 of an opponent's stack, bet their stack. Sometimes you should vary your bet to force your opponent to make a decision. For example, if you flop a draw and have your opponent well covered you can make a bet of ½ their stack that way if they move all in you are forcing yourself to call. In most "standard" situations, it is best to be consistent with your bet amount. Find a number that works for you and use it any time you make a bet on the flop. Bet that same amount whether you flop a set or are completely bluffing and it will keep your opponent's guessing.

A key benefit to using a standard bet is the amount of chips it saves you when you need to fold a hand. How many times have you made a big bet hoping to get your opponent to fold so you can take down the pot only to have them come over the top of you and have to fold? Couldn't you have done the same thing with a much smaller bet and saved yourself chips in the process?

Look at it this way. You play 1,000 hands where you raise pre-flop and are called. You are first to act post-flop. If you fire out a bet some percentage of the time your opponent will fold, call, or raise a certain number of times. Do you think these percentages will vary much based on how much you bet? I would argue that they won't, and that if they do it would be a minimal difference.

Opponents that are going to call or fold, will call or fold to a ½ pot bet or pot bet without much variance. If their decision is close, they may go one way or the other based on your bet size but also may call or fold based on a feeling or if their dog tells them to call.

Yes, you may get raised back more often making these smaller bets, but this will let you set up the big hand where they end up over committing to their “steal” and you make up for the chips you lost. For example, let's say the pot size is 10,000 and you bet 5,000 twice and fold to 15,000 chip re-raises and have lost 10,000 in chips. The third time, you've flopped the nuts and your opponent again re-raises you to 15,000. You move all in for 15,000 more and your opponent feels that he is priced in and has to call. You win his 25,000 in chips in the one hand... all because you set it up with your “weak” bet the previous two times.

One of the reasons people vary their bets is because of fear. They are scared of being called or outdrawn. The sooner a poker player eliminates this fear and realizes the value of a standard, consistent flop bet, the better off their game will be.

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