The Value Bet
The Art of a Value Bet
As a good player, you know that it is crucial to try to squeeze the most out of your value bets when you hold the winning hand. Chips are lost not only every time you lose a pot, but every time you win a pot and do not get the maximum value out of your hand.
You hold , and one opponent calls your raise before the flop. The board comes , and your opponent calls your big flop bet. You slow the action down by checking the turn behind, and the board on the river becomes
. Your opponent checks to you. Do you bet?
Many players would quickly check behind in this scenario, and would be more than happy to show their hand down.
They are losing out. This is a perfect example of a situation where you should realise that your marginal hand is probably ahead, and also that your opponent may have to pay you off for a bet. It seems your opponent has a slightly lesser hand than you, very probably something like , , or a small pair like or .
Why do we think that we are probably ahead?
A crucial skill in poker is being well aware of the possible hands that are beating you, but not over-worrying about them. There are of course many hands that can beat our
here. However, I would eliminate the following possibilities as being unlikely:
• Our opponent holds a very strong hand. He could hold or for a full house, or a big pocket pair.
The crucial factor here is that, on the turn, we and our opponent both checked. Let’s say our opponent held a very strong hand, and failed to trap with his check on the turn. Most opponents would not check again on the river; they would bet out to try to get value from their hand.
• We don’t hold an overpair any more, our opponent may have hit the queen on the end?
This is a perfect example of a time when we should not worry about an overcard on the end. Our opponent’s call on the flop says that he has in some way connected with this low board. He probably holds a low pocket pair, or has a 9 or 7 in his hand. If he does, he is very unlikely to hold a queen with it, as Q9 and Q7 are not typical starting hands to call a raise with before the flop.
Reading the play
This kind of reasoning is crucial to reading the play well. When a queen falls on the end, do not just think of it as “an overcard.” Think of whether or not it plays a likely part in the hand. If the flop had instead been , the queen would be more likely to play a part, as a hand like is a typical starting hand.
Conclusion to the example
We must of course be careful about thinking as anything as certain in poker; we can only work on the basis of likelihood.
Here, we have reasoned that it is unlikely we are beat. What remains likely is that our opponent has some kind of hand which we just have beat. Crucially, it now looks as though we are weak as we have checked the turn, so our opponent will have a hard time not paying off our value bet.
In this scenario, it is probably right to make a small value bet, maybe 30% or 40% of the pot. We cannot be sure that we are winning.
The right amount to value bet
It is normally presumed that a value bet has to be small, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, there is a situation where an opponent’s decision will be simply whether or not to call any bet- his decision to call does depend particularly on the size of bet. If you can be more certain that you have the winning hand, this means that the correct value bet is actually a very big bet.
You hold , and the board comes . The flop is checked, and your one opponent calls when you bet the turn. Your opponent checks on the river; how much do you bet?
When you bet on the end, our opponent basically has to decide- do you have a big hand (an ace for three of a kind, or a full house)?
A big bet can look like a bluff here, and may entice your opponent into calling. On the other hand, your opponent will feel more “priced-in” if you make a small bet. On balance, his decision whether to call or not will therefore not depend too much on the size of your bet.
It can only be right to take advantage of this reasoning, and make a big bet. Bet the size of the pot. The size of bet I would particularly avoid making is about 50% or 60% of the pot, as this often looks so much like a value bet.
Another example of the big bet working
You hold and your calls on the flop on turn of your opponent’s bets are rewarded by hitting your straight on the end, as the board comes
. To your delight, with you holding the nuts, he bets again on the river. How much should you raise?
Make a big raise here, maybe the size of the pot. If you make a small raise, your opponent will know that it is for value. However, a big raise will trouble him, and he may believe it is a bluff. The situation is great for you because of the possible diamond flush draw on the flop. After your calls on the flop and turn, your opponent may well presume that you have this, and have missed.
Good luck at the tables, and, most of all, have fun!