Mixing up the size of your bets

Many players have raised the recommended approach of aggressive poker to hyper levels these days. So much so, in fact, that tournament play can appear to be nothing but an all-in fest.

So navigating such treacherous risks requires greater attention to mixing up your bet sizes. The concept helps you avoid becoming predictable, which allows you either to trap ultra-aggressive opponents or confuse weaker players into giving you a cheap showdown, among other things. In today’s hand from the 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at Las Vegas’ Rio Hotel, savvy pro Andy Black shows how the latter can be of value.

With blinds at $50-$100, the loose-weak player in front of Black raised to $300. Black called with pocket 7s. The player behind Black also called, so three players took a flop of 8-7-2, two diamonds, giving Black a set.

After a check by the loose-weak player who initially raised, Black bet $500. His two opponents called.


The turn came the jack of diamonds, completing a potential flush as well as a straight. The initial raiser checked again. Black bet $1,500. The player behind him called. The loose-weak initial raiser then check-raised, but only to $3,000.

“I think the guy could have a straight, but he could also have any hand in the universe because of the way he plays,” said Black, who finished seventh in the 2005 WSOP main event. “There’s a chance the guy to my left has a flush, but it’s unlikely. I think he has the ace of diamonds, but that’s it. I have to call the $1,500 because I have got a set, and I’m getting some good odds. I think I’m probably behind but not 100 percent sure. I’m praying for the board to pair (to give him a full house).”

The river came the king of clubs. The check-raiser just checked. Black bet only $1,000.

“I was making a defensive bet, which I’d only do against weak players,” said Black, a pro from the Full Tilt Poker online site. “What you can do against weaker players who are scared of you is bet the big blind on the river because they’re not players who are going to raise you. They don’t assume a raise is going to win the pot, so they just call and don’t get more value from their hands.”


The player behind Black folded. His remaining opponent called and showed 10-9 of spades for a straight that beat Black’s set.

“It cost an extra $1,000, but I’m happy with the bet,” Black said. “The lesson is that you have to mix your bet sizes up. You can bet small -- defensively -- if you think you’re beaten, and achieve the same result.”

Table talk

Loose-weak: A player involved in a lot of hands without much aggressiveness.


Set: Three of a kind where one card on the board matches a pocket pair.