Over the last 15 years, No Limit Hold’em has gone through a drastic transformation. So much has changed about the way people play and think about the game that it’s hard to even know where to begin.
But what stands out most in my mind is how different c-bet sizing strategies were used in the past.
Looking Back at the Tom Dwan Era
I remember watching episodes of High Stakes Poker back in the day when pot-size flop c-bets were common.
If an opponent was frequently using a small bet size, it was an almost sure-fire indicator that they didn’t know what they were doing.
But if you’ve been following the developments of popular poker strategy, you know that this is no longer the case.
Nowadays, small bets (in particular ⅓ pot-sized bets) have become the new standard in a lot of situations, and for good reason:
- Small bet sizing strategies are generally easy to understand and execute
- They make money in a ton of situations with very little risk
But poker, like all great games, is predicated on good players needing to adapt and reinvent in order to continue to sustain or increase their win-rate.
With that in mind, it’s worth considering the question: when should you bet big?
To answer that question, you should first consider the advantages of betting big. That’s what the rest of this article covers, with a focus on flop play as the preflop raiser.
3 Advantages of Betting Big (Compared to Betting Small) on the Flop
In his latest Upswing Lab module How to Use Big Flop Bets, Upswing Coach Ryan Riske goes over some of the often-not-thought-about advantages to knowing how and when to go big on the flop. In this article, we’ll be going over 3 advantages for why a big flop bet strategy is worth implementing into your arsenal.
Advantage #1: Big Flop Bets are Hard to Play Against
One of the main advantages of small bet sizing strategies are their ease of execution. However, small bet sizes are often relatively easy for our opponents to play against.
Coach Ryan explains that one of the most underappreciated advantages of a big flop sizing strategy is that it forces our opponents into making more difficult decisions.
For example, if our opponent is faced with a standard ⅓ flop c-bet on a board like A♠ K♥ 6♣, it’s very difficult for him to make any huge mistakes. Even average recreational players know that facing a small bet on this board, they can probably call with all pairs and gutshot straight draws .
But now consider if our opponent faces a pot-sized bet (or even a 150% pot-sized bet) on A♠ K♥ 6♣. Facing a huge flop bet in this scenario is almost certainly not a situation our opponent comes across very often. And, in response, he will likely need to do some thinking on his feet to try to come up with an appropriate response.
Ryan explains that with a big sizing strategy, our opponent will make more mistakes (and for larger amounts of big blinds) than they would if we bet small.
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Advantage #2: Big Bets Win More Money In Certain Situations (Contrary to What Solvers May Say)
Much of the dramatic shift in sizing strategies among good players in recent years can be attributed to the wide use of poker solvers like PioSolver or Monker. Using these programs, players were able to model theoretically sound sizing strategies, and trends started to emerge of players betting smaller.
The reason for this is that in a huge number of scenarios in poker, simplifying our betting range to a single small sizing was the simplest and most efficient way to capture the most theoretical expected value (EV).
This simplification is often reinforced when we compare the total EV of different sizing strategies in solvers. What will often happen in these comparisons is that the overall EV of an exclusively small bet strategy or exclusively big bet strategy is roughly equal.
When the EV of two different sizing strategies are equal, it’s often thought that we just pick whatever sizing we prefer.
However, as Ryan explains in his module, the EV outputs of solver solutions don’t necessarily apply to the real world. This is because the solver’s EV calculations are done against a perfect GTO opponent. So, while the solver might think the two strategies are roughly equal, big bets are significantly better in practice in certain scenarios.
In the real world, there is potentially an incalculable amount of extra EV to be gained when we open the door for our opponent to make off-balanced decisions.
Advantage #3: Creative Sizing Strategies Give Us an Advantage Over Advanced Players
Suppose you’re in the Big Blind, I’m in the Cutoff, and the flop is A♠ K♥ 6♣. You check to me on the flop and I c-bet 150% pot.
Let me ask you a few questions about this spot:
- How much of your King-X hands should you call with?
- Do you always call Ace-Two?
- What about Queen-Jack with a backdoor flush draw?
- What hands (if any) should you check-raise with?
Even some advanced players don’t know the answers to some of these questions when facing such a large bet size. This indicates that there might be something to be capitalized on.
As poker continues to evolve it’s likely that creative, but still balanced, sizing strategies are going to be among the best ways to stay ahead of the curve.
In Ryan’s 3-hour How to Use Big Flop Bets lesson, he shows us how to build these strategies from the ground up, and also teaches us how to play against them. Join the Lab today to check it out.
As always, we hope you found this content useful. And if you haven’t yet, check out more in the Upswing Lab!
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