Chapter 24: Understanding the Value Bet, Part II
You know what kind of opponents you play against and you know how to put them on hand ranges. Now it’s time to take this information and put it to use as we try to understand when and how to value bet.
Most value bets will be easy. You’ll have a set, two pair or an overpair and your opponent keeps checking to you or calling you down. It’s pretty obvious we have our opponent beat so we bet for value.
How much should you bet? This is very circumstantial and you will have to rely on what hands you put him on and what he puts you on to know how much to bet correctly. Generally, it’s better to make a large, 3/4ths pot-sized bet or larger. If someone feels like calling with his hand on the river he is usually willing to call a large bet. At the same time, if someone has a pretty marginal hand that is facing a tough board, he will only call if he is getting a cheaper price on the call.
A word of advice: be more apt to value bet larger when there’s a busted flush draw or a busted open-ended straight draw. People love to make big calls with weak hands when possible draws have missed. They will even interpret a bigger bet as a bluff since they assume you are trying to get them to fold.
What about when my hand isn’t as strong? As I said earlier in the book, you should value bet more than you think you should. That’s important to ingrain in your head as you find yourself on the river with top pair and are asking, “Should I bet here? He can’t possibly call me with worse! What do I do if he raises!?”
Should I bet here? If you are asking that question, probably. Often we find ourselves on the river with a good but not great hand and an opponent that has checked to us. His checking is usually telling us something: he doesn’t have much of a hand.
As I’ve said before, a fatal flaw of online poker players is thinking they are being bluffed more often than they really are. So bet your good hand. Even if your hand isn’t that good but it beats most of the hand range of your opponent, you should bet.
If you value bet and if it gets called by a better hand 49%, but gets called by a worse hand 51% of the time, you’ve just made money on the bet. This is an important concept to know: a good value bet doesn’t always have to get called by a worse hand.
For example, say we are playing in a $1/$2 game and we raise KhTc on the CO. The BB, a looser and more aggressive TAG with stats of 23/19/3, calls.
The flop is 9c6h5d. The BB checks and we fire $12 into the $13 pot. BB calls.
We begin our hand range analysis. Being as aggressive as he is, he would raise a straight or set on this flop. He most likely has a vulnerable one-pair hand on this board, like Th9h, 8c8d or 7c7s.
The turn is the 9d. The BB checks. There’s no sense in betting since we have nothing and the turn card does not scare our opponent as we rarely have a nine. He might also be trapping with a nine. We check behind.
The river is the Kc. The BB checks again. A player this aggressive would almost certainly bet a nine. He probably still has a one pair hand.
He can’t call with worse! Given the K on board, he can’t possibly call a bet, can he?
Yes, he can. There’s a good chance he’s thinking that we don’t have a K and if we bet we’re just trying to bluff him off his hand since it’s obvious he does not have that strong of a hand. You will be constantly surprised what opponents, even tighter ones, will call a river bet with if they feel you are bluffing.
What do I do if he raises? I see a lot of my students struggle with this concept. They are worried about betting weaker hands on the river like top pair and middle pair, or a hand like top two pair when the flush draw gets there because they are worried about getting either check-raised or raised after their bet.
I tell them not to worry at all. You simply don’t get check-raised or raised on the river very much. And if you do? You fold most of your hands. Opponents simply just don’t bluff the river with check-raises and raises very much. It does happen, but so infrequently you don’t need to consider it.
If you have a very good hand and you get check-raised or raised on the river, you’ll have to consider how often he is raising a hand that is good but still worse than yours and decide if you should call given the pot odds.
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