How to know when to overbet

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Dara O’Kearney shares the criteria you need to make betting more than the size of the pot profitable for you post flop.

Dara O’Kearney 

The overbet is one of the more common moves in GTO poker and a lot of good players struggle to know when to incorporate them. One thing in particular people cannot get their head around is understanding that the bigger your overbet, the more you can bluff, not less.

If you make a 2/3rds pot bet on the flop you need to be value betting 72% of the time and bluffing 28% of the time to avoid being exploited. If you make a pot sized bet the ratio goes to 67% value and 33% bluff. When you bet 200% the size of the pot, you now need 60% of your range to be value and 40% to be bluffs.

Overbets are employed when you have a polarised range, where you either have a nutted hand or nothing. You should overbet with your strongest hands and with your best bluffs. By best bluffs we mean bluffs that have a big draw or, on the river, a powerful blocker. If you have a capped range or middle strength hands, you should not overbet. We also overbet to get as much money in the pot as possible, if we want to be able to shove by the river with deep stacks we will need to overbet one of the streets in order to achieve that.

The street matters when overbetting

Dara O Kearney
Overbets happen when you are polarised

The street itself is a consideration. There are more overbets on the river than the turn, and more overbets on the turn than the flop. This is because you are more polarised on the river than the turn, and more polarised on the turn than the flop.

Every action, whether it is check/bet/call removes some hands from yours and your opponent’s range, meaning the hand values get more static as the streets progress.

On the river the nuts will always be the nuts, on the flop the nuts is usually just the nuts right now. On the river an overbet is based purely on hand strength for value and blockers for bluffs. On the turn we will overbet the nutty hands and our strongest draws, because they turn into river value bets more often than weak draws.

The later the street the better

Dara O Kearney
You overbet more turns than flops, you overbet more rivers than turns

The classic turn in position overbet comes after a very dry favourable flop for the preflop in position aggressor. When they make a small bet on the flop and the Villain check/calls. In this spot the in position player still has all the nutted hands in their range but the out of position player is much less likely to have them. When the turn is a brick for Villain’s range and they check, they now have a capped range. No check/raise on the flop and no lead on the turn, plus your range advantage, makes this a good spot to overbet as the bluffs will work much more often.

The classic out of position overbet situation is when you defend a raise and get a favourable flop for your defending range, then the flop goes check check. Let’s say the flop is 9-8-6 rainbow, it goes check check and the turn is a brick. This is a good spot for an overbet, because the in position player would have likely bet such a dynamic flop. The out of position player, however, could have been setting up a flop check/raise so they still have nutted advantage. A good in position player will protect their range by checking back big hands sometimes, but either way the range advantage has shifted. This is a great spot to overbet the turn out of position.

There are times to overbet the flop but we don’t do it as much because our good draws have so much equity it would suck having to give them up to a reraise. We can often have 30-40% equity with the draws we would still have to bet/fold which is a lot to give up when a smaller bet or check would make more sense. We have much less equity with draws by the turn so that makes the turn a great spot to overbet.

Dara O’Kearney’s new book Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book is out now.

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