The Doc answers …
Thinking About the Size of Your Bluffs
Different people have different ways of figuring out how they choose bet sizes. Some people always tend to bet on the smaller end of the scale, and other people always tend to bet on the lower end of the scale. While this is natural, it’s not the best way of handling things. When it comes to sizing your bluffs specifically, you generally want to compare a couple of different bet sizes and quickly evaluate which is the best for the given situation. Let’s look at a quick example to see what we mean by this.
Suppose you have AJ on a board of Q92 with no possible flush draws, and you’re out of position against a single opponent with the opportunity to make a continuation bet. Before you make your bluff, you need to think about the hands that you expect your opponent to always call with, the hands you expect your opponent to always fold with, and the hands that could go either way depending on how you size your bet. It’s that third group of hands that will help you to determine your ideal bet size.
In this situation, your opponent is probably never folding TT or better to a single bet in most cases, but they’re also very rarely going to call with 88 or lower (other than JT for a straight draw) unless you bet something absurdly low like one-tenth of the pot. Hands that make a pair of nines, however, could probably fold to a large bet and call a small bet. There aren’t that many 9x hands compared to the other hands available, so it doesn’t make sense to put in a really large bet size. Something around 50 to 60 percent of the pot would be reasonable.
Now consider having AJ in the same situation except the board is Q52. Now there are a lot of medium-strength hands like 99-66 and AK that beat you that will probably fold or call based on the size of your bet. A larger bet size as a bluff makes more sense on this flop than ti does on the Q92 flop because there are more hands that you can influence with your bet size.
If you have a pot of $11 in a $0.25/0.50 no-limit hold’em game, then you might bet some low amount like $5.50 on some boards as a bluff while you might bet a larger amount like $10.50 as a bluff on other boards. If you pick the wrong bet size and get called, then that’s $5.00 that’s down the drain in a single hand. On the other hand, if you pick the correct bet size, that’s $5.00 that you have saved compared to how your opponents would play. This is a quick, simple and easy way to gain a big advantage.