Value bettingArticle By: RuffPoker.com
Value betting is a great strategic style of betting where a poker player must consider what is the right level of bet they want opponents to call, when they are confident that their hand is ahead. Value betting is usually acted out most effectively on the river, when there are no further cards to be considered, so you don’t have to worry about overcards or limpers beating you. Here you are confident your hand, however marginal, is ahead and don’t want to scare away your opponents from making a call when you do bet after the river. Value betting is most commonly used when you have a marginal hand, one that could easily be beat, but you feel from the previous action and from your opponents style that you actually have the best hand. Value betting is also best played out on the river because it allows you to get additional money into the pot when you would normally simply check, nervous that your marginal hand is behind.
Value betting as a poker skill requires a combination of hand reading and knowledge of your opponents. Let’s take an example; you are playing a $10/$20 no limit game at a tight 6 player table and are on the button. You are dealt K/Q suited and the three players in front of you lay down. Now the only players left in are on the blinds and your perception is that these players are aggressive and loose. The flop comes A/K/6, giving you middle pair. This is a scary flop as one of your opponents may have an A. As expected one of them makes a bet into you. Are they forcing the issue hoping for a steal, do they have an A, or K with a strong kicker. Their style dictates that they probably have something marginal, i.e. an A in their hand and you think they would have bet more. So you decide that it’s worth the call knowing your K has top kicker. The turn and river don’t help anyone but tellingly they check round to you each time. Now you are confident your K pair is ahead because they weak checked post turn and river when they bet on the flop and got called with an A on the board. Here you don’t want to scare your opponents away so a value bet is the order of the day. Granted they made a bet post flop, but they’ve shown weakness since and not upped the stakes at any subsequent opportunity. So consider this, any major bet will likely see them fold, but anything too small doesn’t capitalize on this opportunity at the river against an opponent you know can’t resist calling a decent sized wager. Your value bet must be just right to make them stay in to the showdown and relinquish chips to you.
Taking a look at a further example you are dealt J/J in the big blind and everyone folds to the small blind who has been playing very passive. The previous hands they have been in on have suggested that they only bet when they hit something – i.e. top pair, straight or flush. They are a limper and can be scared into slowing down when a raise or re-raise is placed on the table. With this kind of player you always need to be looking for value betting opportunities because they rarely, if ever play without a good hand and are frugal with their chips.
The flop comes A/J/T which gives you trips but has some scary cards not least straight draws. Your opponent on the small blind makes a 3x pot bet. So you know he has something (probably top pair). Problem is you know he won’t fold to any raise at this stage and you are worried about a K or Q giving him the straight. However, you should raise here and make him slow down by thinking you have already hit and as he is first to act in subsequent rounds you won’t see him bet at the turn unless that card he wants appears. The turn shows the inevitable/nasty Q and the straight is on.
Your opponent in the small blind checks into you, and you know from previous experience they aren’t of the nature to slow play or check raise, so you are confident the check they made means they still have that nervy top pair or maybe two pair. Now the river brings a 7 which is no help to anybody. Again, your opponent checks to you and at this point as should be the case with all value betting, you are fairly sure you have the hand won. A huge bet is risky for two reasons, a) you could force your opponent to fold and not exploit the opportunity to increase the pot, or b) you may be looking at a very canny check/raiser that you have misinterpreted throughout the course of the hand. Here a value bet needs to be made, to keep the hand interesting to your opponent.
That is the essence of value betting. You must keep things interesting for your opponent but not so much that a misinterpretation on your part costs you against a big all-in check raiser at the river. Pay attention to your opponents and their tendencies. This will allow you to make value betting a successful strategy.