An “overbet” is a bet, usually made on the river, that is larger than one would typically make. It is generally bigger than the pot itself (though sometimes not that large).
An overbet is an excellent tool for bluffing when used correctly or for maximising the value of a value bet.
Two Examples of Successful Overbets
The first example is an overbet for maximum value in a $1/3 no-limit game. You have an effective stack of $700 and have been on an extraordinary rush. The Villain is a very perceptive and aggressive player whom you’ve been running over.
You are on the button with Ah4h. Three players call the big blind, and you raise to $15, and two players call. The flop is Qh-8h-2s. It is checked to you, and you make a c-bet of $25. You get a caller; the turn is Ts and Villain bets $40. You call.
The river is the Kh, completing your flush and giving you the nuts. Villain bets $60 into a pot of about $240. You make a huge overbet – hoping your opponent will think you are bluffing – and shove for your remaining $420 (a raise of $320). Villain calls (thinking your big bet was a bluff).
You win a monster. That’s a successful overbet.
The second example is an overbet bluff with the same setup as above - $700 stack, $1/3 no limit. This time, the Villain is a weak-tight player and you are seen as a by-the-book, squeaky tight nit. You miss your flush on the river. You make the shove hoping he will fold, and he does (because he’s afraid to call your mammoth bet).
Here are some tips to consider when contemplating an overbet:
1. Consider the Purpose of the Overbet
Too often, players fling in lots of chips out of impulse – without first thinking through what they want out of their bet. This move is usually wrongheaded. Before you fire, you need to consider what you are trying to accomplish.
Do you want your opponent to fold?
- Do you want him to call?
- How will a large bet accomplish that goal?
An overbet without a purpose is just tilting. An overbet with a clear mission is a tactic toward an achievable end.
2. Consider the Context of the Overbet
Bets are not made or viewed by your opponents in a vacuum. The events preceding your bet are crucial to its likelihood of success. Pay careful attention to the betting leading up to your potential overbet to best understand how the overbet is likely to be viewed.
For example, if you have been calling a bet from your opponent on a two-suited board, and a third of the suit hits on the river, your opponent will likely view your large bet as either indicating that you hit your flush or that you want him to think you hit your flush.
On the other hand, if you were leading the betting on a dry board that stays dry until the river, your large bet on the river might be viewed as just a desperate firing of a third barrel meant to steal the pot.
Accordingly, before you fire in this large bet, you must consider the actions leading up to it. That way, you can best take advantage of how the overbet is likely to be perceived.
3. Recognise Your Image and Use It to Your Advantage
Your overbet must be viewed in conjunction with your image. This recognition is not your self-image, but how you appear to your opponent. If, for example, you are in reality a very tight player, but your recent actions at the table make you seem to be extremely loose, then your image is that of a loose player – regardless of how you know yourself to be.
That being the case, an overbet bluff probably is an error – as you are unlikely to be believed. Similarly, if you are typically a loose-aggressive player, but you have had a long string of unplayable starting hands that you have folded, then your image to your opponents, and the only one you should be thinking about, is that of a nit.
Therefore, a large bet for value is probably a mistake – as your opponents are almost surely going to fold to a bet.
4. Consider Your Recent Action at the Table
Overbets work best when you use them sparingly. For example, if you have recently made an overbet that was not called, observant opponents might well suspect you of bluffing if you over-bet the pot soon after that.
Similarly, if you stacked an opponent on an overbet for value – your opponents are apt to be more cautious if you do so again soon afterwards. Therefore, you should be less likely to attempt overbets with the same purpose in quick succession. Your short-memory opponents are likely to be suspicious if you’ve recently exposed them to it.
5. Overbets for Value Do Not Always Have to Be Successful
Imagine it’s the river. The pot is $100. You have $400 left in your stack, holding the stone-cold nuts. You are confident that your opponent will call a $50 bet. But from your history with the player, you’re concerned that he may well fold to a $100 bet or larger.
By your seat-of-the-pants estimate, you figure that there’s a 75% chance he’ll call a $100 bet and a 50% chance he’ll call a shove. What should you do? Though you are sure of winning another $50 if you bet that amount on the river, you are best going with the shove that you estimate will fail half the time.
In the long run, which is how you must view the efficacy of your betting action, winning another $400 50% of the time will net you an additional $200 per bet. On the other hand, you’ll earn only $75 from the $100 bet, and only $50 from the $50 bet.
Since the shove will be more profitable in the long run, even though you are likely to fail with it 50% of the time, it’s the better option.
6. A Smaller Bluff May Be Just as Effective as an Overbet
When considering an overbet bluff, think about the threshold for accomplishing your goal of getting your opponent to fold. An overbet may not be necessary. If you are reasonably satisfied, with a $200 pot, that your opponent will fold to a bluff of $100 or more, why make an overbet? On the other hand, if you think with a $100 pot, the only way you’ll get your opponent to fold is if you shove for $200, then the shove may make sense.
You need to do a risk and reward calculation for figuring out if the overbet is warranted. For example, if there’s a $100 pot, you have missed your hand. You gauge your opponent will fold at least two-thirds of the time if you bet $50, and 75% of the time if you bet $150, It surely makes sense to make the smaller bet.
In the former scenario, half the time you will win $100 when your opponent folds and lose $50 when your opponent calls and you lose – for a net gain of $50 per bet.
In the latter instance, you will win $100 three times for $300 when your bluff works, but you’ll lose $150 for the one time your bluff fails, for a net gain of $150 for four tries, or only $36.50 per attempt.
7. Be Willing to Leave Your Comfort Zone
Many otherwise good players like to stay within their comfort zone of betting. They are often reluctant to put a large portion of their stack at risk with one bet. This anxiety often prevents them from making large bets, even when their analysis of the hand would call for it.
It’s not that they think that their $60 bet into a $200 pot makes the most sense; it’s just that they are afraid to bet $250 as a bluff. Don’t allow this to happen to you.
If you think that the overbet will be profitable, be willing to leave your comfort zone to make it.