Many players are under the impression that their flop c-bets should always be the same size. There is a certain logic to this. It’s easy to have a standard sized bet, something like two-thirds pot. Just like using a fixed preflop raise size, this simplifies a very common decision and prevents giving out too much information. If you bet the same amount every time, then your opponents won’t be able to learn anything about your hand from the size of your bet.
Sometimes you should vary your c-bet size based on the board texture, but there’s a more important reason to deviate from your regular bet size – you want to make more money with a big hand.
Let’s say you have A♠ K♠ on A♣ 5♥ 5♦ against a single big blind caller. Your hand is almost always ahead, and your opponent can never have very many outs. You want to extract as much money from your opponent as possible.
When you’re up against an observant opponent, or a very nitty one, you may want to make a standard sized bet. This will avoid giving information to the observant player, and avoid pushing the nit out of the pot. But when you’re playing against a mediocre to bad player, you should build the pot up early.
In a $5/$10 game, the pot will likely be about $60 on the flop. If you bet $40, then the pot will be $140 on the turn. If you bet two-thirds pot again, that’s about $100. Now you’re at $340 on the river, so you fire out $290 – close to a pot sized bet, which may throw up some flags after your smaller flop and turn bets. You’ve put $430 into the pot after the flop, or a little less than half a 100 blind stack.
If you instead bet $50 on the flop, then the pot will be $160 on the turn. If you bet a little larger there, say $140, the pot will be $440 on the river. Now you can bet $390 instead of $290. If all three bets get called, you’ve managed to get $580 in the pot. That’s $150 more than if you’d bet just $10 less on the flop.
Even if you’re playing $.50/$1 instead of $5/$10, that’s still $15. This situation comes up a few times a day. Over the course of a month you could have close to $1,500 extra spending money. In a year you might be able to buy yourself a new car. If you’re playing $5/$10, call it a new house. That’s a big reward for tossing in one extra blind on the flop.
There are also situations where you should bet less than you usually would. Sometimes a “standard” sized c-bet is going to be very marginal against a particular opponent. Against the right player, a good compromise can be to bet less. Particularly against straightforward opponents, instead of giving up, it’s okay to bet half pot instead of a regular two-thirds pot bet. Here’s an example:
Your smaller bet size won’t make a significant difference in which hands your opponent folds, but it gives you a better price on your bluff. If you c-bet two-thirds pot, you need your opponent to fold 40% of the time.4 If you c-bet half pot, you only need them to fold 33% of the time.5 So if you expect your opponent to fold somewhere between 35% and 40% of his range, your bet size can make the difference between slightly profitable and slightly unprofitable.
The question arises as to whether we’re balancing this play. We’re probably not. But we’re only using it to exploit bad players, so we really don’t need to balance it.
$50 / ($50 + $75) = .4, or 40%
$40 / ($40 + $75) = .35, or 35%. Note that $40 is slightly larger than half pot here, and a half pot bet of $37.50 would only need to work 33% of the time.
Let’s go back to the A♠K♠ on the T♥9♥8♥ flop from the previous chapter. You might feel pretty weak giving up in this $230 pot with a pretty hand like ace-king suited. You have to realize that you’re in a terrible situation against a tough player and cut your losses. But against a weaker player, there may be a way to salvage the situation. Against someone who plays a fit or fold style, you can make very small c-bets on bad boards like these. Something like $75 into $230 only needs to succeed 25% of the time. A tough player won’t fold anywhere near that often. But a fit or fold player might. Making a small bet like this can be an alternative to “leaving your kids out there.” It’s basically a compromise between giving up and making a normal c-bet.
In deciding how to size your c-bet, you should always consider the board texture and how your opponent will respond to different sizes. Be careful to balance your plays against tough opponents. But against less observant ones, you can squeeze out some extra value using outside-the-box thinking.