No Limit: The Probe Bet
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. On the (virtual) poker baize, it would be ideal to be able to see everything but, of course, this isn’t possible and information is limited. While much of the game is based on experienced guesswork (indeed second-guessing opponents is a useful skill) we should anyway be trying to garner as much information as we can, and we should be prepared to pay for it, too.
A (dual-purpose) way of doing this is with a so-called probe bet – typically up to a third of the pot or, feasibly in some circumstances, half the pot (betting too little isn’t going to trouble anyone and therefore won’t induce a ‘serious’ response). An added bonus in getting used to making probe bets (within reason, obviously, like lots of things in poker) is that these can also become indistinguishable from stealing the pot and, ideally, in some circumstances such a bet can simultaneously play each role.
Some players find it difficult to make a ‘sacrifice’ and hope instead to find out useful info for free. Apart from this being too optimistic an approach, by holding back we deny ourselves the possibility of assuming the initiative, and generally we risk creating a table image that is too passive and susceptible to being exploited.
Furthermore, taking into account the fact that the pots we win as a result of probe bets should heavily outweigh the investment, and it should become easier to incorporate this tactic into our overall strategy.
Remember that betting only the minimum, for example, isn’t enough to do the job and can lead to confusion (and invite bets that put us on the back foot). A half-pot bet, on the other hand, tends to achieve more because we’re going to put the opposition under enough pressure to either commit them into making a meaningful declaration of intent, or to give up the fight (perhaps with a stronger hand than ours). Importantly, the former response might provide sufficient information to save us money, as even this way of doing things is cheaper than cumulative smaller bets that lead to our losing the showdown.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador