Your Ultimate Preflop Bet Sizing Cheat Sheet (2022)

The Ultimate Poker Preflop Bet Sizing Cheat Sheet


This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

One of the most common mistakes amateur poker players make is using the incorrect bet sizing. 

The goal of poker is to win as many chips as possible, so knowing which bet sizes to use in different situations is one of the vital skills to master if you want to be a profitable long term winner in this game.

This article will show you everything you need to know about the correct poker bet sizing. Since it’s quite a broad topic, this article will focus on preflop bet sizing.

There will be example hands included throughout to illustrate some technical concepts.

Before we get into the technicalities, it’s advised to be familiar with names of the seats at the table in order for everything to make sense.

Here’s a quick recap if you need a reminder on the table positions:

UTG - Under the gun (or EP - Early position)
MP - Middle position
CO - Cutoff
BU - Button
SB - Small blind
BB - Big blind

With all that said, let’s dive right into the topic.


1. Everything You Need to Know About Preflop Bet Sizing 


In no-limit Texas hold’em, preflop play is extremely important. If you make a mistake in your preflop play, this mistake often compounds into even bigger mistakes post flop. 

The opposite is also true. By making the correct play preflop, you make your post flop play way easier, and you avoid awkward, marginal spots in which you are unsure what to do. 

For this reason, you need to have a gameplan for every hand you decide to play, i.e. you need to decide if you want to play for a big pot, or to keep the pot size smaller and more manageable.

If it’s the former, you obviously want to go for a bigger bet sizing and play your hand aggressively, and if it’s the latter, you want to decrease your bet sizing, or simply call instead of betting and raising.

The bet size you use preflop can influence the final pot size dramatically. This has to do with the pot geometry, meaning that tiny adjustments to your initial bet sizing can lead to a big difference in the pot size on later streets.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point:

Effective stack size: 100 BB (big blinds)

You open-raise under the gun (UTG) to 2 BB. Villain calls from the small blind.

Initial pot size: 5 BB

You fire a half pot bet on the flop, turn and river. Villain calls all the way.

Final pot size: 40 BB

Now, let’s assume the same action sequence, but this time, you open-raise to 4 BB instead.

Initial pot size: 9 BB

Final pot size: 72 BB

As you can see, the initial 2 big blinds difference ballooned to a 32 big blinds difference in the final pot sizes.

This is why picking a correct open-raise size is so important: because it dramatically influences the final pot size, and therefore, your overall profitability.

This is also one of the 5 simple online poker strategies that has been extremely profitable for me lately.

So which open-raising size should you use? 

There’s no one correct answer here, because it depends on a lot of factors, namely:

a) your table position

If you’re playing in early positions, it might be wise to bump up your open-raising size to discourage multiway pots, as well as to get more value out of your strong hands

b) your hole cards

Some hands prefer a big pot with a shallow SPR (strong value hands like premium pocket pairs, Aces, Kings and so on), while others prefer small pots with deep SPR (speculative hands like small pocket pairs or suited connectors).

(SPR stands for stack-to-pot ratio, and it determines your level of commitment to the pot based on the ratio of the pot size and the effective stack size. It will be explained in more detail below, but you can also check this article about stack-to-pot ratio specifically).
 
c) your opponents tendencies

Do your opponents like to call with marginal hands regardless of the price? Are they aggressive regulars who like to 3-bet a lot. Do they play fit-or-fold post flop or are they fighting back?

There are also other factors to consider, namely the previous action, players left to act, effective stack sizes and so on.

But that’s not really a helpful answer, so here’s a general rule: Open-raising to 3 big blinds is the norm, particularly for online cash games. 

In live low stakes cash games, you may opt for an even bigger open-raising size, because players generally like to call a lot. 

So using a bigger bet sizing can discourage a lot of big, multiway pots.

Also, if you’re up against recreational players, you can extract more value out of them by sizing up your bets.

Another caveat: open-raising to 3 BB assumes there haven’t been any limpers before you.

(Limping means just paying the big blind preflop instead of open-raising. Open-limping means limping in first, while limping behind means limping in after other player(s) have already limped).

If there has been limping before you, you can increase your open-raise by 1 additional big blind per limper. 

So if there has been one limper, you open-raise to 4 BB, if there have been two, you open-raise to 5 BB and so on.

This is also a rule of thumb, of course. If the open-limper is a giant fish (quite likely because open–limping is one of telltale signs of recreational players), you can increase your bets even further to:

a) extract more value and 

b) to dissuade other players from getting involved in a hand with you.

This way, you’ll often play a heads-up with the fish and be able to exploit their mistakes post flop. Open-raising after another player has limped into the pot is called an isolation raise, and it should be your bread and butter play.

By the way, check out Nathan's tips on proper bet sizing in his recent video.



2. Bump Up Your Preflop Bet Size Out of Position


Another factor that determines your bet sizing preflop is your table position. 

While you can stick with the standard 3x open-raise on every position at the table, sometimes it can be wise to make dynamic adjustments to your bet sizing depending on your table position and the opponents you’re up against.

Ironically, this is one of those fairly basic strategies these days that anyone can use to win at poker.

Always open-raising to 3x is beneficial in so far that your opponents won’t be able to determine your starting hand strength if you always open-raise the same amount. 

The downside to this tactic is that you’re not adjusting to your opponent’s tendencies and the specific situations which may warrant a smaller or a bigger open-raise. 

For example, if you’re playing in earlier positions, say, under the gun, you can bump up your open-raise to 4x, or even 5x in some cases. 

Open-raising bigger in early positions has a couple of benefits:

a) You’re discouraging multiway pots.

If you choose a smaller open-raise size, you’re giving other players a better price on a call. 

The more callers, the better pot odds the next player is getting, which can cascade into a huge multiway pot where you’re playing out of position. 

By increasing your open-raise size, you’re discouraging other players to call and play in position against you.

b) You’re charging your opponents a premium.

If you increase your bet size, you’re letting other players know that if they want to get involved in a hand with you, it’s going to cost them. 

As a general rule, if you’re playing out of position, it may be wise to bump up your open-raise an additional big blind (more on that below).

c) You’re extracting more value.

If you have a strong value hand, it’s in your interest to build up the pot as soon as possible. You can also take advantage of recreational player’s tendencies to overcall preflop with mediocre hands.

(To overcall in a certain spot simply means calling more frequently than would be considered optimal, meaning other players can potentially exploit your  playing tendencies. Recreational players tend to overcall and underfold in most situations).

If there are recreational players in the blinds, you should be even more inclined to increase your open-raise size from earlier positions, as they tend to overcall and defend their blinds more than would be considered optimal. 

This way, you can often play a heads-up pot against them, in position, as the preflop aggressor. This is the most profitable spot to find yourself in no-limit hold’em in general.

This is discussed in much more detail in Crushing the Microstakes.


Preflop Bet Sizing Example Hand #1


You are dealt pocket Queens in the small blind (SB).

A loose and passive fish open-limps under the gun (UTG).

Another recreational player limps behind on the button (BU).

You: ???

You should raise to 6 BB.

Recap time: a standard  open raise is 3 BB, provided there are no limpers before you. In this spot, there are two limpers behind you, so you add one big blind per limper. You’re also playing out of position, so you add an additional big blind for a total of 6 BB.

Sidenote: going for a bigger open-raising size is also beneficial because you have a very strong hand that wants to build up the pot as soon as possible, AND you’re up against two recreational players who will probably call regardless of the bet size. 

If your opponent is a giant whale, you can even bump up your open-raise an additional big blind or two.


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3. Use a Smaller Preflop Open Raise Bet Size in Late Positions


Conversely, when you’re open-raising from late positions, namely the cutoff and the button, you can consider decreasing your open-raising size for a few reasons:

a) You only have a few players left to act.

The more players involved in a pot, the stronger your hand needs to be to play it profitably. Since there are only a few players left to act when you’re open-raising from late positions, it’s less likely for one of them to have a strong hand. 

For this reason, you can play quite a looser and weaker range than you would from early positions. That’s why you don’t need to risk as much money to steal their blinds profitably.

b) You will (often) play in position.

Since players are less inclined to play out of position against you, it may be wise to decrease your open-raising size to incentivize them to play their hands. 

Playing in position is such a massive advantage it’s sometimes better to offer your opponents a better price to pay on a call.

This is discussed in much more detail in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

c) You’re giving yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio.

If you’re open-raising from late positions to steal the blinds (which you should do fairly often), you’re expecting your opponents to fold. 

To put it another way, you don’t actually want them to call you, so you should aim to decrease the risk on your part. 

Your risk = Your open-raising size 

Your reward = The blinds (1.5 BB in most cases)

The bigger your open-raising size, the more often your opponents need to fold their blinds in order for your steal attempt to be profitable. The smaller your open-raising size, the less often your opponents need to fold.

In order for your to calculate how often your opponents need to fold (i.e. their required fold equity - RFE), you simply divide the risk by risk plus reward.


Preflop Bet Sizing Example Hand #2


You open-raise to 3x from the button to steal the blinds.

Required Fold Equity = Risk / Risk + Reward

Risk = 3 

Reward = 1.5

When you plug the numbers in, you get:

RFE = 3 / 3+1.5

RFE = 0.67 (or 67%)

In other words, your opponents need to fold more than 67% of the time for your steal attempt to be profitable when you open-raise to 3x.

Same example, but this time, you open-raise to 2x instead of 3x.

Risk = 2 

Reward = 1.5

RFE = 2 / 2+1.5

RFE = 0.57

Your opponents need to fold more than 57% of the time in order for your steal attempt to be profitable when you open-raise to 2x.

In reality, you can’t know exactly how often you can expect your opponents to fold, unless you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4

I also don’t expect you to take out your calculator and crunch the numbers on the felt. This is just an example to show how different bet sizes can change the expected value of your plays.

Now, you might think that it’s not worth doing this kind of math for a measly 10% difference in required fold equity. But poker is a game of razor thin margins, and every little edge adds up big time over time. 

This is especially the case with the blind stealing. It’s not about the size of the prize, but the sheer frequency with which something happens that makes it worthwhile. 

Imagine selling popsicles with a 10% profit margin, i.e. you earn $1.10 dollars for every dollar of expenses. It may not seem like much, but if you sell a million popsicles, you net a cool profit of $100,000.

Same thing with poker. Seemingly tiny edges add up big time over many iterations. 

With blind stealing in particular, if you’re playing a 6-max game, you can potentially steal blinds 3 times per orbit, which can add up nicely. It’s not about the size, but the frequency.

By the way, I have already written the most comprehensive free guide available online for 6-max poker strategy.


4. Preflop 3-bet Sizing 101: Learn the Basic Rules of Thumb


You won’t always have the luxury of being the first player to open-raise the pot. When another player open-raises, you have the option to fold, call, or re-raise (i.e. 3-bet).

3-betting is quite an exhaustive topic in and of itself, so in this article, we’ll keep the focus solely on the 3-bet sizing preflop. 

By the way, I already have a free comprehensive guide on everything you need about 3-betting strategy.

As for the best bet sizing to use when 3-betting, as everything else in poker, it depends on a lot of factors. 

As a general rule, when and how much to 3-bet depends on the factors similar to the ones you’d consider when open raising.

But one of the most important factors to consider is definitely your table position, i.e. are you playing the rest of the hand in position or out of position.

Let’s start with a general rule of thumb about 3-bet sizing preflop: 

You should 3-bet 3 times the amount of the open-raise when you’re playing in position, and 4 times the amount when you’re playing out of position.

For example, let’s say the villain open-raises from the cutoff (CO) to 3x.

You are dealt pocket Aces and you want to 3-bet for value.

If you are playing on the button (BU), you should raise to 9 BB.

If you are playing in the small blind (SB), you should raise to 12 BB.

The reason you should opt for a bigger 3-bet when playing out of position is the aforementioned disadvantages that come with playing out of position. 

You’re essentially letting your opponents know that if they want to get involved with you with a positional advantage, it’s going to cost them.

This is one of those core principles of the game that 98% of people never figure out at the poker table, as Nathan discusses in a recent video.

 
Conversely, when you are the one playing in position, you can offer your opponents a better price on a call to incentivise them to play with a disadvantage.

Another reason for betting bigger out of position is that you are creating a pot with shallower effective stack sizes, i.e. you’re creating a smaller stack-to-pot-ratio (SPR).

As the name suggests, stack-to-pot ratio is simply a ratio between the pot size and the remainder of the smaller stack of the players involved. 

For example, if the pot size is $20 and you have $80 left in your stack, the SPR is 4. 

SPR is important because it determines how committed you are to the pot, or in other words, how willing you should be to put the rest of your stack in the middle. 

The smaller the SPR, the more willing you should be to play for stacks and vice versa.

The smaller the SPR, the easier it is for you to play post flop. If the SPR is very small, (3 or less), you are automatically committed to the pot with a top pair hand or better. 

So when you’re 3-betting out of position, you want to create a shallow SPR by increasing your bet size. 

This way, you make your post flop play easier, because the hand basically plays itself. 

You’re also decreasing the maneuvering space for your opponents, because there’s simply not enough bets left for them to outplay you on multistreet action. The rest of the stack can simply be shipped on the flop.

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4. On Adjusting Your Preflop 3-bet Sizing (Advanced Strategy)


Like with the open-raising size, there are situations to deviate from the standard 3x and 4x 3-bet sizing, depending mostly on your opponent’s tendencies. 

When we’re talking about adjusting your 3-bet sizing, we’re usually talking about increasing it, not decreasing it below 3 times the open-raise.

There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t make your 3-bets smaller than 3 times the open-raise:

a) You’re giving too good of a price to your opponents. 

Same with the open-raising, the smaller the size, the better pot odds you’re giving your opponents, which makes them more likely to call your 3-bet, which leads us to the second problem…

b) you’re inviting multiway pots.

The more players in the pot, the more your hand equity goes down, and the less likely you are to win the pot.

c) You’re giving your opponents an extra action.

By making your 3-bets too small, you’re giving your opponents little incentive to fold, and plenty of options to make your life more difficult. 

They can simply call your 3-bet and see a cheap flop with their mediocre/speculative hands, or they can fire back at you with a 4-bet, which can put you in an awkward position.

(4-bet is a raise against another player’s 3-bet).

d) You’re not getting enough value out of your strong hands.

If you have a strong value hand, you want to build up the pot as soon as possible. By the way, this is one the most simple ways to instantly start winning at poker. 

If you size up your 3-bets correctly, you’re creating a smaller SPR, which makes it easier to put the rest of your stack in the middle later in the hand. 

If you don’t, you’ll create an awkward SPR and you’ll have more trouble with playing the rest of the hand. 

Sizing up your 3-bets can mean the difference between taking down a small pot and totally stacking your opponent.

For these reasons, we’re talking about INCREASING our 3-bets as a dynamic adjustment.

There are a few reasons to bump up your 3-bet size, whether in position or out of position:

a) to get more value out of your strong hands against fish.

Fish tend to be pretty inelastic when considering bet size, meaning the size of the bets they’re facing doesn’t determine how often they continue the hand. 

Instead, they decide on whether or not to continue the hand based on their absolute hand strength. They don’t care about the odds they’re getting, so it’s better to charge them a premium since you expect them to call regardless of the price.

b) to create an even shallower SPR

Again, the smaller the SPR, the easier it is to play the hand post flop and to put the rest of the stack in the middle.

c) as a bluff/ to discourage 4-betting

When you are light 3-betting (3-bet bluffing), it pays to bump up your 3-bet size in order to discourage your opponents from calling. If you don’t, you’re getting your opponents better odds on a call. Also, you’re encouraging your opponnent to come over the top with a 4-bet of their own.

d) as a squeeze play

A squeeze is a 3-bet when there have been one or more callers of the open-raise. 

For example, villain open-raises in the cutoff (CO), another player calls on the button (BU), and you 3-bet squeeze from the big blind. 

It’s called a squeeze because you’re a) trying to “squeeze out” dead money, and b) the open-raiser and the caller are found squeezed between two other players.

The goal of the squeeze play is to get both of your opponents to fold preflop, so it’s more effective when you increase your 3-bet size, because you don’t want to give them good pot odds on a call.

For 3-bet squeeze, you should use at least 4x the open-raise when playing in position, and 5x when playing out of position. 

If there has been more than one caller, you can bump it up an additional 1x the open-raise per caller.

These bet sizing maxims are some of the most simple yet effective beginner tips to skyrocket your poker winnings.


Preflop Bet Sizing Example Hand #3

You are dealt A5 in the BB

Villain open-raises to 2.5x from the CO. BU calls. SB calls.

You: ???

You should 3-bet squeeze to 12.5 BB

You are playing out of position, so as a general rule, your 3-bet should be 4x the open-raise, which equals 10 BB. 

But since there’s two callers, you add an additional 2.5 BB for a total of 12.5. If there were three callers instead, you’d make it 15 BB.

Again, this is just a rule of thumb, and you can adjust your size based on other factors, namely the effective stack sizes, your opponent’s tendencies and so on.

Flat calling instead of 3-betting with a speculative hand like A5 is also a viable option, so 3-betting is not necessarily the most +EV play. 

This example is only meant to illustrate the factors to take into account when deciding what bet size to use.

For more advanced 3-betting and 4-betting strategies, check out Modern Small Stakes.


The Ultimate Preflop Bet Sizing Cheat Sheet - Summary


To recap, here’s (mostly) everything you need to know about preflop bet sizing in no-limit Texas hold’em.

It's actually pretty simple and you don't need to study a bunch of advanced poker strategy.

3 big blinds is the standard preflop open-raising size, particularly in online cash games. In a live environment, it may be wise to bump it up a few big blinds, because players love to call a lot.

If there are limpers behind you, add an additional big blind per limper, and another if you’re playing out of position.

When open-raising from early positions, sometimes you can go for a 4x (or even 5x on fishy tables) to discourage multiway pots and get more value out of your strong hands.

When open-raising from late positions (namely the cutoff and the button), you can decrease your size to 2.5x or even 2x to give yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio when stealing the blinds, or to incentivize your opponents to play out of position against you.

When 3-betting (re-raising) preflop, you should use the size that’s 3x the open-raising size when playing in position, and 4x the open-raising size when playing out of position.

For example, if the villain open-raises to 2.5x on the button, you should 3-bet to 10x when playing from the blinds.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t make your 3-bets smaller than 3x the open-raise, but you can make it more than 4x in some cases.

For example, if there had been one or more callers of the open-raise, if your opponents will call your value 3-bet regardless of the price and so on.

All of these rules are not meant to be followed mechanically in every situation. Instead, they serve as guidelines to give you a starting point.

As with anything else in poker, context is key, so always take it into account.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Preflop Bet Sizing Cheat Sheet