Bet sizing leads to proper hand reading.
One of the advantages of playing a lot of hours is that you can pick up on common betting patterns from players that play occasionally. And one tell tale betting pattern that is tried and true is when a player bets the same amount or less on the turn compared to the flop. This is consistent with weakness.
We can look at an example of this from a recent hand that I played at the Commerce Casino’s $5-$10 $1500 cap buy-in no limit game. My opponent in the hand was definitely a recreational player and was still steaming from a few bad beats that had happened from the round before. When he was not steaming he played relatively tight but after losing some hands he was showing down a very wide range. In this particular hand I was in the big blind and he was under the gun. First to act and with a $1000 stack he raised to $40. It got folded to me and I called in the big blind with ATos. The flop came down A♠ J♠ 6♣ giving me top pair. I checked, my opponent bet $50 and I called. Whenever you flop top pair of aces with a weakish kicker, defending from the big blind against an early position raiser can get dicey. That’s because if your opponent continues to show strength you can easily be beaten by AJ-AK, hands that almost everyone opens for a raise from early position. In these situations I typically pay close attention to the opponents’ turn bet sizing as many times that will reveal the strength of their hand. This bet-sizing concept is one of the many that is examined in my live training site, CrushLivePoker.com.
The turn brought in a total blank, the 3 of hearts. I checked again and this time my opponent repeated his bet of $50. In my experience this is almost always a weak hand that is trying to make a bet in position on the turn so that it does not have to face a large river bet. With AT, I even considered check raising very small, which seems unorthodox, but thought better of it and decided that calling and then LEADING the river on a blank would be the best play. If the under the gun had a hand like KJ or a weak ace he would be often times confused by this bet and call because the front door spades bricked out. I call this line an “upfront bet”. This technique can be used when we have a medium strength hand and because of our opponents’ bet sizing, specifically on the turn, we think we have the best hand. We also feel that check raising will fold out a lot of these inferior hands but we do not want to check the river as our opponent will check behind with his showdown value. Ideally we gamble on a blank river coming and we come out and bet. You would be surprised how often this line will get paid off. This whole line of thinking is based upon the fact that our opponents’ bet on the turn is $50. If he had bet larger I may call one more time or just fold, but on this draw heavy of a board there was no way I thought that he had a hand like AK or AQ.
Unfortunately for me, the river brought out the K♥, far from a blank card. It was not the absolute worst card for me but I thought that if I bet now it would be optimistic to get called by weak middle pair hands like JT or QJ and it also brought in the QT straight draw. So I decided to check. Now my opponent bet out $250. This was really strange to me. I would have thought that if he was driving QT as a draw he would have bet a lot more on the turn. The same for AK. I could really only conclude that the river somehow helped his hand but that he did not have one of those two hands. I tanked for a few minutes and folded and my opponent showed me KK for a rivered set.
This was a very unfortunate result because if the river was a blank I truly believe that I would have been called if I had bet. Remember, when an inexperienced player makes a bet that is the same size or less on the turn then they did on the flop their hand is usually weak. So if you get into situations where you have a draw on the turn you can pounce on their bet sizing weakness by raising them.