Sizing our preflop raises is very important. However, again, there is no optimal static strategy. If we take basic bet theory into consideration, we know that bigger bets tend to get less action (but action from stronger hands) and smaller bets tend to get more action (and from a wider range of hands). Does this mean we want to open-raise to 6bb with AK to get more folds? Not really. Ideally, we would size the bets for all of our hands the same way to ensure that our bet sizing doesn’t give off tells to our opponents. If we always used a “big bets equal big hands”, and “small bets equal weaker hands” approach in our sizing, it would be very obvious for anybody paying attention.
There are two major approaches to preflop open-raise sizing:
- Raise 3x from every position
- Raise 4x from early position (EP) / middle position (MP), and raise 3x from late position (LT)
Notice that both use smaller sizes from late position. The idea is to give our steals a good price, since because we are playing more hands from LP v EP, we will have a weaker range and need to have a good parlay between value and risk. There is another minor school which suggests a slight variation: raising 3x from EP, and 2.5x from LP, and there exist other minority opinions as well.
So which major school is correct? Both are, but both fit into different styles. For instance, if we are playing a very tight-aggressive (TAG) game, with a very tight EP open-raising range, we might use 4x from EP. Our range is stronger from EP, so we should create the biggest pots possible when our hand is not only strongest, but will maintain strong hands postflop. But if we were playing a very loose/aggressive (LAG) style, we might choose a smaller 3x EP/MP open-raise size due to our range being a bit wider, and thus weaker both preflop and postflop. That would ensure that we don’t risk too much when we steal, and also would ensure that we don’t turn our hands face up for aware opponents to see.
There are some specific situations where we might consider a different open-raise size:
- Stealing against tight players. Say it folds to us on the button with J8o. The SB is a TAG with a 3-bet of 2% (2% being the low side of average). The BB is a nit (super tight players) with a 3-bet of 1% (1% being very tight). Stealing for 3x is decent, but these players are just going to play straight forward regardless. They will fold if their hand is weak (which it will be a very large percentage of the time on average) and they will call or 3-bet if their hands are strong. Our size won’t really lean them one way or another. If that be the case, we can consider stealing for 2.5x, or even 2x. There is no reason to risk more if we don’t need to. Whenever bluffing, risk all that is necessary to get the job done, nothing more and nothing less.
- Big hands versus bad players. If a player cannot hand read well, plays very poorly, and has an inelastic calling range; we can consider sizing our bets according to our hand strength. For instance, say it folds to us in the SB with KK. The BB is a fishy 61/6 (VPIP/PFR) over 80 hands, with a 3-bet of 0%. He is a massive calling station preflop and tends to give action postflop as well. If the size of our raise won’t create more folds against him, they we can use a larger size like 5x or even 6x. If he would call any raise size, we could go up to 10x. A player this willing to give action should be punished, and bigger sizing with monster hands is a great way to do this.
While a lot of players will overlook sizing as an unimportant detail, sizing is a huge determinant in our long run win rate. It isn’t always easily visible in our database, but it is certainly buried in the value of our plays. If we are risking too much when bluffing or stealing, it will show up when we are wrong and are maximizing our loss. If we are betting too small and not making the most on our winners, it will show up when we are minimizing value. Always make sure we take the full parlay into consideration when sizing our open-raises preflop, and over time, we will see our results shine exponentially brighter than if we used a bad sizing strategy.