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Value betting has impact

When having a great poker hand, we are simply looking to pick the line that will maximize our expected return, however when merely having a good but not great hand, we have some tricky choices to make, if we make the right choice, it can have a huge impact on our winrate in cash games or play a big role in determining how we fare in tournament poker. If played incorrectly it can end up costing us a lot of money.

So how do you become a good value bettor?

Well there really is no substitute for practice. That being said, if you learn the right lessons from practice, read articles like this and study what good players do, this will certainly speed up the process of becoming an adept value bettor.

The first step is hand reading. In order to determine what hands your opponents have, practice is essential. Hand reading is basically determining what are the most likely hands your opponents can have on that particular board, what happened during the previous streets, what you have learned from the past play of your opponents and the statistics you have on your HUD about them. Each street you play gives you more information to work with. A good poker player if he has been paying full attention to what has occurred during the current hand and during the current game as well as previous sessions with his opponents can often make seemingly uncannily accurate guesses especially ion the latter streets. It's not just pure blind luck that they can be right so often. Sure poker players can get tricky, mix up their play from time to times and even the best players can get it wrong, but by and large the 2 cards you have in your hand will make a big impact on how you have played your hand, often it's difficult to conceal the type of holding you have without doing something that would be considered insane.

So now that we are putting our opponent(s) on either specific hands or a range of hands. The second step in deciding whether to make a value bet is how will your opponent(s) react to your value bet. How light will they call your value bet? If they will only call with better hands for example then you would be better off just checking in position or check calling out of position, maybe even check folding, if you deemed that was warranted for some reason. Let's examine at a few hands to see when you should and should not value bet

Hand 1

6-Max $1-$2 No Limit Hold Em cash game. Effective stacks are $200. You're holding AA in the cutoff. You raise 3.5 big blinds, button folds, a loose player in the small blind calls, big blind mucks. Pot totals $16. Flop of Js Tc 5h. A check from the small blind, you make a bet of $11, your opponent calls. Pot of $38. Turn is 3d. Small blind again checks, it's not easy to pinpoint your opponent’s hand here, but you've a fairly strong hand, hand is heads-up, you're a clear favorite versus a loose player's range. The turn card doesn't alter the situation really, so you should feel confident enough to bet this hand again, you're bet should be a standard enough turn size be,t about 55-70% of the pot. You bet $26, small blind makes the call. Pot is $90. River brings Qs. Once again your opponent checks.

Doubt would creep into many players minds now, fearing that their Aces have been out-flopped, it's possible, for sure, but c'mon if you let fear determine your plays you've lost before you've even started, the likelihood is that your loose opponent flopped a little something, maybe top pair, second pair, an open ended straight draw or maybe they are getting stubborn with a medium pocket pair. If they have two pair or a set, you would have surely seen a raise either on the flop or turn. It's also unlikely that they are holding a straight, as the only holdings that make that comprise of firstly AK, and that's unlikely for two reasons, one you might have expected a re-raise pre-flop and secondly you have two aces in your hand, the two other candidate hands are K9 and 98, while these latter two are not outside the bounds of possibility, they would be pretty loose pre-flop alls even from a loose passive player in the small blind preflop, in addition if they had K9 they've been calling two streets with just a gutshot, which would be pretty horrible play. So on balance it's a very EV+ situation. You simply must bet for value in these type of spots, otherwise you don't like money! So fire ahead, keep your bet small enough to get looked up by inferior hands, but big enough so you get full value for it should it get looked up. You bet $46, your opponent calls you with Kh Qd.

Hand 2

9-man $2/$4 No Limit hold em cash game You're sitting in hijack position with Qh Jh. UTG +1 player limps, you decide to see a flop and limp behind. Small blind mucks, leaving you, UTG +1 player and big blind to see the flop. Pot of $14. Flop brings Ks Jc 4d. Big blind and limper both check, you bet $10, call from big blind, limper mucks. Pot is now $34. Turn card is 3c. Big blind again check. Since you have an OK hand, though not that strong, you play safe, checking the turn, thus keeping control of the size of the pot. River is 6d, big blind again checks. You ask yourself, is this is a good situation to bet for value?

Sure it is! A tight or unthinking player may be weary of betting. Again you can't let fear take over, you got to do some level headed critical analysis of just what has transpired during the hand. How likely is I that the big blind's hand be better than yours? If he did have top pair, he might have checked the turn, perhaps he is so tight that he was afraid he was actually behind, or perhaps he had counted on you betting and had been planning check raising you. However, it would be highly strange for a player to check a hand like top pair once again on the river when your check on the turn suggests top pair is likely to be good. Given this obvious enough deduction you got to think your second pair, reasonable kicker is good. Perhaps your opponent has also second pair with a worse kicker, or a medium pair, or maybe drawing to a straight.

On the river, if you value bet, the busted draw can't call, what you're hoping for is that your opponent holds second pair also, if that's the case your kicker is almost definitely good. You bet $16, Big Blind thinks for a while before calling with TC Td. You win the $68 pot, winning a further $16 that you only won because you saw a good spot to make a 'thin' value bet.. The big blind played the hand a bit strangely, you would have expected him to raise with a hand like pocket Tens preflop and he made a loose enough call on the river. Well played! Obviously sometimes you won't win in this spot when you make that value bet, but long term this sort of value betting is highly profitable.

Hand 3

6-Max $5/$10 No Limit Hold Em Cash Game. Effective stacks $1,000. You raise $30 UTG with Js Jc. A semi loose aggressive player calls your raise on the button, blinds muck. Pot of $75. Flop is 9d9h6c. On the face of it it's a pretty good flop for you with no picture cards and but this player is one who could be making calls preflop with a wider range than the norm. Hands like T9, 98 and 87 particularly if they're suited are possible so you can't feel supremely confident right now about your hand . Notwithstanding this however, the likelihood is that though you still have the best hand. You make a bet of $45, the SLAG smooth calls.

Pot is $165. Turn is 4d. Now you are in the position that all of us poker players hate, you've got a good hand that is vulnerable and you don't want to give your opponent a free card, on the other hand if you bet there is an outside but real chance that you are betting into a hand that has you dominated. furthermore If you face a raise it's going to be difficult to know whether it's from a bluff or genuine hand. You decide in the end to continue betting your good hand. You make a bet of $105. Your opponent makes the call.

Pot has risen to $375. River is 10d. You could value bet light here against certain opponents, but on a scary board, against a dangerous player who has shown interest in the hand all the way, making a bet here is not a good example of a value bet, if your opponent raised that bet, it would be horrible spot for you, you would have big odds to make the call, but the action if it is to be believed says you are miles behind. Also for the times you are ahead, this type of opponent is also more likely than a standard player to react to weakness so the safer and higher EV line would be to check with intention of calling. You check. Opponent makes it $185 to call, you call, sure enough you're behind, he shows Ad6d to hit the back door nut flush. Ouch that hurt, though at least you have the consolation of playing the hand correctly. You reload your chips to $1,000.

Tournament Value Betting

When it comes to value betting in tournaments you have one very important additional factor to consider, your tournament life. If you value bet in a cash game and lose, you just lose that money you just have betted, along with the money in the pot of course, which was lost already unless you had managed to bluff the pot. In a tournament however, particularly in the middle and latter stages. If you value bet and lose the hand it can either eliminate you from the tournament or leave you short stacked. Therefore you value bet in the early stages of a tournament just like you would for cash games, however your value bets should not be quite as thin later on in the tournament. When seated at a soft table this is particularly true, in the hands to follow you will hope to find some even better spots and you don't want to miss out on these by being on the wrong side of a thin value bet!

To summarize, being a good value bettor can make a serious difference to your winrate. Being a great value bettor is something virtually all the top no limit hold em poker pros have in common with each other. Whether you're a pro or not, if you can master value betting you'll almost certainly be an excellent poker player too. Good luck at the tables!