Sometimes you'll want to manipulate the pot odds. Sometimes you'll want to manipulate an opponent into calling or folding. One key to bet-sizing is to make your bluffs look like your good hands and make your good hands look like your bluffs, as was the case of wild pro Mark Seif in this pot from the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2009.
With blinds at $50-$100, a player in early position opened for $300.
Action folded to Seif, who drew pocket 9s in the cutoff seat and re-raised to $1,200.
"Medium pairs like 8s, 9s, 10s, don't play well against multiple opponents," said Seif, winner of two World Series of Poker bracelets within a week in 2005. "You really want to isolate. That's why I made it $1,200 to go."
The original raiser called, and two-handed they took a flop of 3-9-4, two diamonds, giving Seif top set. The original raiser checked. Seif made it $1,500.
"It's about two-thirds the size of the pot, which is generally the right amount to bet whether you hit or you're bluffing," Seif said. "It's a consistent number. You disguise your hands through consistency. I stick to that unless I need to manipulate another variable."
His opponent called. The turn came the 8 of diamonds, completing a possible flush. The original raiser checked again after a lot of thought.
"That's the best thing I could've seen because, generally speaking, he won't hesitate that long and then check," Seif said.
"Generally speaking, hesitating a long time and checking is usually a sign of a medium-strength hand. He's almost trying to get me to be afraid. I think he's got a hand like an overpair — 10s, jacks — with a diamond. Or he could have A-K with the ace of diamonds where he's gotten a little stubborn. I'm looking for a card that pairs the board with a diamond."
Seif made it $4,500.
"I didn't want him to draw cheaply at a diamond," Seif said. "It would be a mistake to check there. When he calls, I think he has a hand like 10s, jacks, queen or the naked ace of diamonds."
The opponent called. The river came the 2 of clubs. The original raiser checked again. Seif bet $11,000.
"Once he couldn't raise me on the turn, I knew I had him," Seif said. "I was hoping he put me on a bluff because he knows I'm capable of firing three barrels at a bluff, and hoping he had a good enough hand that he would call me down. My bet was consistent with the size of the pot."
Alas, his opponent folded.
"I tried not to give away the strength of my hand through my bet sizes," Seif said. "I did exactly what I would've done if I was bluffing, and that's the most important thing: Make your bluffs look the same as when you have a good hand."
Cutoff seat: The seat immediately to the right of the button.