Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Today I’ll be giving you the relevant tools to help you overbet like a pro. It’s used to be rare when playing poker that a player would choose to be greater than the size of the pot, betting larger than the flop is called an overbet. It’s becoming more common and incorporating overbets is for sure the most profitable way to play poker, if you’re avoiding overbetting you’re missing out. When done correctly, overbetting will greatly improve your winrate. I’ll show you why we overbet and what you need to consider in a hand should you want to start adding these highly profitable plays into your game.
Ultimately, we overbet to getting the most cash from your opponent as part of a GTO strategy. To make you overbet like a pro we are going to leverage the following poker concepts into our favour: pot-odds, range advantages/ capped ranges and expected value of bet sizing’s.
Firstly, let’s look at pot-odds and expected value, the math behind overbetting:
Overbetting in Poker: The Math
Understanding the mathematics behind overbetting will allow you to identify the situations that you should be overbetting in much more easily. When you know this poker math, you will be equipped with the tools you need to make those overbets profitable.
Whenever we make a bet in poker, we are giving our opponent a mathematical equation to solve. If we bet $100 into a pot of $100, then our opponent would have to match our bet and call $100 to then win a total pot of $300. For our opponent to be making a profitable call in that situation, they would have to go on to win the pot 33% of the time. This is the concept of pot odds.
Knowing the pot-odds equation is essential, if we have a hand such as an open-ended straight draw or flush draw, we can work out the amount of equity we have in a hand and can therefore proceed profitably and call or fold these hands on the flop or turn based on the price set by our opponent.
Knowing your pot-odds is one of the easier mathematical fundamentals of playing poker that most people should know. Bigger bet sizes give our opponents worse odds to make the call. Now say we bet $150 into the $100 pot. Our opponent will have to call $150 to win $400. This means they would have to win 37.5% of the time.
Pot odds are also used on the river, the way that our opponent calculates if they should make a call or not is by working out how frequently we are bluffing compared to the odds given. If we bet $100 into $100 on the river our opponent needs to call and win 1/3 of the time. Providing that our opponent can beat our bluffs then our opponent would be making a profitable call should we be bluffing more frequently than 1/3 of the time.
Overbetting allows us to profitably bluff more frequently on flops, turns or rivers as our opponent must fold more frequently.
Very few of our opponent hands will have the required raw equity- the chance of a hand winning with no other factors at play in the hand- to make a call with their draws when facing an overbet. This means that for our opponent to play profitably against us they must have adequate knowledge of implied odds, minimum defence frequency, and which hands are the best to call with against our range on many textures. This is much more difficult, requires more skill and knowledge and therefore many opponents will be making big mistakes to our overbets.
Overbetting causes the average opponent to make more mistakes in a hand. They can call too tight as they rely too heavily on only raw equity in a hand which increases our profitability when we bluff. Or they will be too loose, not calculating their odds or selecting the best calling combinations. The more often opponents make unprofitable decisions, the higher our overall profitability.
Expected Value of Bet Sizing
If you want to look at the efficacy of your bet, then you need to think carefully about the profitability of the bet. Expected Value (EV) is how much cash we expect to make in a situation in the long run i.e., played out an infinite number of times. Let’s have a look at the easiest way of explaining EV using a player calling our bet on the river.
There is a lot of complicated mathematics that go into working out our true expected value, you can read more about calculating EV of decisions on a roulette table here.
Poker solvers tell us the EV of different situations for us to save us this complex math. We can look at a simplified version that shows how much money we are expecting to win when we have a 100% chance to win a pot based on how much we bet and how frequently our opponent calls.
The larger we can bet and still have our opponent call, the higher our expected value will be. In poker, we shouldn’t care that we can get our opponent to call us all the time with bottom pair for a small sizing. There is more money to be made when our opponent has hands that they decide they can’t fold. Overbetting with our strong hands therefore has a great benefit as we don’t need our opponent to call that often to see some great value in the long run.
Capped Ranges and the Range Advantage
When playing poker, we are collecting information from what our opponent does in a hand. We know that our opponent is so likely to make certain plays with specific hands such as raise or fold. Our opponents’ actions can tell us a lot about the strength of their hand. For example, almost every player will raise or 3bet preflop with pocket AA or KK. They will often raise for value with their strongest hands post flop- two pairs, sets, etc. Once our opponent has flat called a bet on the flop this is said to cap their range, as they would often raise with their stronger hands.
A capped range is how you describe an opponent’s range that can’t contain the strongest possible hands based on the previous action.
When we see a board texture that our opponent can’t have connected particularly strongly on such as AK3 in a single raised pot we should understand we have the range advantage as we are the only player who can have AK, AA or KK. Our opponent is therefore also capped, their strongest hand is pocket 33.
Understanding when a player is capped is crucial for us to overbet as it allows us to apply maximum pressure with little risk that our value hands are beat.
When to Overbet: The Flop
You shouldn’t overbet the flop often in poker, but you can take advantage of several of the principles you just read about to collect the most value from your opponent. We want to overbet the flop for the following reasons:
Build the pot rapidly
Define our opponents range more easily
Bluff more frequently
Deny as much equity as possible
You are looking to rapidly increase the size that the pot will become and force your opponent to commit more chips sooner in the hand. If you have a hand such as a set, you want your opponent to pay you the most possible amount of chips in the hand. This is getting maximum value, hopefully they have a hand such as 2 pair that they will potentially go all-in with. You should look to overbet when you have a range with a great many value hands and bluffs so that you can bluff more frequently to keep the quantity of bluffs and value balanced.
Consequentially, by giving your opponent a worse price to call, you expect them to fold a lot of combinations on the flop. Overbetting therefore accomplishes two things:
You get to define your opponent’s range with greater accuracy as they are unlikely to float the flop too wide facing an overbet. You also get to deny a lot of villains equity when you have a bluff, they can’t win the hand if they fold!
By overbetting the flop, you get to play a larger pot when in position against an opponent with a weak and defined range. A great example of this would be betting 2 pairs on an AK8 board. They should only have 1 combination (pocket eights) that beats us and we can get loads of value from their worse pairs and draws. If our opponent folds, that’s okay too as we should have a great selection of bluffs to choose from on this texture too. You should be overbetting the flop in poker to apply maximum pressure and to get the most value out of your own hands when it’s hard for your best value to be beaten.
When to Overbet: The Turn
Once your opponent has called the flop you should be looking to overbet on as many turns as possible providing you still have the range advantage, your opponent is capped, and you have plenty of bluffs and value combinations to remain balanced with your bet.
On this board texture we have so many bluff combinations to choose from, we want to generate as many folds as possible when we are bluffing so must keep this balanced by overbetting with our good hands too.
When the turn card doesn’t change who has the nuts or range advantage in the hand, you should be looking to overbet to increase the value you can make with your great hands and increase the frequency and profitability of your bluffing combinations.
When to Overbet: The River
Now is the time in the hand to get maximum value from your opponents. Understanding that the expected value of your strongest hands generally increases the larger that you bet. If you have been bluffing with a good variety of combinations while you have been betting in a hand, you can arrive at the river with several great bluffs. You should have also been betting with your best value for all three streets. You can see how to bluff the river here.
Another thing to consider on the river is exploitative bet sizing. We spoke about expected value before, now is a great time to apply the logic behind EV to play exploitatively against opponents. If there is a player who calls very light when they get to the river, you can increase your overbet sizing to punish them for their calling frequency. Remember, the more frequently that your opponent calls your river bet, the higher your expected value is.
In this example, we can count our value combinations in the hand and then look at what we would want to bluff with. For value from the BTN, we have 99, 77, JJ, J9, 79s, T8s K9s and A9. This comes to 28 total value combinations. If we think about the potential bluffs that we would want to bluff with, we can come up with a lot of bluffs here: plenty of gutshot straight draws, turned open- ended straight draws that miss, some low flush draws with our suited connectors that have all missed. We can use more of these as bluffs on the river by selecting a larger river sizing. The bigger sizing “unlocks” the use of more bluffs in our range
Using this large river sizing also allows us to get great value from our opponent whenever they make a hero call. If we are bluffing, we would be putting them under immense pressure with their 7x combinations, pocket pairs or their Jx combinations.
Now you know why we overbet, what concepts to be mindful of when overbetting, and which spots to bet larger than the pot in. Here’s a list to recap:
Overbetting gives our opponent worse pot odds
Overbetting can increase the EV of our bet
It’s important to overbet when you have the range advantage
Overbetting the Flop:
o Rapidly increases the size of the pot
o Can force your opponent to fold too frequently
o Helps to define your opponent range
Overbetting the Turn:
o Capitalises on capped ranges
o Increases the size of the pot
Overbetting on the River:
o “Unlocks” Bluffs Mathematically
o Gets the most value from your opponent
o Great against calling stations