Does Size Matter?!

Team PokerStars pro Bertrand Grospellier takes time off from winning pretty much every tournament ever to discuss bet sizing.
Online tournament structures are getting better and better, with deepstack tournaments available on PokerStars.com and other sites, so it’s very important that players know how to adapt their game to play deepstacked tournaments.

Bet sizing becomes more important with deep stacks, so it’s crucial to know exactly the right amount to bet. I believe that live and online tournaments aren’t much different in this aspect, and the ability to adapt to the table is the key skill. The fi rst thing to remember with bet sizing is the size of your stack and the style of your opponents in the hand. Early in the tournament, it’s hard to stack someone, but if the situation is right you should still try to maximise your chances to do so - and then having a plan for how the hand is going to play out. On the other hand, when you have a medium strength hand, you don’t want to commit too big portion of your chips to the pot, so you’re going to have a dilemma. It would be the correct play to just go with the often heard “big hand, big pot”, but from a metagame point of view, this is not always wise. I believe that in online tournaments, especially the large Sunday ones, the fi eld is so big and you change tables so often that the majority of players won’t be able to understand what you are doing most of the time. It’s still best to vary your game, for example by making a big bluff with a pot size bet on the river once in a while, if you judge the situation right.

The key thing in poker is to be aware of your image and the table dynamics it creates. Everyone knows how to evaluate your hand strength compared to your table image, but how to adapt the bet sizing can be tougher. This will often depend on your history at the table, if you have one. If you bet small on the river with the nuts in position, it might not be the most +EV bet at the time. The benefi t will come though if you are playing with other good observant players. They will notice your bet sizes when going for value, and it will allow you to bluff cheaper on the river when the blinds and pots get bigger. On the other hand, if people see you as a maniac capable of bluffi ng all in at anytime, then overbetting all in with very strong hands is an incredibly deceptive way to play. One of the very popular moves these days is to come over the top all in prefl op for a huge amount with big pairs; many opponents will then put you on AK/AQ type of hands and call with a dominated pair.

Structure should also be taken into consideration. The slower the structure is, the better it is for you if you have an edge on other players. For this reason, you shouldn’t take too many risks when you’ll have plenty of play available. That said, prefl op play changes a lot. Early in a tournament, as the blinds are very small compared to the size stack, it’s important to protect your big hand by raising a lot prefl op. If everyone has 150+ big blinds, hands like Kings or Aces can bring trouble, especially if the table is very passive and full of calling stations. In these cases, you want to reduce the number of opponents. For example if the blinds are 25/50 with 10,000 starting stacks as in the Sunday Million, and there are fi ve limpers ahead of you, I think making it 400 is the minimum. When the tournament reaches its mid stage, it’s important to notice the stack sizes of the people you are playing the hand with in order to establish a good strategy. For example, on a resteal attempt you want to give yourself maximum fold equity but not commit yourself into the hand. Therefore you want to pick the right opponent’s stack to do so. Deep into a tournament, the bet sizing prefl op will usually be smaller, as everyone gets short stacked. At this point it becomes less important to protect your hand but more important to protect your stack, especially if you have an aggressive preflop opening range.

Varying the bet sizing according to your hand strength can be a dangerous concept, as it will be easier for opponents to adapt to your betting patterns. Especially prefl op, I like to always open for the same amount at every level, usually 3.5x to 4x early on down to 2.3-2.7x very deep in. After the fl op however, there are more considerations to take into account. A lot of those concepts are much more familiar to cash game players, but basically you want to bet the amount that will put your opponent to a tough decision every time. This is of course much easier to achieve if you’re one of the big stacks as you can put maximum pressure on your opponent.

The texture of the fl op and number of opponents in the hand is a key concept to how much you should bet. If you have Q-Q on a Q-T-9 board with 2 hearts out of position against 3 players, you will have to bet a different amount than if you have K-K on a K-7-2 rainbow board. The best course of action is to calculate on the fl op, depending how deep you are, how to stack your opponent when you think your hand is best. The shorter you both are compared to the size of the pot, the easier it will be.

Position also matters. Playing in position will allow you to manipulate your opponent much more effectively, as well as get full value out of your big hands or minimise your losses when you get outdrawn. As it is tougher to play hands out of position, you usually want to re-raise more prefl op if you are in early position, even more so against good players. When I’m in position, however, I don’t want to discourage the action, especially if we both have suffi cient stacks for post fl op. I believe people make more mistakes post flop in poker, and when I have a legitimate hand, I don’t mind playing against the blinds.

Antes make No-Limit tournaments much more interesting, as people need to play more hands. It makes the prefl op aggression so much more worthy, but I don’t advocate raising more when antes kick in, as it will commit a bigger portion of your stack, and not necessarily reduce the chances of getting called enough. It does affect the steal/resteal game a lot, and opening and/or reraising a wider range is largely rewarded when the antes kick in.

Finally, I think changing up bet sizing a lot is very important, but requires a lot of skill and has to be use wisely, as it can also make your game more predictable. Analysing all the aspects of the hand you are in should be done every time. You need to plan the hand ahead on every street, and then bet the amount that will make your opponent react in the most favourable way.
“Everyone knows how to evaluate your hand strength compared to your table image, but how to adapt the bet sizing can be tougher.”

- Article from www.flushonline.com - Bertrand Grospellier poker pro

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