There are lots of ways to do this, and it’s easier if you’re last to act (or first to act in multi-way action). It’s also easier if you’ve been the aggressor in this or previous pots.
Too often players will get their money in “good” – and then lose to a drawing hand or a hand that was behind but caught on the river. Especially at the lower stakes levels, players often think of money as strength – the more money bet, the better the hand (or so it seems). Too often an overbet signals weakness, and smart players will pounce.
OK, here’s a simple example. On a non-threatening flop (no potential straights, flushes, etc.), most players who raised before the flop will make a continuation bet. That’s normal (although you know you shouldn’t do it ALL the time, right?). But how much to bet? Let’s say there are two other players in the hand, and you’re last to act having raise to twice the blind and you got two callers…
If you hit the flop, of course you’ll bet. If you bet big and they don’t have anything, they’ll fold, and you win a little. If they’re on a draw, they might consider pot odds (remember, at lower stakes players don’t often do that) and either call (normal) or raise (not as common, though it can be a good play). If your hand holds up, you win, but if you lose, you’ll lose big. Heck, maybe they’re not on a draw, but were slow playing a low pocket pair and hit trips, and buddy, YOU’RE behind. Not a good scenario.
It would be better to bet, but why bet 250 in a 120 pot when 80 or 100 might accomplish the same thing? By controlling the size of the pot, you can make easier decisions down the road.
Another example: If the flop missed you the chances are that it hit one of them, and you’re behind. Of course, tradition and common sense says you should make your C-bet. But by putting ANY money in the pot, you’re fishing for information…did it hit one of them? Which one? How strong? Again, a small bet will give you the same information as a big overbet. If no one calls, you win. If someone calls, you’re likely in trouble unless you improve in a hurry. And if they raise? Consider bailing now.
Remember, money not lost can be as good as money won, because no matter how you get it, at the end of the game it’s all YOUR money. Make it so.