|The Forum Owner
Inscrit le: 02 Oct 2009
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|Posté le: Dim 18 Oct - 22:50 (2009) Sujet du message: Pre-Flop Bet Sizing (adjusting your ranges)
|Pre-Flop Bet Sizing Virtually every poker book will tell you the same thing about bet sizing: Don’t change the size of your bet based on the strength of your hand. If you do, you are giving away information. Instead, bet based on the situation and board texture – i.e., bet more on draw-heavy boards so that your opponent isn’t getting a very profi table price to draw to his fl ush or straight. This is very simplifi ed but for the most part true. Unfortunately, no book I’ve ever read has given much attention to proper bet sizing /before the Flop/. That is what I’m going to focus on in this article.
I love stereotyping, so let’s start with that! Tournament players, especially online ones, love to make small raises before the fl op. A raise to three times the big blind is much larger than average. In most online tournaments you’ll see tons of raises to about 2.4 times the big blind. If instead you look at online cash games, the standard raises are generally to three to four times the big blind. In live cash games, the standard raises are often even bigger. The same trend holds true to reraise sizes.
Why is this? Is it a coincidence? Some kind of random trend that caught on? No. It’s primarily due to stack sizes. Take this list: online Tournament, live tournament, online cash game, live cash game. That is the order of raise sizes from smallest to largest, as well as the order of average stack size, again from smallest to largest.
Going along with this, there’s a correlation between stack sizes and aggression. How were you taught to play a short stack? All in or fold, right? What about a huge stack? Don’t get your chips in pre-fl op; wait ’til after the fl op, right? These are very general statements, and I hate general statements, but there’s still a lot of truth in them.
OK, so if you connect the dots, we can assume that in more aggressive games, you should make smaller raise sizes. The logic behind that is pretty simple. Take the most aggressive opponent possible. This does not mean he’s loose! This just means he never calls. He will either raise or fold. That’s as aggressive as you can ever be. What this means is, we can raise to a very small amount, and our opponent will be “put to the test” for a much larger amount of chips.
Pretend we’re in a tournament where blinds are 500/1000 with a 100 ante. It folds to you on the button. You want to raise a wide range of hands in this spot because, well… it folded to you on the button. The problem is the small blind has only 17,000 chips and will move all in on us with anything decent. The solution is to make a small raise with our entire range. We can raise to 2,500 or even less. This puts the small blind in a spot where calling is pretty terrible, with any hand. It’s much better for him to move all in or fold. By raising to 2,500, we are risking as little as possible to put him to a decision for his entire stack. This is the most basic example of why tournament players generally raise to smaller amounts. When the stacks are deep, you’ll see the truly great tournament players adjusting their raise sizes to larger amounts.
This example applies to cash games as well. Do you face short-stackers, or ratholers, in your cash games? They often buy in for the minimum so they can use a simple strategy of playing tight and moving all in whenever they have a hand. The obvious counter to this is raising smaller amounts. Again, put them to a decision for their whole stack for as little as possible.
This gets even more interesting when we are talking about heads up. First, let me clear something up that a lot of people don’t fully understand. If you are heads up, the total chip stacks don’t matter. The fact that you have a ten to one lead in a tournament doesn’t matter. The way you play should be dictated by the effective stack, which is simply the stack of the person who is shorter. I’ve heard way too many tournament players say, “Player A should be more aggressive here since he has a chip lead.” This does not matter at all heads up!
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss a few stack sizes. From here on out, I’m going to be discussing strategy from the point of view of the button (who is also the small blind in heads-up play). Since he acts fi rst, it is from his point of view that we need to look at the size of open raises.
If the stacks are seven BB (BB = stack size measured in number of big blinds) deep, what’s a good standard raise size? I hope you know the answer to this is all in. With stacks this small, winning the blinds is such a huge victory that it’s your primary goal. This is basic stuff, so I won’t elaborate.
What about fi fteen BB? If you use the same strategy and just move all in when you have a hand, you’ll be risking too much to win too little. Moving all in for fi fteen BB with a trash hand is a huge mistake against a good player. This means you’ll have to play very tight, which is not what we want to accomplish. So how about a three BB raise? Again, if you are making this raise with a wide range, your opponent can just move all in with a wide but still signifi cantly tighter range than yours and show a huge profi t. Basically, you’re risking too much to win too little. Or, you can play tight, which is not what you want to be doing in position heads up.
The solution is to limp. If you limp all of your hands (folding complete trash is fi ne, but play anything remotely reasonable), there is no obvious counter strategy your opponent can use to exploit you. If he checks a lot, you have position which is a win. If he raises a lot, you are putting him to a test for a lot of his chips for just half a big blind of your own (it’s only half a big blind to call since heads up you have half in already).
I should add the disclaimer that you should always keep your opponent in mind. If he isn’t good and will fold too often to small raises, go ahead and keep making those small raises and you’ll show a hefty profi t. If he’s smart and knows when to move all in, however, this strategy won’t work.
This is the strategy I use for stack sizes from roughly 12 to 22 big blinds. However, I still move all in with some hands. Take pocket deuces, for example. If that’s the only hand we move all in with, and our opponent knows it, it will still show a profi t. They rarely have a hand that beats it, so we can’t be exploited. Still, the profi t from moving all in is often greater than playing it postfl op depending on the opponent. I will also do this with other small pairs (even 6-6 is too big and has too much value to do this with), and weak aces if I think the profi t from shoving is bigger than the profi t from limping and seeing a pot. Not that shoving strong hands would be a mistake because it would weaken your limping range, making you easily exploitable.
What about with just over 22 big blinds? With these stack sizes I like raising the minimum with most of my range. If you are doing it properly, your opponent won’t be able to exploit you by moving all in too often. And as the stack sizes get bigger, I will slowly increase my raise size. For example, with 28 big blinds I might raise to 2.4x BB. With 34 big blinds I might raise to 2.6x BB. The exact amount you raise to should vary based on your opponent and how aggressive he is. Remember, against an aggressive player, your goal is to put him to the test for as few chips as possible.
The last situation I want to discuss is when a short stack moves all in before you. Let’s say you’re in a tournament and a player with a stack of 4.5 big blinds moves in from middle position. You are in the cutoff. Lots of online players will reraise hands like A-10 that do well against a short stack all in, but will call with hands like aces when they don’t mind more players coming along. Personally, I think this is a terrible strategy unless you are against the least observant of opponents.
Depending on the exact amounts, I often like to raise the minimum with my entire range. So if there’s an all in for 4.5 big blinds, I might raise the minimum to 8 big blinds. (Note that the minimum reraise is less than double.) This is a very similar concept to the one I talked about before. Risk the minimum to put your opponents to a decision. If instead the all in were only for 1.5 big blinds, a minimum reraise would not be enough to put anyone to a decision. You would need to raise more.
Before I sign off, I want to reiterate that a lot of these strategies are designed to be impossible to exploit. If you can get your opponent to fold way too often by raising the minimum when stacks are deep, or by making bigger raises with your trash hands than your good ones, by all means do it. But against a good, observant player, this won’t work.
Next time you fi nd yourself in a situation where the stack sizes are slightly different from what you are used to, stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Feel free to use some of the bet-sizing parameters I discussed in this article, or better yet, analyze the unique situation you are in and determine which strategy will be the hardest to combat. Either way, please don’t fall into the trap of assuming that bet sizing is something you only need to worry about after the fl op. Against good players, it is critical to pay attention to your raise amounts before the fl op as well.