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Overbetting


Overbetting If we have defined an overbet to mean any bet, over the size of the pot, then we can see that this play can be made both pre and post flop. In a tournament the most frequent example is pre-flop, where short stacked players push all in before the flop in an attempt to take down the blinds and antes. Assuming there are no antes in place, the pot preflop consists only of the small and big blinds. A pot sized raise is made up of an amount equal to 3x the big blind, plus the small blind i.e. at blinds of 100/200 this bet would be 700. As Iíve discussed in a previous article, one popular rule of thumb is to push your short stack all in pre-flop once you have less than 10 big blinds remaining. Whilst I donít intend to revisit this fully here there are clearly some strong merits with this play, namely showing your opponents that you cannot be pushed off this hand, and that they have no implied odds to call with marginal or drawing type hands. Some people consider this all in move to convey weakness, showing that you do not want action with your hand and may encourage some players to call when they may not have done if you had made a smaller bet. This smaller bet may suggest that even with your short stack your hand is sufficiently strong enough for you to try to induce action. However, this does not mean that the overbet move is redundant to these players. Indeed they can actually use it to their advantage. For the same reasons why they do not like to push all in with their lesser hands, when they are trying just to pick up the blinds, by pushing their 10x bb stack all in with their strong hands they can convince some opponents to call them with hands that they have dominated. These players are using the overbet move to represent weakness. Obviously like any move, it is important to avoid becoming predictable in your poker play and you should not make this move every time you are short stacked with a big hand but it is one you might like to have in your repertoire.

Whilst pre-flop overbetting can be used with a short stack, are there any situations where we can use it with a bigger stack? In a previous article I have discussed the merits of various pre-flop raise sizes. The conclusion reached here was that we want to minimise the chips that we put at risk each time we make a raise. Making small raises allows us to increase our stack when no one finds a hand behind us whilst ensuring that we preserve our stack when we run into a hand and lose the minimum amount if we donít not wish to continue with the hand. Overbetting the pot should therefore be avoided. I witnessed an extreme example of why at the recent Prague EPT event. I was in the big blind at the 200/400/50 level and with action folded to the player 3rd to act she raised to 4,500. No thatís not a typo, 4,500 out of a stack of around 30k! When the player immediately behind her then pushed all in for his circa 25k stack she was left in a terrible situation, having to fold her hand with almost 1/6th of her chips in the pot. She passed her 9s face up and whilst I think she felt she had been extremely unlucky to walk into a big hand behind he she had risked 4,500 chips to try to win 1,050 when a bet of 1,200 would undoubtedly have given her exactly the same information. With her bet she needs to win the pot uncontested approximately 4/5 times to break even whereas a minimal raise of 1,200 needs only not to walk into a big hand 1/2 times to achieve the same result. Whilst some players are tempted to overbet pre-flop with hands such as 88-JJ as they can be very tricky to play post-flop this should really be avoided, not only to ensure you lose the minimum when forced to pass but also because it very often gives away your hand to more experienced opponents who can then force you off your hand with weaker holdings. Similarly to the short stack suggestions above, instead of this why not try making an overbet when holding AA or KK. Whilst you really do want action with these hands and it can be tempting to limp or make a minimum raise with them, again for purposes of disguise an overbet with these hands can sometimes be very successful. In general, the size of our standard pre-flop raise will be dictated by the makeup of the table Ė what is the smallest raise we can make that gives us a strong chance of picking up the blinds and antes if no-one finds a hand they want to contest the pot with. If the table is extremely passive and a small raise is always getting called in 5 spots then increasing your raise size to slightly over the pot can be profitable if this gives you a significantly better chance of taking down the pot uncontested. Even here though we are still looking to find the minimum raise amount, rather than trying to bulldoze people out of the pot with huge raise amounts that put our stack in unnecessary danger.

The principals of our post flop betting should be similar to those underlying our pre-flop play. Namely to size our continuation bets to minimise the chips we put at risk whilst at the same time giving ourselves a good chance of taking down the pot. However there are certain specific post flop situations where it can be profitable to employ an overbet:

One very common example where many people overbet is with a flush draw. The big check raise all in on the flop is often a tell tale sign of someone holding a flush draw. Whilst there is nothing wrong with putting maximum pressure on your opponent in a spot like this, this sort of move is becoming increasingly transparent. Using this to your advantage can sometimes be a very profitable play. For example calling a raise and flopping a set on a flushing and/or straightening board and then making an over pot sized check raise will often lead people to make hero calls with marginal hands, putting you on just the flush draw. This works equally well if you can flat call a raise from the blinds with a big pair. As the blinds and antes get increasingly large, this check raise will often be all in.

The overbet-check raise on the flop works well because, with 2 cards still to come it is easier for your opponent to think you are drawing. However overbetting the river obviously has different implications as there are no more cards to come. Representing a draw that missed on the river with a strong made hand is one example where you could make an overbet, although a pot sized river bet is usually around the most effective amount. In my experience I often find that when faced with an overbet on the river it is usually by a made hand. Especially in instances where there were no draws on the flop, an over-sized river bet is usually made by someone with a made hand that has not managed to build the pot sufficiently on previous streets, either due to slow playing a made hand on the flop, or by a hand that actually gets made on the river. Therefore when deciding on how to size your river bet you need to consider both the texture of the board and the nature of your opponents. Against a solid opponent and on a non-drawing board I would be very reluctant to value bet more than the pot on the river as it is very unlikely you will get paid off.

A second use of an overbet post-flop is to protect your hand against a very passive opponent who will make calls without much appreciation of pot odds. Say you have raised with a pair of aces and the passive player calls. On a dangerous looking flop of Jh 8h 6c you know that this player will like to call you down with any variety of combinations of 1 pair and/or straight and flush draws. It is therefore your task to ensure that he pays the wrong price to make these calls. The larger the bets he will call, the bigger the mistake he will be making. Depending on the vulnerability of your hand in connection with the texture of the flop, if your opponent calls your flop bet and you are confident enough in your read that you are still ahead on the turn you may consider overbetting all in on the turn to shut the hand down completely. Again this will depend on the stack sizes relative to the pot but will force your opponent to pay the ultimate price if he still wishes to continue

I have focused on scenarios where overbetting big hands for value maybe profitable as overall I consider overbetting as a bluff to be a long term losing play. Whilst itís right to say that no play in poker can be wrong 100% of the time, to make an overbet bluff be profitable the situation would need to be very specific and would usually be against a very passive opponent. Such a player will take bets at face value without being able to think through the betting and try to put you on a hand. Whilst an overbet might arouse suspicion from most players, this type of player will prefer to pass to a very large bet whilst he would call anything less.

In its extreme, overbetting both pre and post flop can be a hugely unprofitable play, putting your stack at risk unnecessarily. The same information can be gained by much smaller bets which will allow you to get away from marginal hands cheaply when you face resistance. However, as we have seen there are certain specific examples where it can be used effectively to force opponents to make mistakes against us both by disguising strong hands and protecting against winning but vulnerable holdings. Used sparingly and under specific conditions we can incorporate this strategy into our tournament repertoire

Wed, 13th October 2010

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