The bet-size - the scourge of the intermediate player
One of the biggest leaks some (one may as well say the majority) of intermediate online poker players have in their games, is one concerning the sizing of the bets they make. The bad news is, if you're an intermediate player too, chances are you too suffer from this ailment. The good news is, this "sickness" is relatively easy to cure.
Online poker rooms make it especially easy for players to fall into this trap, through the 1/2 pot size and 1 pot size buttons they offer in the interface. These buttons are quite easy to just mash and thus they end up taking all calculus concerning bet sizes out of the game for most players.
How do you go about eliminating this leak? First thing's first: establish a goal for every single hand that you play and stay focused towards that goal. Don't just float around playing for the sake of playing. Know what you're after and go for it. There's always a good reason behind every single move that a good poker player makes. Make sure there's a goal for every move that you make too. You bet a certain way if you're aiming to make your opponent fold. You bet in a different way when you're aiming to build the pot. Once you learn how to size your bets to best aid you in the achieving of your goals, you need to focus on mixing your play up to avoid becoming predictable.
So, what do you do when you aim to make that guy fold? While I can't tell you exactly how you should deal with each individual player that you encounter, I can give you a few rules to play by. The most basic idea behind forcing a fold is to bet as little as you can to achieve your goal. Be careful, that doesn't mean you should go for a minimum bet every time – not by a longshot. What it means is that you should not get carried away when aiming to intimidate. You can actually save a lot of money by betting as little as possible but still enough to appear menacing.
A clear example in this sense would be the bet you make after being the preflop aggressor from position. Most people are tempted to bet a full pot-size as a continuation bet, but experience shows that something like a 2/3 or a 1/2 pot-size bet does the job just as fine. Why go for the smaller bet? Because it keeps your chips out of harm's way. Sometimes you will get called and this way you'll minimize your losses on such instances.
The basic strategy behind building a pot stems directly from the above thinking: you want to bet as much as possible while staying within your opponent's calling-range. The question here is: should you go for bigger bets that get called less often, or smaller bets that get called pretty much all the time? The answer is: it depends. Some players will find the attractive odds irresistible when you bet small; against others, you're better off going big.
Let's make another thing clear: I'm not assuming you didn't know all the things included above. If you're indeed an intermediate level player, chances are you probably knew all that before you read it here. My point is though that between knowing something and putting that knowledge to use there's often a gap which takes a little bit of effort to bridge. Make that effort. It's well worth it.
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