For decades the most popular poker games were played with a fixed-limit betting structure where the size of your bets and raises were pre-determined by the rules. In a $20/40 limit hold’em game for example, all of your bets and raises pre-flop and on the flop would be $20 each, and all of your bets and raises on the turn and river would be $40 each. Since no-limit hold’em has become the most-played poker game in the past few years, it’s important to learn new skills like being able to plan your betting and think ahead to future streets to see what the pot and betting will be like. Here we’re going to look at how to do this planning without driving yourself crazy with a lot of math and calculations.
The first thing to realize is that in no-limit hold’em, the normal range of bets are between one-half the size of the pot and the full size of the pot. So if the pot on the flop in some hand is $50, we’re usually going to be looking to make bets in the range of $25 to $50. Because it’s also important to know how much money is left in our stacks that we can bet, we can think of our stack size as a number of pot-sized units, and we call this number our SPR (short for stack-to-pot ratio). With stacks of $100 and a pot of $10, our SPR is $100/10 which is 10. Similarly, with stacks of $48 and a pot of $6, our SPR is $48/6 which gives us 8.
Once we have our SPR, we can think ahead in terms of the number of pot-sized bets we can make. If our SPR is 1, then betting is simple because we can only make one pot-size bet and all of the money is in. However, if our SPR is 4, then betting is slightly more complicated. If we bet 1 unit and our opponent calls, then the pot on the next street is going to be 3 units. Since we’ll have 3 units left, we can make a pot-sized bet on the next street. This means that in any situation where we have an SPR of 4 (or lower), we can get the money in over two streets of betting while betting just the size of the pot (or less). Along similar lines, an SPR of 13 means that you can get the money in over three streets of betting without ever having to over-bet the pot on any one street or betting decision.
So let’s look at an example. Suppose we’re playing the flop heads-up and the pot size is $5. We have $55 left behind and our opponent has us covered. A quick calculation shows us that our SPR is 11, so we should be able to get all of the money in the pot if we want over three streets of play without having to ever bet more than the size of the pot.
Thinking about future betting streets in terms of SPR and the size of the pot allows you to plan multi-street betting scenarios without having to worry about any complicated math and allows you to focus more on reads and playing good poker.