A comprehension of how to bet is an essential poker skill. Players need to understand why they are betting and how their actions can influence opponents, thus maximising winnings. Whilst a knowledge of good and poor starting hands is important, so is an understanding of how to bet with such hands and why. The following focuses on the popular game of Texas Hold`Em.
Many novice players are content simply to call prior to the flop, but this passive strategy is a long-term loser. Statistics prove that a more aggressive style, involving raising and re-raising, is more profitable. It is important that beginners understand the reasons behind raising. One obvious reason for raising is that it publicizes to your opponents that you hold a strong hand. Even if the flop does not help much, continued aggression will help collect the pot. A pre-flop raise grabs the attention of your opponents and they are likely to check, waiting to see what you do, giving you control of the hand. Another reason to raise is to reduce the number of players left in a hand. Even the best starting hands are susceptible to an opponent catching a ridiculous draw. The fewer opponents there are playing a hand, the easier the pot is to win. The amount by which to raise varies according to circumstances, but 3 times the big blind is usually sufficient to keep the number of players down. However, as many as 5 players calling in early tournament play is common and this scenario may need a raise of 4-6 times the big blind to cut down the field.
After the flop, the amount bet is dependent on the exact situation, although a general rule is somewhere between half the pot and the whole pot. This approach messes up the odds for players looking to draw to a hand, often getting players with worse hands to call and those with better hands to fold. Betting more than that which is already in the pot is a poor strategy, since the only callers are likely to be those with a hand that beats yours.
Both before and after the flop, the way in which you bet conveys information to your opponents. Many novice players bet larger amounts when holding a stronger hand and smaller amounts when holding a weaker hand. This approach quickly becomes predictable, making it an easy strategy for opponents to combat. In order to make your betting actions more difficult to read, you can employ one of two simple strategies. The first of these involves randomly varying the amount of each bet, regardless of the hand held, thus keeping opponents guessing. The alternative approach is to bet the same amount every time, again regardless of the cards held. Betting identical amounts whether holding a strong hand or bluffing makes bluffs all the more credible (and hence rewarding), whilst denying opponents the opportunity to identify patterns in your betting actions.
For anyone in need of a refresher course go to http://www.pokerstars.co.uk/poker/how-to-play/hand-rankings/ or http://www.pokerstars.co.uk/poker/how-to-play/hand-rankings/
This provides an excellent illustration of poker hand rankings