April 22, 2009
A probe bet, or feeler bet, is a bet placed in poker with the sole intent of gathering information about your opponent and the strength of their cards. The reaction of the player to a probe bet can generally give the bettor a very good idea of the opponent’s current position.
Probe betting has four major benefits. First, it allows you to differentiate the strong from the weak. Secondly, by forcing them to make a decision, you get a read on their current hand strength. You also get to control the pot size, which is key element to advanced poker strategies. Last, but certainly not least, you are preventing other players from being able to read you.
Poker players who use strategy have a more consistent win percentage, and probe betting is just another one of these tactful weapons a player should carry in his arsenal of poker strategies. Another proven strategy is the ability to read your opponents. However, it becomes near impossible to read and predict a player’s reaction to certain betting situations if you don’t collect the proper information.
The probe bet, or feeler bet, is the perfect way to gain this information. Force your opponent into a betting situation, then make a mental note of how they react to it and, if possible, the resulting strength of their hand. Once you get a feel for their habits, you can use this information against them throughout a session.
A good feeler bet is generally 1/3 the size of the pot. This is assuming that a few players have at least limped into the pot before you. If all previous bettors have folded, you’ll need to increase the bet size just enough that subsequent bettors will have to decide whether their hand is worth the investment. Probe betting with too few chips won’t gather the proper info if players are easily inclined to call it. Then again, you don’t want to over bet the pot either.
If you know that your opponent will call a medium bet with marginal holdings, but raise with a premium starter, you can use probe betting to determine his current hand strength. If he raises back, you know you’ll need a very strong hand of your own to continue. That initial investment could save you a lot of chips in the long run by folding out and waiting for a better opportunity to exploit a weakness.
One last tip – Never ever limp into the pot. No matter what position you’re in, if you want to exude any strength at all (whether your hand really is strong or not), never limp into the pot. Your bet should always be a minimum of 1.5x the big blind; 2-3x the big blind is generally best. If other bettors are limping in before you, then disregard the blinds and bet 1/3 of the pot size.
Like any business, gathering the right information will improve your rate of success. Probe betting and feeler bets are the best ways to gather information in the business of poker.
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