Bet sizing in no-limit Texas hold’em

One of the key differences in why many players struggle with no-limit Texas Hold’em poker is to do with bet sizing. In limit hold’em then the bets are structured and so your betting mistakes are centred around whether you should have bet, called or raised at all. You either bet, call or raise the same amount in limit hold’em but in no limit this factor is removed. In no-limit Texas hold’em then you not only have to decide whether to take a certain decision at all but also how much you need to bet or raise.

This aspect of the game troubles many players but as a rule of thumb then if you orientate yourself by imagining that you are playing pot-limit then you will not go too far adrift. So if you get dealt AA and you want to raise pre-flop and you are not sure how much to raise then a raise to $7 if the blinds were $1-$2 would be fine. This is calling the $2 making the pot $5 and then raising the pot.

Smaller raises would likely get called by too many players and that would be bad in no-limit Texas hold’em and especially if players have position on you. On the other hand if you raise too much then you are essentially losing your market and so the balance needs to be right. I have seen countless players shove all in for huge stacks pre-flop and irrespective of whatever hand they hold they are making a big mistake.

Let us look at both ends of the poker spectrum and if you have the pre-flop nuts then why would you want to raise like that and blow your opponents out of the pot? I know why players do this, they do this in the hope that someone is sitting there with KK or QQ or possibly AK and calls them. However you are losing money in the long term doing this because by raising so much then you are not giving inferior hands a chance to call you.

If you have skill as a no-limit Texas hold’em player then you should not be fearful of getting called when you have aces. If you raise to $7 instead of making a stupid over the top all-in shove for $200 then you will get a lot of $7 calls with inferior hands. There will also be times where your opponents may even three bet you simply because a single raise at that stage does not signal massive strength.

So by shoving all in then you lose all of the times that your opponents three bet you with hands like AK,AQ,AJs,TT,99 etc and this adds up to an awful lot of money. Against a silly all-in shove then you lose out on these three bets but even smaller raises that are too large would be wrong as many players would not want to escalate the stakes if you had raised for example to ten big blinds pre-flop. If you raised to $20 with AA pre-flop in a $1-$2 game then any re-raise is going to be pot committing for your opponent so even a raise this size is too big.

Texas Holdem and Player Profiling
You have heard it a thousand times from the pros. It’s talked about on TV shows and in every interview. Player profiling and what it does for your poker game. How does profiling make a difference in your game? How do you do it? All of these are relevant topics that we will discuss in this article.

What is profiling?
Profiling is the art of understanding as much about your opponent as possible. Sure, we all watch betting patterns and you should be whether you play Online Texas Holdem poker or live poker. However, there is a deeper understanding of poker play than just betting patterns. Having an in-depth understanding of what a player is all about takes time and a whole lot of experience. It involves understanding small movements, innuendo, conversation and perception. Basically the art of profiling is about gathering information on your opponent to form a general understanding of what they are capable of. Phil Hellmuth and Dan Negreanu are probably two of the best profilers in the game. They both use table talk as well as observation to understand their opponents’ intent one way or the other.

How do you do it?

Profiling is an acquired skill. Some poker players learn it a lot faster than others. Some people are just very perceptive people and tend to have very good people skills and instincts away from the game and have natural instincts for profiling. As I mentioned earlier you can develop this skill and it is a skill you will want to sharpen the more experience you have playing the game. Good players tend to be good profilers. That is not to say that each time you “peg” a player to be bluffing that you will be correct but good players/profilers are correct most of the time and that will put money in your bankroll. Learning how to profile comes from sitting at the poker table and paying attention. There is no secret to it at all. You need to sharpen your skills of observation and intent and learn how to piece the puzzle together with that players past. That can include hands that you played against the player as well as hands that they are playing against others at the table.

Staying focused
Good profilers are able to remain focused on the task at hand for the duration of their session or poker tournament. By that I mean that you are always paying attention even when you are not directly involved the action. It still amazes me that poker players will say, “I get bored at the table” when there is so much work to be done when you are not involved in hands. There is information being displayed that alert players are gathering while the others are “looking out the window.” You don’t want to be the player that is not paying attention because that player is behind already. Focus means being in the hand and putting the players in the hand on a hand constantly. The more you do it the better you will be. You need to be playing the hand along with them in your mind and listening and looking for any kind of tell that may fall into your lap. Once you have a clue or hint about a players intention you can pretty much dictate the play whether you have a hand or not.

Understanding “tells”
Tells are precisely what they appear to be. Many players, knowingly or not, will tell you their intentions by very small inflections in their voice or physical movements. Some tells are a lot larger than others. Some players have no visible tells at all and many more are in-between. However, it’s your job to profile each player at your table and find that information and use it to your advantage. Obviously, the idea of someone giving away the strength of their hand is a major weakness and can be exploited. Knowing when, how and what to look for will prove to be advantageous to you and render your opponent completely helpless when he does not have a hand. Knowing when someone is strong or weak will also allow you to get away from hands when you are behind and lose a lot less than you might otherwise.

No matter what skill level you are at you should always be seeking information and using it to your advantage at the poker table. The more you play the better you will get at it and the better you get the more you will act on that information. That is what tells are all about.