Classifying Bets & Raises Part 1 – Why You Should Care

Poker Concepts

June 4, 2008

In a couple of previous articles I’ve talked about classifying bets as either value bets or bluffs. This classification was originally derived looking at last street play in fixed limit games. I now want to revisit the topic and discuss earlier betting rounds and games with variable bet size.

Before I do that though, I owe it to my readers to explain why I’m so interested in classifying bets. The reason is to teach you how to avoid mistakes. There are basically two kinds of mistakes in poker: putting money in the pot when you shouldn’t, and not putting money in the pot when you should. Since nearly all players have a bias towards action, the first kind of mistake is by far the most prevelant. There are two ways to put money in the pot when you shouldn’t:

  1. Calling a bet when you shouldn’t
  2. Betting or raising when you shouldn’t

Calling when you shouldn’t is something that every poker books describes how to avoid. That’s what odds math is about. And these books have done their job. When I look at hand histories people post online, I rarely see horrible calls. There are a few, but that’s not where most people get into big trouble. What I see far more frequently is horribly misguided bets and raises. There are probably a lot of causes for this – a bias towards action and excessive aggression certainly play a part. But I think there’s a more important problem: players don’t have a framework for evaluating whether a bet/raise was correct. With calls, that framework is in place in the form of odds math. What I’m going to do in this series is provide an analogous framework for evaluating the correctness of bets and raises.

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