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Stack size has many variables—know how much to bet and when

By Jim Feist


size-mattersYes, size matters. At least at the poker tables it does, where the size of your stack is directly related to your betting. Novice players often make the mistake of putting too many chips on weak hands or not placing enough money when the odds are tilting in their favor. You may not always cash these near all-in wagers, but the point is you have to understand how much to risk regularly to turn a long term profit.

They say timing is everything in life and it certainly applies in poker when deciding how many stacks to move into the pile. Winning poker requires precision by making appropriately sized bets to increase your edge over the competition.

Think before you make each move. For instance, are you making a play to force your opponent to fold, or is this truly a value bet based on your cards and the situation? Before plowing ahead, think carefully weighing the odds, the cards, your opponent and the situation. Each play needs to have a goal, even if it’s to limit your losses, which will happen.

Rather than attacking the bet-pot button, understand what your calculated moves will be even before the cards flop. A little finesse and a lot of thought can improve the likelihood that your wager will be the correct one, win or lose. The bottom line is you don’t make the exact same size bet in the same situations all the time. A big mistake by inexperienced players is playing a similar amount of chips, which will fail to maximize big hands and will make you easy to read. Vary your bet sizes with purpose.

Football is in full mode right now and size matters on the gridiron for different reasons—but for similar purposes. Coaches put the fast, sleek athletes in the defensive secondary to utilize speed while putting the big fatties at the line of scrimmage. They use size to offset edges by the other team, provided the coach has players of similar size. This is a problem in American college football, as many smaller schools don’t have the size to throw at powerhouse schools like Wisconsin, Alabama and USC.

At the poker table, varying stack size serves many purposes. One is to go for a big score if the odds are tilting in your favor. Another is to force your opponent out of the game.

If you want your opponent to fold, for instance, it’s not the size of the bettor that matters, but the size of the bet. You can raise the pre-flop in position and if called you may want to make a continuation bet, but there’s no reason to bet most of your chips. Many times a half pot or a bit higher will get the job done while risking less chips. Most opponents will fold to the smaller bet just as often as they will to a full pot-sized bet. If your opponent is determined to call, he or she is going to call no matter what the bet size. So by betting the lesser amount you save money when the call comes.

All of this means you must know the percentages on each hand and you must know your opponents. Some players just can’t resist the any bet, so you might want to lead the fly to the spider web by betting the highest amount you think the opponent will call. That may mean stepping up with a larger wager that will get called fewer times rather than making a smaller bet that will get called often. This is why understanding the tendencies of those around you is essential. It’s less the size of the stack, but how it’s utilized in competition. Because when you are dueling at the poker tables with a less skilled player, the bigger their stack the harder they can fall—right into your pot!

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