Betting is one of the most misunderstood parts of playing online poker. It has happened like this for a few reasons, but perhaps the most intrinsic reason is that most people play no limit poker, where betting structures are very loose and you have a ton of freedom. That doesn’t mean that you should just minimum bet or push “all in” in alternating fashion. There’s a lot of ground in between these two extremes and you need to know it well before you ever master the game of poker.

Your bet should always be in proportion to your odds of winning, while at the same time taking into account the psychology of your opponents, too. Sounds easy, right? It’s definitely not. But believe it or not, your betting frequency, and even the size of each of your bets is something that needs to be carefully measured every time you push chips out onto the table voluntarily. Let’s look at why with a couple examples.

For starters, mathematically speaking, the odds are almost always against you. If you look just at the basic facts, every single person at the table will have the same odds of winning a hand over a long timeframe. If there are ten people at the table, you have a 1 in 10 chance of winning any given hand. And every other person at the table does, too. But it doesn’t always work out like that, does it? If it did, no one would ever win any money, the table rake would just slowly erode everyone’s cash until everyone was broke. But in reality, this never happens. There are very clear winners and losers every day.
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You can’t change the basic odds. But you can change the results with careful procession. What’s better? Winning one hand of $250? Or ten hands of $20 each? Even though you’re winning far fewer hands in the first scenario, you are pocketing $50 extra, so this is your best choice. In order to do this for your own play, you just need to be more selective about which hands you play, and then get the most out of them. Having a grasp on pot odds will help. Making it mathematically irresponsible for opponents to be playing you will drastically increase your winnings over time. Pot odds are basically the ratio of how much has been bet on a hand total versus what you have bet. You then compare that to the actual odds of you winning the hand. So if there are $100 in the pot, and $10 are yours, you have a 9:1 pot odds. So if the odds of you winning the hand go beyond this, then you are playing incorrectly. So if you have a 10:1 chance of winning the hand, but you are getting paid a smaller amount, you are bleeding money away. This is definitely not getting the most out of your hand.

Manipulating the pot size is where you will get your advantage. If you see that things are getting out of hand, you can place a good sized bet with the hopes that the pot odds will change. This accomplishes two things: it increases the amount you can win, and it gives you a better chance of winning the hand right away. Proceed with caution here. If you don’t have a realistic chance of doing either of those things, it’s a waste of money–yet another cash bleed. But when you manipulate the pot size, you are changing other people’s odds, too, remember, and this could actually make it correct in some instances for them to chase hands. It all depends on what they have–and there’s no way you can know this for certain without cheating.

In short, your bet sizes are what decides whether you win or lose money. Bet right, and you will be very profitable. Bet wrong often enough and you’ll go broke. Once you understand your odds of winning and your pot odds throughout the course of a hand, you will have the information you need to make the right bets at the right time.