When to bet? When to raise, and how much?

In poker, and especially in No Limit Hold'em, managing your chip-stack is a key to success. Your bets influence the way hands play out, and have tremendous importance on your overall score at the end of the game. Equally as important are your opponents’ bets: these are full of valuable information. Learn how to use it.

Here are some basic rules of thumb:
  • If you bet when you should have checked or folded, you're losing money in the long run.
  • If you fold or check when you should have bet, the result is almost the same as the above because you're STATISTICALLY missing a profit-making opportunity.
  • Also, if you bet too much, or not enough, you're losing money too...

    For example: avoid betting all your chips when there are only a few chips up for grabs.

    On the other hand, don't bet too little when the pot is gigantic. If you think that you have a good hand, but you are not sure that you will win the pot if your opponent draws the right card at the next draw, go for it and make the bet. Make your opponent pay for attempting to draw a miracle card. Make your opponent pay a good price for drawing a miracle card
  • Pay attention to the RAISES. When you raise, you make the pot grow by betting more chips. Your opponent bet an amount, and instead of calling or folding, you throw the ball back at him by betting even more. This is a very important yet dangerous weapon because you're risking more chips. Use it in specific situations only.

When to raise and why?

Here are five rules to keep in mind about when to raise but most importantly, why to raise.

  • Raise to protect your hand, for instance when you have a strong hand that you are sure would win if the showdown could happen right then and there. The problem is, if you are only at the flop, there are still two cards to come and your opponent might draw a flush. If your opponent places a bet saying “I have a great hand”, you have to raise.
  • Raise to reduce the "field" or the number of the opponents still in the pot. Let's say you're holding a pair of Aces in the hole: this monster of a hand is the best there is. However, you should BEWARE: if four or more opponents enter the pot, your airline tickets won't be much of a favorite anymore! You should therefore raise to reduce the field and increase your chances of winning.
  • Raise to win more. Every time you have the perfect winning hand (say, Ace-King of spade on a board with three spades and no pair), your goal should be to maximize your profit.
  • Raise on the bluff. If your opponent does not appear to have hit anything good on the flop, you might be able to convince him that he has a losing hand if you raise. Think of it this way: if you hit a three of a kind or two pairs on the flop, you would probably raise anyway. Also, if the flop looks like it could potentially form a strait or a flush when combined with your hole cards, you would also raise. So, if you feel that you can get away with it, help your opponent to think that you hit the winning combination on the flop and that his hand is now hopeless.
  • Raise to get information. Take an example: an opponent bets, but you also have a very nice hand – pocket Queens. You feel strong, but you would like to find out if your opponent might be holding one of the hands that can beat yours (i.e. pocket Aces or Kings). You'll agree that this is no way you lose your stack and bust out. What you want to do is raise. Do not raise too much. It should be just enough to reduce the field should his hand prove less than yours, but not so much as to weaken your stack. Most of the time, you will find out what the other player is holding: your opponent will either fold and you win the pot with no drama, or he will call. If he calls, you know you have the best hand. However, if your opponent raises, it is probably better to cut your losses and protect your remaining stack.