Owner and Lead Pro
Professional Cash game trainer Bart Hanson has been producing strategy content for over fifteen years. He first started on Live at the Bike! back in 2005, then moved on to host "Cash Plays" on Poker Road, then "Deuce Plays" on Deuces Cracked and then to CrushLivePoker in 2012.
In his career as a professional poker player, Bart Hanson has:
-6 WSOP Final Tables
-Over 15 years of experience at the table
-Over $1,000,000 in tournament earnings
-Multiple appearances on ESPN and Poker Night in America
-4th place finish in 2019 WSOP Monster Stack
Overbetting in live poker can be an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly. However, with great power comes great responsibility. We have to make sure that we’re not just falling victim to fancy play syndrome, or making these bets without any kind of strategy to back them up. Here we’ll look at some benefits and downsides of overbetting, before getting down to the nitty gritty of when and why to overbet.
Benefits of Overbetting:
There are some clear reasons we might decide to overbet in a given situation, whether it be to force our opponents out of the hand with a bluff or to get value with a very strong hand.
Increase fold equity
Often when our opponents call a small c-bet from us on the flop, they’ll be calling a wide range of hands, everything from small pairs to random gutshot straight draws. Utilizing an overbet sizing on the turn or river forces them to take a stand, and can eliminate a lot of weaker hands that still have decent equity against us.
Make up for lost value
When we bet small on the flop with our best hands, we often find ourselves on the turn in a pot that is much smaller than we’d like it to be. If we think our opponent is likely to have a decent hand that we’re currently beating, it can make sense to charge them a premium and go for max value with an overbet on the turn or river.
Exploit our opponents
As pots grow bigger, bad players make bigger mistakes. We can use overbets as an exploit to build pots versus weaker opponents. We can also gain value with our premiums when opponents call top pair too much, increase fold equity when we think our opponents fold too much, and generally exploit unaware opponents with larger sizings to get the result we want.
The problem with overbets is they’re often used by players who don’t have a sound reason for why they are overbetting. We want to overbet for the right reasons, and not fall victim to fancy play syndrome. There are certainly downsides to using overbets, so let's take a look at a few.
Force players to play better
With early street overbets we can sometimes accidentally force our opponent to play better than they normally would. With big bets we give certain hands in our opponent’s range an easy decision, allowing them to “play perfectly” against our bet.
Hand reading becomes tricky
Some live players will never raise an overbet even when holding the nuts, so when players call your overbet it sometimes doesn’t cap their range. This keeps their range fairly wide in situations where you’re planning to bet/fold, since they may just call 100% of their continuing range, basically eliminating your ability to use a bet/fold strategy.
Adding more variance
Using overbets adds a ton of variance to our game. If we’re not picking the right spots to do so we could be making larger errors ourselves, and we are massively increasing the variance of our sessions overall. This is why it is crucial that we understand when and why to use overbets before firing away with them in our sessions.
Now that we understand the benefits and downsides of overbets, let’s get into some common situations where you might want to use overbets. When looking for situations to overbet, we will rarely find instances where an overbet makes sense on the flop, typically we’ll be looking to find overbets on the turn or the river. However, there are instances when even a flop overbet could make sense.
Looking at GTO solutions, the solver likes to implement roughly the following overbet percentages when betting:
Flop: 10% Overbet
Turn: 15-20% Overbet
River: 25% Overbet
One of the main reasons we see the percentage of overbetting go up on each subsequent street is due to the fact that there is so much equity to be realized on earlier streets. When trying to use overbets versus opponents who we think might overfold or overcall, there is a complexity to using overbets on earlier streets, because of the equity they may still have to realize.
Overbets are most common in single raised pots, because the stack-to-pot ratio is a massive influence when it comes to overbetting. In general, the higher the stack-to-pot ratio, the more overbetting we should be doing. Let’s look at a couple of situations where we might want to overbet, both when in position and out of position.
One of the most common scenarios for overbetting in position occurs when we raise from the Hijack or later, and face a Big Blind or Straddle defend. When players cap their ranges preflop out of position we can typically put a ton of pressure on them postflop when we have the nut advantage.
Overbetting makes the most sense when you’ve got the nut advantage and your opponent’s range is capped, so a late position open versus a defend from the blinds can be a great situation to attack. Another scenario that warrants an overbet could be when isolating from the Cutoff or Button over a single limper. Again, we’re attacking a range that is capped, on boards that are favorable for our stronger range.
The two main scenarios where we will be overbetting when out of position occur when we either open from Middle Position+ and get called a loose passive player on the Button, or when we raise the Big Blind or Straddle and get called by a limper. The reasons for overbetting here remain the same, we can exploit limpers and loose passive players by attacking their capped ranges on boards that favor our range.
The general takeaway with overbetting is to look out for situations where players self-cap their ranges preflop, and use overbets as an exploit when you have the nut advantage postflop. You can put a ton of pressure on your opponents with this strategy, putting pressure on their good hands and forcing weaker holdings out of the pot.
Hopefully this article helped you gain a basic understanding of how to think about overbetting. If you’d like to learn more, including full breakdowns of overbetting strategies on the flop, turn and river, check out the full podcast, Episode 554: On Live Overbetting in 2023.
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