Before you make a bet in no-limit hold’em, you have to consider your goal for the bet and the bet needed to accomplish that goal.
Generally there are three reasons to bet.
1) To win the pot immediately – Most players are somewhat risk adverse and are reluctant to call a bet with a mediocre hand. The flop will miss your opponents two-thirds of the time (and by the same token you will miss as well). That is the reason continuation bets are frequently successful.
2) To build the pot – Big hands don’t occur often and you want to maximize the pot. Too many players over bet the pot with big hands and blow their opponents off their hands. In order to build the pot you need to bet an amount that is likely to get called. You must consider the board texture here as well. You have more leeway on a dry board. With a very wet board you want to bet enough to give your opponents the incorrect pot odds to draw. A bet of two-thirds pot will accomplish that goal.
3) To get a free card – A bet in position will often result in players checking to you on the next street. This is a valid strategy with a draw and will often allow you to see two streets cheaply.
A bet to “get information” is possibly the worst reason to put money in the pot. If your opponent calls your bet you have no more information than you did before. If your opponent raises you do have more information and will frequently have to fold while paying a premium price. Making a defensive bet, one designed to control the pot, is valid. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are trying to get information.
The main situation in which players often fail to plan and play the hand in the least optimum fashion is when they flop a set.
A set is a monster hand and your goal is to get the most profit possible. The general tendency is to check raise. While this strategy has limited validity in limit games it is a terrible strategy in no-limit.
The check-raise basically means you are playing your hand face-up. You have the added problem of needing your opponent to bet for the play to succeed. If your opponent complies twice, once by betting and once by calling your check raise, you still need for him to catch a card that improves his hand enough that he will not shut down on the turn.
Your goal when flopping a set is to get all-in. Look at the stacks and calculate how to do so in three chunks of bets. Try to avoid over betting the pot on any street so you don’t blow your opponent out of the pot. If you must over bet, try to keep it as reasonable as possible and aim for the river when hopefully your opponent is pot committed.