Learning when, why, and how much to bet are the first steps toward becoming a winning poker player.
Those who bet too little, too much, too often, or not often enough, will always be poor players (pun intended). By mastering bet types and sizes you’ll be taking a giant leap towards poker profitability.
Our latest Texas Hold’em guide here at LegalOnlinePoker.com takes a look at common betting terms used in poker.
Preflop Betting Terms
A “limp” bet calls the amount of the big blind, instead of raising. For example, in a $1/$2 No-Limit Texas Hold’em game, entering the pot for $2 would qualify as a limp.
Since the first “bet” preflop is the big blind’s mandatory bet, a preflop raise is the first bet to increase the price of continuing with a hand. Typically, players will opt to raise to 3x the big blind, often adding an additional big blind for every limper (caller of the big blind).
A three-bet is a raise on a previous raise – hence, the “third bet”. Three-bet sizing usually ranges between 2.5x-4x the size of the initial raise. When three-betting out of position, players usually aim for the higher end of that range.
As you can probably guess, a four-bet is the “fourth bet”, or a raise on a three-bet. Sizing usually ranges between 2x and 3x the size of the three-bet when deep stacked. However, it is common to see shorter stacked players move all-in with a four-bet, even if the sizing exceeds the typical 2x-3x range.
A somewhat unusual play, the limp three-bet is usually used to induce a player in a later position to raise so you can re-raise. This is a “trapping” play and decent players will recognize it immediately.
A squeeze is a preflop three-bet that usually attempts to isolate one player to avoid heading into a multi-way flop. This occurs when a player in a later position reraises an initial raiser and at least one caller in the middle.
This squeezer can take advantage of the fact that the caller of the original raise has a capped range (he would have likely three-bet with a really good hand). By “squeezing” the middle player out, the three-bettor has a better chance of winning a heads-up pot or taking it down preflop.
Since the call gives players better odds to see a flop, squeezes should usually be sized larger than a normal three-bet.
Preflop Example ($1/$2 NL Cash Game)
Action folds to the hijack, who holds K♠K♥. The hijack player open raises to $6 (3x the big blind).
The cutoff, holding A♦T♣, calls the $6 bet. The big blind, holding A♣K♠, three-bets to $30
What should the hijack player do?
While individual table dynamics will play a large role in the decision, the hijack should usually put in a four-bet here. The hijack shouldn’t be very afraid of the cutoff (who would probably raise if they had a strong hand).
Postflop Betting Terms
Continuation Bet (C-Bet)
A c-bet is simply the continuation of betting from the aggressor on the previous street. In other words, a c-bet would be a bet on the flop from the player who raised preflop. This can come from a player in or out of position. Post-flop bets can be any percentage of the pot (per No-Limit betting rules) so it’s important to keep track of the total amount in the middle.
A check-call comes from an out-of-position player who first checks and subsequently calls a bet. Players usually check-call with marginal made hands or drawing hands.
Like the check-call, a check-raise involves an out-of-position player who checks to the player yet to act. This time, however, a bet is returned with a raise. Naturally, you should check-raise strategically, for one of the following purposes:
- to induce a bet from your opponent when you have a strong hand
- to bluff your opponent by representing a strong hand
- to protect against potential drawing hands
When playing against more advanced players, check-raising also performs the function of balancing your checking range – other players will note that a check from you doesn’t always mean what it seems.
A donk is a bet which upsets the flow from the previous round of betting. If the preflop raiser was in position and the out-of-position player starts the next betting round with a bet (instead of checking), that’s known as a donk bet.
Donk bets are not the most common; most out-of-position players elect to check to the preflop aggressor with most of their range. However, like with all moves in poker, there is a time and place for donking.
Postflop Example ($1/$2 NL Cash Game)
The button opens to $6 with 89 diamonds. The big blind calls with 2♣2♥.
The Flop comes 2♦5♦6♣. The big blind checks, and the button bets $10. The big blind check-calls.
The turn comes J♣, the big blind checks, and the button checks it back. The K♦ comes on the river (the button hits a flush).
In this example, the big blind lost a hand by playing too passively. With a set of twos on a wet board, the big blind should probably be check-raising.
On the turn, the big blind made a similar mistake. By checking and allowing the button to see a free river card, he again missed the chance of charging a drawing hand. The turn might have been a good spot for a donk bet.
You’ll never know exactly when or how much to bet in poker. That’s what makes it interesting.
Although betting can seem like more of an art than a science, you can learn how to maximize your chance of winning by betting properly. By mastering these bet types and using them in the right spots you can become a profitable player.