Value Betting in Hold Em

written by: John

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One of the biggest things in poker that will separate the men from the boys is the ability to extract those few extra chips when it is certain that you have the best hand. This is referred to in poker as 'value betting' and is commonly thought of when making a river bet. This is the most common spot but often times if you look hard enough, there are plenty of other areas to bet for value as well.

To better explain this concept, we have come up with a few examples below.

Value Betting Examples

When it comes to betting, too many people look at the size of the pot and then their hand and figure if they only have top or 2nd pair, then it really isn't worth putting extra money into the pot. But if your opponents have been showing weakness through out the hand and you are sure you are ahead, you are simply leaving money behind. I'll show you what I mean.

For our example, let's say that you are on the button in a $5/$10 game with Kh-Qh. The player under the gun decided to raise it to $30, everyone folds to you, you just call and the blinds fold. The flop now has $75, you both go to the flop and it is Ah-Qd-5s. The player under the gun checks and after some thought, you decide to lead out for $40, the player under the gun calls and now the pot is $155. The turn is a 8s which is pretty irrelevant except for a possible flush draw. The player under the gun checks and you do as well. The 2d comes off on the river bricking any possibility for any straights or flushes. The player under the gun checks again, so what do you do?

Well, I'll tell you what most players end up doing. They figure that the pot is big enough for having second pair is very happy to just check behind for a free showdown.

But this is so completely wrong. The reason that this is wrong is that even though the player under the gun raised pre-flop and check-called the flop doesn't mean he has anything. In fact, the whole hand was played pretty passively. If he does have anything, it is probably a very weak ace, queen or 5. So the correct thing to do here is bet in such a size that is begging for a call, say, about 1/2 to 2/3 the pot. So in our case, about $80 to $100 would be about right. If the player calls and shows an ace, then he has an ace and he missed gaining any value. If he calls and shows a weaker Q then you made extra money by 'value betting' on the river.

This is a common spot where players miss gaining a little bit extra money in spots where they think they are ahead and most times, they are. So get your money in there and earn some extra chips.

Playing Against Passive Players

Another spot where I feel like many players miss an opportunity to get a bit extra value out of their hands is when they are up against passive players. Passive players love to call, call and call some more. We all know from other strategy articles that it is a bad idea to try to bluff these guys, right, because they will simply call you down. But when you have a hand, you want to use the idea that you are 'bluffing' when you really aren't because these guys are likely to pay you off. Here is another quick example of what I mean.

Let's say you are in the cut off with Ah-Jd and decide to raise the pot up to $7 in a $1/$2 game. The button folds and small blind fold, but the big blind decides to flat it and you guys go to the flop. There is now $15 in the pot. The flop is Jd-8h-3s giving you top pair, top kicker. The big blind is first to act and checks. You decide to lead out for a bet of 2/3 the size of the pot ($10) and the big blind decides to call. There is now $35 in the pot and the turn is now a 5s.

Now, we were flatted on both pre-flop and on the flop which is a bit odd and kind of makes you worry. But if you know this player is passive/a calling station, then you know it is possible that he or she is calling with anything. So do not check the turn, bet again. In my experience with calling stations, any size bet up to the size of the pot is more than likely going to be called, so bet about 2/3 or 3/4 the size of the pot here. If you really feel as if he or she is calling that wide, then put out a pot-sized bet. That for sure defends against any draws this player may be on and most importantly, you are getting the most out of your hand.

We go ahead and bet the size of the pot which is now $70 and the big blind hesitates, but goes ahead and calls anyway. There is now $105 in the pot and the river brings a 6h. The big blind checks, so what do you do? You bet again. This time bet amount that you are sure he will call, say, about half the pot. There is a good chance that he has absolute air and you are going to profit big from it. So we put in a $55 bet and the big blind thinks and then folds. You just took down a $105 pot with a pair of jacks.

I would like to say that this is an exaggerated example, but there are players that you can pound away at, just value betting the hell out of them and they are relentless in their quest to pay you off. So 'value bet' them and let them.

Value Betting in Poker

While some of these examples above may seem like no brainer moments, for most it is quite the opposite. Too many players out there want to take the high road and avoid putting more chips in even if they feel like they are ahead simply because there is an over card on the board or a passive player that can be holding anything that can beat you. And yes, at times there will be cases when someone slow plays a pair or plays any two and draws out on you. But the times that you lose will be paid for 10 fold since you will be value betting them all the other times you are in a hand with them. So man up and start getting some value for your hands.