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StrategyWeekly No Limit

Bet and Raise Sizes (1) - Preflop

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Bet and Raise Sizes (1) - Preflop

by MiiWiin

Every player should be familiar with correct bet and raise sizing before the flop. However, there are many spots in which it is not so easy to say what the 'right' amount is.

In this column, we will take a look at all the possible scenarios and give you an overview of the most profitable bet and raise sizes.

Options

There are four ways to determine the size of a bet or a raise preflop:

  • Raise
  • 3-bet
  • Squeeze
  • 4-bet
WHY DETERMINE SIZES AT ALL?

The sizes given are primarily derived from past experience. They serve three main functions:

  • Value: When you have a strong hand, you want to extract as much value as possible from your opponents.
  • Bluff: You want to get better hands to fold, while investing as little as possible.
  • Balancing: You don't want your bet/raise sizing to make your intentions obvious.

In cases where balancing is not an issue, you have to modify these principles a bit. Let's say you're up against an opponent who is likely to call just about any hand. In this case, considering value is more important than balancing. In spots like this, you may very well increase your bet/raise sizes. In this column, however, we want to focus on the rule and not the exceptions.

Raise

For beginners, the recommended raise size is as follows (especially at full-ring tables):

4BB + 1BB/Limper + 1BB/OOP

Raise one big blind for each limper in the hand. If you are playing out of position (SB, BB), add another BB on top.

This rule is ideal at the start of your poker career. However, as you progress you will need to adjust your raise sizes, especially when you switch to short-handed games and when you move up the limits, where you'll face more aggressive opponents.

Other players will often call your raises, especially at the lower limits and you want to use your edge postflop, so it's perfectly fine if your opponent invests a bit more.

However, as your opponents get better and more aggressive, the tables turn. You will be confronted with 3-bets more often and you'll have to react to them. 4BB open-raises might be a bit too much in such a situation.

POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION: OPEN-RAISE

Ten people – eleven opinions. That's generally the case here. So this is just a recommendation as to how you could size your open-raises.

Early position: 3.5BB

If you are to act early in the round, you are at a disadvantage. You need to compensate for this by making slightly bigger open-raises as you don't want to force everyone to call. Therefore, 4BB would be an option here.

Middle position (/cut-off): 3BB

3BB should be the standard size for a raise in middle position.

(Cut-off/) button: 2.5BB

If you want to steal from the button, 2.5BB are big enough. The cut-off is a borderline case - you could still raise 3BB here. Raising 3BB from the button would also be okay. However, 3.5BB would be a bit too much in the long run, especially if you want to make quite loose steals.

Small blind: 3.5BB

You are acting out of position again and must make sure that you don't give the big blind overly good odds. That's why you should raise a bit more than you did on the button or the cut-off.

ISOLATION RAISE

Isolation raises very much depend on your opponent. If you are playing rather weak opponents who you think will call with too many hands anyway, your raises can be bigger.

Generally, an isolation raise should be a bit bigger than an open-raise. If there's a limper in early position, you shouldn't just raise 3.5BB (2.5BB + 1BB/Limper) from the button, but slightly more. This won't be a "cheap steal attempt" anymore anyway because somebody else has already shown interest in the hand, albeit passively.

In such cases, you should raise around 4BB – 5BB.

3-bet

When it comes to 3-bets, you have to take into account two important things: your position as well as the opponent's raise size, which could range from a min-raise to a 4BB or even 5BB open-raise.

First principle: When you are in position, you should bet around three times as much, out of position three times as much plus one to two additional BBs.

When in doubt, it's better to bet a little bit too much than too little.

If you are confronted with a min-raise, you can assume a 3BB open-raise as the minimum. You can't react to a 2BB open-raise with a 6BB 3-bet. As a bluff, you simply won't create enough fold equity; if it's a 3-bet, you won't be able to extract enough value.

You also have to watch out for limpers. Has the isolation raiser made a noticeably big raise himself? You'll need to get a feel for situations like this. If a player before you has already raised to 6BB or more, there's no need to 3-bet three times that amount.

EXAMPLE 1:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
Hero ($25)
SB ($25)
BB ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X, X
1 fold, MP raises $1.00, 1 fold, Hero...

You are in position and should probably 3-bet three times the opponent's raise here. Don't forget: when in doubt, a bit too much is better than a bit too little. That means you can 3-bet between $3.00 and $3.25 here.

EXAMPLE 2:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
Hero ($25)
SB ($25)
BB ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X, X
UTG calls $0.25, MP calls $0.25 CO raises $1.50, Hero...

There are two limpers in the hand, but the big raise from the cut-off has balanced this out a bit. That's why you don't have to make an extra huge 3-bet here, especially because you are in position. $4.00 to $4.25 is more than enough.

EXAMPLE 3:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
BU ($25)
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BB with X, X
UTG calls $0.25, MP calls $0.25, CO raises $1.50, 2 folds, Hero...

You are out of position. Other than that, this hand is similar to example 2. You can add a big blind to your raise, $4.25 to $4.50 would be appropriate.

Squeeze

In a squeeze situation, one player open-raised and another player called the raise. Therefore, your 3-bet should be a bit bigger here.

Principle: in position you should raise four times the open-raise, and add 1-2BB out of position.

If the open-raise is small, you can consider making slightly bigger raises. If you're facing a bigger open-raise (4BB+) less is better. You don't want to invest too much of your money in this squeeze.

EXAMPLE 4:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
Hero ($25)
SB ($25)
BB ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X, X
1 fold, MP raises $0.75, CO calls $0.75, Hero...

A common situation: you are in position, your opponent open-raised to 3BB. 12BB would be a good size for your squeeze here, so you can squeeze to $3.00.

If you were in the small blind here, $3.25 to $3.50 would be better.

EXAMPLE 5:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
BU ($25)
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BB with X, X
UTG calls $0.25, MP raises $1.25, CO calls $1.25, 2 folds, Hero...

After one player limped into the pot, the MP open-raised to 5BB. If you strictly adhere to the rule we looked at above, you would have to raise to 20BB + 1BB for the limper and an additional BB for our position.

However, 22BB is simply too much in this situation and 18BB is more than enough to reach your goal here. You shouldn't invest more than $4.25.

EXAMPLE 6:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
BU ($25)
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BB with X, X
UTG calls $0.25, MP raises $1.25, CO calls $1.25, BU calls $1.25, SB calls $1.25, Hero...

All the players at the table have entered the pot. Again: you need to get a feel for situations like these.

It's absolutely not relevant here whether you want to bluff or make a value squeeze: you just need to give your opponents the opportunity to make mistakes.

Although the pot is already quite big, there is no way you should squeeze to 30BB. You shouldn't even 4-bet that much. Again, 20-22BB are sufficient; $5.00-5.50 is an ideal size for your squeeze.

4-bet

When you 4-bet, you always have to try not to commit yourself to the pot.

EXAMPLE 7:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
Hero ($25)
SB ($25)
BB ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X, X
3 folds, Hero raises $1.00, SB raises to $3.50, 1 fold, Hero raises to $9.50,...

Is there anything noteworthy about this raise size?

The following should catch your eye: you are investing 38BB into the 4-bet.

Simple equity calculation: You only have 62BB left to try and get a share of the final 200BB pot. This means that if your opponent pushes all-in, you would only need 62/200 = 31% equity to call.

Equity analysis
Board

  Equity
Win  Split
Loss
Hand
Player 1
68.86%
68.64%
0.44%
30.92%
QQ+, AKs, AKo
Player 2
31.14%
30.92%
0.44%
68.64%
6h5h
Equity analysis
Board

  Equity
Win  Split
Loss
Hand
Player 1
65.97%
65.68%
0.58%
33.74%
QQ+, AKs, AKo
Player 2
34.03%
33.74%
0.58%
65.68%
2s2h

As you can see, you've as good as committed yourself. There's hardly any hand you would still fold here. The consequence: your opponent will rarely (or never) bluff push, as he can't expect to give himself any more fold equity.

This is an important point. Even if you never bluff 4-bet (which naturally makes bluffing more than necessary to balance your lines!), you will see fewer weaker hands go broke against you.

Principle: If possible, don't invest more than 30BB into a 4-bet. Ideally, you should not put in more than one fourth of your stack (around 25BB).

A side note: due to these recommendations for 3-bet and 4-bet sizes, you should now also understand why a 4BB open-raise from the button has its downsides. If you make smaller "steals", you can also make lighter 4-bets.

EXAMPLE 8:

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6-handed)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($25)
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
Hero ($25)
SB ($25)
BB ($25)

Preflop: Hero is BU with X, X
3 folds, Hero raises $0.75, SB raises to $2.50, 1 fold, Hero raises to $6.00,...

You open-raise to 3BB and you get a 10BB 3-bet in return. In this scenario, a 24BB 4-bet is a good choice, you can even consider a slightly bigger raise size here.

» SUMMARY

Bet and raise sizes are par for the course. You shouldn't throw in too many variables preflop, as the balancing effect is important here and you will rarely find yourself in heads-up situations against weaker players (preflop there will often be more players still in the hand).

In the next part, we will look at bet sizes postflop and learn about more principles that are essential for your game.