Open Sizing, Having a Plan, and Practicing Consistently

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Throughout the last year or so as I was grinding poker and giving lessons, I noticed several players with quite a bit of experience making way too many common mistakes. I know several of them have read a few books and are trying to think, but are they thinking about the right things? In this article, I plan to address a couple of the most common mistakes I have seen and try to provide some ideas on how to study more productively. Note that this article is intended for beginners, so please keep that in mind when reading and commenting.

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A very common mistake I would like to start with is open sizing. A good general default rule is to raise 3X the big blind pre-ante and 2X the big blind after the antes have started. One very important thing to note is that our opening size should never change based on our hand. The last thing we would want to do is 2X with K-J and 4X with Q-Q; our open size should not be directly correlated to our hand. We want our opponents to have no idea what we have, and opening for the same amount consistently allows us to do that.

Also, when opening, we need to know how much to make it if there are limpers in the pot. The default thought on limpers is to add 1X for every limper. For example, if it’s after the antes kick in and our normal open is 2X, but there are two limpers, we will open for 4X. These opening thoughts should be the defaults, but they can be changed if you have a good reason.

Just make sure if you change your opening size, don’t do it for one hand;change it for a round or two to stay consistent. For example, if I am at a table where 2X gets several callers, I may 3X instead to try to reduce the number of players seeing a flop. I would just make sure I weren’t changing my opening size too often, as consistency is important to keep our opponents guessing.

Now that we know the amount to open, the next step is to have a plan. Before deciding whether to open, we should have a plan for every player left in the hand based on their stack and our read. For example, let’s say I am in the cutoff with 30 big blinds and K-T offsuit and it’s folded around to me. In general, I think most players will open with two Broadway cards when it’s folded around to them and they are in the cutoff with K-T offsuit, but that may not always be correct.

It’s very important for us to look at the stack sizes of the remaining players left to act and have a plan for each. If the players left have plenty of chips and we have no reads, our plan would probably be to open and then c-bet most flops. If any of them are short stacks, we need to decide if we would be willing to open and call their all-in pre-flop.

Their stack size and likelihood of shoving can help us make a decision. If two of the three players, or all three, were short stacks, I wouldn’t open in this spot with K-T offsuit very often, if at all, because I would expect to get shoved on too often. K-T offsuit won’t play well against most shoves.

Another thought in a situation with three short stacks could be to shove instead of open. If we were in the cutoff with 30 big blinds and the three players remaining had 10 big blinds or less, the last thing we would want to do is open and have to call a raise. If we are going to play the hand, a better option could be to shove, as their calling ranges will be much tighter than their shoving ranges over an open.

The point here is to think ahead and have a plan for every stack left to act before opening. Thinking ahead will help us make better decisions and avoid trouble spots like opening and getting shoved on and it being a surprise. Before I open, I know how I will react to each player left in the hand whether they call, raise, shove, or fold. It should be a rare occurrence for us to be surprised or have to reevaluate.

I am sure most of you have some familiarity with the two common mistakes I addressed above. What I have noticed is that several players try to do what I described above, but neither do it often enough nor realize the importance of needing to do it consistently.

During a recent conversation with a friend I play local live poker with, I realized that there are so many decent players who could play even better with a nudge and some direction. My friend is a decent player and has read several books, but the problem seems to be how he went about it.

Poker is a complex game that requires study and practice. I think way too many players read a book and then try and apply it. But, after reading an entire book, how much will the average person be able to apply? In my opinion, poker should be approached as a college class. If you decide to read a book, do it one chapter at a time. After every chapter, play and apply what you learned.

Read the same chapter a couple of times, talk about what you’ve read with other players, and master the chapter before moving on. If possible, I suggest finding a friend to talk poker with because talking poker is one of the best ways to improve.

I would like to leave you with a testimonial from Cody from Oklahoma. Cody wrote, “My poker game remained unimproved for years. Only after engaging conversation with good thinking players did I truly realize how much time I had wasted and that I was well behind the curve. The most important of the eye-opening discussions was in regards to having a plan for the actions of players behind you in order to avoid sticky situations.”

This article was written by John cracker9ballReynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at variance101@gmail.com or visit Variance101.com.

16 COMMENTS

  1. In terms of opening bet sizing, how valuable would a random system be? Or, how would you begin to measure value in such a situation? If the system gives you the chance at 2x, 3x, 4x etc, how then would you also begin to value the range that the random draw envelopes? Is it more valuable to have a system that ends at 4x or 6x? What is the value gained or lost by having an option to flat?

    • (Q.) In terms of opening bet sizing, how valuable would a random system be? (A.)Not sure what you mean

      (Q.)Or, how would you begin to measure value in such a situation? (A.)not sure what you mean I will need more explanation

      (Q.)If the system gives you the chance at 2x, 3x, 4x etc, how then would you also begin to value the range that the random draw envelopes? (A.)I don’t understand what system you are talking about. I explained that we should open consistently and a base line thought is 3x before antes, and 2x after the ante. We should follow that unless we have a good reason to change. A reason may be that when we 2x we are getting 3 or ore callers to often so then I would 3x, I would never open more than 3x ever. The only time an open should be more than 3x is if there are limpers alerady in teh pot, then its 3x + 1x per limper.

      (Q.)Is it more valuable to have a system that ends at 4x or 6x? (A.)again I am confused at what you are talking about

      (Q.)What is the value gained or lost by having an option to flat? (A.)flatting in general is not a very good play, what are you trying to accomplish by flatting? If we are in position and there is no need to bloat the pot I can see flatting some with a plan to play the hand post flop, but I wouldn’t flat often trying to hit the flop unless I was able to pay 5% of effective stack or less. I almost never flat OOP because that often ends in check/folding the flop

      GL

        • Still learning poker ‘verbage’ I find this article very informative and easy to understand.

          Thank You Cracker for your well articulated articles. I have total respect for your passion of
          the game, and your drive to help others improve!! :))

        • What do you think about varying bet sizing based on position pre? For instance, the last few weeks I’ve been opening 4x pre from early position (before antes) to help prevent the cascade of callers which can happen with just a 3x open.

          it would be nice to have some friends who play poker in my area

          I have the same problem with poker isolation. It’s a shame I just moved out of the Seattle area.

      • GL

        I believe what he’s wondering is whether a random system of opening sizes disguises one’s hand strength as much as a consistent system. So you could 2x, 3x, 4x randomly, not depending on opening hand strength, and disguise your holdings. And he’s then wondering whether that could potentially add or lose value, based on how you hit the flop, or if you raise larger with better hands, etc.

        My answer to that would be that 4xing and 6xing is usually very bad, because you’re randomly bloating pots when you’re only going to hit a flop 30% of the time, and with a large pot, your c-bet is going to have to be much larger when you miss and take it down (i.e. spewy). Not to mention that if you open large into short stacks and get shoved on but can’t call, you just lost way more chips than if you just 2x’d or 3x’d. The point of using a consistent system, besides hand disguising, is to most efficiently use your chips.

        Also, introducing randomness into your play is a bad idea. You want to have a plan and know why you are taking certain actions, so that your actions that follow continue along the same plan.

        Maybe that helps?

        • no offense to crackerball cause he seems like a nice guy just doing his thing, but articles like this is why no one posts real strategy on p5s….think if p5s got rid of articles that were relevant 7 years ago and had more stuff by assasinato and other very good players, the site would be much more respectable.

          • Thanks to Lesterdrugs and Cracker9ball, i look forward to chatting amongst each other and help improving our game, i think its exactly what i need

          • jonnymess is correct. although changing your game up is essential to not becoming a predictable poker play (needs to be applied more to hand selection pre then bet sizing) i believe that too large of a bet size preflop (4x-6x) commits uneccesary equity with hands that you simply will miss 60-75% of the time and thus will then need an inflated c-bet with more commonly then not, air. And cracker is spot on with regards to knowledge of players stack size in retrospect to blinds in order to have an established line for each player.

          • this article was awesome. helped me turn a 25 dollar deposit into 386 in under 3 days. good advice for beginners and for more experienced players who have lost there “run good”.

          • cant help but think this article is aimed at me John ahaha!? Anywayz I think its sorta helping, had a final table yesterday since taking to the felt again, il be in touch soon boss, keep up the good work!!

          • I’ve found that later in tournaments where I’ve been 2xing, and I feel a player is itching to mess with my blind steals I’ll switch up to a 3x in late late position and usually vex them out of messing around. So in late late I like picking it up to 3x on random occassion as well, would it be a proper thought to believe it’s a good idea to increase the pot with positional advantage?