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Bet Sizing in Poker Tournaments

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How Much to Bet in Poker Tournaments?

The biggest mistake new players/cash table swingers make is their bet sizing in poker tournaments.  Beginners tend to make quite random bet sizes that don’t necessarily have any clear motive or rational.  For cash game players their problem is that they’re accustomed to cash game bet-sizes – which in tournaments means they are risking their stacks with overbets far too often.

When playing poker tournaments however, every bet you make should have a clear purpose and calculated logic.  This will then be reflected by your bet sizes.

Guide for Bet Sizing in Tournaments:

As a general rule of thumb, bet sizes in tournaments are normally 25-35% less than in tournaments.  This is because in tournaments your chips are more valuable and should be scarified more sparingly (plus opponents are less inclined to call).

  • Pre-flop Raises: 2.25-3x BBs + 1BB for every limper
  • Re-raises should be 3x the initial range (for example, opening raise is 300, you re-raise to 900 – this is very standard)
  • cbetting should be about 50% – 70% of the pot

Factors that Determine Bet Sizing in Tournaments

You should first ask yourself why you are making a bet or raise.  When you bet, you are betting either for value or you are bluffing.  That’s all.  There is no such thing as betting to find out where you are.  If you are betting for value, you should be encouraging your opponent to call in a situation that still gives you positive EV and forces your opponent to make a mistake.  If you’re opponent is on a draw for the river, make him pay negative EV for it.  

Scenario 1: Your opponent is on a flush draw for the river and the pot size is $10,000.  The probability of him making his flush is about 20% (4:1). Therefore we should give him below 4:1 pot odds to call, which requires a raise of over $3,500 (13,500:3:500 = 3.9:1).   

Example of Bet Sizing During Middle Stage of Tournament:

Scenario 2: We open in the middle stages of a tournament in cut off position with KJ.  We are called by the BB, and the flop comes AK7 rainbow.  The BB checks.  How much should we raise?

This depends on what we believe our opponent has.  The only way a bluff can be effective is if we believe our opponent has a better hand than us and yet will fold to a bluff. Realistically, the only hand better than ours that an opponent could fold is KQ.  Thus, we can safely assume we won’t be bluffing.

Now, if we believe we’re ahead and are betting for value, we need to ask ourselves what range of hands our opponent would call with.  This realistically includes Kx, QJ, QT, JT and 7x.  If we have definitely decided to bet (we could of course check), we should lead out with a half-pot bet. 

Why a Half-Pot bet?  Firstly, as a general rule of tournament bet sizing we should cbet 50-70% of the pot.  However, because we are unsure if we’re actually ahead, and at this stage the pot will be worth around 20% of our stack if we are average, we don’t want to put too much into it.  A half-pot bet is the minimum amount suggested by professionals to force a player with weak hand to fold in tournaments.  We’re betting for value, but we also know if we get called we’re likely beaten.

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