Bet Sizing Strategy: 8 Rules to Help You Choose the Perfect Bet Size
Choosing the best bet size is a tricky task in No Limit Hold’em.
There is no one ‘perfect’ bet size that can be used in all spots. The optimal bet size will depend on a number of factors, including:
- Preflop action
- Board texture
- Stack depth
- Who has the range advantage
- …and many more!
In this article, you will learn eight general rules that will help you choose a winning size – whether it be a 33% pot-sized bet or a huge overbet – in any situation.
Rules #2 through #6 are paired with example hands, which were played by Upswing Lab training course members and analyzed by Doug Polk.
Let’s dive in.
The 8 Bet Sizing Rules
Click to jump to an in-depth explanation of the rule:
- Increase your preflop raise size when there is a weak player in the blinds.
- 3-bet larger preflop when you will be out of position postflop.
- Bet small (25-35% pot) on dry, static board textures.
- Bet pretty large (55-80% pot) on wet, dynamic board textures.
- The stack-to-pot ratio should influence your bet size.
- Overbet when you have a nut advantage.
- When double barreling on the turn, always bet pretty large (66% pot or more).
- Lean towards c-betting small (25-40% pot) in 3-bet pots.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each rule.
Rule #1: Increase your preflop raise size when there is a weak player in the blinds.
The main goal for this adjustment is extracting more value from the weak player. Weak and inexperienced players tend to call raises with the same range of hands, regardless of size (known as a ‘static’ calling range).
If the weak player will call with the same range of hands versus a 3.5bb raise as they would versus a 2.5bb raise, you should opt for the former because it will allow you to win more money (on average).
bb = big blinds
Rule #2: 3-bet larger preflop when you will be out of position postflop.
You should 3-bet around three times your opponent’s raise size when you are in position and around four times your opponent’s raise size when you are out of position
When you are out of position, your opponent will realize his equity much more easily, which means you should size up your 3-bets. By contrast, you generally want to use a smaller 3-bet sizes in position because you want to put your opponent in a tough spot (facing a well-sized 3-bet out of position) with his medium strength hands.
Rule #3: Bet small (25-35% pot) on dry, static board textures
As well as functioning to get value, bets on the flop and turn deny your opponents their equity when they fold. In other words, you take away their chance of winning the pot by forcing them to fold with a bet.
When equity denial is not important, you are more incentivized to use small bet sizes. This is often the case on dry boards because most of your opponent’s hands will have little-to-no equity against your value betting range.
Another benefit of using a small bet size on dry boards is that calling ranges tend to be inelastic. Phrased differently: the likelihood that your opponent folds to a bet will be similar regardless of bet size. Why risk betting large with your bluffs when you can get the same result with a smaller bet?
Additionally, small bet sizes work well as an exploitative adjustment against players that fold too often. This is particularly true in live games and weak online environments where many opponents often play a ‘fit or fold’ postflop style.
Here’s a hand played by an Upswing Lab member that demonstrates this concept:
Online Cash 6-Handed. 100bb Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt 6♦ 5♦ in the CO.
UTG folds. MP folds. Hero raises to 2.5bb. BTN folds. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop (5.5bb): A♦ 8♠ 3♣
BB checks. Hero bets 1.8bb. BB folds.
Analysis from Doug
On a dry board like A♦ 8♠ 3♣, a small bet size (33% in this example) makes the most sense. This is because our range of value hands (88, 33, A8s, A3s, AK, AQ, etc) is unlikely to be outdrawn on the turn, so we aren’t as incentivized to drive out our opponent’s equity with a larger bet.
In the equity calculation below, we can see just how little equity the BB’s range has versus our value betting range:
The BB’s estimated range has just 11.32% equity
And this chart shows how much equity each hand in the BB’s range has versus our value betting range (does not include our bluffs):
The overwhelming majority of the BB’s range poses very little threat to our value bets
Also, the BB’s calling range is likely to be inelastic in this spot. Hands like QJo and 65s will usually be folded regardless of the bet size because such hands have terrible playability on later streets. Not to mention they are drawing nearly dead against our value hands.
Rule #4: Bet pretty large (55-80% pot) on wet, dynamic board textures
When your value betting range is vulnerable to being outdrawn, you should use a larger bet size. This strategy has three notable benefits:
- Large bet sizes allow you to build the pot when you have a strong hand.
- Larger bets extract more value before the turn or river has a chance to reduce your strong hand to a bluff-catcher.
For instance, almost half of the deck is a bad card for 9♣ 9♦ on T♥ 9♥ 5♠ 4♠.
- Large bet sizes generate more fold equity, making your bluffs more effective
For example, this hand was played by John C. and analyzed by Doug in the private Upswing Lab group:
Online Cash 6-Handed. 100bb Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt A♣ A♥ on the BTN.
UTG raises to 3bb. MP calls. CO folds. Hero raises to 11bb. SB folds. BB folds. UTG calls. MP calls.
Flop (34.5bb): 2♠ 5♥ 3♠
UTG checks. MP checks. Hero bets 12bb. UTG calls. MP calls.
Turn (70.5bb): 8♣
UTG checks. MP checks. Hero bets 22.32bb. UTG folds. MP calls.
River (115.14bb): 6♥
MP checks. Hero…?
Analysis from Doug
This ~33% flop bet size is too small given the board texture and stack-to-pot ratio. The board is low, but it is not static – our opponents can have a variety of flush draws and backdoor draws.
Our stack depth is another reason to large bet on this flop. If we bet 22bb (65% pot-size bet) and get called by one player, we will take a turn card with 78.5bb in the pot and 67bb behind. This stack-to-pot ratio allows us to comfortably shove on the turn (more on this in rule #5).
When we use a flop bet size that allows us to go all-in on the turn, our bluffs will generate more fold equity and our opponents won’t have a great price to draw.
It’s worth noting that checking on this flop would also be a reasonable play with aces.
Rule #5: The stack-to-pot ratio should influence your bet size
Your stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is an important factor to consider when choosing a bet size.
You have to think ahead, considering what the size of the pot will be on later streets and how you intend to proceed with your value hands and bluffs.
Many players will bet too large on the flop and turn, and as a result end up with a tiny bet left behind on the river. Bluffing is extremely ineffective in such situations because tiny river shoves generate little-to-no fold equity, which is not a desirable situation.
This example hand was played and submitted by Upswing Lab member Bogdan E.:
150/300 Live Tournament 9-Handed. 21,000 Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt Q♥ Q♦ on the BTN.
UTG calls. UTG+1 calls. LJ calls. HJ folds. CO folds. Hero raises to 1,200. SB folds. BB calls. UTG+1 calls. LJ calls.
Flop (5,250): 3♠ 6♣ 9♥
BB checks. UTG+1 checks. LJ checks. Hero bets 3,000. BB folds. UTG+1 calls. LJ folds.
Turn (11,250): J♦
UTG+1 checks. Hero bets 7,000. UTG+1 raises to 15,000. Hero raises to 16,800 and is all-in. UTG+1 calls and shows 6d6h.
River (44,850): 5♣
Analysis from Doug
The first sizing error in this hand is the preflop raise — somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 chips would have been better. With three limpers already in the pot, we need to raise to a size that doesn’t give our opponents such a good price to call.
Raising to a bigger size is particularly important with the hand we have, QQ, since high pocket pairs perform better with a low SPR and when fewer players see the flop.
Assuming we make it 1,800 and get the same number of callers, the pot on the flop will be 7,650 with 19,200 behind. Considering our SPR, using a size of around 5,000 (~65% pot) on the flop sets us up nicely for a shove on the turn — 14,200 into 17,650 assuming one caller (~80% pot).
This approach allows us to extract maximum value with our strong hands whilst ensuring we generate good fold equity with our bluffs (like QTs).
The larger sizes Bogdan actually used on the flop and turn will often times lead to an awkward spot on the river. Had our opponent not check-raised on the turn, we would have reached the river with less than a half-pot size bet behind (~10,000 into ~25,000) which is not ideal for our triple-barrel bluffs.
Rule #6: Overbet when you have a nut advantage
Overbets work well on boards that favor your range over your opponent’s range, particularly when only you are able to have the stongest hands.
An overbetting range should also be polarized, made up of only strong hands and bluffs. Using such a large size allows you to get the maximum with your value hands, and generate maximum fold equity with our bluffs.
The most effective overbet bluffs are usually hands that block our opponent’s most likely strong hands that will call. The best example of this is using the nut flush blocker on a three-to-a-flush board (think A♦ K♠ on Q♦ 8♦ 2♣ 6♦ 3♠).
This hand was played by Doug and self-analyzed in his overbet module in the Upswing Lab:
$100/$200 Heads-Up. $59,416 Effective Stacks.
Doug is dealt 4♦ 2♦ in the BB.
BTN raises to $700. Doug calls.
Flop ($1,400): 5♠ A♥ Q♦
Doug checks. BTN bets $980. Doug calls.
Turn ($3,360): 3♣
Doug checks. BTN checks.
River ($3,360): 7♦
Doug checks. BTN bets $1,500. Doug raises to $10,800. BTN calls and mucks A♠ 2♥.
Analysis from Doug
We can make some assumptions about the button’s range once he checks the turn:
- The button does not have the turned nuts (42) because that hand would almost certainly value bet on the turn.
- The button does not have the rivered nuts (64) because a 6-high draw would almost certainly semi-bluff on the turn.
- The sets and two pairs in the button’s preflop range (AA, QQ, 55, AQ, A5) are unlikely to have been played this way.
Since our opponent is very unlikely to have a nutted hand on this river, we can construct an overbetting strategy. Here is how we will divvy up our value range on the river:
Check-raise huge with our strongest hands (64, 42, 55, 33)
Overbet check-raising here allows us to extract an extra bet from our opponent’s bluffs, and get maximum value when our opponent bets-calls with a value hand (like the A2o here).
We also need to mix in some bluff check-raises here in order to balance out our value bets. 54 is a perfect candidate because it blocks set combos (55), two-pair combos (A5, Q5, 53) and straight combos (42 and 64).
The size of our check-raise in this spot should always be large (at least 2x pot) because we are representing a polarized range.
Overbet lead with the rest of our value hands (35, A5, A3, A7, some Ax)
We can then overbet lead with our medium-to-strong hands, which prevents our opponent from checking back for free on the river.
Rule #7: Bet at least 66% pot on the turn when firing the second continuation bet
The most important concept to keep in mind for playing on the turn is polarization. You want your betting range to be comprised of hands that will be able to value bet on the river very often and hands that have a decent chance to improve to the best hand on the river.
Middling hands, which are typically included in small betting ranges, should be checked for the following reasons:
- If the turn checks through, middling hands will be strong enough to bet on the river for value.
- You can use middling hands to catch your opponent’s bluffs on the river.
- Middling hands protect the weak showdown value hands (such as A/K-high) with which you would also check.
- Including middling hands in your turn checking range will allow you to credibly bluff with very weak hands on the river.
This way, all your hands work symbiotically to maximize the expected value (EV) of your whole strategy.
Because you are using a polarized strategy, your bet size should be bigger in order to extract maximum value with your strong hands and to increase the frequency at which you can bluff. Using anything less than 66% in the vast majority of cases will just lower your overall EV.
Rule #8: You should usually c-bet between 25-40% of the pot in 3-bet pots
This is tied to rule #5.
Because the stack-to-pot ratio is so low in 3-bet pots, you can put all your stack in on the river with under pot sized bets, even if you start with a very low c-bet size. Furthermore, this bet size is also the one that solvers prefers both in position and out of position.
Given the ranges involved a small bet usually puts enough pressure on the middling part of your villain’s hands (make him have a hard time with them).
Further reading: When Should You Bet on the Flop After 3-Betting?
Take these rules to heart and use them the very next time you play!
If you’ve got any requests for future article topics, please leave them in the comments below.
Ready to test your bet sizing knowledge? Take our bet sizing quiz now!
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!