Sizings in online poker – which one is good?

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Now this is something that is generally omitted, but most people don’t really have an answer why sizings are the way they are and I’m going to try to clarify that for you. It’s very important that you understand this from a pot odds/breakeven fold frequency point of view so that you can proceed and then adjust the sizing to your particular needs in the hand correctly. 

What I can tell you right off the bat is that sizings are rarely standard and your poker game should rarely be standard. You should always understand the types of players that you have at your table and then adjust everything in your game as well as possible to exploit them as much as you can.

The first thing that we should talk about is raise sizes. By studying great poker players and their tendencies and teachings, I have found out that most of them preach opening 2.5x on the button. I have something to say about this and the next paragraph that you read will open your eyes.

At some point, a few very intelligent poker players that were beating the games really hard at the time devised a plan to write a poker strategy book that could help everyone understand what they were thinking in great detail and, even if the book or series of books didn’t bring out players to their levels, it would improve their games massively and a lot of secrets would have been thrown out in the open.

This was an amazing idea, until you get to the part where you have to adjust, for example, your opening ranges to your opponents preflop. You see, what a really good poker player does is estimate the opponents that he has in front of him, gets how often they are going to react and with what hands and how often they are going to present an aggressive response, and then adjusts his opening ranges accordingly. Well then, this was very complicated to put into words. Oh, how can we do this? I know! Let’s do averages! So, what you do is you take a wide range that you’re opening versus very passive opponents and you take a tighter range which you’re opening versus aggressive opponents, and then you make an average of that. For every combination that you remove from the wide range, you add a combination to the tight range until they are exactly the same range. Thus, you have default opening ranges.

There’s a lot of ‘default’ in today’s Internet Poker guides, and I don’t like it. I want to teach you how to think! I want to teach you how to eat, breathe and sleep poker and how to keep this always on your mind and find out what you’re supposed to do in every situation that comes by, and eventually you’ll have had so many similar situations that you include them into a pattern that later solves itself in your brain so that you can get to the more complicated, deep stuff.

How you’re supposed to think here.

When I realised this, it blew my mind! I was dumbstruck and I suddenly understood that I have to take every material with a grain of salt and that I myself have to figure out where I’m lacking in my game and fix everything that is ‘default’. And that’s what I have been doing for the last couple of years, and I’m here to present you with a result that will equally blow your mind.

So let’s begin first of all with opening sizes.

You should always consider the Pot Odds that you are giving your opponent and especially the Big Blind, and also your Breakeven Fold Frequency and adapt both of these numbers to your favor.

Generally the accepted sizing for opening preflop is 3bb, but let’s see how we can vary this on a mathematical and read-based level.

If we open 3bb from EP/MP/CO/BTN then BB is going to have to call 2bb into a total pot of 6.5bb.

This means that BB’s Pod Odds are going to be 2/6.5=30%

Now, your Breakeven Fold Frequency is, you’re investing 3bb into a total pot of 4.5, so:

3bb/4.5bb=66%. This means that, if everyone ahead of you folds more than 66% of times, cumulated, you’re going to be making a profit no matter what cards you have, with 0 equity.

Let’s see how these numbers adapt to 2, 2.1, 2.25, 2.5 and 4bb open ranges.

If you’re opening 2bb from the EP/MP/CO/BTN, BB has to call 1bb into a total pot of 4.5.

This means that his pot odds are 1/4.5=22%. This is very low equity requirement versus any range that you could be facing.

Although, your breakeven fold frequency will considerably drop.

You’re investing 2bb to win a total pot of 3.5bb.

This means that your BFF is going to be 57%.

I’m going to speed up the process for the other sizes and also give you a little briefing about what are the optimal sizes vs different players and in different situations.

2.1x open from EP/MP/CO/BTN:

Pot Odds for BB to call: 1.¼.7=23%. Very similar to 2x but there is a bigger psychological impact here.

BFF: 2.1/3.6=58%. In general I would advocate opening 2.1x instead of 2x when it’s the case, because even if from a mathematical point of view it doesn’t really change much, I firmly believe and it has been proven to me repeatedly and I have also tried this a lot, that it has a much bigger psychological impact on a player’s calling/3-betting range.

2.25x open from EP/MP/CO/BTN

Pot Odds for BB to call: 1.25/5=25%. This is a bit more requiring from the BB but still a very low number.

The BFF that you need here is 2.25/3.75=60%

2.5x open from EP/MP/CO/BTN

Pot Odds for BB to call: 1.5/5.5=27%

Your BFF: 2.5/4 = 62.5%

3x open from EP/MP/CO/BTN

Pot Odds for BB to call: 2/6.5=31%

Your BFF: 3/4.5=66%

3bb is the default sizing that you should be opening from every position if you don’t know the opponents ahead of you.

4x open from EP/MP/CO/BTN

Pot Odds for BB to call: 3/8.5=35%

Your BFF: 4/5.5=73%

Opening 4x in general is a bit far-fetched, but I’ve seen players who have really tight ranges open this size EP/MP ‘to get more value’. I don’t really think this strategy is generally feasible, but it is good in some particular cases.

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