The main advantage to betting into the pot first is that you might take it down right there.
Failing that, some of the other, more important benefits are the ability to take control of the hand, define your opponent's holding relative to yours and determine how you can get paid off when you believe you have the best of it.
Sometimes, you'll size your bets for all of those reasons on each street in one pot, as longtime pro and World Poker Tour announcer Mike Sexton did in this hand from the 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.
With blinds at $50-$100, four players limped in, which is common in the early stages of a tournament where players begin with stacks of $30,000 in chips. In the big blind, Sexton drew 10-9 offsuit and checked his option.
Five-handed, the flop came 10-5-3, rainbow, giving Sexton top pair/weak kicker. After the small blind checked, Sexton made it $300.
"I wanted to bet an amount that would give me a feel for where I was at," said Sexton, winner of a WSOP bracelet. "I wanted to see whether someone would call or if someone would raise."
The woman immediately to his left called. Everyone else folded.
"When she called, I immediately put her on a 10, probably with a bigger kicker -- maybe an A-10," Sexton said. "She's a pretty conservative player."
The turn came the 9 of clubs, giving Sexton top two pair.
"That's my joker," Sexton said. "I bet $1,000. Now I think I have the best hand. I put her on two 10s with a bigger kicker. She called again."
The river came the 4 of hearts.
"There was a possible straight, but I didn't think she'd be calling with a gutshot straight draw," Sexton said. "I felt sure my 10s and 9s were good. I wanted to bet an amount where I felt she would pay me off with a call. I felt that she still had top pair with a bigger kicker, and I didn't think she could get away from it after she quickly called the $1,000 on the turn."
Sexton made it $1,500 and got the call he hoped for from an opponent who showed down J-10 offsuit, betting his way to a nice pot and doing it out of position.
"You say 'out of position,' but Gus Hansen likes to say, 'I want to be in first position because I can be the first to bet into the pot,' " Sexton said. "It's a different concept that he has.
"In this case, I felt if I bet about half the size of the pot, she would pay it off. If I bet $3,000, I didn't think she would call. I wanted to try to extract some chips from her."
Gutshot straight draw: A four-card straight draw potentially completed by only one card in the middle.