One area of poker that has changed drastically over the years is the size of players' bets and what is deemed a standard bet size.
By lowering your opening raise to say 2.4 big blinds, you can start to come in for a raise with a wider range of hands because the cost of being three-bet off your hand is much less.
When I first started playing poker online, it was common to raise four-times the big blind in cash games or three-times the big blind in tournaments; plus one big blind per limper of course. Then the better players started to raise smaller and smaller, until now you regularly see (especially in tournaments) min-raises when the blinds are more substantial. How much is your opening raise usually for?
In times gone by, many live poker pros advocated raising different amounts based on their hand strength. The pitfalls for such a system are there for all to see. If you raised three-times the big blind when you held AA-QQ but then five times the big blind with JJ-88 the more observant opponents would start to pick up on this and be able to read you much easier than you would like to believe.
Then players started to raise different amounts depending on where their position at the table. They would open say four-times the big blind in early position and reduce the amount gradually until they were raising just 2.5 times the big blind once they were on the button. This system is fine, but it leaves the opening raiser vulnerable to playing a larger pot whilst out of position, which is not a great situation to be in.
Fast forward to today and you will see strong players raise the same amount regardless of their position at the table or the strength of their hand. Whether they are under-the-gun and holding 8c-7c or they are in the cutoff with a pair of red aces, the good players will make their default opening raise the exact same size, and will do so repeatedly. Their raises are also much smaller, starting at three-times the big blind and decreasing to a min-raise. Why? There is method behind their madness I can assure you.
A friend of mine and were talking about poker tournaments and he could not believe players min-raised ever. He told me that whenever he raises even four times the big blind he receives three or four callers (more on this in another article) so min-raising would mean he had to go to battle with the entire table! In low-stakes games this may be true, but slightly further up the food chain the min-raise is prevalent and you need to start employing it in your game if those around you are. By lowering your opening raise amount, you can play more hands and play them aggressively. If you were opening four-times the big blind every time you opened the betting you would only want to play strong hands because the cost of raising is more substantial. By lowering your opening raise to say 2.4 big blinds, you can start to come in for a raise with a wider range of hands because the cost of being three-bet off your hand is much less.
There are, of course, exceptions to this such as when you have weak players left to act or aggressive players in the blinds, but we shall cover these in a future article!