While most online poker players (as well as live poker players for that matter) are amateurs and quite easy to beat if you have a good strategy and some pretty basic poker knowledge, making it in the big leagues requires you to go a bit more in-depth with your poker knowledge and strategy.

There’s a lot you should always take into consideration on top of the cards you’re playing and the way your opponent acts in different situations. Most of us are familiar both with the agony of getting our bluffs called and having nobody at the table pay our bets when we hold the nuts.

Most players will attribute these unpleasant situations to bad luck or simply acting “at the wrong time” and yes, you will hear many amateurs complaining that “this always happens to me”. What amateurs fail to take into consideration is the possibility that these things happen to them because of the way they are playing.

Playing poker seems like a pretty straightforward and simple game to those who don’t get into it too deeply and they cannot understand how other players seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to reading them or putting them on the exactly right cards.

One thing that gives the amateurs away both when they are trying to bluff and when they hold the nuts is their bet sizing. There is a lot to discuss when it comes to using the correct bet size for any situation, but the one thing I would like to focus on now is over-betting. What is it and when should it be used?

What is an over-bet in poker?

The definition of an over-bet is simple: it is a bet that goes over the total value of a pot. It stems from the Pot Limit Texas Hold’em variation, where the maximum bet is always the value of the pot. In No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the bets are not capped, so any player can shove his entire stack in a hand at any point.

Over-betting is what makes No-Limit so different from Pot-Limit poker. It is actually the only difference between the two, but it influences the game to an unimaginable extent. Doyle Brunson, the poker legend we all grew up admiring and loving, once said that pot-limit poker is a science, while no-limit poker is an art. And I couldn’t agree more.

The ability to over-bet, which more often than not ends up with a shove, makes the game infinitely more interesting and makes it a much more exciting experience. The key to winning in no-limit poker is to force others to make tough decisions. And the best way to do that is to force them to decide their fate in a tournament or cash game by making them risk their entire stacks in a single hand.


When, how, and why should you over-bet?

As you can imagine, over-betting is not a move that comes easy. Just as you are forcing others to make tough decisions by putting more chips in the pot than you would be able to in Pot-limit games, you are also taking some chances. Over-betting is an art and one that you should master if you want to stand a chance of winning at no-limit poker with tough opponents.

It should only be made in certain situations, with a very tight range of hands and in key moments of the game, so that you get called and reach a showdown that is favorable to you. Constantly over-betting at the wrong times and having the others fold is a sure way of losing a lot of credit at the table. Everyone will consider you to be a bluffing lunatic and you will end up getting called exactly when you want everyone to fold.

So, when should you overbet? When you have a strong hand, but you think your opponent has a slightly weaker one. For example when you have a full house on a board that allows a flush or a straight to be completed. This is when you will get the most value from your over-bet.

Bluffing with over-bets is also possible, but you should be very careful when doing it. Unless you are facing a particularly weak opponent or one that you are pretty convinced is bluffing, over-betting should not be a part of your game.

The best possible scenario for an over-bet bluff is to do it on busted flush or straight boards when your opponent is pot-committed enough to pay a small bet on the river hoping their Ace high is good enough for a showdown. They would pay that small bet on the off-chance you are bluffing with worse hands than what they are holding, but they are extremely unlikely to pay an over-bet that would decimate their stack.

One thing to consider as well is that over-betting is quite different depending on the stakes you are playing. In low-stakes games, over-betting is rarely used as a bluff, so you shouldn’t call one unless you are extremely confident in the hand you’re holding. As the stakes increase, somewhat counterintuitively, over-bet bluffs become a lot more frequent.

One possible explanation for this is the fact that as the pots get juicier, and players are more experienced, they are more tempted to bluff their way to winning a pot than when there’s just 2$ on the table.


Final thoughts on over-betting

Over-betting is a power move in poker and should only be done when the player is experienced enough and has the right mindset when sitting at the table. Over-betting can have different outcomes and some of them are not exactly pleasant.

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