Bet with a purpose

Updated: April 4, 2006, 3:14 PM ET
By Andrew Feldman | ESPN Poker Club

Editor's note: This tip focuses only on postflop betting. Remember, you can always check, but this tip focuses on betting. Thank you to Phil Gordon and those that e-mailed in to help me clarify the betting to get a player off the draw.

Tip: Bet the right amount. Bet with a purpose.

Thoughts during the hand: Am I trying to build the pot? Am I trying to avoid a call from a player on a draw? Am I trying to steal the pot with a bluff?

Explanation: Understanding why and how much you bet after the flop is a key part to the game.

How much is the right amount to bet? Usually betting a good portion of the pot is the way to go, but there is no definitive answer here. There are many ways to look at postflop betting through the different types of bets.

The probe bet

Why you should use it: The probe bet is used to figure out where you and your opponents are in the hand. Are you ahead or behind? If you pick your spots right, you can win the pot with a probe bet. Most of the time, it's not that easy.

Depending on how your opponents react to this bet will give you more information on their hands. Additionally, by putting out a probe bet, you can also put the amount of chips you want into the pot instead of your opponent choosing the number. If you are willing to see the next card for 200 chips and your opponent calls your bet instead of raising, you are getting the card for exactly the right price that you had hoped. The bet size should range from a quarter of the pot to half the pot.

The continuation bet

Why you should use it: The continuation bet is to be used only by the person who raised preflop and is the first person to put chips into the pot. If you raise preflop, it's almost mandatory (not really, but it should be) that you bet the flop. After all, who really hits their hand on the flop? The continuation bet should be around half of the size of the pot. The bettor is hoping to pick up the pot here, and unless he actually hit the flop, if any resistance is seen, most likely he or she is beat.

The "Building the pot" bet

Why you should use it: To get maximum value out of your hand. You've hit the flop, the turn, whatever, and you need to get chips in the pot in a hurry. You are playing the hand to win as many chips as possible, so here's where you bet just enough that your opponent is still thinking that he has a chance in the hand.

How much should you bet? Nothing less than half the pot should be acceptable in this situation. However, the key to building the pot is to put a bet out there that your opponent will call. You need to "walk the dog" and make sure your opponent puts his chips into the pot.

The "Can you just please let your draw go" bet

Without getting too much into pot odds, you need to make sure that if there is a straight or flush draw possible, your bets need to discourage your opponents from calling. End the hand right there, don't let them see another card. It's better to win a small pot than to lose a big one.

Really, really quickly, if your opponent is on a flush draw after the flop, you should bet more than "33 percent of the pot to get him off the draw and force him to make a mistake," said Phil Gordon. "If you bet more than a third of the pot, they are making a mistake to call you from a pot odds perspective."

That said, Gordon also noted that he'd bet at least half or two thirds of the pot to make your opponent make a bigger mistake.

Anything less, and your opponent will have the right price to call your bet. After the turn, you need to make sure that you put in a bet that is more than a third of the pot again. Your opponent will need a bet less than 33% of the pot to make the call. For an open-ended straight draw, you'll need to bet more than 30 percent on the flop and river as well. Over-betting the pot is a great way to discourage callers who are on draws.

Manipulating the pot size is a very delicate thing as you can see here. Additionally, if you believe that an all-in bet would get them off their hands, it may be the way to go. Put enough chips in the pot so that your opponents need to choose between risking their chips on a draw or folding.

Never give your opponent the right price to call. Keep reading that until it sinks it. If you bet the minimum bet and your opponent hits his draw and busts you, don't blame him for being a donkey and sucking out, blame yourself for betting too little.

"The first in wins"

Remember the phrase, "The first in wins." When you are either heads-up or involved in a three-way pot, chances are, the first person that bets wins the pot. This bet is very important to remember when your opponents are tighter players. If they come over the top of you, you can always just lay the hand down. This type of bet should be treated in the same way as a probe bet as far as the amount of chips you are willing to put into the pot.

Remember that you should always know why you are betting. Make sure that you choose the right one for the right circumstance and that you are putting chips into the middle only when you think you have a good reason.

Andrew Feldman is the ESPN Poker Club's columnist, editor, producer and tournament director. To contact Andrew, e-mail andrew.j.feldman@espn3.com.

Andrew Feldman is ESPN.com's Poker Editor. He is the host of the Poker Edge Podcast and co-host of ESPN Inside Deal. Andrew has covered the poker industry for ESPN since 2004.

ALSO SEE