You can really pin down the strength of someone’s hand through their bet sizing especially if they lead somewhat weak after making an aggressive play.
Just like I have discussed in previous articles about three betting preflop, it is very important to recognize the bet sizing of your opponents as many times it will give away the strength of their hand. Many recreational player that have hands that are strong but can get drawn out on tend to size their bets a lot larger because they do not want the pain of a bad beat. So when you notice a player make an aggressive action at the pot and then follow up that action with a sizing that does not indicate a ton of strength, many times they are uncomfortable with their holding. The exception to this of course is when they deem their hand to be unbeatable now—like if they have made a full house.
Let us take a look at a hand where I think I did not make the proper play recognizing strength followed by weak sizing—leading to lost value. I was under the gun +2 at the Commerce Casino’s $5-$10 $1500 cap game in Los Angeles, CA. The game was fairly good and the villain in the hand was a rather weak recreational player. I picked up two black kings and raised it to $35. It got folded around to the villain who had about the same stack that I did, $1700, and he called. The flop came out 9♠ 6♠ 6♥. The villain checked and I decided to bet kind of small, $45, possibly to induce him to make a move with a draw or overplay some weaker made hand. He took a look at the board, went back to his chips and quickly made it $155. Again this could very easily have been a play with a flush draw or some other hand that he wanted to protect. It is of course possible that he may have flopped trips but I thought I could figure that out by what he did on later streets so I decided to call. You have to remember that when playing a deeper stack in no limit holdem you do not want to make a play that folds out all weaker hands and only allows better to continue on.
The turn brought on the Q♥, a total brick, unless of course he had the queen high flush draw. Much to my surprise the villain now bet out only $160, a fairly weak sizing in comparison to the pot AND his previous street’s bet. Usually, when someone follows up with a bet of the same size as their previous bet they are not all that strong. This is really where I think I messed the hand up. I was thinking that I wanted to “protect” my stack against a 6 and not wanting to get all weaker hands to fold, I decided to call again. The reason why I thought that this play was a mistake was the fact that I think if I had sized a raise to say $350, draws and other weaker hands might have called. His sizing was not at all consistent with him having trip 6s now, unless the queen filled him up which was super unlikely. The only reason to call instead of raise would be if I thought he would continue to bluff the river with spades or if I thought I could make my hand look like a spade draw myself and get an extra street of value at the end.
The river came of the 2♣ and the big blind checked. I thought about it for a bit and finally bet $320. My opponent went into the tank for a few minutes, postured and then folded. His actions made me think that he may have had a weak hand hand like pocket sevens that he was protecting but figured that I had him beat after I had called his two bets earlier. Again, there are some reasons why calling the turn here might be superior to raising, but when we think it is unlikely that our opponent has trip 6s because of his bet sizing and we do not get the extra street of value on the river we have definitely lost money.