How Much To Bet In The Later Stages Of Poker Tournaments?
Beginner poker players tend to get tripped up when it comes to bet sizing. I would guess that most beginners don't understand why they should bet certain amounts, much less why they're betting in the first place. They probably just browse the tournament section of poker forums and read the advice that the other players give without really understanding the thinking behind it.
I've seen this in action during the late stages of a tournament. Early on everyone is betting 3x the big blind preflop, which is standard, and then once antes kick in all the good / knowledgeable players scale their bet sizing back. However, the beginners continue to blindly follow the advice to 3x their bets.
I want to talk about this example in depth. More specifically, I want to talk to you more about how to properly size your bets during the late stages of a tournament, as well as show you why you should bother following my advice instead of what you read on forums.
What to Change Your Bet Sizing To
During the early stages of a tournament a 3x bet is fine. In fact, a 4-5x bet size is reasonable, too, depending on the game, stakes and remaining players to your left. That's because during the early stages of a tournament you should only be opening good hands. Hands that you want to get the most value for, like aces, kings, ace-king and king-queen. So if you think your opponents will call your (large) bets preflop and pay you off postflop, then by all means bet as much as you can get away with.
However, my tournament strategy changes at the later stages of a tournament, usually when antes kick in. So my bet sizing strategy changes, too. I change my bet sizing to a min-raise (2x), or slightly higher (2.25-2.5x). You'll notice that this is standard with most good players and regulars in tournaments and sit and goes.
If you comb the forums you'll notice that a lot of players are against the min-raise. There are a number of reasons why. The most common reason is that they think your opponents will come along for the sake of it, or because they have good odds.
However, in my experience that's usually not the case. Players do fold, despite getting good odds. They'll notice that they'll be out of position postflop and/or they've seen me show down solid hands. So they fold.
Why You Should Min-Raise During the Late Stages of a MTT
Min-raising works. It gets folds. But there are more (positive) reasons to min-raising than just inducing your opponents to fold. Here is why I like it so much.
- Min-raising preserves your stack.You're not always going to win a pot when you open. Sometimes you'll have to fold because someone re-raised or shoved on you, or because you missed the flop.
- Smaller bet sizes give you more opportunities to open/steal (overall).Since you are using fewer chips each time you open, you buy yourself more opportunities to open/steal overall (to build your stack). For example, for every 2 times you 3x, you could've min-raised (2x) instead.
- Min-raising is cost effective.Since you're spending less to steal or open the pot, you don't have to be successful as often as you would if you were spending more.
- Smaller bet sizes = smaller pots.This means less dead money and fewer players reshoving over you (for the dead money). It also means your continuation bets (and the overall pot sizes) are smaller.
- You blend in.You won't stand out and look like a beginner if you're betting the same way the good players are.
Ultimately, reducing your bet sizing during the late stages means you get more opportunities to be aggressive. Being more aggressive, combined with good play and luck, will often mean a large stack for you to throw around on the money and final table bubble, as well as the final table. You'll make deeper runs, not to mention win more tournaments, consequently earning more money.
That's all there is to it.
Planet Mark’s Thoughts: I strongly advise readers looking to improve their tournament results to get away from the biggest poker sites. Smaller sites have far fewer ‘grinders’ and far more amateurs - giving you a better chance of hitting the final table while you improve your game.
Check out the tournaments at 888 Poker, you’ll immediately see the difference!
FAQs About Changing Your Bet Sizes
We see a lot of questions about changing bet sizing, and how it affects your strategy and profit. So we thought it'd be helpful to post those questions and our answers here for everyone to read.
How can the varying of bet sizing affect my tournament profit / ROI?
Assuming you're a good player, scaling your bet sizing back will give you more opportunities to steal and play bad players post flop. In turn you'll build a bigger stack more often, which leads to deeper runs and more final tables. That will have a positive impact on your overall profit and ROI.
That said, I don't imagine the impact will be huge. Your tournament profit and ROI depend on so many things such as your opponents, how they adjust, how well you play, how well you run, etc, etc. It's not so cut and dry.
What's more is that tournament profit and ROI don't always go hand in hand. You can make a lot of profit, but have a low ROI and vice versa. Multi-tabling is a perfect example of this
When should I go all in instead of normal betting?
As a default you should go all in when you have 10-15 big blinds or less.
You should also go all in when the majority of the remaining players to your left have 10 big blinds or less. For example, if there are 5 players to your left and 4 have <10 big blinds and 1 has 25, then I'd shove (as a default). However, flip that around and I'd open instead, preferably with a range I'm comfortable calling with if the small stack shoves.
Is It Ever OK to Bet More Than 2-2.5x?
Absolutely. There's no reason to only adopt one tactic and never stray from it. You should try other plays and bet sizing to see what new tactics you can get to work.
For example, one thing you might try during the later stages is 4x or 5x your bet sizing. Coming from a fish, this usually looks like a strong, yet vulnerable hand that they don't want out flopped. Think something along the lines of 22-JJ and AQ+. You could try this with a premium hand to see if a regular will re-raise or shove over with worse.
That's just one example. My point is that you should try (and do) whatever you think will get you paid off when you have a good hand, and what will get you folds when you don't. And you won't know what works if all you do is stick to what other people tell you.