FACING A MINIMUM BET
You’re in a medium-largeish pot. You’re last to act, and there are 23 big blinds (“BBs”) in the pot. The river card comes out and your opponent bets…
One. Big. Blind.
Has all decorum left the game? I mean, even in a limit Hold’em game, his required play would be a “big bet”—two big blinds. This is a silly, absurd little bet, but for better or worse, it’s a bet and we have to deal with it.
First, here’s an interesting note: you almost never see this in live games, and when you do see it, it’s usually a joke between two players who know each other. The bet is so absurd it’s immediately recognized as teasing between two friends.
But what does it mean in an online context? Let’s consider the possibilities.
This is one of the more likely explanations. Different poker software platforms have differing protocols for setting bet sizes. On some, you indicate that you want to bet, then select the size. Others have you set the size and then click the “Bet” button. Get confused between the two and you can accidentally click the bet button and get the default min[imum] bet. If the platform you’re playing on has you set the bet size before clicking the bet button, consider if your opponent simply misclicked.
ATTEMPTING TO EXPLOIT A “FOLD TO ANY BET” BUTTON
Most online poker software will offer you a button during a hand that says something to the effect of “Fold to any bet.” This is a convenient feature because it allows you to effectively fold your cards and then bounce to another table where something more interesting is happening. This button usually defaults to checking behind a check in front of you. The villain may have a hand with zero showdown value, but is unwilling to try a serious bluff. He makes the minimum bet, hoping you had clicked “Fold to any bet” with your queen-high and moved to another table. Then his nine-high wins the pot.
The obvious answer here is never to click that button unless there’s already a serious bet in front of you and you are waiting on others to act, or if you would be unwilling to call a minimum bet for a showdown.
Taken from the Dungeons & Dragons lexicon—which took the term from crazed Viking warriors—sometimes the min-bettor is simply trying to throw chaos into the game. Things are too normal and staid for him, so he does something obviously insane, exactly because it’s insane. He doesn’t care whether it’s a +EV move; he’s just stirring the pot because he can.
Trying to set a showdown price
This is a legitimate tactic, poorly executed. The villain is first to act, which is never any fun. He has a hand that would like to see a showdown, but he can’t stand a large bet. A traditional tactic is a “blocking bet”—betting an amount he’s willing to call—hoping the in-position player will simply call (at worst) rather than put him to the test for a much larger amount.
While making a blocking bet is fine, doing it with a min bet serves no purpose; if the in-position player was planning on making a big bet, betting the minimum won’t stop him.
TRYING TO GOAD YOU INTO A RAISE
Unfortunately, the flip side of the min bet is an attempt to confuse you into bluff-raising. You think, “What a stupid bet; he can’t possibly have anything when he makes such a stupid bet. I’m going to raise that stupid bet.” Then the villain promptly calls (or worse, re-raises) with the best hand.
SO HOW TO REACT TO ALL THE POSSIBLE MOTIVES?
The good news is there’s a straightforward response: do what you’d have done if your opponent had checked. If you were going to check, then just call his silly one BB bet and see who wins. If you were going to bet, bet the amount you would have if he’d checked. For extra salt, add a chip or two to your bet, just to punish him for the min bet.
There is one exception to this: few players use the min bet for both legitimate reasons (to see a showdown for the best possible price, and to goad their opponent into a bluff raise). Be sure to make notes on a player you see make that min bet; if they do it for a cheap showdown once, the next time he does it is far more likely to be for the same reason. Against such a player, you can actually consider a bluff-raise, but only if you’ve got solid evidence that that’s his M.O.
In general, though, just snicker at such silly players and do whatever you’d do if they checked. Silly min-bettors.
Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.